Everyday Life, Reading, Reviews, Young Adult

August Reading, Part 2, and A Tiny Rant Against Autumn

There’s a crispness in the air that I despise. Yes, I said despise. Sorry, Fall and Football lovers. I love summer and I cannot lie. I do not like cold days. I do not like the mess of leaves all over the back yard, and all the raking…raking…raking. I don’t like watching the summer flowers die. I don’t like heavy clothing and jeans every day.  But really, the biggest problem of all is that my family is not taking our one and only beach vacation until mid-September. Summer, please stay until then!

However! I am trying to conjure up happy memories of hot chocolate and books by a warm fire. Maybe if I start a Fall reading list, I’ll let go of my morbidity towards Autumn. If I can keep finding as many good books in the Autumn months as I’ve found in August, the coming season will be pretty swell.

Here are the books I finished this month.:

1. Cybele’s Secret by Juliet Marillier

Cybele's Secret (Wildwood, #2) The sequel to Wildwood Dancing, but not nearly as great. Still, a pretty good read, especially if you’re a fan of the genre. Marillier is one of  my new favorite YA authors.

2. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Read my reviews (yes, there are two of them) here and here

3. The Artist’s Daughter

I really liked this memoir. Read my review here

4.  Slash Your Grocery Budget & Eat a Whole Foods Diet With Aldi by Carrie Willard

I read a slew of nonfiction this month. I consider it a slew, anyway. The main reason was that Ella came down with a stomach bug on Sunday afternoon and I couldn’t leave her side without her getting upset. So while she dozed, I read all the free e-books I’ve been downloading to the Kindle app on my phone. I find these free books on moneysavingmom.com, but I usually download them and then forget about them. I was grateful to have them this weekend, though.

Slash Your Grocery Budget was a great book for people who shop at Aldi or are considering shopping at Aldi. It includes menus and recipes—features that equal awesomeness in any nonfiction book. I haven’t actually tried any of the recipes yet, but I plan to. Look for this book to show up in my next Saturday Cooking feature.

5. A Simpler Season by Jessica Fisher

With the chill in the air and the impending hours watching football, I’m feeling like now is a good time to start planning some projects for Christmas. Last Christmas I had all kinds of ideas and hardly any of them got done. I’m okay with that; my kids were 3 and 1, we had a nice holiday season that was not as stressful as usual, we celebrated what mattered. Still, I’d like to be a little more involved in the details this year. A Simpler Season was a good starting point for me to think through those some of those details. Will you still find me in Target two days before Christmas? Probably. But hope springs eternal.

6. How to Eat A Cupcake by Meg Donahue

A departure from the norm for me, but in a fun, not-too-terrible, romantic comedy kind of way. Read my review here.

Now I’m working on East of the Sun by Julia Gregson. For school with Ella, we’re reading In Grandma’s Attic. I can’t tell you how much I am loving re-reading my favorite children’s chapter books with Ella. We tried The Bobbsey Twins, but it was a little wordy for now. Maybe in a year or two. I actually never liked those books much, but they seem cute to me now.

Tell me what should go on my Fall reading list! I need a long, cheering list to console me over being robbed (robbed!) of summer.

Reading, Reviews

Life After Life – Thoughts After Finishing

Despite my dithering, I did decide to finish reading Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and I had to know how it ended. Remember, the premise of the book is that the main character, Ursula, has an unusual life that ends and begins Life After Lifeover and over again, with slight differences that end up making a lot of difference in the course of her history. Err..histories. It was an intriguing idea. I thought if I finished the book, there would be closure and I could move on to the next book. But talk about a novel without much clear closure! I can’t figure out which ending is true because Ursula seems to live a bunch of parallel lives. I am glad that I finished, but it didn’t make me long to read the rest of Atkinsons’ books. Life After Life will definitely make you think twice about deja vu, kind of like the movie The Matrix. It also made me ponder survivor’s guilt. Why is it that people feel guilty when they survive and others don’t? In Life After Life, Ursula feels guilty because she somehow knows in the back of her mind that if she had made one decision differently, she could have prevented whatever bad thing just happened. At one point in the book, she recounts being saved from drowning as a child and says, “It was one of the few adventures in her life where she felt she had played an almost entirely innocent part.”Shudder. It’s enough to drive you mad.

Another thing about the book that drove me mad was Ursula herself. Except for one part of her many lives, she seemed very lacking in ambition. And why couldn’t she pick a guy and stick with him? Why does it take her countless flings over many lives to figure anything out? I prefer the constancy of the characters in The Time Traveler’s Wife (though I didn’t really like that book much, either…). Ursula’s romantic life was mostly just disheartening and disgusting, and she never truly liked anyone she was with, much less loved. Did she feel that was all she deserved? I have lots of questions about this book.

There’s a lot one could ponder in Life After Life. It was a though provoking book, but it comes down to this: the whole premise is not reality, so there’s not much use in pondering any of it. If you have read the book and feel you got some nugget of true wisdom out of it, please share it with me. I think I could pick up a ton of nuances and details that are significant to the story if I did a second reading, but I probably won’t read it again. For one thing, dozens of library patrons are clamoring for it, so I need to return it post haste.

One very true thing I learned from the book was that I have got to take a break from World War II books, especially ones set in London during the Blitz. I’m beginning to feel like I survived it in person, instead of only through books. I’m like one of those historians in Black Out by Connie Willis (which is a fascinating book, with a mostly fascinating sequel). Atkinson’s account of the Blitz was particularly gruesome. I’m sure it was not far from the truth, but it was difficult to read, nonetheless.

Up next for me is The Princess and the Goblin and East of the Sun. And can someone please recommend a good book for me that is not set in World War II? I’d be most obliged. =)

Reading, Reviews

Life After Life – A Halfway Through Review

Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life is quite the conversation book right now. It’s the one every reader who reads anything is reading (that isLife After Life sarcasm– I hate those kind of statements that lump all readers together; if there’s any past time that can be more individualistic than reading, I’d be surprised). I started it on Wednesday night and read it every chance I got until yesterday afternoon, when I couldn’t take it anymore. I am not talking about the writing–the writing was poignant, sharp, and sometimes humorous. Kate Atkinson is  new name to me, but this is not her first book. Her writing was great. What I couldn’t take was the hardships of the children in the book.

The book is about Ursula, a girl who experiences reincarnation over and over again. However, she is not reincarnated into someone else, but always as the same person, in the same life. She starts to understand that her sense of deja vu is stronger than most at an early age, when she gets terrible forebodings about incidents. She can’t explain the feeling of foreboding, but she just knows she has to do something to change what she somehow knows will end badly. She quickly becomes “the odd one” in her family of five children and two loving parents. As life progresses, she becomes more and more confused about what her life is. The book has the feel of a British A Tree Grows in Brooklyn with a magical realism twist. So far, it’s a coming of age story on repeat. And it seems a terrible way to come of age. 

want to finish this book, but I am simply incapable of reading books in which bad things happen to children. I’m not alone in this–several of my friends who are moms are in the same reading boat. My Sister’s Keeper put me off books for a week. Sarah’s Key completely did me in; I was nauseated for days… it was like I had a stomach bug, but it was really just a book bug.  I simply cannot do books with tragic endings of children. That is why I don’t know if I can keep reading Life After Life. By the time Ursula is 10, she has experienced many different mothers’ worst nightmares. Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad, if the tragic things didn’t also happen to other children who do not share Ursula’s gift/curse of direct reincarnation. Although I think it’s more like a cat with nine lives than reincarnation. Anyway. I’d like to finish, but I’m not sure if it’s worth.

Have you read Life After Life? Can you tell me if the ending justifies the beginning? I have never, ever, ever skipped to the end of a book to make sure the ending was worth the reading…but this time, I’m really tempted to.

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