The Magnolia Stack

Book spines are wonderful things. Little pops of color and a mix of different fonts make for such eclectic decor. It is so pretty when people arrange their bookshelves by color. I’ve done this on a smaller book shelf, but then it makes my mind crazy because when I am looking for a book it becomes harder to find if they aren’t alphabetized.

Although any way you choose to order your books is lovely. Books can’t look ugly, they just can’t. The white-spined books in the picture are some old favorites and also some books I would like to read. The magnolia flower was the initial focal point for the organization of this photo. They are one of my favorite flowers and I couldn’t help but match up a few books.

• The books I have read •

1. East of Eden by John Steinbeck

This book holds a sentimental place in my heart.

2. Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

This story follows a couple who begin seeing each other much later in life after each of their spouses have passed. Haruf captures the sweet simplicity of this time of life.

3. Still Alice by Lisa Genova

This book came in to my life at the exact point when I needed to read it. Although Genova’s books are about disease and disorders and are heartbreaking, they are truly phenomenal. Her books are poignant reminders of the fragility of life.

4. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

A classic book of poems from childhood. I remember being read these as I read them to my own children.

• The books I haven’t read yet •

1. NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

I’m a huge Stephen King fan, I can only assume some of his talent was passed on to his children. King’s wife and other son are also authors.

2. What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt

I came across this book in some literary magazine and it sounded interesting. Side note, Hustvedt is married to the author Paul Auster.

3. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence

A book I’ve always wanted to read.

“That perfect tranquility of life, which is nowhere to be found but in retreat, a faithful friend and a good library.”

– Aphra Behn

Advertisements

Theory

The title of this book by Margaret Bradham Thornton got me thinking about love, relationships, and especially marriage. The word theory has several meanings in the dictionary, two of which stood out to me.

1. A belief or principle that guides action or assists comprehension or judgement.

and

2. An assumption based on limited information or knowledge.

Many people marry in their twenties, by age alone, that is not a whole lot of living under the belt. According to #1, what beliefs or principles are you basing your idea of marriage at this point in life? It might be the marriage of your parents. Was it marvelous and you want to replicate it or was it a massive disaster and anything different would be a huge step in a positive direction. Those are both fair and realistic thought processes, but can they hold up when they are meant to stand the test of time in another relationship? I don’t know and honestly it seems too simplistic to place anything of substance upon that train of thought. Yet vows are taken and lives are promised with the utmost hope attached.

The second definition makes me think of someone marrying for the first time at any age. Your information of/on marriage is a limited knowledge of assumptions. Again-sort of a crap shoot. And really- on the flip side, how can marriage be anything short of a gamble? I’m not saying any of this light-heartedly. We are all so different. Our backgrounds, the way we think and process information, and how we view the world we live in varies on extraordinary levels. Do you want to marry someone exactly like you or do you prefer someone opposite? There are solid rationals for both, how do you choose? Is it better to jump in, eyes closed and fingers crossed at twenty years old? Or do you wait, sift through a bazillion creepers with baggage and hope to meet and ultimately marry in your late thirties, forties, or even later? By then, have you missed the boat on having children (if that is your desire), maybe not, considering all the options available now.

Like anything, overthinking can get you in a world of trouble, yet getting married (in my opinion) should require a lot of thought and honest self-evaluation. Where is that elusive fine line? That happy middle between thinking and overthinking? If you know, by all means please leave specific directions and instructions in the comments.

This book is Thornton’s follow up novel to Charleston, which is a wonderful book. A Theory of Love follows Christopher, a half-American, half-French lawyer turned financier and Helen, a British journalist. They happen to meet on the west coast of Mexico. The various locations alone are enough to satiate any traveler’s (or wanna-be travelers, like me) heart. The two marry and begin their life together. Their story and subsequent lives together is one where they will face how much they need from each other versus how much they still remain true to themselves. Any successful marriage requires the perfect amount of both. You cannot lose your sense of self to another simply because you say I do.

A large part of the draw of this book is the way Thornton writes. It’s simultaneously intense and calming. It’s not a quality that I come across often. In fact the only other authors that (I have read) accomplish this are Lea Carpenter and Billy O’Callaghan. If you are familiar with these two and like them, I can about guarantee you will also like and maybe love this book. Otherwise, I don’t know- maybe jump in, eyes closed, fingers crossed or just think about reading it for a few years, let the idea marinate for a bit. Either way you choose, unlike the fifty percent marriage survival odds, I think your odds of liking this book will be substantially higher.

“May the odds be ever in your favor.”

-Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

Bookclub

I am part of a book club.

A group of us meet once a month to eat, drink, and discuss books. We’ve been getting together for several years now. Our group has grown, gotten smaller, almost stopped meeting, then sort-of re-vamped, and got bigger. As much as combining edibles, with read-ables and friend-ables is so much fun, sometimes there are bookclub nights that I just want to hang at home. The week has wore me down and I just want to hide out in my home. Occasionally my week has gotten the best of me and I do stay at home, but usually I end up going and I can say I am always, always glad that I went.

Last night was no exception. In fact, last night was great. For the most part, the book we were supposed to have read was kind of a disappointment. I didn’t get past chapter three. One of the girls had put book-darts by a few passages and even though she didn’t love the book, her marked passages sparked some great conversations, which led to some pretty funny tangent conversations. We were all laughing and just having such a good time. We were in a restaurant (we vary between our homes and restaurants) and I did notice a table or two around us, but really I was just enjoying our group as if we were the only ones there. We have our similarities and of course a love of books, but we also bring our differences as well. One of my favorite things related to our differences is the variety of book choices and recommendations. Since the formation of this club, I have read many books I otherwise would not have. Not because I would’ve turned my nose up, but simply because there are so many books out there. We vouch for books that we love, that make us laugh, or cry, or even scare us. We recognize the details that we know will also catch the eyes of each other. We remember the books our friends love and push them to the fronts of our lists that already have too many books on them.

I got home around ten last night and my house was silent. I slipped in to my pjs and though I was tired, stayed up a little longer to check out some of the books we had all talked about. After that, in the midst of a dark and quiet house I took a few minutes more and read before I also joined my family and went to sleep.

It’s nights like that that are among the good things in life.

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”

– Rainer Maria Rilke

Finally

Oh my word, is that Friday I see?

Break out the books, wine, and dessert ASAP. There’s just something that always feels good about Friday, even if my plans only include putting on pajama pants a few hours earlier.

Another bad habit I have when it comes to reading beside reading too many books at one time is getting more books. In this case I didn’t pay for them because they are from my library, however I have about 4,900 TBRs I should read first. But whatever.

The three above are books I was going to order from either thriftbooks.com or abe.com because the Overdrive app does not have them in digital format. Overdrive features a “recommend” tab and more often than not they seem to purchase the books I recommend, which then puts me on the waiting list. I recommended these three over a year ago and they haven’t purchased them yet, so I went to see if the library had them in hard copy. The three titles are:

1. Miss You by Kate Eberlen

2. A Theory of Love by Margaret Bradham Thornton

3. Self Portrait With Boy by Rachel Lyons

Now these are also on my nightstand that is already covered with books. I know it’s ridiculous, truly I know. I just can’t help it.

Happy Friday, Bookworms

“Let’s be reasonable and add an eighth day to the week that is devoted exclusively to reading.”

– Lena Dunham

Fleishman

• Thank you to #Randomhouse for this copy of Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner . #partner •

This book arrived on my porch last week. One day during lunch I flipped to the first page to see what the writing style was like and I was instantly sucked in. I was right in the middle of reading and loving Unsaid (see previous post), but it was obvious I was quickly coming back to this one.

I read somewhere, maybe one of the inside book blurbs, that it is in a similar vein to Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple, which is a fantastic book. Immediately I put Fleishman into a category in my head titled something like: It’s Probably Good and Worth Reading. Catchy and not wordy at all- but it’s only in my head, so that’s all that matters. Anyway.  Brodesser-Akner’s writing is nothing short of phenomenal. It’s as though I cannot read it fast enough. She writes and captures subjects like we all speak. Even when she is talking about the (in my opinion) crazy, awful, often crude world of online dating, she zips through it with the ease of a true professional.

I haven’t finished it yet, but I have no doubt this is going to get either four or five stars. I’ve talked nothing about the story and I guess that’s because I’ve assumed you all have read Semple’s book. The Fleishman gist is this: a couple divorces after fifteen years of marriage. They have two children and have just begun to navigate the sharing custody waters when the wife disappears a-la-Bernadette-style. This story has subtle differences, I just mention Bernadette as a positive influence. I’m going to leave it at that. Just go and get this book-it’ll raise your eyebrows, tug at your heart, and have you laughing out loud. A perfect trifecta if you ask me.

 

Reading is departure and arrival.

—Terri Guillemets

Unsaid

Cover love? Most definitely.

A few weeks back I was used-book shopping when I came across Unsaid by Neil Abramson. I held the book for a few seconds while I took in the incredible cover photography. Part of the reason this cover grabbed my attention so intensely is in part due to a back story regarding books and animal photography. At some point I think I plan to share about it on this blog.

Back to the book. I flipped to the cover flap (I love when trade editions feature dust cover-like flaps ) and began reading about the story. It begins with a husband who is a lawyer in Manhattan and his veterinarian wife who has recently passed away. She, Helena, is the narrator and is struggling with making peace with the life she left behind. She “visits” scenes with her husband as well as her former work partner. Being a vet, and also not having children, Helena and her husband had many animals, whom she cared deeply for. Before her death Helena was planning to find homes for her animals because she knew the responsibility would lie solely on her husband’s shoulders. He wouldn’t let her give them away, so after her death, the three dogs, six cats, two horses, and one pig remain. This story also reflects some of her time as a vet student and work that she did with a chimpanzee, who ultimately died because of her work. This primate work was done with a friend and fellow student and ties to the current story regarding another chimpanzee. Her friend contacts Helena’s husband for legal help, which is another fascinating facet of this story.

I’m not doing this story justice with this explanation, so if my crappy synopsis has in any way sparked your interest, find this book. The relationships between a husband and wife as well as between animals and humans are written about so beautifully.

Occasionally I read a book that speaks so profoundly that I want to tuck it inside my heart as a secret. I don’t want to share about it with anyone, because it has a feeling of only belonging to me. I know that is ridiculous thinking and of course this wonderful book needs to be shared far and wide (but this was one of those books).

Unsaid was the second read from my summer stack and I give it five stars.

“I know this is presumptuous of me, but I think God’s language is juxtaposition. His-or her-voice is heard most clearly in the reconciliation of the contradictions and contrasts of life. God lives in the peaks and valleys, the jarring transitions, not the mundane, the safe, the smooth, or the repetitive.”

– Neil Abramson

Farming

• Thank you #Randomhouse for this advanced copy of The Farm by Joanne Ramos. #partner •

A week or so ago I made a small stack of books that I’d like to read this summer. The Farm was the first book I pulled from the stack and read. Initially I saw this book on netgalley’s site and after reading the synopsis I wasn’t particularly drawn to it. However, when Random House offered to send it, I took them up on it. The cover art is alluring and the colors quickly grabbed my eye. This novel follows several girls as they offer themselves as surrogates for the extremely wealthy. During their pregnancy stay at this facility (dubbed The Farm)they are given the ultimate in comfort, including the best and healthiest food choices, exercise options, and are paid quite handsomely upon delivery. Many of the girls who offer their services are minorities or immigrants, although there is a desire from The Farm to bring in lighter skinned or Caucasian women. Several of the main characters are from the Philippines. Ramos draws upon her own heritage as well as her experience from her time at Princeton for this novel. Her writing flows and the story feels authentic, if not all that original. Surrogacy and being paid greatly for it has existed forever more or less. Perhaps the idea of extravagant facilities existing for this is a newer notion, however the ultra-rich have always had more “options” available, so it wouldn’t surprise if these places currently exist. Actually it would surprise me if they didn’t. Money buys almost anything, especially these days. Those who come to the US lacking the skills, education, and knowing the right people-or all three, are always going to be susceptible to the whims/ideas of those who have these things under their belt. This underprivileged group may be easier influenced, but they (in this story) are compensated highly. Money does buy more freedoms, right, wrong, or indifferent.

I gave this book three stars. The pace and character development was on target. I didn’t love the story, but Ramos has an eye for detail, so I will keep an eye out for future novels.

“No entertainment is so cheap as reading, nor any pleasure so lasting.”

-Mary Wortley Montagu