Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Beautiful book. I don't always like books that win big awards, they tend to be too heavy or artsy and just go right over my head, but this winner of the 2009 Pulitzer is a real gem. Heartwarming, familiar, deep - it's not exactly a page turner and yet I couldn't put it down.

Olive Kitteridge is a 'novel in stories', a collection of 13 stories of a community in Maine. Each is about a different person in the town but Olive Kitteridge appears in all. Through the stories where she's the central character we come to see (and sometimes understand) how she views the world and how she's coping with getting older and the associated changes to her life. Through the other storied, the comments of the townspeople, we have a glimpse of how she looks to others, what others think of her. Often, I'd read about Olive in another person's story and I'd think she was horrible. Then when I read a chapter specifically about her, I suddenly understood and forgave her. If only we had such insight into the souls of those around us!

It made me think about the adjustments that we all need to make as we get older and then old. It made me think of my Grandma for example in a different light. It also made me think of my own future, about the kind of old person I would like to be.

Elizabeth Strout is seriously going onto my list of favorite authors ever. Her writing here was amazing. Actually alive. Beautifully chosen words, yet it didn't read like she was trying too hard. It all described life and people's inner life wonderfully. I really felt like I knew the characters, like I understood the very basis of them. It was a nice feeling.

Have you read anything else by this author?

If you haven't read this, go do so right now, you won't regret it!

Challenges: 2010 Countdown Challenge

Sunday, June 20, 2010

What Mothers Do, Especially When it Looks Like Nothing by Naomi Stadlen

If you're a new Mom, this book is really, really, really worth reading. At a time that I found very difficult, this book was often the only thing that would give me any comfort. Because it includes loads of quotes from mothers, it made me feel less alone in what I was feeling. The way the author phrased and explained things gave me recognition in a situation where I often felt like I was doing nothing.

Books like this are so important. I must say that no matter how many questions I asked beforehand and how many books I read, nothing could have prepared me for those first weeks/months of being a mother. It's hard, frustrating, tiring and often lonesome, as well as being a beautiful time. All the things you're feeling are really intense and for some reason difficult to explain properly. And you can't really complain because something wonderful has happened in your life and you should be happy. Naomi Stadlen's book offered the honesty of other mothers that I needed to hear - it's not easy, you don't always like it or handle it well, and that's ok. 

I picked up several things that made life easier for me. For example, one mother in the book remarked how much simpler life became once she stopped fighting against what her baby wanted. Once she accepted that whatever the baby wanted was fine, things became easier. I have to remind myself to stop trying to control the situation all the time and I have to say that if I manage to let go everything improves.

One of the more interesting ideas in the book is a discussion of language and how it's lacking the vocabulary to explain certain things about motherhood. The author argues that this is because in the past certain behaviors and realities were the norm and now society is very different. Life has changed but language has remained the same and a gap now exists. The book is worth reading even only for these language observations, very interesting.

I recommend this one whole-heartedly and will be buying it for any new mothers that I know.

Challenges: 2010 Countdown Challenge, Women Unbound Challenge

Friday, June 18, 2010

Japanese Reading Challenge

The Japanese reading challenge is back! Since Belezza is only requiring one book this time around, I figure I actually have a chance of completing the challenge. :-) If you want to play too, make sure you visit the challenge blog, there are loads of great suggestions on there!

Completed: 0/1 as of 17 June 2010

Hard-Boiled Wonderland at the End of the World by Haruki Murakami
After Dark by Haruki Murakami

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Dance of the Gods and Valley of Silence

These are the second and third books in Nora Roberts' Circle Trilogy. I read the first one, Morrigan's Cross, last year and really enjoyed it. I liked these too - the whole story is about an epic battle between humanity and vampires. There are evil vamps, a good vamp (of the Angel variety), witches, princesses, fairies, dragons and lost worlds. Oh and lots of Celtic mythology, which I love. What more could I want from a quick, relaxing, fun read?

Nora Roberts is a romance writer and I'm not a big romance fan so have not read anything else of hers. In fact, the romance scenes in these books annoyed me too so clearly I haven't changed my mind. I did love the settings and the characters and all the magic though!

I'm almost caught up with my reviews! Yay! :-)

At the moment I'm reading something completely different, Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. I haven't read such beautiful writing in quite some time. I'm loving all the people and the depth of characterization is truly astounding. I still have about a third to go but I think I can safely say that Strout will be added to my list of favorite authors.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Five People You Meet in Heaven

I avoided this Mitch Alborn book for years because it had received too much hype and I didn't think it could measure up. I only decided to read it when my good friend Natacha said that it was her favorite... with a recommendation like that, how could I not try it?

I'm reviewing books that I read months ago now so I won't be giving too much detail, but suffice it to say that I absolutely loved it. The feeling of happiness I had when I finished it was amazing. I loved the idea - that after you die you meet people who somehow made a difference in your life, even though you may not have even noticed them, and they teach you somethings about yourself and the way you lived. Wow.

I loved the writing and style too - short, punchy and always held my interest. Which isn't that easy with a newborn in the house!

Anyway, if you missed this one when it came out like I did, read it now, it's so good!

Challenges: 2010 Countdown Challenge

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Chicken with Plums

Oh my, I read this so long ago now that I can't remember that much about it! I know I loved it when I read it as it's marked as a favorite on my list. And I know that it's written by Marjane Satrapi, who also wrote the fantastic Persepolis. Chicken with Plums was just as good in terms of the genius of coupling serious subject matter with the graphic medium and complicated issues with the simple drawings.

I got this book from the lovely Melody, my secret santa. Thanks Melody, I really enjoyed it!

If you're not into comics but would like to try them, Marjane Satrapi is a good place to start and Chicken with Plums is a good one of hers to start with, as it's short but endearing.

Anyway, enough vague comments! I hope that all of you are well. I'm fine, back at work now and trying to find a balance between that and family life and my own stuff. It's hard but I'm having a great time!

Challenges: Graphic Novels Challenge, 2010 Countdown Challenge