Shirley Jackson, Spooky Scary

A second post in one month? A post that doesn’t have to do with how our lives were crushed by flood waters? Heck yeah, get yourself ready for some book talk!

Despite the abnormal circumstances of our lives, I have been able to do a surprising amount of reading. This year I set no specific books to be read and instead have followed my interests. Apparently I have been very interested in being spooked.

Since we’ve been evacuated my reading list has included, but is not limited to: 2 Shirley Jackson’s, 2 Neil Gaiman’s, 2 Dean Koontz’s and 2 books about asylums. I have come to some conclusions.

  1. I really want to finish the Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz
  2. Shirley Jackson is my new favorite. I’ve read the short story The Lottery, The Haunting,  We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Bird’s Nest. On my temporary, evacuee bookshelf is The Sundial and The Lottery and Other Short Stories. At least one of those will most likely be started this evening.
  3. There’s no reason I should have put off reading Neil Gaiman this long. I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane and loved it. I really wish I lived in a world where I could have read it in one sitting. I then listened to him read The Graveyard Book and enjoyed it tremendously! I can’t decide which of his to read next. Suggestions?
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An old book shelf my dad built when my sister was a baby — still in use and still painted with balloons

I also just finished like 12 hours ago read Nelly Bly’s Ten Days in a Mad House and I’m enthralled. I want to order Around the World in 72 Days. It’s a great off shoot of what I’ve been reading of Anne Lindburgh and Amelia Earhart!

Hopefully work will ramp up at the house in the coming weeks, maybe that will cut into my reading time. If not I’ve got quite a few titles lined up! What are you reading? Do your reading tastes change with the weather?

Happy Reading!

 

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Book Tag

Have you heard about this? I just stumbled across it. For someone who wants to be a blogger, I’m pretty out of the loop. Anyway, a book tag is a list of questions and prompts about books you’ve read. There are some that are more themed but I found this one that’s just straight forward fiction. It looks like fun and who knows, maybe some of you will want to read it!


Author you’ve read the most books from:

cc6ef39d0da1aa5f938d388f547bfc5aHands down Rex Stout. I’ve read nearly every Nero Wolfe mystery. There are a few left on the list and a few that are really hard to come by, but it’s got to be around 60 stories: short, novella and novel.

Next would be J.K. Rowling. I’ve read all the Harry Potters and all the Cormoran Strikes, so 10 books total. I read 50 pages of Casual Vacancy and put it down. But I think I should still get credit for those pages.

Best Sequel Ever:

Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien I guess. I liked it better than The Fellowship of the Ring. The Tolkien enthusiast might say it’s not really a sequel, but I’m not an enthusiast and to be honest, I haven’t read that many other series.

Currently Reading:

Funny you should ask, The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Drink of Choice While Reading:

Water. Disappointing, I know

E-reader or Physical Book?

Physical book. I need the sense of accomplishment that comes when there are more pages on the left side than the right.

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated In High School:

anton-yelchin-odd-thomas67-e1374441431596I’d like to think sweet, sensitive Daniel Sempere from The Shadow of the Wind (provided he could speak English) but more likely it’d be virginal Odd Thomas (series by Dean Koontz)

Glad You Gave This Book A Chance:

A Canticle for Liebowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr. To date my favorite sci-fi, post-apocalyptic story.

Hidden Gem Book:

The Good Thief’s Guide series by Chris Ewan. I picked it up on a whim from the library literally based on it’s cover and now they’re among my favorite books.

Important Moment in your Reading Life:

When I stayed up all night to read A Matter of Honor by Jeffery Archer, when Evangeline by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow made me cry and when The Birds by Daphne Du Maurier scared the shit out of me.

Just Finished:

North to the Orient by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Such a beautiful travel journal.

Kinds of Books You Won’t Read:

Slasher Thrillers. I like suspense and thrillers, but if it’s gory or over the top sensationalized, I won’t touch it.

Longest Book You’ve Read:

gone_with_the_wind_coverGone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell. The edition I have is 959 pages.  Again, the Tolkien enthusiast will say The Lord of the Rings books are really one book broken into three parts and in that case, when I finish The Return of the King, I’ll have read a 1,008 page “book.”

Major book hangover because of:

Everything is Illuminated by Jonathon Safran Foer. This applies to book and movie really. It took a few days to just take it all in.

Number of Bookcases You Own:

Five and a half. Three in the master bedroom,  half a shelf in Ryan’s closet, one in the girls’ room and one in the living room. I want more in the living room.

One Book You Have Read Multiple Times:

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. I’ve read it about 5 times, I think. Once every other year since senior year in high school

Preferred Place To Read:

Somewhere cold with lots of cushions and blankets.

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read:

From the poem Evangeline by Longfellow:

“Whispered  a gentle voice, in accents tender and saint-like,

‘Gabriel! O my beloved!” and died away into silence”

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Reading Regret:

I regret not getting on the Harry Potter band-wagon when the books were being published. I read all the books before the final movie came out but I missed out on the experience of waiting with half the world for the next book.

Series You Started And Need To Finish(all books are out in series):

Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz. I’ve read the first four and really like them. From what I understand the series is headed toward a great conclusion.

Three of your All-Time Favorite Books:

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

The Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

The History of the Breast by Marilyn Yalom

Unapologetic Fangirl For:

f0efe-strikeCormoran Strike \ Robert Galbraith

Very Excited For This Release More Than All The Others:

The next Cormoran Strike!! Whenever that’ll be.

Worst Bookish Habit:

Checking out alllllllll the books by an author or pertaining to a subject from the library at the same time. I read one, the first chapter of another and return the whole lot.

X Marks The Spot: Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book:

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell. This is one of the few fiction books we own that I haven’t read. I fully intend to, I just need a proper psyching-up to read Victorian England books.

Your latest book purchase:

Democracy Now! Twenty Years Covering the Movements Changing America by Amy Goodman. I’ve read the first chapter and I find it all very interesting. The problem I’m having with it is that it reads like a news report which can be dull after 5 or so pages.

ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late):

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon


What about you? Could you answer each of these questions?

Early Female Flyers

I love books. I love learning from books. I love how you can learn something without meaning to from seemingly unrelated sources. Reading books, you can accidentally learn about the early years of aviation and women’s contributions, as I now know.

17345258I read Fannie Flagg’s The All-Girl’s Filling Station’s Last Reunion  two years ago because I was looking for a funny Southern book. I found it. Then this year, I picked up a biography of Anne Morrow Lindbergh on a whim and then one of her early non-fictions, North to the Orient. I now have a small insight into a part of American history I was previously unaware of without even trying. To be fair, I’m pretty unaware of most of American history, but that is neither here nor there.

I knew of course the Wright brothers, Kitty Hawk, Charles Lindbergh, Spirit of St. Louis, Amelia Earhart, all those things that have made it to postage stamps. But what I didn’t fully understand was the adrenaline-seeking that came in the early years of aviation technology or women’s role in it’s advancement.

Planes were first used en masse in WWI. Men trained to fly had a hard time staying on the ground after the war ended. Some of them started flying schools. Many took to circus flying, traveling the country putting on death defying shows, wing walking and barrel rolling. Crowds were mesmerized by the men and women making a mockery of gravity, dancing in space hitherto restricted to man.

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The public face of aviation was rogue cowboys doing stunts for the adrenaline rush but major advancements were happening at the same time. There was a world-wide race to make planes commercially useful during peacetime. The people who could make that happen would became instant celebrities, not without merit. Flying was still a new science; many, many people died in every stage of flight. Enter Charles Lindbergh. His successful flight across the Atlantic catapulted him into a level of world wide celebrity unheard of before. He not only made America proud, he excited the world showing just what was possible and what the future held for airplanes.

The trans-Atlantic flight was just the beginning of Lindbergh’s career. He spent years connecting cities by air, creating flight courses to be used by commercial planes, including a route to the Orient. His contributions are enormous, and he is rightly held in high esteem. What history has not remembered very well is his modest wife’s involvement.

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Early flyers were fly boys, rogue explorers on the exciting forefront of adventure. So was Anne Morrow Lindbergh. She was the first female to be given a glider’s license, she was co-pilot to nearly all of Lindbergh’s post-Atlantic flights, and she was among the first airplane radio operators in the world. In their trip to the Orient, Anne was the first white woman to see many of the Canadian and Alaskan out-posts. Charles got the reputation of being an aviation bad-ass, but his wife was with him nearly step for step, and oftentimes, while pregnant.

7477849Anne Lindbergh was also able to bring a female’s perspective to flying. She knew how to fly, she could operate a radio in flight, she could crash land on a deserted lagoon and set up camp. She appreciated flying in a different way than her scientifically-minded husband. She saw the beauty in it; she could capture what it was to leave the earth’s surface and see the world. She could impart not only the thrill and the adventure of flying, but also the magic and wonder of it all.

At the onset of WWII, America, like much of Europe, rushed to build air forces. Planes were needed fast, as well as flyers. With the men overseas fighting, women took to the tasks of running the country and the war machine. This meant the aviation jobs that were previously just for rugged cowboy types, were now done, and quite successfully I may add, by women just off the farm. These women took on the training and the risk of fixing and flying planes to air bases. They took the thrill and the pressure of flying in stride and did more than their share to help the Allies.

Unfortunately, like many of the women who proved themselves as capable as the men who left their jobs to fight, female flyers took a back seat when soldiers came home. Aviation is still a pretty male-dominated field, but thanks to the likes of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart and Sally Ride, it’s not so surprising to see a woman in the cockpit.

Are you fascinated by the early days of aviation? What books do you recommend?

Is there a part of history you stumbled upon unexpectedly, or accidentally learned something you didn’t mean to by reading?

Mandie and the Secret Tunnel; Kelli and the Exciting Read

156171Mandie and the Secret Tunnel is the first “real” book I remember reading. Of course I read picture books a la Eric Carle and Dr. Suess. I am enjoying reading them again with my children. But Mandie was different. There were chapters and there was suspense.

For the life of me, I cannot remember the plot of this book and I’m nearly positive I never read any of the others in the series. But the experience stays with me — staying up late to read, waiting for the next break in class to find out what happens next. It was the first time I remember being truly engaged in a story, taken over by someone’s words and brought into another world.

To me, that is the truest joy of reading — the excitement.

As an adult my interests have drawn me in many directions. But no matter what I read, be it Medieval history, a whodunnit or calligraphy instructions, it is the excitement of Mandie I am looking for. A book that makes me ask “what happens next?” and “what more is there to learn?” A book that keeps me reading.

There are a few other early books I remember feeling this way about, Molly’s Surprise by Valerie Tripp and Number the Stars by Lois Lowery come to mind. For different reasons these books introduced me to different lives and different times. I remember every word of these books. When I was older and learning the full history of World War II, it was Molly’s father I pictured as the returning soldier and Ellen Rosen was with every group of Jews seeking safe passage to Sweden.

 

As simple as these stories may be, they have had a powerful impact on me. Because of them I am a better reader. What is the first book you remember reading? What book had an early influence on you?

2015 Reading Goal — Complete

I know you have all been on pins and needles waiting nine months for me to write another post! Fear not, I have returned, if only to expand what was going to be a long facebook status. Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve and while I am in the middle of a book, I don’t think there are enough hours left in 2015 for me to finish it. Therefore, I’m going to call it and give the results of my reading goals.

The only real goal I set for myself was to read 35 books this year. According to Goodreads, I’ve read 45 books, a total of 14,942 pages! Before you get all impressed with me though, a good number of those were audiobooks. Insomnia is the real winner here.

Beyond that, I wanted to just follow my interests and see, without forcing it, how many books I could check off a reading challenge I found online. I’m pretty proud to say, out of 50 categories, I read all but 8! I didn’t find a book by an author with my initials, set during Christmas or the future. I didn’t read a (full) trilogy, a book written the year I was born, a book my mom loves or a book with a one word title. But still, go me, right?

One of my continuing interests has been The Middle Ages. I’m still pretty new to this era; I’m working on just placing it in my mind. Eleanor of Aquitaine and the founding of universities are probably the most interesting facets to me. This year, I read these Middle Age themed books:

Middle Ages

Fiction

  1. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco — I greatly enjoyed this book and I’m anxiously awaiting Ryan finishing it (he calls it a Middle Ages Sherlock Holmes book) so we can watch the Sean Connery movie. This was the first time Eco has come across my radar. I’ve added more of his books to my eternal to-read list.
  2. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett — I wasn’t super crazy about it. I liked the Abbot character and I liked getting a setting of the Middle Ages in my head. But as for the story and the majority of characters? Meh.
  3. Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot — Ryan is a devout Eliot fan. When I said I wanted to read this play, he excitedly offered to read it aloud to me. Both the play and the experience were delightful.

Non-Fiction

  1. A Concise History of the Crusades by Thomas F. Madden — Yes, so this is a short textbook. It is dense and it moves fast. I took notes, but ultimately decided just to read it and get what I could out of it. It was easy to follow and I’m glad to have read it. I feel like I have a firmer grasp on what the Crusades were and the men who lead them.
  2. Four Queens: Four Provencal Sisters Who Ruled Europe by Nancy Goldstone — If you’ve been paying close attention, it should come as no surprise that I like this book by Nancy Goldstone. It is not a historical fiction, but it almost reads like it. She does a great job shaping each “character” so that you feel you know them and understand their motives throughout their history.

 

To balance out the seriousness of history, I also read a number of “fun books.” These are books which are quick, easy reads without many deep emotions. This is now my new favorite shelf on my goodreads.

Fun Reads

  1. The Big Year: A Tale of a Man, Nature and Fowl Obsession by Mark Obmascik — Who would have thought the world of competitive bird watching could be so darn interesting?? But it is and it is funny.
  2. As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes — As fun and entertaining as you’d expect. It helps if you’re a fan of the movie, but you don’t have to be. This isn’t a tell-all book, just fun tales from behind the scenes with a lot of name dropping.
  3. The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam (and Paris, and Las Vegas, and Berlin and Venice) by Chris Ewan — If I’ve talked to you in person this year, I’ve probably told you to read these books. They aren’t crass, but they aren’t simple either. Just fun heist stories with likable characters.
  4. Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan — Y’all. The book jacket glows in the dark! The story is a bit far-fetched, but if you just relax a but and go for it, it’s a fun ride.
  5. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley — I liked this twist on the typical British comfy mystery, but I don’t suspect I’ll read any more in the series. Something about the 11 year old main character just didn’t work well in my mind.

As always, I have a list of “I really should read that” books. Classics for various reasons, these are those books that you get points for knowing about, but if you really want to consider yourself well read, you have to actually read them. I didn’t make great strides in this area this year, but I got a few more under my belt.

Have to Read

  1. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins — I enjoyed this more than I did The Lady in White. It had more plot. But I think Collins will remain in my mind just one of those people you have to read, but not necessarily a favorite. To be fair, I’m not always crazy about the lackadaisical late 19th century writers.
  2. The Bean Trees and Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver — Kingsolver is one of my favorite story tellers. While I liked The Bean Trees, I didn’t enjoy the sequel as much. I don’t often read books set in the west or involving Native American culture so these were new and refreshing to me.
  3. Tales of H.P. Lovecraft — Cthulhu! I get it now! I’ve stuck a toe out into Science Fiction a few times and each time I come away with the reassurance that it’s not really for me. Lovecraft’s ghost stories, however, sent shivers down my spine just the way I like it.
  4. The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolken — I’m getting closer to Mordor! This was a much more enjoyable read than The Fellowship of the Ring. More action, character development, etc. You get to see a lot more of Middle Earth — it just feels less like a history lesson. And can I just say, when the Orcs are attacking and they get pushed back and turn to retreat only to find themselves facing a forest of Ents that weren’t there before?! Favorite scene yet. I am excited to finish the series soon.
  5. Sense and Sensibility  by Jane Austin. Can’t say I liked it more than Pride and Prejudice, but it was enjoyable. I’m up to 4 out of 7 Austin novels!

 

25735012By and far my favorite book I read this year is the latest Cormoran Strike novel, Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (pen name for J.K. Rowling). This is the third book and I’ve savored them all. I was a little disappointed in the last book, The Silkworm. It felt rushed and exaggerated to me and I sincerely hoped there would be less shock-value tricks in this one. It was a bit gruesome, but not out of place, if that makes any sense at all. Reading this book, I felt as though Rowling was experimenting and playing with new ideas, and that made it very fun to read. In interviews, she has said she began the Strike series to try her hand at the detective genre. It would seem, assured by her success, Rowling is now flexing her literary muscles. Much to the enjoyment of all, of course.

2015 Books4

There are a few books which I feel will stick with me for quite a while. This year I read Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi for the first time. It was also my first full length graphic novel experience. As cheesy as it may sound, it’s helped me be more sympathetic and open-minded towards issues in the middle east and especially those seeking asylum. It has helped me humanize images I see or statistics in the news.

In a similar vein, reading Deep Dark Down: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free by Hector Tobar saddened me, not only for what these men and their families went through, but for the general amnesia I have when it comes to world events. Even local and national events are likely to slip my mind once out of sight. The fact that I was only half aware when this was happening and that I forgot as soon as they were out makes me want to be a better person.

I plan again to set a reading challenge for 2016. I liked the pace and freedom of this past year. I feel like I read a greater variety than I have in the past few years. I’m halfway through another non-fiction about the Middle Ages and I’m excited to continue satisfying that curiosity. I hope to finish The Lord of the Rings in this next year. Overall though, I hope in this next year to broaden my horizons a bit more and expand my knowledge all the more.

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Library Week: 7 Things We Love About The Library

Nat'l Library Week

This upcoming week is National Library Week!! It is a week to celebrate and appreciate the contributions of libraries and librarians. You may not have noticed, gentle reader, that we Carruths love.the.library. We are at the library at least once a week for one reason or another. So, in honor of National Library Week, I thought I would tell you 7 things we love about our library.

1. It’s Free! Let’s just start with the obvious. Books are expensive and we read a lot of them. I can’t drop $23 on a book I may not even like or read again each time I want a new book. I think Dave Ramsey would agree. Checking out books from the library is a risk free way to try new books and series. Evangeline has her own card now and loves picking out a new stack of books each week. She’s a kid who gets it — don’t over think, just check it out!

Check out all the books

2. Inter-Library Loans — Between the 14 library branch locations in East Baton Rouge Parish, we’re able to find almost anything we want. But when I want some obscure, out-of-print Nero Wolfe mystery, or Ryan needs the original Sanskrit writings of some forgotten Desert Father, we can request an Inter-Library Loan. Most often our university or state library has what we want, but we’ve gotten books from the opposite side of the country before. Not only do you get the book you want, you get an overly sentimental connection to library users everywhere.

4. Beautiful Libraries — Ours is a love it-or hate it kind of city, I’m afraid. There are many complaints including poor city planning and butt-ugly 1970’s and 80’s architecture. The parish recently undertook to rebuild our main library. But! They made it gorgeous! They used “green” designs and materials! They are expanding the complex to include the already existing park and botanical gardens and adding offices, meeting spaces and a cafe! It’s a major project, but already the benefits are exciting. The library building, which is open now, won regional design awards in 2014. It’s poised to be a beautiful spot in the city available to anyone, and it’s not a shopping center!

main libaray Main Library (photo source: Mark Bienvenu Photographer )

3. Digital Resources — I recently introduced Ryan to the vast resources available though our “Digital Library”. I’ve been using our library’s Overdrive account for a year or more to listen to audiobooks (see Ode to the Audio Book.) But there’s a lot more out there than just audio and e-books. There are movies, music, operas and symphonies, news sources, magazines, genealogy sources,  foreign language courses and a whole lot of I-don’t-know-what-all else. In an age where the printed page is coming under attack, libraries are getting ahead of the fight and offering many more resources online.

5. Paintings —  One day at the library, Ryan noticed a large print of The Lady of Shalott. His eyes widened, he pointed and said “I want that”. We brought it home and hung it above our piano, in the kids play \ home-school room. We really enjoyed having it, so we decided to rotate new pictures into that spot. The kids help pick out what we get and it gets to hang in our house for 6 weeks. We get a changing decoration and it gives us the chance to look at art we otherwise may not get to see. 

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6. The Children’s Section– Our kids love going into the children’s section. In addition to, well, BOOKS!, there are toys, coloring pages and computers available all the time. Nearly each week in the summer, the girls get to go with their Nana to story time. And when I can muster up the energy, we go to different programs during the week. I remember going to story time at the library when I was young and I’m excited that my kids now get to make those same memories, at the same library no less! All of which brings me to my last point.

7. Family Ties– We are a big-ish family with a small-ish budget. Going to the library is a way for us to spend time together enjoying the same things without spending money. I like knowing that the library will be a part of our kids’ childhoods. More than that, though, I hope they notice how nerdy their parents are. Ryan and I relish reading. We love learning. We love talking to each other about what we’re reading and learning (and writing blog posts…). By spending time as a family at the library, I hope our kids grow up appreciating intellectual curiosity. I hope our love of learning ties us closer as a family. Even though we may read different books and be interested in different areas,  we can still talk about what we checked out from the library.

2015 Reading Goal

I have enjoyed setting reading goals each year. As much as I love reading, having a goal in mind adds a little more fun. In the years past I’ve set increasingly more complicated goals. Number of books, page counts, generes and specific books. It is not bad, but this year I’m trying to simplify. I’ve set my book count list at 35 on Goodreads.com. As for the rest however, I want to sit back and follow my interests and see where I land at the end of the year. I also found this :

reading-challenge

At first I was all gung-ho to check off each one. Now that it’s March and I realize there are 50 categories, I’m just keeping a tally of the books I’ve read and which category they fit into. This list has pointed me in the direction of some books I may not have otherwise read, like Presepolis. And I’m glad for that.

I’ve read a random smattering of books so far ranging from Deep Dark Down: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine to Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood and The Story of Return to The Princess Bride: S. Morganstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure, which is fun even the second time. I’ve nearly finished The Pillars of the Earth which I expect to throw me into a Middle-Ages reading binge.

I realize this is disappointingly short, but I am also working on posts of individual books and thoughts. They promise to be more interesting.