Crazy Days of October

I don’t know where to begin with trying to explain October. From the beginning, I guess. It started with a trip home; a lovely week off with lots of reading accomplished. Then it was a New England Patriots football game followed by two Phish shows and a political rally for a state in which I do not live. If that wasn’t weird enough, I hung out with a person who could have raped or killed or loved me to death. Take your pick. Any one of those scenarios was more than possible. It was a truly bizarre month.
But, enough of that. Here are the books:

Fiction:

  • Playing for Pizza by John Grisham. Quick but cute read.
  • Call It Sleep by Henry Roth (AB/print). Sad.
  • The Chronoliths by Robert C. Wilson. Interesting.
  • Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric (EB). Boring.

Nonfiction:

  • Oxford Book of Oxford edited by Jan Morris (EB/print). Only slightly less boring thanĀ Bridge.
  • Always a Distant Anchorage by Hal Roth. Really interesting.
  • African Laughter by Doris Lessing. Okay.

Series continuations:

  • The Race of Scorpions by Dorothy Dunnett (EB/print). Detailed.
  • Finding the Dream by Nora Roberts (EB). Cute but glad the series is over.

Fun:

  • We Inspire Me by Andrea Pippins. Cute.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Gardening Under Lights by Leslie F. Halleck. When I set up the reads for October I didn’t include this because it hadn’t arrived yet.

I should add that October was a really frustrating month for books. I never really liked anything I was reading.


Joey Goes to Sea

Villiers, Alan. Joey Goes to Sea. Mystic, CT: Mystic Seaport, 2014.

Reason read: a gift from my aunt Jennifer and because I love cats.

This is such a cute story and the fact that is is based on true events makes it even more special. Joey is a little ginger kitten who went to sea aboard the Joseph Conrad with author Alan Villiers. According to Villiers, the events in the story are real. Joey caught flying fish, fought with a bird, and really did fall overboard!
The illustrations are wonderful, too.


Choose to Matter

Foudy, Julie. Choose to Matter: Being Courageously and Fabulously YOU. Los Angeles: ESPNW, 2017.

Reason read: for a simple shot of encouragement.

I first learned of Foudy’s book while listening to the Dewey Decibel podcast from the American Library Association. Foudy was a guest on an episode last year. Yeah, yeah. I’m just now getting to it. But, Foudy’s book is inspirational (even if it’s meant for girls 40 years younger…sigh).
It’s all about finding your role in life as a leader. Not a cheerleader on the sidelines, but a leader starring in your own life. She uses her experiences as a Olympic soccer player to illustrate what it takes to win self confidence and drive. And illustrate, she does. The book is chock full of pretty pictures, beautiful photographs, colorful scribblings and whatnot. She interviews inspirational women like fellow teammate Mia Hamm, LeanIn.org’s founder Sheryl Sandberg, and even super-inspiring Afghan teenager Fahima Noori…just to name a few. She’ll even turn the mirror around and ask you to answer some thought-provoking questions about yourself to get the creative juices going. Yes, the language is geared towards teenage girls, like I said. The illustrations are colorful and childlike. But, but. But! The message is loud and clear. Anyone can become a leader. All you have to do is lose the fear. Sing outloud, be goofy and just go for it.


Ready, Player One

Cline, Ernest.Ready Player One: a Novel New York: Dark All Day, Inc., 2011.

Reason: My friend Pez and I were at the movies and we saw a preview for Ready Player One, the movie version of Ernest Cline’s book of the same name. Pez asked me if I had ever read the book and when I said I hadn’t, he gave me his e-copy. Too cool.

If you are fan of the 1980s, you should read this book. If you are a fan of 80s video games and pop culture, you have to read this book.

Set in a 2044 dystopia, Ready, Player One is a science fiction can’t-put-down book. High school senior Wade Watts is addicted to a virtual reality contest where the grand prize is full control over the game. Thanks to an energy crisis and global warming the world is in decline. Nearly all of its inhabitants prefer putting their heads in the sand by living in a virtual reality called the Oasis. Oasis creator James Halliday willed his entire cooperation and control over the Oasis to the first person who could find a hidden Easter Egg within the game. Watts and a band of virtual friends he has never met in person take turns helping and competing with each other to reach the Egg first. Of course, there has to be an evil villain and what better bad guy than Nolan Sorrento, head of a conglomerate that supplies nearly the entire world with internet? No one wants control over the Oasis more than Sorrento and he’ll do anything to get it.

Did I mention? This book is hot, hot, hot. Even though this is Cline’s first novel he was able to negotiate a bidding war for publication. Crown Publishers won out and RPO quickly started racking up the awards and accolades. Now, it’s being made into a movie (to come out March 2018), as I mentioned earlier.


August Awakenings

What can I tell you about August? I still have moments of wanting to hurl myself off a cliff. But, but. But! The good news is, by default, that recklessness has made me shed my fear of flying, ants, and flying ants. I went zip lining in Alaska and found myself the first to volunteer; literally throwing myself off every platform.
I was forced to dedicate more time to the run while I punished myself with late-read books from July. As a result of all that, August’s mileage was decent considering 10 days were spent traveling (25 – the most since April) while the reading list was a little lackluster:

Fiction:

  • Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein (AB left over from July)
  • In Tragic Life by Vardis Fisher – such a sad book!

Nonfiction:

  • Hawthorne: a Life by Brenda Wineapple (left over from July)
  • Miami by Joan Didion

Series Continuations:

  • The Eagle Has Flown by Jack Higgins
  • Henry James: the Middle Years by Leon Edel (left over from JUNE)

Early Review:

  • Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color by Andrea J. Ritchie

For Fun:

  • Pharos Gate by Nick Bantock – I know, I know. I shouldn’t be reading anything for fun while I had so many July books still on my plate. This took me all over an hour to read and besides, Bantock is one of my favorites. How could I not?

Pharos Gate

Bantock, Nick. The Pharos Gate: Griffin & Sabine’s Lost Correspondence. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2016.

Reason read: because Nick Bantock is one of my favorites.

I can’t remember what I said in my Griffin & Sabine review way back when except to say I know I mentioned my ongoing love affair with this series. How could I not? It’s evocative of a very sensual time in my life. I was introduced to Griffin and Sabine by a passionate summer romance. This man made mixed tapes, baked cinnamon scones, read Shakespeare and even wrote poetry, one word at a time, on rose petals. He took me shelling, canoeing and on searches for sunsets. He made my friends want to puke from jealousy. We read to each other as Griffin and Sabine. But, I digress..

Griffin and Sabine. I sigh to hear their names. Their backstory is such: Griffin is an artist in damp and dreary London. One day he receives an unusual postcard from a woman claiming to have the ability to see his art as he is creating it…except Sabine is somewhere in the South Pacific. Trying to make sense of her unusual voyeurism into his creativity before it is fully formed forces Griffin to continue a correspondence with her. Soon they fall in love without ever meeting. [Been there.] Subsequent volumes have Griffin and Sabine trying to cross the enormous divide to see each other face to face, but like any decent romance, their efforts are thwarted at every turn. In Pharos Gate the star-crossed couple discover a safe place to meet: at Pharos Gate in Alexandria. With the help of a friend Griffin sets off across the globe to reach his love. And reach her, he does. But! I haven’t really ruined it for you. Supposedly this is the final book in the series and yet Bantock leaves his audience hanging once again…Yes, they meet but then what? We don’t know. I adore it.


Wonder

Palacio, R.J. Wonder. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012.

Reason read: I know what you’re thinking. This is a book inspired by a Natalie Merchant song and I haven’t read it until now. How come? I don’t know. I can’t answer that except to say I knew it wasn’t written by Natalie and it wasn’t about Natalie. And then there is that list of 5,000 other books I promised myself I would read…So. Why now? Two things. Wonder is mentioned in Natalie’s video memoir and…curiosity got the better of me.

The back story to Wonder as I understand it is this: “R.J. Palacio” was leaving an ice cream shop with her daughter when they passed a special needs child. Palacio reportedly steered her daughter away from the other child to avoid an embarrassing situation. Maybe she was sure her child would blurt out something inappropriate. Her obvious avoidance ended up being more of an embarrassment to everyone. Subsequently, after hearing Natalie Merchant’s song of the same name was prompted to write Wonder. Which is why you find the song quoted in several different places.

Wonder is written from the point of view of ten year old August Pullman, a boy born with severe facial deformities. Auggie as he is known to his parents and older sister, was home schooled for health reasons through fourth grade. Now as a fifth grader he is about to enter Beecher Prep. Auggie is used to people staring at him but a school of over 500 kids is a whole new world and we all know how cruel kids can be. How August navigates through the triumphs and tribulations will Break Your Heart (to quote another Natalie tune).

Book trivia: Other characters tell their sides of the “Auggie story” including Olivia (Auggie’s old sister), Summer (Auggie’s true friend) and Justin (Olivia’s boyfriend). It’s interesting to have their perspective; what it’s like to have a special needs brother, what it’s like to always be the strong one, what it’s like to be that good friend. Etc. Etc.

Author fact: R.J. Palacio admits that is not her real name.