Sunday, July 23, 2017

Life: It Goes On - July 23

It's been a tough week with no end in sight; but we have managed to find some fun here and there, all while continuing to battle the relentless heat. You know the heat's been bad when you're excited for a cloudy day and a high of 92 degrees sounds like relief.

Mini-him had his wisdom teeth removed Monday and I took the day off to mother him. He'd long thought that he wouldn't have them removed (and we've read that it's ok to leave them) but then they started to crowd his other teeth. Let's just say that it's a whole lot easier to have wisdom teeth removed when you're ten years younger; Thursday he was finally able to "chew" macaroni and cheese!

This Week I'm:

Listening To: More podcasts - History Chicks, Stuff You Should Know, Happier, and Stuff You Missed In History Class.

Watching: "The Boys of 36," which was a PBS show that I found on Netflix that tied in, for me, to the book The Boys In The Boat. It was fun putting faces to the names of the people I'd "met" in the book and being able to actually watch them race. I also watched the movie "Lion" starring Nicole Kidman and Dev Patel, which is based on a heartbreaking true story.

Reading: I'll have read two books in three days by the time today is over, thanks to the 24 in 48 readathon (even though I'm not going to come anywhere near to 24 hours of reading). I've read The Little Book of Hygge (celebrating my Danish heritage) and Aunt Dimity and the Summer King. There are a whole series of Aunt Dimity books which are cozy mysteries but with a fantasy element which will likely keep me from reading any more of them. Still, it was light and fun. Up next is Nasty Women: A Collection of Essays and Accounts Of What It's Like To Be A Woman In The 21st Century.

Making: Meals for Miss H. We've been doing meal prep for her on Sundays. Last week she tried two new recipes. One was a hit, the other not as much. We did learn that you don't want to make full recipes when you are doing meal preps for one person because it means you'll be eating the same thing over and over and over for days. She didn't mind so much when it meant lots of buffalo chicken but even that she began to tire of eventually.

Planning: Nothing at the moment. The trip to Milwaukee is on hold for the time being; too hard to get everyone off work at the same time. Much sadness.

Thinking About: We toured the newest mosque in town yesterday. I've never been in one before and we learned so much. It's actually called the American Muslim Institute and is as much a community building as a religious one. Our guide told us that all four of the other mosques in town have been vandalized but that, thanks to the amount of community support they receive, they are able to focus on the good.

Enjoying: Book club and a new (to us) brew pub.

Feeling: Like I need at least one more day to the weekend. Oh, wait. I feel that way every weekend!

Looking forward to: Celebrating Mini-him's birthday tonight, his last birthday in his twenties. How can one of my kids be almost 30?!

Question of the week: Have you ever heard of hygge? I can't wait to review the book and find out ways you are already incorporating it into your lives!

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Widow of Wall Street by Randy Susan Meyer

The Widow of Wall Street by Randy Susan Meyers
Published April 2017 by Atria Books
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
Phoebe recognizes fire in Jake Pierce’s belly from the moment they meet as teenagers. As he creates a financial dynasty, she trusts him without hesitation—unaware his hunger for success hides a dark talent for deception.

When Phoebe learns her husband’s triumph and vast reach rests on an elaborate Ponzi scheme her world unravels. As Jake’s crime is uncovered, the world obsesses about Phoebe. Did she know her life was fabricated by fraud? Was she his accomplice?

While Jake is trapped in the web of his deceit, Phoebe is caught in an unbearable choice. Her children refuse to see her if she remains at their father’s side, but abandoning him feels cruel and impossible.

My Thoughts:
The summary above gives away nothing - Meyers opens the book with Phoebe visiting Jake in prison. The question then is not what will happen but how have these two people come to this point in their lives.

Meyers has clearly built her novel around the story of Bernie Madoff, the man convicted of the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. Like Madoff, Jake builds up his own company from nothing, seemingly better at working the stock market better than anyone else. But Jake's secret lies in the private piece of his company that pulls in the big money. Money that is essential to keep everything afloat because, as it turns out, Jake is spending that money instead of investing it for his clients. To keep the money coming in, Jake uses Phoebe to help win over new people. One can't help but wonder if Madoff did the same thing with his wife, Ruth.

When Madoff's scheme came to light, it was not clear exactly how much Ruth knew about what was really going on. It seemed impossible to me at the time that she could have been clueless. But the older I get, the more I believe that, in a marriage, spouses tend to turn over certain aspects of their lives to the spouse who is best suited to that piece. In The Widow of Wall Street, Meyer wants readers to believe that Phoebe was clueless about how the financial markets work (and, let's be honest, most of us really don't understand them) and that she believed that their rich lifestyle was the just reward of Jake's success.

The question is, how could a woman as smart as Phoebe, stay with a man like Jake, whose behavior becomes increasingly erratic as the stakes increase? How could she stand by him when it all comes crashing down. Meyers has that covered in a way that is very believable, from the initial reason they come together and the reasons she stays with him.

So of the writing seemed a little stilted to me. But there were also passages that really spoke to me, including this one that reminded me of going through my mother-in-law's things when she passed.
"Death taught you that souls lived in the ephemera once surrounding the ones you loved. Families fighting over ancient decks of cards and leaking teapots struggled to be keepers of the past. Now she understood. Possessions mattered because they held your history."
This book works for me in no small part because it explores, in a fictional way, the Madoff story. Meyers gives readers a look into what life might have been like for Madoff, his wife and their families and friends after it all came crashing down. What was life like when everything you own is suddenly under government control, including the things your mother handed down to you? What's it like for the children of a man that did these terrible things who also have to live with people wondering how much they knew? What's it like to have to face family who've been hurt by your husband? What's it like to be under siege by the media, to be considered a pariah wherever you go, to be torn by your loyalties? And what's it like to go from having the best of everything to having almost nothing? It's in the aftermath of Jake's downfall that this book really shone for me.

As with all of Meyer's books, this one would make a good book club selection with themes of loyalty, marriage, family ties, parental relationships, grief, corruption, ethics, fidelity, and multiculturalism.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Life: It Goes On - July 16

🌞🔥🌞🔥🌞 I had this whole piece written about how I needed a row of burning hot sun emojis but didn't know how to make that happen on my keyboard. Then I looked at my screen a realized there was an icon right on my system. I'm living the "you learn something new everyday" adage. Anyway, not as hot here as California and not as humid as Mississippi; but, still, 95 degrees with 65% humidity is damn hot and uncomfortable. And that's our forecast for at least another week. Makes it easy to convince myself to stay inside and read!

This Week I'm:

Listening To: Podcasts still. Mostly Stuff You Missed In History Class and Happier. I would be knocking out more of them if I listened while I did stuff around the house but I tend to prefer quiet when I can get it.

Watching: All caught up with Game of Thrones now and ready for Season 7 to kick off tonight. Makes me think, again, about picking up the books. It might be easier to do if there weren't "books" and it was only the one giant book to consider.

Reading: Finishing Behind Closed Doors for this month's book club today. Can I just say how much I wish I hadn't recommended this book? I wouldn't even finish it except I always finish the book club books. I'm looking forward to getting back to Once, in Lourdes.

Making: In this heat, we've been keeping it light and easy this week - nachos, salads, light pastas.

Planning: All plans are up in the air at the moment. Not for any particular reason other than that trying to get my family all on the same page right now is like trying to herd cats. And I have cats, so I know what I'm talking about.

Thinking About: I'm watching This Is Us even as I type - it's got me thinking about family relationships.

Enjoying: Rhubarb Pear cider and truffle mac and cheese. Yum. Sometimes, it's the little things.

Feeling: Lazy but there's too much to be done.

Looking forward to: Book club this week.

Question of the week: How do you get yourself "up" when you don't have the ambition to do anything?

Friday, July 14, 2017

News Of The World by Paulette Jules

News Of The World by Paulette Jules
Published June 2017 by William Morrow Paperbacks
Source: my copies (egalley and print) courtesy of the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary: n the aftermath of the Civil War, an aging itinerant news reader agrees to transport a young captive of the Kiowa back to her people in this exquisitely rendered, morally complex, multilayered novel of historical fiction from the author of Enemy Women that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.

 In the wake of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings from newspapers to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence.

 In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows.

 Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act “civilized.” Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forming a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land.

My Thoughts:
If that summary, on its own, convinced you to read this book, DO NOT read any other summaries of the book. There's a fifth paragraph I didn't include that pretty much gives away the ending. Why would a publisher do that??? The one thing that you absolutely do not want to do, is ruin this book for yourself in any way. Because this book, before I even started this review, was added to my favorite books of 2017 list; it will surely still be there at the end of the year. Trite as it sounds, I truly could not put this book down.

Paulette Jiles is, it turns out, a poet, which explains so much about the writing but not everything. Because not only is the writing in News Of The World beautiful, the story is, while not entirely unique (think Charles Portis' True Grit and John Wayne in The Searchers), engrossing, and Jiles uses her research remarkably well. She has clearly done her research but never gets mired down in it, giving readers just as much detail as they need to understand the time, a place, or the look of a thing. She also knows when the draw out a scene or a description and when to cut to the chase. There is a tension throughout the book but Jiles also makes time for sweet moments.

The last chapter is a bit jarring; it's one of those final chapters that spans many years to wrap everything up. The book is just over 200 page. One can't help but wonder if Jiles might have stretched that bit out a bit more; I would happily have read another 100 pages. But then, the story Jiles wanted to tell was told by the time she reached that last chapter. Maybe she should have left it there? Either way, Jiles would have left the reader wanting more and that's never a bad thing.

I'm just waiting now for the announcement that News Of The World has been optioned for a movie adaptation. I'm casting it in my head even now.

Thanks for the ladies at TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. For other opinions, check out the full tour.

Paulette Jiles is a novelist, poet, and memoirist. She is the author of Cousins, a memoir, and the novels Enemy Women, Stormy Weather, The Color of Lightning, Lighthouse Island, and News of the World. She lives on a ranch near San Antonio, TX.

Find out more about Paulette at her website.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Readathon Time!

If I'm reading again, it's probably time to start readathoning again, right? I think I've earned the right to just sit and read as much as I want to for a couple of weeks. Who am I kidding? We've all earned that right!

First up is Michelle's High Summer Readathon. Michelle's readathon's are always very relaxed and last a while so it's usually pretty easy to find time in that two week period to sit down and read. Never as much as I want there to be but given that my calendar for the month is pretty empty (other than just  spending as much time on the patio as possible), it might just work this year.

Tucked right into the middle of the High Summer Readathon is the 24 in 48 Readathon, hosted by Rachel, Kristen, and Kerry. The idea here is to read for 24 of the 48 hours of the weekend of July 22 and 23. Rachel created this readathon because she could never handle reading the full 24 hours of Dewey's readathon but liked the idea of cranking out that many hours of reading in one weekend. Since I can never seem to get more than a few hours of Dewey's in either, I think this might just work for me. If I can get my family to play along better for this one. That's a big "if."

Because I couldn't really think much past the wedding for the past two months, my reading commitments are minimal this summer. Which means that I can pretty well read whatever catches my fancy during the readathons. I'm ridiculously excited to just grab a big pile of books and go to town!