Review "The Tiger's Wife"

For my Slow Down And Read campaign, I'm slowly working my way through a list of summer reads. Some new, some classic, some literary, some popular. And some of the books I'm listening to as audio versions. This way I can read one book and listen to another. Here's my review of Tiger's Wife:

 

The Tiger's WifeThe Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I sorta don't get it. True, I did listen to the audio version and that can be different. I don't know. I just expected...more. I thought that there was some terrific writing in it (and the voice of the grandfather will give you chills) but it felt really fractured to me and the payoff wasn't what I was hoping for. The narrator is enjoyable. I think she narrated the Hunger Games series too and I like her style. I liked Obreht's blending of fairytale/folklore with aspects of the war, but all in all, the piece felt too disjointed for me to be left with much of a payoff. It is enjoyable and worthwhile. Maybe all the hype just made me think it was going to be something more than it was.

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Ah, Summer. No work. No income. Gah!

Around noon today, I’ll finish narrating the last novel I’m booked for. That means at 12:01 today, I officially begin my summer vacation. Well, sort of unofficially. I still have one day left of teaching, but that’s just exams and grading. I don’t have to plan anything. So. Summer vacation. Two months of not teaching…and no narration booked. Part of me is having a panic attack, I have to admit. Usually with narration I have something lined up, but nothing yet. It’s entirely possible I could go two months without work or income. I’m a little bit terrified. Both of not working (how DOES one relax?) and not getting paid.

At the same time, I’m really excited. I have two months to focus on reading, writing, and just recharging. It’s time to get my writing house back in order, and slip into some good novels. I’ve already started “Sarum” (a novel about England). When it came to me in the mail via Amazon, I opened the box and was shocked to find out that that muther is almost 1,000 pages of very small print. 1000 pages! And it begins with like the Ice Age or something. I guess there’s a reason it’s called the Novel of England. If I make it through that, I think I’m going to read some Carson McCullers and some other classics.

I should be excited. I really should. And I think I am it’s just…well…trying to find a home for the cats is depressing. There are no takers yet. My daughter is heartbroken, so is my son and Kealoha. Where are the Crazy Cat Ladies when you need them?  And then the concept of two months without an income is terrifying to me. What if I’m never hired to narrate again? What if teaching falls through? What if I can’t write a single word in my new literary novel?

I’m trying to tell myself to shut up. I talk too much. I worry too much. But then I just start talking again.

I’m trying to use that whole ‘affirmation’ thing and remind myself that this is just a vacation. I can take a vacation. And someone, someone will want to give my cats a home. And my kids will start getting better. And Kealoha and I are going to have a great wedding. And I’ll lose the five pounds I’ve been trying to since I broke my foot. And my mom will find an apartment that works for her and she’ll stop stressing me out. And I do believe in fairies, I do, I believe in fairies so much that I’m just going to clap my hands right now! clapclapclap

Yep. I’ll just repeat these things endlessly until I get so tired of listening to myself obsessing that I just plain shut it.

I’m thinking that’s going to be at 12:01 today. At 12:01 today, I’m going to sit outside and just breathe for a while and enjoy the start of my vacation.

And I’m going to turn the next page in my book.

 

Review of "We Need To Talk About Kevin" by Lionel Shriver

For the summer, I've committed myself to my own plan to "Slow Down And Read" and I have a list of ten books I'm working on. They're a combination of romance, literary, mystery, historical, and just plain entertaining. This morning, I finished reading "We Need To Talk About Kevin" by Lionel Shriver. Here is my review (as posted on GoodReads)

We Need to Talk About Kevin (P.S.)We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a brilliant novel. I don't say that lightly. I mean it. It's brilliant. And I think Lionel Shriver is a genius. Her work is like reading a mixture of Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, and Dorothy Parker. She is relentless, fierce, and writes about the underbelly of the psyche. She is also lyrical. "We Need To Talk About Kevin" is not an easy read. The subject matter is daunting (a woman reflects on the signs in her son's life that would lead him to committing a massacre at her school); the voice is ruthless (with lines like when my son was born "I felt nothing"); and still, the piece is utterly compelling.

It leads one to look at the root of evil. Is evil incarnate or is it created? Is a sociopath born or made? Should a child (essentially) be held accountable for his own monstrosity?

It also echoes fears every mother possesses from gestation to the adulthood of a child: What if I give birth to someone who is damaged? Is it my fault? How much of a child's behavior is because of the mother?

The novel plays on fears, but it also explores our own humanity.

A few years ago, I was booked to narrate Shriver's "A Post Birthday World". It was, like this novel, challenging but in the end, thoroughly rewarding both intellectually and emotionally. I haven't been booked to narrate another of her books (though I so wish I would be), so instead I'm vowing to read everything she's ever written. She is not a writer that makes you feel good. No. She challenges you. She gets in your face and makes you uncomfortable. She demands that you analyze your own life and your own choices. For this reason, I can't seem to put her work down. I'm completely, reluctantly, enthralled.

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On Writing and Living

ON WRITING

This was my first weekend of not obsessively tweeting, posting to Facebook, or tirelessly promoting my work. Instead, I read 200 pages (for pleasure), took naps, and enjoyed time with my fiancé and the kiddos. What a revelation! I said to Kealoha: “I don’t know why I’m so tired. I think there’s something wrong with me.” And he said, “Uh, you’re relaxed.” I was pretty shocked. I guess it’s been a long time since I’ve slowed down this much, so much so that I didn’t even know that I was relaxed.

Of course, two days isn’t saying much, but I’m trying to look at it as a ‘life change’ and not a ‘weekend change’. I’m tired of running and doing so much.

I was lazy. I didn’t clean, do a To Do list, prep an audio book. I didn’t write, didn’t obsess nearly as much, didn’t scour the internet looking at reviews and comments about my stuff. What I did do was cook, play, and go for walks. On one of my walks, I started thinking about a short story I’d like to write. It’s been a long time since I’ve dipped my toes into short stories. I’d like to try it again. This week, I’m going to start writing again….but the kind of story I want to tell (even if it’s hard).

And I thought about the wedding coming up in October.

 

ON LIVING

We’re planning a 1950s Cocktail Party/ Luau theme. I had no idea how much goes into a wedding….especially how much it costs. My first marriage we didn’t have a wedding ceremony. Just us and two witnesses. I dind’t want a big to-do, then, and maybe that was a sign.

With Kealoha, it’s different. I actually want to stand up with him in front of our friends and family and do the whole exchanging of vows thing. I want to make it official. Still, it’ll be relaxed…basically a fun party for us and about 100 guests (most of whom are our family). Appetizers, music, fun outfits, gifts, a mai tai toast…gah!  So much to plan! So much money to spend. I’m also learning a lot of weird wedding stuff. Stuff that makes me just shake my head, like the coordinator at the JW Mariott who calls herself a “Dream Planner”.

On Sunday we had a little ‘engagement party’ at Kealoha’s parents. I met his extended family. There were a lot of jokes, some cussing, and one of his cousins repeatedly asking me: “Are you sure about this? You want to marry this guy?” I assured her I did.

Kealoha’s parents loaded us up with sausage, chips, taquitos and M&Ms for our trip home. I sat in the back seat in between Louis and Simone, my mom was in the front, and Kealoha was driving her car. I had a sort of surreal moment where I thought “Holy shit. This is my family.” Of course, at the time my mom was telling Kealhoa a complicated story about clowns and drunkenness, so I was actively trying to zone out.

It was a fun weekend. A real weekend. A weekend in which I spent more time actually living my life than running from task to task. I could get used to this. And thanks to Kealoha, there is now a hammock in our back yard that is whispering my name. I better go check that hammock out. You know, make sure it works and all.

 

My Slow Down and Read Summer List

I’m sitting in my Intro To Lit class while students are writing. I’ve graded all my papers, prepped for next week, and suddenly realize, I don’t have anything to do. Is this true? Is this possible? HOLY SHIT!

 

Let me just breathe for a second here.

 

To look busy and smart, I’m blogging instead.

 

Remember when I talked to you about my Slow Down and Read idea? It’s shimmering just before me. I can almost touch the time where I will have real, actual time to read again. FOR PLEASURE. I have one more week of narrating to go and on the days I don’t teach, I’ll be reading. That’s right. Me, a book, and if the kids are at their dad’s then I’ll have a mojito sitting next to me.

Here’s my list of books I’m going to try and read this summer and why I chose them:

MY SUMMER READING LIST (so far)

1. “Sucker for a Hot Rod” by Joselyn Vaughn. I’m actually almost finished with this. The writer is in my writing group so I wanted to check out her work. So far it’s fun with great characters and it makes me wonder why you can’t find her work next to other bestselling authors that I narrate for like Susan Mallery and Debbie Macomber.

2. “We Need To Talk About Kevin” by Lionel Shriver. A couple of years ago I was booked to read Shriver’s “The Post-Birthday World”. I don’t know if I did the book justice, but it was a beautiful story. I still think about it. So I want to read all of her books, and I’ll start with this one.

3. “Sarum: The Novel of England” by Edward Rutherford. Someone suggested this one to me and it seems like a perfect summer read. I’ll read it while drinking a Pims. Huh. Maybe I should put a drink with all these books.

4. “Punished” by Brynn Paulin. She’s another writer in my group and is one of the topsellers of erotic fiction. No joke. Like #1 or #2. So I’m going to read Punished because every good girl likes to feel naughty.

5. “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee because it’s been a good decade since I’ve read it and I’m curious how the nearly-forty-year-old me will compare to the twenty-something and the teenager readers I used to be (you know, the other times when I read the novel). I should probably revisit “Anne of Green Gables” too.

That’s it for now. I still want to read “Bridge of Sighs” by Richard Russo, and another classic novel, and stuff by C.S. Lewis, and there’s a couple new ones out, but I’m going to start with 5. Five books I can handle.

So what’s on your summer Slow Down and Read list? Have you made one yet?

And if you're wondering the drinks...

1.) Beer

2.) Scotch

3.) Pimms

4.) Any heavy alcohol served as a shot

5.) Long Island Iced (sweet) Tea

 

 

Slow Down and READ

 

One of the things I realized lately is just how much time and energy I’ve been putting into promoting my books. It’s been good and all, but so much of my time has gone into promoting, that I’ve lost touch with literature. And I miss it. I’m not even talking about writing it…I mean…I miss reading. So I’m going to do something radical. I’m going to slow down and read.

 

Let me repeat that.

 

This summer, I’m going to slow down and read. I’m going to kick back, unplug, put on a ridiculous hat and sit in my backyard and read.

 

This is where the idea came from:

 

This weekend, Kealoha and I took a walk with the kiddos to the park and it was so relaxing to be outside, to feel warm, to hear kids laughing and throwing fits. I barely checked my email or Facebook or Twitter all weekend. Maybe I lost some followers, but I found a little bit more of ME. And one of the things I’ve been missing is time to spend quietly with a book, outside, sitting on the deck. I used to read a book a week. It’s been two years since I’ve done that.

 

So what did I do? I immediately posted on Facebook and Twitter that I was looking for suggestions for my summer reading list. (And yes, I recognize the irony.) My goal is to read 14 books in the warm months…May through August. 7 classics and 7 new books.

 

Doesn’t that sound lovely?

Here are the suggestions I received. I’m keeping the names private because I don’t want to just post people’s info without permission. If you want to claim your suggestion, just leave a comment (of course, then you’ll have to do math).

 

SUGGESTED READING FOR MY SLOW DOWN AND READ CAMPAIGN

 

“Closing of the American Mind” by Allan Bloom

“The Bookseller of Kabul” by Asne Seierstad

“Out of the Silent Planet”, “Perelandra”, and “That Hideous Strength” AKA “The Space Trilogy” by C.S. Lewis

“Bloodroot” by Amy Greene

“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

“The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Alias Grace” by Margaret Atwood

“My Antonia” by Willa Cather

"Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs" by Chuck Klosterman

"Love Is A Mixtape" by Rob Sheffield

Anything by Sarah Vowell, like "Radio On" or "Assassination Vacation"

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

Neil Gaiman: Neverwhere; The Graveyard Book

Henry James: The American; Princess Cassimassima

“The Castle” by Franz Kafka

“Sarum: The Novel of England” by Edward Rutherfurd

Laural Hamilton's Merrideth Gentry series

“Watership Down” by Richard Adams

“BONK” by Mary Roach

“Sucker for a Hot Rod” by Joselyn Vaughn

“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

“Appointment in Samarra” by John O'hara.

“Punished” by Brynn Paulin

"Watch" series by Sergei Lukyanenko

“if on a winters night a traveler” by Italo Calvino

“The Haunting of Hillhouse” by Shirley Jackson

“We Need To Talk About Kevin” by Lionel Shriver

“Bridge of Sighs” by Richard Russo

Anything by Nick Hornby

 

(The last three are my suggestions. I claim them.)

 

Where to start? Where to start! This is by no means a complete list. I’ll be gathering suggestions for as long as people give them to me. Right now, I’m just excited about all the potential. In fact, I’m going to start this weekend, even though I have an audiobook to prep and classes to prepare for. I always find time to be online, so for a few months, instead of making the computer and promotion my top priority, I’m going to focus on characters and plots and beautiful words (that have nothing to do with me).

What’s on your list?