Saturday, September 14, 2013

Trapped in Storyland

I'm on a reading kick lately - gobbling up books left and right. I almost feel as though I spent the last 7 years in book jail, separated by lack of time, effort, and energy from throwing myself into books, and I've finally been liberated.

I don't know why I have this feeling right now. Ever since I became a parent, I typically climb into bed somewhere between 10:00 and 11:00 at night, pick up a book (when I manage it), and struggle behind half-open eyes to read a few pages before conking out for the night. It's not that I haven't read any good books in the last 7 years - I have! - it's just that I'm so. tired. every. night.  And as a result, it's takes me such an agonizingly long time to read each book that I lose the connection to the characters, the setting, the flow, each time I put the book down. I spent an embarrassingly long time reading the Game of Thrones series (I did finally prevail, but refuse to re-read them all when the next book in the series comes out), and I think it broke me. My Kindle lay fallow for months while I settled for Facebook or Pinterest or a half-hearted perusing of Entertainment Weekly before heading off to dreamland.

But NOW! I climb into bed and read far too late into the night for the 6:00 a.m. wake-up of my alarm. I snatch moments here and there - while the kids are playing in the tub, at Lucy's dance class, while M. watches football on TV - much to M.'s annoyance. I served on jury duty last week, and the extended recesses and lunch breaks while the judge and lawers worked out various law-ish things was like manna to my furiously-reading eyes. I 've taken to carrying my Kindle in my purse, just in case opportunity knocks, and sometimes I'm so engrossed that I fleetingly consider grabbing it at red lights (would never. but want).

I'm not reading high-brow literature here, so don't be too impressed. Mostly I find my books through family, or from recommendations by a couple of the bloggers I read who regularly update on what they are reading. I'm trying to be better about adding titles to my Amazon wish list when I come upon particularly glowing reviews, so that when I finish a book, I don't have to face that sad "but what will I read now that I'm done?" feeling for long.

Here's what I've been reading lately, in case anyone else is looking for inspiration, too. I would do a "thumbs up/thumbs down" thing here, but honestly, I liked every book I read. Am I easy to please? Perhaps:

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (sci-fi) - I borrowed this from my mom, because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, but felt conflicted about giving the author any of my money what with his whole "gay people shouldn't get married" stance. So this way I could read (her battered, very old copy) for free! It was a GREAT plot, especially considering how long ago it was written, but suffered from a lack of development in the latter half of the book. Card spent so much time delving into Ender's experience in Battle School that everything that came after that seemed so rushed. Also the Peter and Valentine storyline was obfuscating. But I really, really liked the book and will probably (eventually) see the movie.

Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card (sci-fi) - the sequel to Ender's Game. It took me a while to get into this one - the beginning is wordy and has little connection to Ender's Game, so it's not like you're picking up right where that book ended. Plus, Card continued his "let's name the aliens something off-putting" (in Ender's Game, the aliens involved were called "buggers") convention by basing the storyline around an porcine-ish alien species he called "piggies." Hard to feel connected with THAT. But get into the book I eventually did, and it was another good read.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (fiction, of the regular-but-slightly-magical kind) - this book was absolutely beautiful to read. Every description was perfect, but there wasn't TOO much description. I was engrossed. Not one of those "excellent literature is dense" books - very readable. And beautiful. Highly recommend.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer (young adult/fantasy) - I'm not much of a young adult fiction reader. I skipped the Twilight series, and liked-but-not-loved the Hunger Games series (Mockingjay was such a disappointment). I borrowed this from my mom after both my sisters tore through it because I was running out of reading material on vacation. This is the first book in a series of four books (called the Lunar Chronicles), and like my sisters, I tore through it. A quick read, and the storyline - I'm not sure if it's meant to be a bit of a twist? Probably not. I hope not - the storyline is hinted at mightily from the beginning, so there are no real surprises. But I still loved it. A take-off on the Cinderella fairytale, it had all the right elements of YAF - a not-too-pretty heroine with a short catchy name, a suspenseful plot, bad guys (or in this case, gals), and romance. It was engrossing and also made me a bit swoony.

Scarlett by Marissa Meyer (as above) - I bought book 2 of the Lunar Chronicles as soon as I finished Cinder. For a second book (they are never as good, don't you think?), it was actually really well done. Cinder's story continues, but intersects with Scarlett's. Took me forever to realize Scarlett was supposed to be a take off on Little Red Riding Hood - I kept thinking Snow White for some reason (stuck in princess mindset? Ruby red lips?). And there are even wolves that feature prominently, so I don't know what my problem was.  I raced through this book as fast as Cinder, and got all excited when I saw the third book available for purchase on Amazon. Only to discover that it was a pre-order purchase, and the next book (called Cress) isn't due out until February of next year. I was sad. Want more now.

So I went looking for more young adult fiction, because it's cheaper and a quick read and gah, fine, I just apparently really like it.

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green (young adult) - This was really, really good, but also really sad. What possessed me to read a book about teenagers with cancer? Only a small part of me held out hope for a happy ending, so it's not like I was blindsided. And I guess the end is a bit uplifting? Very good, but bring tissues.

Divergent by Veronica Roth (young adult) - I had heard the name of this book before, something along the lines of it being the next Hunger Games, etc. That's not why I read it, though - I bought it because it was super cheap on Amazon, and I needed something to entertain myself during jury duty. It IS another "dystopian future" book, with a female protagonist with a short, catchy-but-tough name (Tris). There were so many parts of the storyline I found implausible. What's with all the empty trains that circle the city, just so that the Dauntless faction can jump on and off of them? Why don't they have cars, or at least bikes? They'd at least be cooler than taking the bus, I suppose. Plus, the whole scale of things was mystifying. How many people live in this fenced-in, destroyed version of Chicago? Why do none of them seem to know each other by sight, but it seems like there can't be more than a couple hundred in each faction? Why are is everyone allowed to choose their own faction, when everyone is supposed to exhibit all the same qualities (though I guess maybe that's sort of the point, now that I've finished the second book? Jury still out on that)? Wouldn't you just give everyone an aptitude test, and then stick them in whatever faction they line up with?

I could go on. But plot implausibilities aside, I was so INTO this book. I don't even know why. Oh wait, yes, probably the romance. Sucker. I am apparently a sucker for it. Reliving the angsty teenagehood I never really had, perhaps? Anyway, read this book. It's really good.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth (young adult) - Book 2. Not as good as Divergent (see above, re: second books never as good), but did  I care? Nope. I didn't care. I was NOT going to be able to get anything done until I had finished it, that much was clear, so after I finished my jury duty and faced the prospect of no more gobs of undisturbed reading time, I made M. watch football one night while I sat next to him and read to the end. The next day, I pre-ordered the third (and final) book, Allegiant, even though I think pre-ordering is lame, especially for a Kindle. But it's out next month, and I WILL be reading it, so whatever. I figured it can only get MORE expensive, not less (bought it for $9.99) for the foreseeable future.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (young adult) - Most of the books in my Amazon wish list are books that Princess Nebraska has recommended. She reads A LOT (probably as much as you, Stacey, or maybe EVEN MORE, which I never thought possible), and is not easily impressed (unlike me), so if she likes it, it must be good. Eleanor and Park is one she recommended highly. I bought it because I had a Divergent-sized hole in my life to fill. But I didn't want another series - I had to get back to normal, controllable, only-a-little-bit-of-reading life. This is just a single book, so I figured I would be safe. How engrossing could it be?

I started reading it on Monday, about 10  minutes before I had to get ready to head down to my meeting in Viriginia. Just a couple of pages, to have something to look at while I ate lunch. I started, and within minutes I couldn't put it down. I brought it up to the bathroom with me, and read it while I brushed my teeth, and in between each makeup step. If I could have brought it in the shower with me, I would have. I don't even know why it's so engrossing, but it is. When I was reading it, I would get this weird buzzy feeling in my hands, which - I don't really know what that was about, but I think it's just a testament that I just felt this book so hard. I had FEELINGS about it. So, yeah, I absolutely loved, loved, loved this book. I'm so sad it's over.

And now I am reading nothing, despite my long Amazon wish list. Because I should probably take a break from reading for a bit. Definitely. The rest of my life is missing me.

But just in case I don't - what are you reading lately?


  1. This is where I say: PLEASE get on Goodreads! It is an amazing resource because you get to see what all your friends are reading and what they've rated things. Then you can add things to your to-read list. So much easier than getting 1-2 recommendations at a time. And I can quickly check on Goodreads to know that I've read 64 books so far this year!

    My best this year:
    - Sharp Objects (if you liked Gone Girl)
    - Wonder
    - Age of Miracles
    - Flowers in the Attic. Yes I read it 100 times before and it was still so good 25 years later!
    - Where'd You Go Bernadette

    Lots of four star books also:
    - Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing
    - Eleanor and Park
    - Orphan Train
    - One and Only Ivan
    - Dogs of Babel
    - Beautiful Ruins
    - Wild
    - Nobodies Album
    - Defending Jacob

    And Divergent. OBVIOUSLY it would be a lot more difficult to keep up a gas distribution center where individuals had to come and gas up. Since many things have been left to wild, I would expect that gasoline, which is very corrosive, would have eaten through pipelines. You would also need an extensive electricity grid to keep gas pumps working. You would need a huge electric network.

    The El, at least in downtown Chicago, is a much smaller grid that could easily be powered with just one distribution station. It would help if you had ever visited the city to understand the Loop is a pretty small square, and all of the buildings described are within those small limits. The power stations are visible (in real life) right along Lake Michigan, so I could see how they would generate power right there and distribute it underground via cables to the El.

    Not that I have clearly spent time thinking about this myself or anything.

    Also.... I worked in Merchandise Mart and the scale of that building is ridiculous. It actually has more usable square feet than any other building in the world. It has it's own zip code and own post office. It was insanely distracting to read Insurgent with constant references to where I worked. (at the time I read it, I was still telecommuting to a group there, so making daily calls to the Mart.)

    (This would have been better as an email, sorry.)

    1. I love that you have a whole theory already worked out about the train usage in Divergent. And thanks for the recommendations! I've gotten on Goodreads just to read reviews, but don't have an account myself. May need to take the plunge...

  2. Oh wait, you do also know that Divergent is currently in production as a movie and is coming out in March, right? And Veronica Roth is releasing four short stories telling Four's version of events? The first one just came out.

    1. I knew about the movie, but not the short stories. Since I apparently have a crush on Four, I will have to read them :-).

  3. Thanks for the recommendations. I'll echo above that "Where'd You Go Bernadette" and "Defending Jacob" are really good!

    1. I'm making tally marks next to those two - thanks!

  4. I think you'd love "Where'd You Go Bernadette!" Also impossible to put down: "The Silent Wife." I can't wait to read some of the ones you recommend.

    1. OK, three recommendations for Where'd You Go Bernadette - this may have to be my next book :-). And J., of the ones I mentioned above, I think you'd like the Snow Child and Eleanor and Park best. Let me know if you try them!