The Vacationers

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I was on vacation last week, and it was wonderful! I spent seven days in a cabin in northern Wisconsin. I did not have any cell service, internet, or a television. I spent time kayaking, playing with my dogs, playing cards, and doing plenty of reading. I read one book each full day I was there. This week I will be blogging and posting on my Instagram about each of my reads.

First up, is The Vacationers by Emma Straub. This was my first book by Straub, and I devoured it. It was full of gossip and rich people problems, making for a quick and fun read. I really enjoyed Straub’s writing and will most certainly pick up more of her books in the future. I really love following her on Instagram!

This book is about the Post family who is on a two week vacation on a beautiful Island in Spain. The Post parents are trying to sort out what infidelity means for their marriage, the Post daughter is trying to lose her virginity before she goes to college, and the Post son is deciding how to navigate his relationship with his older girlfriend and how to discuss his financial woes with his parents. Some family friends along for the ride throw in some added complications. Overall, this book is about family and how complicated those relationships can be. The book did a great job of revealing the tensions that can come along with a family vacation where each person has high (and often different) expectations. This is a great summer beach/lake read, for sure.

Happy reading!

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Big Little Lies

I have been focusing on reading more frequently. While I usually look for larger chunks of time to read, instead I have been trying to read in shorter spurts, even if it is only one chapter at night before I go to sleep. I have been stressed to the max with work, managing my household, and taking care of 8 (yes 8!) animals at the moment. I have four foster kittens at the moment, but they are ready to be adopted, so hopefully that will lead things to slow down soon. Taking the time to read and unwind at night is helping me to fall asleep sooner, and not stay awake thinking of everything I need to do.

I finished Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty this week. This book was basically the juicy reality shows (think Real Housewives) from Bravo that I love so much. I loved the gossipy, secret-keeping characters who try to only show the best parts of their lives to the people around them. It’s so not my world, which made it a great way to escape. The pages just kept turning! I was able to figure out the twist/mystery, but appreciated how the book kept my attention.

The book centers around a few families who all have children in an elementary school. The kindergarten mothers cause particular controversy as they all try to sort out which of the kids has been bullying one girl in the class. You know right away that there is an incident where someone dies, and you hear quotes from witnesses and gossip mongers in each chapter, but you do not really know what happened or who died until the end of the book. Throughout you fall in love with Jane, the new mom in town. Jane, as a young and single mom is trying to sort out where she fits into the world, and in the school.

I will be adding The Husband’s Secret to my TBR, and will pick it up when I need a fast and gossipy read!

I’m jumping back into my books-to-read-in-your-20s list with my next two reads, which I picked up from the library today. I am seven books behind on my book challenge, but hope to play some catch up with my new reading routine!

Heartburn

It is freezing here. We got nailed with snow the past few days, and the warmest weather we have had in about a week has been 12 degrees. So, tonight I curled up on the couch and finished Heartburn by Nora Ephron.

This book is about Rachel, a woman who has learned that her husband is having an affair. To make matters more complicated, they have a very young son, and Rachel is seven months pregnant with baby #2. Rachel writes cookbooks, and the book, which is a letter written by her, is littered with the occasional recipe. Rachel is hilarious. Despite the sad events in her life, she drops in these laugh-out-loud moments.

This book pulled in two directions for me. First, it has the gossipy, Real Housewives vibe happening. Rachel gives you the gossip on each of the characters she introduces, and she starts some juicy rumors about the woman whom her husband has been sleeping with. In the other direction is Rachel reflecting on how she got to this point, and what she’s going to do from here. She really has to assess what will make her happy and how she can move forward from this point.

This book read quickly, was funny, and Rachel had a great voice. I really enjoyed this and may have to pick up another Ephron in my future.

The Moviegoer

It’s my final day off before I go back to work, so I took some time to finish The Moviegoer by Walker Percy. As with many of the books I have picked up in my books-to-read-in-your-20s challenge, I knew nothing about The Moviegoer or Walker Percy. This book actually won the National Book Award for Fiction.

This book follows a 29-year-old stockbroker named Binx who is living in New Orleans. He is searching for his place in the world, and he tells the reader about that search and how frustrating it is. Other central characters in this novel include Binx’s aunt and cousin, whom he is fond of and “close” to. As close as he can get without yet knowing his own place in the world, at least. Kate, Binx’s cousin, is severely depressed, and Binx is often asked to intervene and try to help pull her out of her episodes.

Binx is very particular and regimented. When describing himself he talks about how organized his wallet is, how he enjoys being a good citizen, and how his armpits never stink. He has a habit of dating his secretaries, and seems to hold most of his relationships at a distance. He loves attending movies, good or bad, and has particular theater employees whom he has developed comradeship with.

I’m 29, so I understand the familial pressures that Binx feels (people asking what you’re doing with your life, asking why you aren’t married, etc.), and it was interesting to see the differences in the way Binx and I live our lives. Ultimately, as Binx turns 30 there are pieces of his life that have come together and other pieces he still isn’t sure of. As 30 continues to loom closer for me, it’s a good reminder that I do not have to have everything aligned – I’ll always be seeking where I fit into the world in some facet.

Distant View of a Minaret and Other Stories

I am really enjoying vacation. I have not been to work in one week, and have six days until I have to be back, which is completely and totally lovely. I have not done as much reading as I should have, but I have done plenty of relaxing and spending time with family.

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My Christmas 2016 Book Haul

This afternoon I finished a collection of short stories by Alifa Rifaat, Distant View of a Minaret and Other Stories. It’s relatively short, but took me a while to get through due to traveling, preparing for the holiday, and wrapping things up for 2016. Alifa Rifaat was an Eqyptian writer. The stories in this book focus on what everyday life looked like in Rifaat’s Egypt. Her writing focuses on familial relationships, and the routines of everyday life, including the five daily prayers. Rifaat describes a society that is male-dominated, but her writing reveals some flaws in such a culture.

My favorite story in this collection is Badriyya and Her Husband. This story is about a young woman who lives with her mother. Her mother does not approve of Badriyya’s husband, a man who has just been released from jail for stealing. He comes back, but their problems do not end just because he has come home. All of Rifaat’s stories have a punch in their final line, but the final line of this story broke my heart in addition to punching me in the gut. It’s really lovely writing/translation.

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Remi enjoyed Rifaat, as well.

I am the only person who has ever checked this book out from the library at the university where I work! There are only 56 reviews of it on Goodreads, so I am assuming it is not a widely known book. I encourage you to pick it up!

I only read 18 books this year. Hopefully I can read one or two more before the new year, as my goal was 55 books! Oops. Did anyone else fail miserably with their reading goal this year?

 

Bastard out of Carolina

I had a wonderful Sunday evening. I laid on the couch finishing Bastard out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison, drinking a beer and snuggling with the cats in the glow of the Christmas Tree! It was lovely to hide away from the winter weather (it was -9 when I woke up this morning).

I knew nothing of this book when I started it – I actually prefer opening a book with no expectations. Allison did an excellent job of drawing me into this poor Southern family. The main character, Bone, is a young girl who narrates this story about her childhood. She focuses on her family – her mother, stepfather, and a parade of aunts and uncles whom she loves deeply. Bone’s stepfather loses his jobs often, causing them to move routinely. However, through all of the moving and other troubles Bone runs into, her extended family remains constant. She knows her uncles will get drunk and get arrested, she knows her aunts will continue to take care of each other. Bone is drawn into these situations as she grows older and closer to adulthood.

I don’t think that I can write much more without including spoilers. I will say that this is one of my favorite books of 2016, and I recommend you go pick it up.

Weetzie Bat

I went to the library yesterday to pick up a stack of books and get back to my books-to-read-in-your-20s list. I only have about 13 months to complete this list, so the pressure is on!

This morning I laid on the couch with the dogs and read Weetzie Bat by Francisca Lia Block. I needed a quick read to get back on track, and at 70 pages, this YA book was the perfect choice. I kept wondering why this was on the list, but it did not take me long to sort that out.

Weetzie Bat lives in a whimsical Los Angeles where she lives her unconventional life. She finds a good friend in Dirk, has an interaction with a genie, and eventually finds happiness. Each of the characters in this book go about life in their own way, not judging, but accepting each other’s flaws, abilities, and quirks. Ultimately, they all love each other and the life they built together.