Thursday, July 27, 2017

Book Log: June 2017

My youngest sister has been doing an annual post of books completed, and I always enjoy looking through it. I do keep a log of my finished books, so I thought cataloging my completed books at the close of every month would be a good way to dust off this blog and encourage me to jot down a few lines -- or a few paragraphs -- with my impressions (a compiled list will appear at the close of the year). I don't like spoilers, so while I put some initial thoughts after each title, when possible I'm purposely vague regarding plot specifics so as not to dissuade any of you from reading them. This is my second year doing this; here is a page containing the 2016 posts (or here is a list of all 2016 books, without the commentary on each one).

The included Amazon links are affiliate links; many of these titles I check out from the library or already own, but should you be inclined to purchase one, these links only mean Amazon will give me a small percentage of the cost, at no additional expense to you.

29) 6/4: 10:04 by Ben Lerner
This was the book club's selection; one person said she'd read a review that described it as avant garde, and that is apt.

It's an artsy read; time is fluid and certain themes return over and over again. I wondered how much of this book was actually taken directly from the author's life and read an interview discussing it. While there are numerous topics or situations stolen from the author's life, the interview suggested that was merely a jumping off point.

It wasn't a book I would have found and picked up on my own, but it was an interesting read.

30) 6/7: 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker
Just often enough lately I find myself listening to an audiobook instead of picking up the actual copy, if only out of necessity - I can't read a book while mowing the lawn, driving my car, folding laundry, or washing dishes, but I can listen to one, and those tasks need to be accomplished either way. Such was the case for this one.

Jen Hatmaker is amusing and passionate, but I think I would have preferred reading this one. It's too easy for anecdotal parts to come off as trite as conveyed by the audiobook reader.

This book finds Hatmaker assessing seven areas of her life, one per month (clothes, spending, waste, food, possessions, media, stress) . She is trying to rail against materialistic tendencies and she ties in background information and how each topic ties into her faith. I found it thought-provoking in the more level-headed parts, and at times eye-rolling as the narrator flipped out over silly things (the reader attempts to play up the humor, but I think she goes overboard and I'd have preferred reading the text better than listening in those sections).

Some of my hesitancy might also come from a place of already incorporating a measure of this mindfulness (I'm frugal so I don't often eat out, we recycle and compost, we cloth-diapered both of our children for most of their diaper-wearing seasons due to cost and waste concerns, etc). I do believe it to be a good introduction to important topics. But go for the paperback copy, not the audiobook, if you think you'll be as judge-y as I am.

31) 6/8: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
Here I continue with the theme of checking out children's chapter books to see if my older daughter is ready for them. I listened to the audiobook version while painting our guest room, and Brennan subsequently listened to it.

Take a selfish china rabbit, send him on adventures not of his choosing, and see how he matures. I appreciate a "show, don't tell" approach to demonstrate to children how ugly selfishness is but that love borne from selflessness is beautiful, and the pain of lost love adds a richness to life, as well.

32) 6/12: The Job by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg
June had me suffering from my seasonal allergies; they were severe enough I began to wonder if there was more going on, and when I thought I was adding on pink eye to my symptoms at the end of the month, I even went to a doctor during our trip to see family (turns out my allergies were so bad they were causing the non-contagious strain of pink eye).

So that's the setting of me picking up this book. It's a light read. In this book series (of which this is the third), you have Kate O'Hare, the FBI agent on the trail of con-man Nicholas Fox. In the first book they create a secret working relationship to set up high-profile criminals and take them down.

Think heist movies or shows, a la Ocean's Eleven (and subsequent movies) or Leverageand you get the Fox-O'Hare plot (Lee Goldberg, one of the co-authors, wrote the Monk series).  It's a fluffy read, but it was the right speed for my seasonal-allergy suffering self.

33) 6/27: Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter
Confession: I have become a Hamilton fan girl.

It all started as I heard numerous friends rave about the musical. I read a piece talking about the significance of it, and they linked to Lin-Manuel Miranda's performance of a song at the White House in 2009, which is where it all started. I was charmed. Go ahead and give it a listen if you're unfamiliar with Hamilton, I'll wait.

After that song hooked me; I learned I could stream the Broadway cast recording for free since we had Amazon Prime. I still didn't act, though. I knew I wanted to listen to the music uninterrupted, so finally I cloistered myself in my craft room one evening while Eric was holding a game night, and I sewed while I listened.

This is the [sewing] room where it happened

That was last summer. I find myself continually coming back to the music, even downloading it to my phone, where space is precious, so that I could indulge in listening when I didn't have a wifi signal.

I flipped through Hamilton: The Revolution, which is colloquially called the Hamiltome, at a bookstore, intrigued but not sure whether I wanted to pony up the money. My husband surprised me with it for my birthday, and I have loved poring over it. I marvel at Miranda's genius, his deliberate attempts to be historically accurate whenever possible (he worked alongside Ron Chernow at times, author of the biography Alexander Hamilton that inspired Miranda to begin the project in the first place), and his skill is reflected as he creates lyrics in different styles to reflect the background of the various characters.

This footnote is just one example of the thought that went into it every step of the way
I love so many of the songs, but if I'm honest, "Dear Theodosia" and "It's Quiet Uptown" are two favorites, perhaps because they both deal with parenthood and serve as bookends to a life. The latter, "It's Quiet Uptown," caught me offguard on my first listen, and I found myself crying as it played. That song still brings me to tears - a reflection about loss, grief, forgiveness, restoration...all the feels.

I've savored this book throughout the year, only now finishing it. My husband surprised me with tickets to see Hamilton in Chicago on our anniversary in July, so I wanted to complete this beforehand.

34) 6/30: The Scam by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg
Yet again another in the Fox-O'Hare series. An in-consequential but entertaining read, but this one deviates from previous titles  with a cliffhanger at the end.

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