Dec 21, 2013

Book 18: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Here is another book I have been hearing about and I thought I would pick up as my bed time reading.  It took me longer to get through than I thought it would considering it is a Young Adult novel.

It is a story if a young foster German girl living in Nazi Germany.  It is also a story narrated by death, who is very busy at this time in history.  It is a good book, it is a different kind of book.  It is a tear jerk-er.  It is a book not for the younger YA audience but for those who are a bit older.  I say this only because I am not sure my preteen would be able to follow and go along with the jerkiness of the story.  It is not a smoothly narrated story instead it has weird breaks and interjections.

Definitely  worth the read.

Not sure what it up next.  I am reading some "parenting" type things right now, and of course working through my final short stories of Fitzgerald.  I may pick up a loner newer book, or try to read some DH Lawrence that I downloaded.

Short Stories 48-52: various Fitzgerald stories from 1926-1927

The Adolescent Marriage
Your Way and Mine
The Love Boat
Jacob's Ladder

Full Reviews at Fitz. Musings

It took me forever to read these, but I finally did- whew.  I think the best of this bunch is The Adolescent Marriage, The Love Boat and Jacob's Ladder.  Presumption is good and Your Way and Mine is terrible.

Dec 1, 2013

Hair: Month 2

Month 2 of growing out my hair- I have been very good with not using styling products and I have only used my hair dryer twice, and only for times that I needed it.  I still have been drying my bangs, and I have had them trimmed this past month.

This month I had finished using Liggets bar shampoo and have moved on to a handmade shampoo bar from Chagrin Valley, but I will show you about that next month.  My head was getting a tad itchy, so I am applying a lime water rinse which seems to be helping. 

I still have not gotten the hang of taking pictures of the back of my head....
And in comparison-
Not sure there is much difference, but I did pull this from my files.  It was taken back in September of 2012.
So in the past year I have had some growth.

Nov 19, 2013

Book 17: The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons from the World's Most Elegant Woman by Karen Karbo

I am not sure why I even picked up this book for my tablet, but I did.  It maybe that it was on a sale and it was late at night.  I am sure I bought it for less than the $8.00 it is currently selling for.

With all that said, I liked the book and was irritated by the book.  I really enjoyed the topic and I really didn't know much about Coco Chanel and her career.  I was fascinated by her early life.  What irriteted by was the writing style of Ms. Karbo.  I always feel a tad icky when I say this, I mean who am I to criticize someones writing knowing I would be no better.  But basically, I felt the author was too wordy and was trying too hard to be clever.  It felt like a blog writer who was trying to sound like she was having a personal conversation with the reader over drinks.  She just inserted herself too much into the story for my taste.

However, for an introduction into Chanel, it was satisfactory.

Nov 14, 2013

Book 16: Cary Grant: A Celebration of Style by Richard Torregrossa

Ok, so there is a reason why I read a book on Cary Grant, besides the obvious answer that he is just nice to look at.  I picked up this book as research for my final project.  For class we needed to pick a celebrity to design a room for, alive or dead.  And after doing some research I ended up with Cary Grant, because of his style icon status.

I found this book very interesting, it is centered around the way Cary Grant dressed himself, and how he transformed from a poor boy from Bristol to fashion icon.  It focuses on his fashion philosophy and his over all sense of style.

Well done.

Nov 9, 2013

Short Stories 38-47: Just too many to list - remaining stories from 1930-1931

The Bridal Party
Two Wrongs
One Trip Abroad
Babylon Revisited
The Hotel Child
A New Leaf
A Change of Class
Between Three and Four
Flight and Pursuit

I am not even sure where to start with this grouping of stories, some them are fantastic, like The Bridal Party, Two Wrongs, Babylon Revisited and A New Leaf.  There are Tender is the Night cluster stories: One Trip Abroad, Two Wrongs and the Hotel Child.  And there are some stories that were just written to pay the bills and lack the finesse of his great stories: Indecision, A Change Of Class, Between Three and Four and Flight and Pursuit.

Honestly I am a little surprised that there is such a wide gap in the qualities of this cluster.  But when thinking about how stressed and strained he was at this point I think it becomes clearer.  he was struggling to complete Tender, Zelda starts having melt downs, Scott is struggling with alcoholism.  It is all just one big jumble, which accounts for some of the stinkers, and the struggles can also help create the gems.

As always, I have links to Fitzgerald Musings where I write in more detail of the stories listed here.

Book 15: Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

This is a book that has been on my reading list for a long time.  People love this book and Holden Caulfield is referenced so often that I needed to see what it was all about.

My honest opinion on the book...  When I finished it I was wondering what the big deal was about the book.  I didn't like the voice of Holden.  I did not care for all the "goddamns" that was sprinkled throughout the book.  Yes I get he is a 16 year old boy and that is how he speaks, I just found it distracting.  Also, I kept wondering if there was going to be an event that happened.  But nothing "big" emerged.  I knew going in that Holden was an anti-hero and not one that you can really care about.  I am not adverse to that kind of character, as Fitzgerald has many of them, and in the end they are much more real.

I finished the book and then went to bed.   In the morning I was able to appreciate the book more.  It being a story of not wanting to grow up.  How Holden kept referring to his sister and and how important she was to him.  How he was lost in the big city and was not able to grab hold and right himself. 

I think in the end I like the book, but I don't know if I would read it again.  I like the meaning of the story but the writing, like I said, was a distraction.  I can see why this book resonates with teenagers.  I like that they can see that literature does not have to be all fancy writing, but it can use language that they use, in the end it is the story and the message they are trying to convey.

Nov 2, 2013

Hair: Month 1

Ok this is a post that is strictly for me and my hair.  I am at a point where I am going to grow my hair.   I have never been able to get it long, and I am going to see if I can get it longer.  I have been documenting it for about a month.  Here are my first pictures.

I have been trying to avoid my hair dryer, teasing, and curling my hair.  I am also trying a different shampoo to see if there is a difference, and I am taking some biotin.
 Now lets see if there has  been any noticeable growth.  I am not expecting to see much, but I have noticed a difference in texture since I have started using the new shampoo. 
Here are the pictures from today.  I had my daughter actually measure my length, from the crown of my head to the tips, and it was 12.5 inches.

So here are all the details: I dyed my hair red about 2 months ago, and the color has faded.  Before that I had very serious blonde highlights in my hair.  I was very blond as a child, but now I think my natural color is more of a dark or dirty blond.  Besides laying off of the heat, teasing and products (except for special occasions) I will be letting my hair grow out naturally.  My hair is fine and there is not a lot of it, it has a somewhat silky texture, so it doesn't hold barrettes or much of anything in it.  I have always worn my hair short because when it gets to shoulder length it looks stringy and I hate it, but I want to see what it is like longer.  I am guessing I am not going to like it long, but I want to do this once so I can get it out of my system, also I would love to be able to put my hair in some funky ponytails and such, but I am guessing with how thin my hair is it won't look as nice as I would like it to.  Also as of right now, there is no short hair style I am dying to try out.  I am sure if I see one that I fall in love with this experiment will be over.  Oh currently I have short bangs, I will be keeping my bangs, and I do blow dry them, it is the only area that will get heat.  I am making that concession because my hair is so limp and I am not sure I could do it any other way.

So there it is, lets see what happens.

Oct 30, 2013

Book 14: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

I was not familiar with the book Ender's Game, but the reaction my husband had to the announcement of the movie made me sit up and take notice.  I secretly put it on my reading list.  When I told him I started reading it, he didn't think I would like it, as it is a book for young adult males.

However, I did like it.  I didn't love it, but I liked it and I am glad I read it.

It is a Science Fiction story set in the future, where the human race is dependent on finding the right person to lead the attack on the alien invaders.  The military believes this person will be young, and searches and trains boys and girls as young as 6 to become elite military leaders.  It is a harsh existence especially when you have to remind yourselves that these are children.

Although the story has a young male as its hero, it is not a story for young children, I mean under the age of 12, I may even say 14.  There is a lot of adult themes and violence, and I mean a lot of violence.

Now that I have read the book I will go see the film.  Hoping they do a good job on depicting the book, which is always a crap shoot.

I did see the movie.  I know there are a lot of die hard lovers of Ender's Game who were not happy with the movie.  I however did like it, and thought they did a good job of presenting the book in movie form.  Yes, the book is better, but it almost always is.   I would have liked to see move of the battle school depicted, and they had to take all of the Valentine and Peter internet stuff out.  Due to time.  But I liked the movie.

Oct 7, 2013

Book 13: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

I had heard about this book while on my summer road trip and wanted to read it, I finally got it on my kindle.

I enjoyed this book, and feel like it deserves a second read in the not so distant future, this is a book that I think will give deeper meaning on the second reading after knowing where the story goes.

As much as I liked the liked the book and will recommend it, I have to say I likes some parts more than others.  The beginning was amazing, once I got use to the writing device of Ursula dying and her rebirth, I found the details of how her life changed fascinating.  I like how Atkinson dealt with Deja Vu, I especially found this true in Ursulas's early life.  Later in the book, when we are dealing with WWII I found she lost the deja vu aspect, and I found the story dragging a little.  As morbid as it sounds I kept wanting Ursula to die so I could get another string of her life.  I was confused with the ending, and still wonder what the whole point of it.  Maybe it is nothing more that just what if, and maybe the deja vu we feel is real.

Oct 2, 2013

Short Stories 33-37: The 1920-1922 cluster stories

33. The Smilers
34. Myra Meets his Family
35. Two for a Cent
36. The Cruise of the Rolling Junk
37. The Popular Girl

I am liking this idea of clustering the remaining Fitzgerald stories.  The groupings are manageable, and I am able to figure out where he is in life.  This cluster let me finish up 1920-1922, however, I was unable to get my hands on The IOU or Recklessness.

Again, I have more in depth posts over at Fitzgerald Musings, but out of this cluster my favorite was The Popular Girl, followed by The Cruise of the Rolling Junk.

Next cluster will be 1930-1931 including:
Two Wrongs
The Bridal Party
One Trip Abroad
Babylon Revisted
The Hotel Child
A New Leaf
A Change of Class
Between Three and Four

Sep 25, 2013

Short Stories 26-32: More late Fitzgerald stories

I finally finished the cluster of stories published after Fitzgerald's death.  Some of these were not his best and others showed that he was coming back.  I wrote in more detail over at Fitzgerald Musings and will link to the stories over there.

The stories I really enjoyed included:
Lo, The Poor Peacock
Dearly Beloved
On Your Own

I don't think I hated any of them but the others did not rise to the top.
The Woman from Twenty-One
Last Kiss
On An Ocean Wave

In Lo, The Poor Peacock, the daughter character reminded me of Audrey which may have swung the story to my favor.


Dearly Beloved is very poetic, but very short

For short stories, the next cluster I will be tackling are from 1920-22.

Sep 9, 2013

Short Stories 24 & 25: "Death of My Father and "My Generation" by FS Fitzgerald

I have written an much more detailed post on these short stories over on the Fitzgerald Musing Blog.  You can check it out here.

I really enjoyed "My Generation".  It is this kind of essay that I enjoy from him.  He has an insight and a way of getting to the heart of a topic.  It makes me sad that he died so young and that we were not able to see how he would have seen the world as he aged.  It think it would have been interesting on how he would have dealt with aging and how society treats you.  Also how he saw the younger generations. What would he have thought of the hippies and free love?  Oh well.

"The Death of my Father" was good, but ultimately an unfinished piece.  I find it interesting more in the context of the lack of talk from him regarding his family.  He seems to keep that part out of his fiction, where everything else seems to be free game for his stories.  I wish there was more.  I am sure the death of his sisters (even if he never knew them) had to play a role in his young life.  I mean his mother had to be a wreck and I am sure that effected how he was raised.

So, shifting gears...  My plan is to finish all the works of Fitzgerald.  I am so slow on getting through these, and I don't want to kid myself that I can race right through them, although if I had a month or two of isolation I am sure it would be done.  I have created some clusters of stories that I will be tackling.  I broke them down by year published and then on cluster of Scott and Zelda works (which I will read last).  Right now I am finishing the post 1940 published work.  I think this will be the most difficult as they were not published during his life for various reasons, like being unfinished or not very good.  They can range from a any period in his life, so there is not a lot of continuity to them.  The ones I have left are:
After 1940
The Woman From Twenty One
The Kingdom in the Dark
On an Ocean Wave
Last Kiss
Dearly Beloved
Lo, the Poor Peacock
On Your Own
I have about 100 left- Wow that seems high, but that' s what the numbers say.

Sep 6, 2013

Book 12: The Real Midnight in Paris by Paul Brody

No denying I am a F Scott Fitzgerald enthusiast, which eventually leads me to the "Lost Generation" and the expats that lived and created in Paris in the '20s, which of course was wonderfully portrayed in Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris".  This book was obviously created in the wake of that movie.

The Real Midnight in Paris: A History of the Expatriate Writers in Paris that made up the Lost Generation, by Paul Brody

It is a good little book, but I had hoped for more.  Really, it is a primer book on some of the players of that time, but if you are hoping for more of a feel of how things were at that time and place this is not the book.  However, if you are unfamiliar with the "Lost Generation" it is a good place to start. 

Personally, I am unfamiliar with a lot of the artists and writers that were sprinkled in "Midnight in Paris" and was hoping to get a bit of information on who they were when I pick this book.  I did not get that.

Currently Reading Life after Life by Kate Atkinson

Sep 3, 2013

Book 11- Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

So for book 11 I finished a kids book.  Yep, I am by no means a kid, but hey, it was laying around and I picked it up and it was good.

I purchased the book for my kids to read.  They loved "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," so I thought they would enjoy this one as well.  So far my son is still a bit young to read this on his own, and my daughter is a tad intimidated by the sheer size of the book, and that the main character is a twelve year old boy.  She would rather read about girls at this age.

If you are not familiar with his earlier book, "The Invention of Hugo Cabret", you need to know that Wonderstruck is written in the same half written word and half pictorial storytelling, which makes the 400+ book much quicker to read.

Wonderstruck is a story that takes place in both 1977 and 1927 with characters who are deaf, and have a connection to the Natural History Museum.  Personally, I wished the girl portion of the story was written versus being mostly picture based, like with my daughter I would prefer to follow the girl.

It is a good book and one I would recommend for kids, but I think his first book is better.

Aug 31, 2013

Books 9 & 10: Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

I can now say I am no longer out of the Hunger Games loop, and I am not sorry I decided to give it a read.

Being a YA book, it was not a challenging book for me, but I do see how it is a book that will challenge younger readers, maybe not by the writing, although that is not dumbed down, but certainly by the subject matter.

So here is where I play stupid.  I am so out of the current literature scene and even more out of the YA book scene I may be just talking out my tookis, but I can't say I know of a ton of books for teens that deal with a strictly dystopian future, maybe Lord of the Flies? (have to admit I have not read this).  I think it is a good book to introduce such a concept, gives you something to think about.

I can see why this trilogy caught on.  I love the heroine, Katniss and I loved Peeta even more.

Currently reading:
Product Details

The Real Midnight In Paris: A History of the Expatriate Writers in Paris That Made Up the Lost Generation by Paul Brody and HistoryCaps (Jul 27, 2012)

Aug 27, 2013

Book 8: The Real F Scott Fitzgeral: Thirty-Five Years Later by Sheilah Graham

After reading Beloved Infidel, I wanted to see what else Sheilah Graham had to say, and I found she wrote another memoir regarding her time with F Scott Fitzgerald, this one Thirty-Five years after his passing.

Sheilah Graham had help writing Beloved Infidel, and because of this that memoir feels more polished than this one.  However, The Real F Scott Fitzgerald does feel more personal.  Even 35 years later, you feel the significance of their relationship on Sheilah Graham.  I do wonder if she still has some gauze over her eyes when it comes to Fitzgerald, she often tries to put him in a good light.  Their relationship was cut short, and I understand how this can alter how you see and feel about person.  Their relationship ended at a time when things were getting better and the future was golden, who knows if he would have continued clean or if the alcohol would take over, but that is something we will never know.

I did get the feeling that Sheilah Graham is still trying to claim her significance in relation to the famous author.  Which is understandable as at the time they kept the relationship away from the public.  Even with all of this you get the feeling that she was trying very hard to be objective and present the Scott she knew and try to reconcile it with the public version of the man.

Currently reading: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Aug 23, 2013

Short Stories 20-23: A Full Life, The World's Fair, Three Hours Between Planes, News of Paris-Fifteen Years Ago

My plan is to read all of Fitzgeralds short stories and essays.  It seems to come and go in spurts, which is fine.  Currently I have divided the remaining stories into the years published and trying to read through them that way.  Currently I am reading the stories published after his death in 1940.

A Full Life was published in 1988
The World's Fair was published in 1948
Three Hours Between Planes was published in 1941
News of Paris- Fifteen Years ago was published in 1947

A Full Life:
A strange little story of a daring woman who appears in papers for crazy acts and then disappears, but there is one man who follows her escapades and wonders what she is all about.  I didn't feel like this was a complete story, but more like FSF was working out his feelings of helplessness and futility.  So I don't feel like this is a strong piece, but it does feel like he is searching for something, some meaning, and then just when it is within reach it withers away and is never recoverable.

The World's Fair:
Although published after his death, it fits chronologically between Gatsby and Tender, which is good to know while reading it, as it feels like it is just a partial story within a large context.  This story belongs to Tender is the Night, when it was in the Matricide story line, which was completely abandoned before taking a different tack to the story.  There are some wonderful descriptions in this little piece.  I wrote more about it here.

Three Hours Between Planes:
I believe this is one of the stories he had been working on at the end of his life while he was getting his confidence back and writing well once again.  It is a great little story about a man who has a layover and looks up his long lost crush of his youth.  The meet and have a little tryst.  It is soon discovered that Nancy who thought this Donald was the Donald of her memories, was wrong, and discovers too late that he is someone who she barley remembers.  I love this one.

Oh and it looks like someone made a short film about it... Three Hours Between Planes

News of Paris-Fifteen Years Ago: (Collected in Afternoon of an Author)
This is another story he was working on in the last years of his life.  It was found in his among his papers, but was unfinished, and it reads as such.  But it does have promise, although I thought the story line was a tad confusing and had to read it twice.

Aug 20, 2013

Book 7- Beloved Infidel by Sheilah Graham

I have been waiting to read this one, and I very much enjoyed it, so much so I was able to read it in only 3 sittings, which for me is quick.

Beloved Infidel is a memoir of Sheilah Graham, through her early life through her relationship with F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Sometimes memoirs can be dry and I feel like I slog through them to get to the parts I find interesting, however, this one was fun to read.  Her early life almost seems like fiction.  In describing it to D he thought it reminded him of Gatsby.

I wrote much more on this over at Fitzgerald Musings.  Lately I have been wanting to know more of FSF later life, the time he was in Hollywood and started writing Love of the Last Tycoon.  Personally, I think he was fighting his demons, putting his failures behind him and starting on the rebound.  I am so said that the world has missed out on how FSF saw the world, and we have been cheated on how he was going to grow as an author.

So I saw there was a movie based on Sheilah's memoir and decided to check it out.  It came out in 1959, a year after the book, starring Gregory Peck and Deborah Kerr.  And as much as I think the book would make a good movie, this is not the movie I wanted to see.  You would think that having well known and respected actors would assure a good movie, but nope not here.  The acting was bad, very affected and wooden.  Yes, I know that is how acting was done back in the day, but it does not translate for today's viewers who are wanting a feeling for the relationship.

Currently Reading: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games trilogy)

Aug 13, 2013

Book 6- Beautiful Fools by R Clifton Spargo

 In 1939 Scott and Zelda took a trip to Cuba, it was to be the last time they ever saw each other.

I knew little of their trip to Cuba.  I knew it was the last time they saw each other and that Scott was involved with his mistress, Sheilah Graham back in Hollywood.  I went into this novel with a fairly clean slate (for someone as obsessed with FSF as I am).  I had also just completed "Call Me Zelda" by Erika Robuck, and was quite frustrated with her portrayal of the couple.

Where Ms. Robuck drew Scott and Zelda as caricatures of their public images, Mr. Spargo seems do downplay the couple.  I guess my biggest criticism is I didn't feel the presence of the Fitzgeralds in this novel.

After completing the novel, I consulted with Matthew Bruccoli to see what was written of the Cuba trip.  What is known is in the novel, so the premise is true, with the author fleshing out the possible details.  It is what I would expect from a novel based on true events.  I just found the details sort of flat.  Maybe not enough Scott and Zelda.  Not enough of the tension and the love and the connection they had for each other.

My take away is that it is neither good nor bad, just neutral.  For summer reading it is OK, but I don't know if I would recommend it.

Currently Reading:
Beloved Infidel by Sheilah Graham

Book 5- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

This is a book that many of my friends had been reading and talking about.  In general, I am not a fan of YA fiction, but after seeing the movie I decided to read it.

Yes, I saw the movie first. I watched it with my family and thought there could be a lot of angles taken in a story such as this.  And my daughter really was taken by the story and seems interested in reading it. I took this as an opportunity for us to share these books.

It is a compelling story, and I was able to work through it pretty quickly.  I am interested in seeing where this story goes.

When I told some people I was reading the Hunger games, someone mentioned they would love a book telling the story from Peeta side.  And I agree,  I would love to know how it all came together for him.  Obviously, the author has been working up to Katniss having a love triangle with Gale and Peeta, and this will have to work its way out in the next books.  So far I like Peeta.

I want to see how Katniss processes the games and the society that created it and forced her to participate.  How does her life change, and what does it all mean.  Now that she is away from the stress is she able to forgive Peeta?  Did she develop feelings for him only because of the games or were they genuine? 

I also hope there is more with Haymitch.  I find him super interesting.  He has won the game, and has all the riches he needs, but is a drunk and lonley and maybe realizes that winning the games may not be all it was cracked up to be, but I guess it is better than death.  How does Peeta and Katniss see Haymitch now that they to have won.

Now with this being a YA book, I don't know if it will get as deep and as dark as I would like it to go, but it has a good frame work to be able to dig deeper.  I don't think I will be swayed into reading a lot of YA Fiction, but The Hunger Games does have the emotional questioning that I like in a book.

Currently Reading: Beautiful Fools
Next Up: Beloved Infidel

Aug 12, 2013

Books 1-4 On Booze, Invented Lives, Love of the Last Tycoon, Call Me Zelda

I want to start my reading log from this summer (June 2013). 

1. On Booze- Collection of Short Stories and Essays by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. Invented Lives - James R Mellow
3. Love of the Last Tycoon- F. Scott Fitzgerald
4. Call Me Zelda- Erika Robuck

Short Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald
1. Thank You For The Light 
2. The Ants at Princeton
3. Send Me In Coach
4. Fate in Her Hands
5. Image on The Heart
6. Three Acts of Music
7. Too Cute For Words
8. Afternoon of an Author
9. I Didn't Get Over
10. The Long Way Out 
11. Financing Finnegan
12. The Lost Decade
13. An Alcoholic Case
14. Strange Sanctuary
15. The Honor of the Goon
16. An Author's Mother
17. Inside the House
18. Trouble
19. Design in Plaster

I have links to specific posts I have written on these stories over at Fitzgerald Musings 

Aug 8, 2013

Kicking it off

Why a reading blog?

Well, why not. I have always been a reader and in the past I had kept a reading journal.  I have sadly not kept it up.  Over the past few years I have been a bit obsessed with a particular author, and have been working through his materials, you can see that project over at Fitzgerald Musings.  But I am getting to the end, and have been picking up other books and don't feel I should include them over there.  So why not start another reading journal, just online.

To give you an idea of my reading tastes, I tend to go for classics.  I would like to read as many classics as I can.  But I do every now and then pick up a more current book.  I also have young kids, and have been known to read through their novels as well, this is usually when I an really mentally tapped out.

Now for a bit of a confession...
I am a slow reader.  I won't be cruising through 3 novels in a week.  I may be lucky to read one novel per month.  And secondly, I tend to remember what I read for only a short time.  I may remember the broad subject matter, but not the details. So re-reading a book can be enjoyable.

Well there it is.  The start of a new adventure.

Currently I am reading:
Beautiful Fools: The Last Affair of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald by R. Clifton Spargo

And The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins