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

Big

Big books.

Huge books.

Huge books with huge cult-like followings.

Infinite Jest is a book that falls under this last category. It is also a book that I’m pretty sure I want to read. Over the years I’ve come across this book and have always been undecided whether or not I actually wanted to read it. That’s not to say when I begin reading, if in fact it stinks, that I would finish it. Life is too short and too full of amazing books to stick with something that isn’t amazing.

There are some other books that more or less fall under this third category that I absolutely have no desire to read. Moby Dick and Don Quixote are two such books. Their length does not deter me, the tedious nature of these books do. Although I challenge myself to read as many books as possible, I don’t read books just to say I have read them (ie. certain classics as well as newer books). Just because a book has stood the test of time doesn’t guarantee it’s going to be a great read. It simply means its been around for awhile. In fact I came across an article (I wish I had the source) that said if Moby Dick had been written today, it would not have done well. The thing is, when many of these “popular” classics were written- what were they up against? The competition of books written in the 1800s versus today is almost incomparable, and quite honestly, not really fair. There are some outstanding books that have been around for centuries and deserve every bit of credit they have earned. It’s just that other books that fall in to this “classic” category are there because they are old. Some of these books really stink. Many people will disagree with me and that is completely fine. I am not going to read a book just because it may look impressive or because it has been around since dinosaurs roamed the earth.

We all have our own opinions and interests when it comes to what we enjoy reading. So the bottom line is this, read what truly grabs you- not what people say should grab you. If reading about a whale for fourteen million pages is your jam, go for it and if reading Fifty Shades floats your boat, read that as well. Whatever it is, just make sure you love it!

“Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.”

– Henry David Thoreau

Heartbreak

• A big thank you to #Scribner for this ARC of Ask Again, Yes by @marybethkeane •

Recently I came across a line in an article that said part of being an adult is accepting heartbreak. This stopped me in my tracks and has jumbled around inside my head ever since. I can’t shake them out or pretend I didn’t read those words. So just like paying bills and taking out the trash, accepting heartbreak is another check mark on the con side of the ‘being an adult list.’

Although teenagers and children experience heartbreak, they don’t usually have the accompanying responsibilities of taking care of a family or going to work that gets heaped on top of a hurting heart. When everything else has to be done in life in order to assure someone arrives on time, that clothes get washed, and dinner gets made, as an adult-when does the heart get time to adequately heal? In my opinion, it doesn’t, at least not fully.

Last year was very difficult for me. The heartbreak I felt and continue to feel will no doubt be carried for quite some time. As those words said, I have accepted the heartbreak. Time has helped, as have the busy details of daily life. But the broken pieces remain. I think about them often as I continue to move past them. At first it was anger that spilled out everywhere, but as I have come to terms with most of it, I have begun to replace some the angry feelings with grace. Some anger still remains, but’s ugly head doesn’t get reared as often.

The families of Ask Again, Yes experience incredible amounts of heartbreak. Each family carries on, changing its shape along the way. This story is one that I have continued to think about. Heartbreak is unique and shouldn’t be compared against the heartbreak of someone else. We experience and feels things differently and no one knows truly how the inside of another’s heart feels. Broken pieces are hard to carry around. Jagged pieces have the ability to cut new wounds where the old ones haven’t fully healed.

But we keep on going. Little by little, day by day. We take in the tiny bits of beautiful sunlight that occasionally reach our eyes and apply it as a healing salve. That soothing feeling attaches itself to the heartbreak and provides a softer landing spot the next time your mind drifts to the place that hurts most.

I recommend this book by @marybethkeane most of all because there is comfort in reading about the heartbreak of others, if simply to realize that are not alone in our heartbreak. We all experience the unfortunate shattering of hearts and just as we must accept this, we also must somehow allow ourselves to heal.

“Once you have read a book you care about, some part of it is always with you.”

– Louis L’Amour

Quietly

Good morning.

The rest of the house is still asleep. I quietly crept to the kitchen to pour some coffee and then snuck back under the covers. This is my heaven.

I love the quiet, the time to contemplate while sipping from a warm mug. A book is on my lap waiting to be read, but I sit here thinking for a few minutes as the morning creeps in. I’m not sure if I like the early morning or the late night solitude best. Each holds its own bit of special.

For the month of May, I read six books. My favorite was Mary and O’Neil by Justin Cronin. I stumbled across this book at the library. I had only heard of Cronin in reference to his dystopian trilogy (which I want to read), beginning with The Passage. MAO is a contemporary domestic drama that follows a family over a lifetime. It’s tragic and beautiful, as family always is. Cronin has an ear and eye for capturing nuances that feel nothing short of authentic. I found that he has another similar genre-d (I think I just made up that word) book titled, The Summer Guest, which I am on hold for. If The Passage trilogy, albeit different, reads to the caliber of MAO then Cronin will have mastered two incredible genres (in my humble opinion).

This first day of June continues to softly crawl in. The light from behind the curtains is a little brighter now and my cat is yawning and stretching the night from her legs. The rest of the crew can’t be far behind her. So I’ve spent this morning writing this post, rather than reading and that’s ok. When I began this blog (which existed in my head for months before I actually started it), I wondered if it would be something I really wanted to do. Even though it’s just been a few weeks, I find myself looking forward to writing. So just maybe, I’m beginning to build a wonderful new habit?

I love the smell of book ink in the morning.

Umberto Eco

Magic

It’s not about having the time to read, it’s about finding the spare minutes that reading will fit into. As I write this I am waiting for my younger son’s basketball game to begin. During last night’s tournament I was able to finish a book on my Kindle and make a bit of headway into another.

Occasionally I’ll see someone I know and we will talk, but more often I can usually just sink inside whatever story I’ve been waiting to return to. Also, reading allows you to have an invisible sign up stating ‘Do Not Disturb,’ for those people you’d rather not speak to. Although, some people don’t always get the message. In those instances I will make my answers politely short.

I don’t read because I am bored. I read because it’s exciting and engaging. That’s why it truly doesn’t matter where I am. A comfy chair and blanket is always preferred, but I have read many books while sitting on hard bleachers.

Something I think is cool is when you spot a fellow reader. Another like-minded soul who is taking advantage of the same few stolen moments. Finding another reader in a room full of other people waiting for something is usually rare. Being rare is often what makes something more beautiful or sought after, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with reading. Although I think reading is an amazing and beautiful thing, it seems to fall more aptly under the saying, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” And that’s ok. Not everyone is meant to truly see and understand the same type of beauty. But it’s when we do, that it begins to hold a bit of magic.

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”

– Stephen King

Collect

I am a book collector.

This isn’t a secret. Within my collection there are a few authors that I collect more specifically. The four I can name off the top of my head are Philip Roth, Stephen King, Daphne duMaurier, and Agatha Christie. This list has developed quite organically over many years.

What draws us to collect and ultimately keep? For me, these authors themselves as well as their words intrigue me on a personal level. Their books all have an aesthetic quality that captures my eye, often it is hard to resist grabbing an additional copy when I come across one. My mind races with thoughts like, what if the copy I have becomes lost or damaged?

In a world that is constantly throwing the new in our faces and pushing us to multi-task, it’s interesting to see what makes us pause and at times, shut out the extra noise to simply take in the moment in front of us. Thankfully there isn’t an app for that, yet.

When I get the chance to visit a book store or library, I think my mind must experience something attune to angels singing. I don’t visit very often, because it’s something I usually do alone and those moments are hard to come by.

So I will continue to collect books until I am quite possibly buried by them. And if you care to look closer you might just be able to find the books that make my heart happiest.

“Books to the ceiling, Books to the sky, My pile of books is a mile high.”

-Arnold Lobel