August 2014 Reading Wrap Up

Whoa, obviously Bout of Books 11 gave me a huge boost. 15 books in August!My favorite August read? Surprise: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. How to Build a Girl and A Brief Moment of Weightlessness were way up there, too, though (reviews coming later this month).I have a feeling my reading will slow down and get back to normal this month, though. This weekend started rehearsals for another musical, Annie Get Your Gun. There are some really tricky (and fast!) spots. The Sound of Music was easy enough that I could read through it the first time through, but I'm going to have to do some practicing this time around.Hope everyone is looking forward to a great September!

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Sunday Salon: Prison Books and Free-Range Reading

Well. After reading eight books during Bout of Books, I only read one this past week (The Way Life Should Be by Christina Baker Kline, which I'll likely finish today). Yesterday my spouse and I volunteered at Open Books, helping catalog, fulfill, and mail prisoner book requests. They're finally back on their feet after the flood back in April, and are having a huge book packing party tomorrow for Labor Day. (They are always in need of donations for shipping supplies, if you'd like to help.) I delivered several boxes/bags of books donated by Book-alicious Mama, River City Reading, A Reader's Respite, and myself, and many of those titles were included in the requests we fulfilled yesterday! My spouse enjoys reading but reads very…

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Flings by Justin Taylor

  Justin Taylor's Flings, a collection of short stories, started out on a high note for me. Each story is a brief glimpse into one moment in a relationship. Taylor brings you into his characters' thoughts and feelings, making it easy to connect with them. To be honest... That's how I felt during the first few stories. Then I started to feel more and more like I was reading variations on a theme, where the variations all sound just a little too similar. Eventually I found myself fighting to hold interest, working too hard to read instead of skim. Just when I was planning to set the book aside, "Carol, Alone," about an elderly woman adjusting to life after her husband's…

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Snow and Shadow by Dorothy Tse

  The stories in Snow and Shadow are so, so bizarre, but in that delicious way that leaves you excited to discover what the author has come up with next. Grounded in reality yet dreamlike, each is surprisingly accessible. I was never left feeling lost or puzzled, though I did find I needed to take a little breather here and there, rather than read the collection straight through. These stories show off Dorothy Tse's endless creativity and originality. "Woman Fish" is a Kafkaesque story about feeling trapped after a major transformation. In "Leaf and Knife," a couple competes with one another to prove their love in a senseless, ridiculous quest for the exciting, early stage of their relationship. "Traveling Family" is about relocation and…

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Bout of Books 11 Wrap Up

Well, we've reached the end of Bout of Books 11. I met all of my goals. Participated in a Twitter chat and a few of the challenges. I wanted to read at least 100 pages a day, but ended up averaging about 233 pages a day. I went a little free-range on the books I'd planned to read (that's part of the fun!) and read 8 books total, which tallied up to be a total of 1,631 pages! Here are the books I read this week:A Brief Moment of Weightlessness was my favorite read of the week. It's a collection of short stories, and every single one (EVERY SINGLE ONE!) ripped my heart out and took my breath away, in…

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A Diverse Reader and Her Pilgrimage to Literary Wabi-Sabi

My friend April at The Steadfast Reader always knows how to get me riled up. (It's okay, I love how she gets my mind spinning). But this time, she went straight for the heart by sharing a recent article in The Atlantic, The Mystery of Murakami. I've been mulling over it ever since. I feel that reading translations ties in closely with reading diversely, and this article missed the mark.My college roommate was an international student from Hiroshima. She once told me that one aspect that makes reading Murakami (in Japanese) such a wonderful experience is his beautiful and unique choice of kanji, the adopted Chinese characters of the Japanese writing system.Much of the review I read in The Atlantic seems to…

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The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar

  In The Story Hour, an unlikely and precarious friendship forms between Maggie, a well-respected psychologist, and her patient, Lakshmi, a depressed Indian woman in an unhappy marriage, cut off from the rest of her family. Lakshmi's voice is the reader's first impression, and wow, did she impress me. Her words were vivid and insightful. I immediately empathized with how trapped and unhappy she felt. Her broken English continues even through her own internal dialogue, which makes it far too easy to assume (but not for long!) that Lakshmi isn't as educated or as intelligent as she actually is. Interesting, because that's exactly how the people in Maggie's circle of friends and colleagues view Lakshmi. Although she came to Lakshmi's…

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Sunday Salon: Orchestra Pit Reads

If you already follow my blog, you know I've been playing in the orchestra for the local community theatre. This production of The Sound of Music had 13 performances; today is the final show. The musicians are located in a lowered area in front of the stage, called the "orchestra pit." The pit is mostly hidden from the audience's view (the balcony seats can see some of the orchestra).We aren't playing constantly for the duration of the show. During stretches of dialogue, or songs that call for only part of the orchestra, we're just sitting around. So you know the bookworms in the group are going to take full advantage of that extra time!Today I'm featuring books read in the pit…

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Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good by Kathleen Flinn

  You wouldn't think a memoir consisting of someone else's family stories would be all that interesting, but Kathleen Flinn had me hanging on each and every account in her memoir Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good. I connected with her immediately, and while reading I often thought of my own parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. Humorous, lighthearted anecdotes are seamlessly interspersed with touching, more serious accounts. Reading about the real, personal experiences of life during the Great Depression and the Korean War was fascinating, and I won't forget those stories. Flinn's parents are just amazing. They are such hard workers, tirelessly doing what needed to be done to take care of the family. They had a very egalitarian marriage and…

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Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

  In high school, Tsukuru Tazaki belonged to a close-knit group of five friends. When he goes off to college, the other four suddenly and absolutely reject him, refusing to give any explanation. Years later, Tsukuru's new girlfriend Sara realizes that the devastating loss of his best friends has kept Tsukuru from moving on with his life. She persuades him to track down his friends and find out why they abandoned him. The depth of our relationships with each other is a major theme throughout the story and worth further reflection. Sara points out, "We live in a pretty apathetic age, yet we're surrounded by an enormous amount of information about other people. If you feel like it, you can easily…

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