Welcome to my bookshelf

I am a voracious reader who is constantly found with her nose in a good (although sometimes not so good) book. I felt the need to share my experiences and suggestions, so here it is. Recommendations and comments are most definitely desired.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Role Playing and Pachyderms

Currently Reading: Hannah's Dream

Pg 241: "Was it possible to be better at being someone else than you were at being yourself?"

Alas and alack, I have been out of touch for far too long.  School is now in full swing and this quote seemed a bit appropriate given what I myself sometimes feel, but also some of what I see in the students as well.  All too often these little kiddos try to shuck off their unique personalities in terms of playing a role.  They do this to fit in or because they are not comfortable with who they are.  And they are often very good at playing these roles.  I am at a new school where there are many young gentlemen who are more concerned with acting like thugs, than doing well, or at least passing in their academics.   The saddest part of this is that many of them could have bright future ahead of them, but are throwing it all away to look "good" for a bunch of fifteen year-olds.  Well enough of the lamenting, back to the actual book.

This heart-lifting tale revolves around an elephant named Hannah.  She has been living alone at an ad-hoc zoo created by an eccentric lady in the mid 1900s.  The story takes place in the present day long after her benefactor has passed.  Hannah is getting old and weary and her only companion, her caretaker Sam, is also ailing.  A new elephant keeper comes onto the scene and helps all see how they can best help Hannah.  All works out in the end, but not sappily.  The supporting characters, including Sam's wife, a well-meaning zoo official and a precocious pig, add to the tale and provide some comic relief.  All in all, a nice story and well worth the read.  Some would say it is reminiscent of Water For Elephants, but I'm not so sure.  This one is more readable and uplifting.  More about the elephant conditions and less about forlorn love.  (Something I appreciated.)

Now back to work, but I promise not to be so lax in my posting in the future.  Here's hoping the role you play is your own! 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

An Act of Contrition

Currently Reading: A Patchwork Planet

This one was another of those books that was eerily mirroring some of my own life while I was reading it.  Poor Barnaby (what a great name!) is a down on his luck 30 year old.  He works for "Rent-A-Back", hardly an exciting profession, doing odd jobs for elderly folks who cannot manage to do household chores on their own.  Recently divorced, Barnaby only gets to see his daughter once a week and these visits are hardly long enough to gain the trust and love of his daughter.  Her mother doesn't seem to go out of her way to help him connect with the girl and really goes out of her way to make them difficult and short.  Barnaby made an error in his adolescence, stealing from neighbors, and seems to have to pay for it for the rest of his life.  What was the related bit for me was the constant feeling of guilt.  I am oh too prone to feel guilty for everything, even things that I have no control over.  I even feel guilty towards myself sometimes.  Barnaby's mother and father paid off some of his victims and of course will not let him forget this fact.  Every time he visits, she manages to slide it into the conversation and is quite a passive aggressive woman.  Of course when Barnaby manages to pay it off, she wants to return it, most likely so that she continues to have something to hold over his head.  He is also seeing a woman who produces feelings of guilt from a similar situation.  Her aunt hires Barnaby on as a daily helper, misplaces some of her money, and accuses him of stealing it, which of course he didn't.  His girlfriend sneaks the money back to her aunt and then proceeds to remind him of this fact for ages.  Even when the money is found, she refuses to take back her replacement, just like Mom, seeming to want to have something to hold over Barnaby's head.  So at the end of this long tale I have told, I guess what I am saying is that we both felt tremendous amounts of guilt.  The differences between our guilt is that his is invoked on purpose, while mine is from my own imaginations.  It is amazing what a powerful emotion this is.  I am still reeling with it as I type.  Another fantastic tome from Anne Tyler.  That woman certainly seems to understand the underdogs of this world, giving them life, while at the same time, not wanting to change them, something all too common in contempory fiction these days.

Well, off to work.  (I am feeling guilty about taking all this personal time away from my daunting to-do list for work!!)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Hooray for Science??

Currently Reading: Knockout Mouse

There are so many quotable sentiments in this that I couldn't decide on just one for this post.  Knockout Mouse is a combination biological and technological thriller.  It is really cool to read about all the things scientists are doing in terms of genetics, but actually terrifying as well.  On one hand, you have people striving to find a cure for cancer or some other noble cause.  On the other, you have egotistical scientists and funders seeking glory more than anything else.  In this book, a scientist dies due to what innocently (at first) seems to be a bad allergic reaction, but the underlying motives by her co-workers and other key players in the scientific arena cause a second look at the cause of not the death, but the reaction that caused it.  One of the most exciting thing about this book is that is speaks of plausible possibilities that can be seen as good or bad.  I for one am all for scientific research in all its many forms and hope that creative thinkers continue to use their powers for good.

Sorry for such a short post, but it is back to the grind for me which is seriously curtailing my reading and blogging time.  So now off to bed so I can get up again.  Sigh...but again, it is all for a good cause.  Those kiddos need me so they can go on to be super scientists like the characters in this tale.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Deja Vu

Currently Reading: Body Surfing

Anita Shreve is the queen of details.  Every little nuance about an object, person or place is given its due attention in any of her amazing books.  It is one of the many things I love about her writing.  The best part is that each detail serves a purpose.  All too often you read novels where too much attention is paid to unimportant little things and you find yourself skipping ahead to the dialogue or character action.  I always chuckle when reading a Clive Cussler adventure and he comes to the place where he describes what Dirk or Lauren are wearing on a date.  Who cares?!?!  That is so not the case in Sheve's writing.  The book begins with the smallest of hints about the main characters.  A flaw in a bathing suit or the feel of the sand beneath one's feet tantalize the reader into wanting to find out more about this person or place.  And of course, Sheve delivers in spades by giving life to subtly flawed and totally real characters.  Another interesting thing about this story is that it takes place at a beach house that has served as the setting for three of her other works.  Most notably for many, The Pilot's Wife, and the characters from those books are given acknowledgement through Sheve's attention to detail.  Of course the one I remembered the house from was Beach Glass, as The Pilot's Wife is one of her books that I haven't gotten to yet.  That will definitely be remedied though as I now know a bit more about that story and am intrigued enough to want to learn more.  Perhaps a marketing ploy?  I think not though.  She puts so much care and attention into creating these spaces that it seems like a waste not to use them again.  Not so much in the way that other authors carry over characters, but simply showing how so many different lives play out in the same setting.  Very, very interesting and a unique technique.  I am even now thinking back to other books of Sheve's that I have read and seeing if there were other connecting tidbits that I missed in the first reading.  Just one more thing to make her books memorable.

Monday, August 1, 2011

From Point A to Point B

Currently Reading: Commuters

Pg 361: "You know who you are, and that's the point."

So how obvious is it that I am in a little bit of a lull when it comes to work?  A new book each day practically!  Well that is all about to change which is why I am posting so much now that I can.  This book's name sort of refers to work, so I guess that can serve as a segue.  Although the title does imply working, I think it is more about the journey as opposed to the end, which I'm sure is what Tedrowe had in mind.  Here is a story told from the points of view of three main characters each hailing from a different point in their life.  An elderly newly-wed, her stressed middle aged daughter and her new step-grandson, a former user who is still trying to find who is he sans substances.  One of the most exciting things about this book is that you really don't know what will happen next.  You begin the book by making predictions, but are surprised so often that you stop trying after a bit and take the story as it comes.  Winnie, the old woman, recently married Avery's grandfather much to the dismay of his mother.  The grandfather is a successful businessman who quickly succumbs to dementia.  Winnie is at a loss because their married life just started and he is already lost to her.  Meanwhile, Winnie's daughter, Rachel, is experiencing the same thing.  Her husband recently suffered head trauma causing him to have to re-learn how to live and spurring on a desire to write a book about his experiences.  While he toils away with his writing groups, his family finds themselves in a financial and emotional decline.  How can you be present and available to others when you can't be the same for yourself?  I don't want to say that this is a novel about finding yourself, as the quote suggests, because I don't think that would be true to the author's intentions.  I think it is more about dealing with what you are dealt in the best and truest way possible.  In the end, things are OK.  Not good, not bad, but at least finally accepted by all involved.

The quote really spoke to me in many ways.  All to often we are faced with having to figure out who we are and then once we do, we try to prove it to others through our actions and words.  So you're a hipster?  That doesn't mean you can rock some bootcuts every once in a while.  I am going through a crisis of sorts that isn't really so much about finding myself, but rather being true to myself.  I have spent so much time trying to achieve something that I think someone wants me to do, but am still unsatisfied.  In fact I may have achieved the goal a little too well, and am now faced with how to fix it.  Do I go back to my old ways?  I don't really want to, but that's the only thing I know.  All I know is that I am uncomfortable and things have reached a breaking point.  Now that I think about it, my problem is not really about the quoted idea, but I just had to get it out there.  Now onto carrying out the plan.  That is the hardest part.  I know where I am and where I want to be, just don't want to make the journey between the two places.  Ugg.