Book Review: “South of Superior” by Ellen Airgood

I Rated It:

4starsuppostcard

 

The only two things that I knew about this book before I bought it were that it was set in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (where I was raised) and it was on the bargain table at Barnes and Noble.  I don’t think that I’ve ever been so pleased with a book that I knew so little about ahead of time.  The town in which it is set (McAllaster) is a fictional town, but I could actually see all of the little U.P. towns that I’ve been to or driven through while reading Airgood’s description.  The plot was very straightforward and not overly exciting.  This was a beautifully written life-like account of a woman who chose to leave the city (Chicago) to explore her small-town roots and spend time with her long lost family.  It was an incredibly enjoyable, quick read that was peaceful and relaxing.  I’m struggling a bit to review this one.  I really don’t have anything particularly special to say about this book, but I loved it.  This is a beautifully written realistic novel about life in a small-town and rediscovering one’s self.

 

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“The Emperor’s Children” A Review

I Rated It:

2stars
I hate to suggest that I just might not be smart enough to really understand this book, but from reading other reviews, it is clear to me that reviewers were able to take away some meaning from this book that we “average readers” didn’t seem to get.  The plot seemed pretty simple to me:  A group of spoiled 30-year-old friends living in New York City trying to establish themselves and move forward with their careers meet a less privileged cousin who is apparently trying to work hard and make a name for himself in the big city by dropping out of college and selling out his own uncle.  (And if you think that’s a long sentence, you should see some of the sentences that Messud uses in the book.)  Then, along come the horrific tragedies of 9/11 leaving them all devastated and unsuccessful, feeling like they can’t move on with their lives.  At the risk of “spoiling” the book for anyone who hasn’t read it – Bootie even fakes his own death so that he can get away and start over again.  And the writing style-being a bit wordy and over done-was a little difficult to read (it’s almost as if Messud thought that the excessive use of punctuation marks would make the book sightly more interesting.)  Hyphens, parenthesis, heck she throws interjections into her sentences that are so long you have to go back and read the beginning of the sentence again to understand what she’s writing.  This one (obviously) took me a while to read.  I thought about just giving up on it several times, but I really wanted to make my way all the way through it.  Here’s what I took away from it:  “The Emperor’s Children is a pretentious, over-written book about spoiled 30-somethings in New York City over-exaggerating the difficulties of their lives.”

100(ish) Books to Read before I’m 30

After stumbling across a lot of “books to read in your 20’s” and “books to read before 30” lists I decided to compile my own list of books that I want to read before I turn 30.  Just consider this my ultimate reading challenge for the next 5 years.

goonsquadcoverJohnSteinbeck_TheGrapesOfWrathThe-Bell-Jarthinkingbigwhiteteethbadbehavior

1. The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud √

2. What She Saw… by Lucinda Rosenfeld

3. The Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies

4. The Secret History by Donna Tartt

5. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin√

6. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

7. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junet Diaz

8. Lucy by Jamaica Kincaidthesecrethistory

9. The Moviegoer by Walker Percy

10. White Teeth by Zadie Smith

11. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

12. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

13. Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney

14. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

15. Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman

16. The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis

17. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

18. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

19. Never Let Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

20. A Home at the End of the World by Michael Cunnigham

21. The Sandman Series by Neil Gaiman

22. The Group by Mary McCarthy

songofsolomon   23. Quicksand and Passing by Nella Larsen

  24. Pastoralia by George Saunders

  25. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

  26. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

  27. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

  28. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis

  29. Generation X by Douglas Coupland

  30. The Fortress of Solitude by Johnathan Lethem

31. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

32. I Love Dick by Chris Kraus

33. On the Road by Jack Kerouac

34. Even Cowgirls get the Blues by Tom Robbins

35. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami

36. Bossypants by Tina Fey

37. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

38. How to Lose Friends and Alienate People by Toby Young

ilovedickhardboiledwonderland

39. The Dirt by Motley Crue and Neil Strauss

40. Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis

41. Just Kids by Patti Smith

42. Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn

43. Oh the Glory of it All by Sean Wilsey

44. I Don’t Care about Your Band by Julie Klausner

45. Wild by Cheryl Strayed

anotherbullshitnight  46. Lit by Mary Karr

  47. I’m with the Band by Pamela Des Barres

  48. Dear Diary by Leslie Arfin

  49. The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton

  50. Actual Air by David Berman

  51. The Collected Poems of Kenneth Koch

  52. Alien vs. Predator by Michael Robbins

  53. The Collected Poems of Audre Lord

54. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

55. How to be a Woman by Catlin Moran

56. My Misspent Youth by Meghan Daum

57. Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion

58. Up in the Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell

59. Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

60. The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck

61. Getting Things Done by David Allen

how to be a woman  62. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey

  63. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

64. Walden by Henry David Thoreau

65. The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz

  66. Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

  67. The 4-Hour Workweek by Time Ferriss

  68. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

69. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

70. 1984 by George Orwell

71. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

72. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

73. The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason

74. Quitter by Jon Acuff

75. The Success Principles by Jack Canfield and Janet Switzer

76. The Paradox of Choice:  Why More is Less by Barry Schwartz

orwell_198477. The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman

78. The Art of War by Sun Tzu

79. The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowieckiv

80. The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz

81. Switch:  How to Change Things When Change is Hard  by Chip and Dan Heath

82. The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz

83. Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt

84. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

85. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

86. Bad Behavior by Mary Gaitskill

87. The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood

88. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

89. White Teeth by Zadie Smith

90. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

91. Nightwood by Djuna Barnes

92. Delta of Venus Anaïs Nin

93. Self-Help by Lorrie Moore

94. The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker

95. The Complete Claudine by Colette

96. The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr

97. You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down by Alice Walkerthe-art-of-war

98. The Silent Woman by Janet Malcolm

99. Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link

100. The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor

101. Against Interpretation by Susan Sontag

102. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

103. Sula by Toni Morrison

104. Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison

Book Review: “Entangled” by Nikki Jefford

I Rated It:

4stars

Based on some of the other reviews I’ve read on this book, I feel it’s necessary to start this review by stating what this EntangledCoverbook is not.  This book is not a work of literary genius filled with beautiful imagery and outstanding symbolism.  If that’s what you are looking for you might as well just stop reading my review right now.  This book IS a fast-paced, exciting, semi-dark young adult novel.  At first the book seemed almost too cliche, even for YA fiction.  Once I got through about the first third of the book it got interesting.  That was the point when Graylee Perez woke up in her twin sisters body to discover that she had actually been dead for several months.  This book is filled with family drama and cheesy high school love scenes, but isn’t that what makes for a good YA novel.  It’s a very fun, quick read.  I will definitely be  reading the second book in the series!

I read this book as part of the “Indie Fever Reading Challenge”

I have read 1 of 15 books towards my goal.

Click here for details about the 2014 Indie Fever reading challenge!

Book Review: “Bloom-Finding Beauty in the Unexpected”

I Rated It:

3starsbloomcover

I’m a bit embarrassed that it has taken me so long to finish this book.  It was a well written account of a year in the life of a mother of Down Syndrome.  Hampton holds nothing back in describing her feelings about Nella’s condition or the transformation that takes place within her over her daughter’s first year of life.  This is probably a great first read for someone who has never worked within the realm of children with disabilities.  It just wasn’t exactly what I was looking for personally.  I appreciate personal stories of adversity, but when it comes to books such as this one, I am generally looking for things that cater more towards professional study and/or professional experience with children who have disabilities.  It’s a very nice book; well written, beautiful pictures, and very honest.  Great personal story.  Doesn’t do much for people who have worked with disabled children in the past and are looking to gain more professional insight.

 

 

“Welcome to Holland”

Hampton references this letter in which one mother uses an interesting metaphor to describe her feelings about raising a child with a disability.

WELCOME TO HOLLAND

by
Emily Perl Kingsley.

c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this……

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.

http://www.our-kids.org/archives/Holland.html

Bloom author Kelle Hampton shares song lyrics with readers.

In chapter 4 of Bloom, Kelle Hampton shares the lyrics to this song by Sara Groves.  Hampton’s sister shared the song with her shortly after she gave birth to Nella, who has Down Syndrome.  It’s a beautiful song and the lyrics are very inspirational; quite fitting for what the author was going through at that time in her life.

▶ Add to the Beauty – Sara Groves – YouTube.

2014 Indie Fever Reading Challenge

I have decided to participate in the 2014 “Indie Fever Reading Challenge.”  I will be participating at the amateur level which means that my goal may be to read anywhere between 1 and 24 self-published books.  For this challenge, I will be aiming to read 15 self-published books each by a different author during the year of 2014.

Click here for details about the 2014 Indie Fever reading challenge!

See List Below:

1. Entangled by Nikki Jefford  √

2. Shine not Burn by Elle Casey

3. And all the Stars by Andrea K. Host

4. The Edge of Darkness by Lissa Bilyk

5. True Love Story by Willow Aster

6. Scriber by Ben S. Dobson

7. The Impact of You by Kendall Ryan

8. Wishing for Someday Soon by Tiffany King

9. The 19 Dragons by S.M. Reine

10. No One’s Angel by Kelly Walker√

11. Now or Never by A.J. Bennett√

12. Blind Obsession by Ella Frank

13. Safe Word by Teresa Mummert

14. Knotted Roots by Ruthi King√

15. Shattered by Elizabeth Lee

Check back soon for my reviews and updates on my progress!

“Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected”-Update 1

To get the ball rolling, here is a quick update on the book I am currently reading.

Bloom:  Finding Beauty in the Unexpected, is a memoir written by Kelle Hampton, who gave birth to a little girl with Down Syndrome in 2010.  Before I began reading the book, I did not realize that the author is a talented professional photographer.  The book includes beautiful color photos, works of both the author and other photographers.  Some of the photos were also contributed to the book by the author’s family.  The photos are shown in superb quality in the Kindle Edition of this book as well!  They’ve really added to my reading experience and helped me to feel more connected to the author and her family.

For more information about the author and to view some of her stunning photos, visit:

http://www.kellehampton.com