Lovely Little Shelf

Book Nerd Euphoria

I’m from a teeny town in Southwestern Ohio and no one has ever heard of it (although they always do this “Oh! Lebanon! Where the dog track is!” thing. Nope. No dog track, although our mascot is the greyhound. Ha.) and the greatest thing happened yesterday.

This:
new leb

Do you see that?! I was reading One Summer by Bill Bryson and, wa la! My teeny town!

He was talking about how many new radio stations popped up in the early 2o’s and said that even a poultry farm in New Lebanon, Ohio had a station. Greatest. Ever!

I literally got up out of bed to go show Shaun. You read that right. I was reading quietly and I got up. That was my level of excitement.

Have you ever had any cool mentions of your town or area or something that you are really familiar with in a book? Did it get you so excited you talked about it for days?

The New Things

And here is a tidy little list of things that are different since I last posted two years ago. Let’s get this out of the way and then we’ll proceed like that little mid-life crisis never happened, sound good?

  • I guess my biggest life change is that I’m a mom of two little guys now. Jude was born August 2, 2012, making him almost exactly two years younger than Isaac. He’s delightful and hilarious. Let’s not talk even for one second about how not-delightful those first 11 or 12 months are, because we’re past that now. He’s walking and talking and making messes and seeing the boys together is just the best thing on Earth.
    DSC_0200
  • In the same line, Isaac is almost four. He’s a preschooler now. He’s just fantastic. He’s obsessed with having all these little “nature collections” so we have a house full of rocks and pinecones and leaves and sticks. It’s the greatest.
    DSC_0221
  • I’m a gardener now. I had my first garden last year and was just crazy about it. I love setting it up and working it and having just this really tangible result from all the work. Can’t wait to get mine set up this year- it’s almost that time :)
  • Like I mentioned in the last post, I am blogging over at We Still Read. It’s so fun to be part of something with these other women who are likeminded in the “we’re going to read even though we have busy lives and all these kids” way. It’s the greatest.
  • I got a blush stick (Is there a fancier word for this? I have no idea.) as a gift and I love it. I just look so much less dead now. Progress, people.
  • I’m still reading. A lot. I think I read 125 in 2012 and 100 in 2013. I’m over 30 this year so far. So no worries there, there will be content galore, my friends. Content galore.
  • When I posted last, I had just finished Andrew Johnson in the Presidential Challenge. This month I read George H. W. Bush. That’s right- I have 3 more presidents and we can call it a wrap. I threw together a wordpress blog with all of the reviews from the people participating in the challenge so you can find all of my reviews over there.
  • I have a Kindle Paperwhite and I LOVE it. I was kind of late on the e-reader train, but I think it’s because I was waiting for one that was perfect for me.

And there ya have it. I’m so excited to be back and share bookish stuff with you!

Nothing Like a Two Year Absence…

Well, guys. I think I’m back.

I spent some time last week reading through a bunch of my old posts and was like “Um, I really loved that and was pretty dang good at it.” So, here we are.

I think I quit because I put too much pressure on myself. I don’t know why. I have an extra kid now and while he’s made our lives crazier, he’s also taught me to take it easy on myself, that I’m doing a fine job.

I started to get the itch to blog again last year and teamed up with some awesome women and started We Still Read . It’s obviously the best group blog written by reading moms east of the Mississippi (except, Jennie, are you even east of the Mississippi? I forget geography.).

It helped, but I feel like that is more a space for reviews of books that I either totally loved or totally hated. I miss talking about silly bookish stuff, bookshelf porn, posting book comics and, you know, the things I did here.

So I had to ask Shaun how to even log in because I had entirely forgotten… and then… here I am! Let’s do this!

Bookish Thoughts: What to Read This Summer

So, I admittedly love graphs and charts. And books, so… when my friend Jess shared this, I immediately spent about an hour following different paths…

I know that it’s on Teach.com and is mostly for students, but still… some great recs here.

Check it out. What book did you get recommended?

Review: The Little Giant of Aberdeen County

littlegiant

The Book: The Little Giant of Aberdeen County, by Tiffany Baker

The Story: (from Goodreads) When Truly Plaice’s mother was pregnant, the town of Aberdeen joined together in betting how recordbreakingly huge the baby boy would ultimately be. The girl who proved to be Truly paid the price of her enormity; her father blamed her for her mother’s death in childbirth, and was totally ill equipped to raise either this giant child or her polar opposite sister Serena Jane, the epitome of femine perfection. When he, too, relinquished his increasingly tenuous grip on life, Truly and Serena Jane are separated–Serena Jane to live a life of privilege as the future May Queen and Truly to live on the outskirts of town on the farm of the town sadsack, the subject of constant abuse and humiliation at the hands of her peers.

Serena Jane’s beauty proves to be her greatest blessing and her biggest curse, for it makes her the obsession of classmate Bob Bob Morgan, the youngest in a line of Robert Morgans who have been doctors in Aberdeen for generations. Though they have long been the pillars of the community, the earliest Robert Morgan married the town witch, Tabitha Dyerson, and the location of her fabled shadow book–containing mysterious secrets for healing and darker powers–has been the subject of town gossip ever since. Bob Bob Morgan, one of Truly’s biggest tormentors, does the unthinkable to claim the prize of Serena Jane, and changes the destiny of all Aberdeen from there on.

When Serena Jane flees town and a loveless marriage to Bob Bob, it is Truly who must become the woman of a house that she did not choose and mother to her eight-year-old nephew Bobbie. Truly’s brother-in-law is relentless and brutal; he criticizes her physique and the limitations of her health as a result, and degrades her more than any one human could bear. It is only when Truly finds her calling–the ability to heal illness with herbs and naturopathic techniques–hidden within the folds of Robert Morgan’s family quilt, that she begins to regain control over her life and herself. Unearthed family secrets, however, will lead to the kind of betrayal that eventually break the Morgan family apart forever, but Truly’s reckoning with her own demons allows for both an uprooting of Aberdeen County, and the possibility of love in unexpected places

What I Thought: The cover is beautiful. I love books about small towns. I love books about families in turmoil. I thought that I was going to love this book. I even pegged it as my “take this book camping” book… and that’s a pretty big deal.

The first 100 pages were absolutely brutal for me. I was really torn about just putting it down all together- while I thought that the writing was pretty and readable, the story itself was just…. nothing. I didn’t care about the (1 million small town) characters, there was no real progression and while I realize that it was all plot set up, there has to be something there to keep you hooked, ya know?! I thought about putting it down, but had already been reading it long enough that I wanted to at least have the satisfaction of finishing.

About page 120, I felt like the writer finally hit her stride- some major plot pieces came together and more “minor” characters were dropped in favor of focusing on 4 or 5 main people. This was a super smart move and I found myself becoming attached to a couple of the characters.

Still, even with a little bit of plot progression and relatable characters, I still took almost 2 weeks to read a 350 page book. That is totally ridiculous. To be fair, I read a couple other books at the same time, but it was only because I couldn’t handle Aberdeen County anymore! :)

I loved everything to do with the old quilt and how it came to be and how Truly used it. The tail end of the book- probably the last 100 pages or so- focus almost entirely on that and I read that quickly and was totally intrigued. It’s just a shame that it took the author that long to get around to it. I think that this could have been a pretty great book had it been handled better.

Conclusion: Even though I eventually got into it, I’d advise anyone else to skip this. The payoff is not worth all of the work plodding through the first 2/3rds of the book!

Bookish Thoughts: Weekend Project

I love NorthEastern Ohio. I know, I know, it sounds like the most depressing place on Earth, but it’s actually green and wonderful and I love it.

Here’s the problem: Our closest IKEA is in Pittsburgh. Ugh. My parents live in SouthWestern Ohio, which, by some freak fluke in the IKEA research department does, in fact, have its own IKEA. Grrr. Anyway, when we go to visit my parents, we frequently borrow one of their larger-than-our-tiny-car vehicles and make an IKEA run.

With us switching rooms with the boys (eek! I can say “the boys” now. Because that is a thing.) we have a lot of stuff we need to organize and decorate both rooms.

The larger bedroom, which is now a double nursery has two closets. We’ve decided to put clothes in one (we even fit a small dresser in there!) and turn the other one into a reading nook. I’m totally excited about it.

This is my main inspiration picture:

Our cushions and pillows will be on the floor and quite a bit less “formal”, but that is the main gist.

Here’s the totally fun part though:

Those are just $4 IKEA spice racks. Using some pillows we already have and a handful of those little racks, I think we can create our book nook for less than $30. Eek!

I’ll let you know next week how it goes.

Anyone else have fun book nooking plans for this weekend?

Presidential Challenge: Andrew Johnson

theavenger

The Avenger Takes His Place: Andrew Johnson and the 45 Days that Changed the Nation, by Howard Means

I thought that finding a bio for Andrew Johnson was a little tricky. It seemed like most of the books focused more on his impeachment trial than on his actual life. This book was titled kind of funny- I thought it would have a really specific focus on whatever 45 days it was talking about- but actually this was a pretty broad view of Johnson’s life, with just a little more specific focus on the days directly following Lincoln’s assassination.

Here is the weird thing: I read that massive, 700 page book about Lincoln and Andrew Johnson was just BARELY mentioned. Because the biography seemed so all-inclusive, I kind of figured that Andrew Johnson was sort of a nobody and that at least from a political standpoint this would be a pretty boring read. I’m glad to say that I was wrong.

While I enjoyed the focus on his early life (Dude never attended a day of school in his whole life. Ever.), I was much more intrigued by where he stood politically. He was from Tennessee and when they pulled away from the Union, Andrew Johnson was the only Southerner left in the US Congress. He was kind of this lone wolf type character and made sense as a running mate for Lincoln because they figured Johnson could help pull in at least a handful of Southern votes. Smart, no?

There are a few chapters in this book about the Lincoln assassination and this big plot to not only kill Lincoln but most of the higher-ups in government at the time. Andrew Johnson should have died that night, but his would-be assassin was just kind of a coward and got drunk instead. Johnson was totally shocked and grief stricken and was all of a sudden president of a country that was still (mostly) divided and coming up on the very tail end of a civil war. He was just put in this awful spot.

He’s gotten a lot of flack for how his reconstruction plan looked, and truth be told he almost spun the newly re-instated U.S. back into another civil war, or at least into permanent division. The fact is, he was pretty much chosen as vice president as a political move and I feel like not a lot of thought was put into the fact that he could actually become president. To be honest, I feel like even Johnson himself didn’t see himself that way- as president material.

I thought this book was written in a really balanced way- it didn’t come down too hard on Johnson, but also didn’t give him much slack. While sections got dry for me, the book as a whole was an intriguing, entertaining read. I would recommend this to other people wanting to learn more about our presidents.

If you want more info on the Presidential Challenge, read this and check out the current participants. If you want to join, email me or comment here and get started!

Blog News: Identity Crisis

Loyal Readers, nice to see you again.

I know that since I’ve been blogging (almost 3 years!) I’ve never taken a break as long as the one I just did, but it was much needed. I always told myself if I reached the point where blogging felt like a job or annoyed me or wasn’t enjoyable, I’d throw in the towel, no questions asked. I’ve been inching up on that point for a few months, but at the beginning of May, I just felt kind of done.

I’ve always enjoyed the book blogging community, but I found myself kind of “over” it- all the schmoozing for free books, talking bad about each other and competition was just on my nerves. I’ve tried hard not to become a part of that, but a huge portion of what I enjoy about keeping a blog is reading other people’s blogs- and with only a handful of exceptions, I was even tired of that.

I found myself dreading writing reviews and uninspired by the bookish stuff I was seeing. I didn’t have stuff to post about every day and it was annoying me.

During the last few weeks of not posting, I’ve also abandoned my Google Reader all together. I have over 1,000 posts on there- I just checked for the first time in a long time and laughed out loud at the high number of unread posts.

Here’s the thing: the break helped. I’ve had so many fun ideas for posts and actually feel really inspired to continue.

On one condition.

I’m not going to be posting every day anymore. I’m not even going to try. There are are several blogs that I really like that just update on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. That sound so perfect and fun to me. I’m going to shoot for a review a week. If I don’t feel like reviewing a book, I’m not going to force myself to review it. I’ve always tried to do this blog thing on my own terms, but I’m going to try to do that even more so now.

So that’s that.

Sorry I abandoned you. It feels good to be back.

Bookish Thoughts: Shelves Organize Themselves

So, I don’t actually think that these are available for purchase (at least I couldn’t find where to buy them), but I’m totally in love with the idea:

A more “straight on” view:

Isn’t that so fun!?

I found them on designboom. Pretty inspiring site, but this was the best thing I found.

What do you think? Like them or absolutely love them?

Review: A Widow’s Story

awidowsstory

The Book: A Widow’s Story, by Joyce Carol Oates

The Story: (From Goodreads):Oates’s deeply personal and intimate memoir–unlike anything she’s written before–about the unexpected death of her husband of 40 years, Raymond Smith, and its wrenching, surprising aftermath.

What I Thought: I know that I told you guys a little bit about my NaNo experience last year: Writing a novel in a month and all that. It really was so incredible and I feel really glad that I did it. The plot of my novel and my reasons for writing it, however, I wonder if I shared with you. My novel is about a woman whose husband dies suddenly and she is left, several years later, still picking up the pieces. I wrote it because becoming a widow at a young age (or an old age or… ever…ugh. I can’t talk about it.) is my number one biggest fear. I decided going into the novel that I was just going to write through it… just take these fears that I’ve had floating around since we got married and get them all out on paper. It was therapeutic in a way, but also took me to a level of grief that I’ve rarely experienced.

I think that I picked up this book for the exact same reason, just this morbid curiosity about something that absolutely terrifies me.

Joyce Carol Oates’ situation was different than what I wrote and even what I’ve based this huge fear around. The big difference is that she was older. She was 70 and her husband was 78 and they had been married for a long, long time. For some reason that has rarely played into my imagination for a few reasons, only one of which being that I cannot yet imagine being old or being married that long… but still, same idea. She’s totally in love with this man, structures her life around him and then in a blink… he’s gone. It’s so sad and true and horrifying and… just everything.

I read a book a couple of years ago written by a widow- same general premise- and for the life of me I can’t remember what it was called. I know that in my review I said that I couldn’t give it a positive review because even through her grief, I had a hard time connecting with her- I had a hard time seeing her relationship, her life as something real.

To put it very mildly, that is not a problem here. I immediately “got” where Joyce Carol Oates was coming from, found myself in her shoes and cried (sobbed) with her as she went through about a zillion stages of grief all at once, all the time. There was something so powerful about her taking her craft, her art, her skill and just spilling her guts out… oh, man. I was right there with her.

Even beyond her grief, I loved having this inside look to her marriage. These were often the most poignant parts of the book because you know, from page one, how it all ends.

Can I confess, though, that when I found out she married less than a year after the death of her husband, I almost felt cheated? I know that people just need a companion and I’m happy that she found that, but I was almost shocked that she could recover from it all that quickly and fall in love/get married again. I’m not sure if that’s wrong of me, but it did taint the book a bit for me.

Conclusion: This one will rip your guts out, but is a great read. I would recommend with caution.