Gone Girl

21480930I picked up Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn completely due to peer pressure. That and I like a good mystery/suspense novel.

My mom got me hooked on mysteries when I was in middle school. By the time I was in seventh grade, I had read all that was available to me by way of Sweet Valley Twins and Sweet Valley High and all the other series that were aimed at my age group. I needed something more challenging.  That was when my mom introduced me to Agatha Christie. It didn’t take me long to read through ALL of Christie’s novels. More than once.

By high school, I needed something else. My cousin introduced me to Mary Higgins Clark and from there I also found John Grisham. I haven’t picked up too many mystery/suspense books since then, although when a good one comes along, I try to get to it.

That being said, I wasn’t going to read Gone Girl because I don’t tend to like books with a lot of hype. But everyone hated the ending and everyone was so mad when they finished, so of course I figured, “well now I have to read it because I will probably like the ending…or at least be able to defend it,” because I am snobby and full of myself that way.

Ok so I started it and I was bored to tears. It took me forever to get through the first third of the book. I didn’t particularly like any of the characters–not enough to care about them or root for them or anything. The story is an old one: wife goes missing; husband is a suspect; reader tries to figure out if he’s guilty before the book tells you. The challenge is to keep it interesting, which it was NOT for the first part of the novel. I liked that every other chapter bounced between first person accounts from the husband and the wife–his present-day thoughts and her past-tense thoughts from her diary, but it wasn’t enough. I quit the book.

I told all this to a friend of mine who then asked, “Well what part are you up to?” When I told her she replied, “Oh stuff is about to BLOW UP. Start reading again!”

She was right. I read another chapter and then BOOM! Plot twists and turns and bombs dropped. Just when you think you know what’s going on? Nope.  So I started binge reading.

Then I got all bored again once I knew what happened to the wife.

By the time I got within a few chapters of the end of the book, I totally knew how it was going to end, but I couldn’t put it down because this book had just enough surprises that even though I thought I knew, I wasn’t sure I knew. Ya know? I ended up being mostly right about the end, but I wasn’t angry like everyone else was.

I didn’t think the ending was “fair”, but it didn’t surprise me.

In fact, I likened Gone Girl to The Great Gatsby in the following ways: it’s sort of a boring basic plot, none of the characters are likable–or trustworthy, for that matter, and the ending pretty much makes you mad because that is NOT how it’s supposed to go.

The difference is that The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite novels of all time particularly because I know so much about Fitzgerald’s process and his writing style/word choice make my literature nerd heart happy. Gone Girl, on the other hand has Ok writing, but it’s not enough to make me want to re-read and love to hate the characters the way I do with Tom, Nick, and Daisy.

I’m not mad that I gave in and read Gone Girl, and despite this review, I would actually recommend that if you haven’t read it, maybe you should. I do want to see the movie too.

Talk to me: have you read it? Have you seen the movie?  Thoughts?

The Storied Life of AJ Fikry

91hvgvo-tlI love to read books that are super good, but are not the ones that are being talked about all over Facebook and the Today show. The ones that someone recommends to you because they loved it, but whenever you ask anyone else if they’ve read it, they say no.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin came to me in church. A friend came up to me with it and said, “Hey Katie, our book club just finished this book and I just think you will really like it. I always think of you and your classroom when I read a really good book and want to pass it along.”

I was busy reading The Giver and Animal Farm and getting ready to plan out those units before I went on maternity leave, so I put it on my To Read pile. Just before Alice was born, I picked it up and totally got hooked.

The title character, A.J. Fikry, reminds me a lot of Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, only literary instead of sciencey. He is the ornery, particular, owner of the only bookstore on Alice Island, Massachusetts.  As a middle-aged widow (his beautiful, care-free wife died in a car accident), he talks to few and is rude to many.  Then a series of strange things happen–an almost priceless Edgar Allen Poe piece is stolen, a “package” shows up in his store–that change his life.

The book is separated into chapters with titles the same as short stories–which Fikry claims to prefer over novels–and a brief synopsis of what the short story is about.  Literature nerds like myself will appreciate all the literary references and allusions not just from the chapter title pages, but throughout the entire novel. And as cliche as it sounds, I really can’t give away more of the plot because it would ruin the magic of it unfolding for you.

It’s a quick read–especially if you do lean more toward the literary–but it’s both heartwarming and heartbreaking, if that is possible. There are times when you totally see what’s coming, but it’s not a bad thing. And then there are times when you are blindsided and you want it to be all cliche and happy.

I found The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry  to be the perfect read for helping me relax in the evenings as my csection date with Alice approached, and then for the evenings in the hospital before I went to sleep. It wasn’t too heavy, but it wasn’t just fluff either.

Because this book straddled my time between pregnant with Alice and her first week home, I’ll always remember it fondly.

Have you read this one? What are you reading right now?

 

Get The Behavior You Want…{Review}

51WlU9RnZLL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I totally never read parenting books.

Ok that is a lie. I read What to Expect When You’re Expecting cover to cover when I was pregnant with Eddie. It was like my Bible.  And then his birth and everything was absolutely nothing like what I was told to “expect” and I chucked that book. I also bought a book about sleep training when Eddie was a baby who wouldn’t sleep (because colic and crazy baby!) and I wanted to stab the author, so I chucked that book too.

And then I stopped reading parenting books.

I may have parenting book PTSD. Whatever.

I do, however, love my friends with medical/nursing degrees. I try not to abuse our relationship by constantly texting or messaging them about ailments I or my family members may have. I’d like to publicly thank them and apologize to them for the pictures I’ve sent of rashes and/or the gross descriptions I have typed out.

Anyway, one of these friends happens to be the internet-famous Dr G. I call her Debi, but she Dr. Deborah Gilboa, MD. to you, and she wrote a book called Get the Behavior You Want…Without Being the Parent You HateAnd I read it…and LIKED it.

Even though I have little kids, I read the parts about tweens and teens too because, well, my boys WILL be that age someday. But really, more immediately, my students are that age. Since I have never taught 13-year olds before, I want to try to understand them a little better. No, I am not their parent, but man a LOT of my day revolves around behavior.

The book is set up to be extremely user-friendly. There are four major parts: one on respect, one on responsibility, one on resilience, and one on implementing the changes. In each of those sections there are numerous short, easy to read, chapters.  It is the complete opposite of daunting. In fact, when reading a book by an MD, the reader usually expects some jargon or medical terms to be thrown at them. Dr. G keeps it very simple and easy to understand. It’s much more like chatting with a friend than talking with a doctor. Yet at the same time, she keeps it very professional and because of her credentials, you know she can be trusted and relied on to give good advice.

One of my favorite sections was the one on resilience. We have had a lot of death in our lives and we have always been as honest as we can with Eddie (and now Charlie) about it. Some people have questioned why I would tell a 5-year old that his Papa died of cancer, but ever since he was small we talked about how Papa lived in heaven, then that he had died, and now that he died because of cancer. As he gets older and asks questions, we answer them as honestly and simply as we can.  This chapter reinforced how important it is for our kids to experience failure, grief, and loss.  It TOTALLY sucks, but it’s a part of life and if they can learn to be resilient from early on, they will probably be better at coping, and hopefully more empathetic to other people, as they get older.

There are a million tips and wise words I could share that I have underlined or marked, but really, you should read the book. If you are a parent, it’s a must-read, but I think even if you don’t have your own kids, but are a childcare provider, teacher, aunt, uncle, grandparent, etc. it’s a good book to have on hand.

The main message is right there in the title: you don’t have to be a giant jerk of a parent to have kind, well-adjusted kids. You don’t have to yell and lose your mind to have your kids behave.

Rare Bird {book review}

I must be in a memoir and memoir-style mood.

After reading the fictionalized memoir of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, I read a very real memoir by a good friend who lost her 12-year old son Jack in a freak accident.

Anna is the writer behind An Inch of Gray who wrote about life and refurbishing old furniture until the day her son was swept down a raging river and her world changed.

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Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

Over spring break Cortney and I took Eddie to Chicago. We went to some of the typical fun tourist things like Shedd Aquarium and the Lincoln Park Zoo. While Eddie was swimming in the hotel pool (on the top floor), Cortney noticed a little new/used bookstore a couple blocks downs from our hotel. The next night, after dinner–and a few beers–Cortney suggested we walk to the bookstore. And then he bought us each one book.

ONE BOOK!

How do you decide on just one book when you are standing in an old, creaky building filled with words?

So I scoured the shelves.

I picked things up. At some point I had 10 books in my arms.

In the end, I chose Where’d You Go, Bernadette? I really didn’t know anything about the book other than I saw on Facebook that a group of friends had read it and discussed it and they liked it.

And the cover looked interesting.  Sometimes it’s just that simple.

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We Are Water

I love Wally Lamb.  I fell in love with his writing in She’s Come Undone. In fact, I absolutely couldn’t believe it was a man writing that well for a female character.  Then I read I Know This Much Is True. More fabulous writing.  This is also when I realized that Lamb could weave a pretty messed up tale and talk about some truly difficult subjects, but do it so well that you want to keep reading. A about four years ago ago I picked up The Hour I First Believed.

And now I’ve picked up his latest, We Are Water.

The reviews on this one were mixed, but I knew I had to read it. While I really loved The Hour I First Believed, I felt like it was super long and maybe could have ended before it did, so I guess I expected to enjoy the book, but maybe not LOVE it.

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Orange is the New Black

I’m not sure if you noticed, but there is always a story as to how I came to reading each book that I decide on. I had Orange is the New Black on my To Read List for some time, and because I am a book nerd, I wanted to read the book before I started watching the series on Netflix.

Then I found out I get to meet Piper Kerman this summer when I go to San Jose for BlogHer.  Let’s just say the book moved right up my To Read list onto my READING list!

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Carrie

When I was a senior in high school, I went to a youth group conference called Genesis. It was a big weekend conference where we all got to stay in a hotel and attend fun session and do singing and stuff.

My roommates were two of my best friends, and since there were three of us, they gave us a room with one king-sized bed. To be honest, I don’t think any of us had ever seen a king-sized bed before because we kept giggling that this hotel was so weird; it had rooms with a three-person bed in them!  SO WEIRD!

Anyway, I remember one of the nights–probably the first night–my friends fell asleep first while we were watching TV. I suck at falling asleep in a new place with people around me, so I was wide awake watching whatever was on TV. I was not in the middle of the bed (nowhere to turn away from a person…eek!), so I kept the remote on the floor and just kept flipping channels. That is when I found Carrie. I watched it from beginning to end wishing I wasn’t watching it at all.

I hate horror films, but this wasn’t a horror film like I was used to. It didn’t have some freak like Freddy Kruger or Jason ripping up all the people and having no plot line to speak of.  This movie screwed with my mind. It was troubling and awful and just so good.

But I was horrified and I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t even kick a foot out of the sheets like I normally do. I was too afraid of that hand coming to grab me.

I was seventeen then. I’m thirty-six now.  I just read the book this winter.

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The Paris Wife

This summer I am all about reading. I say that every summer, but I let other things get in my way. This summer I have almost no other projects on tap which means if there is down time, I am reading!

The first book I read this summer is The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. I happened upon it when I was browsing the tables at Barnes and Noble. I’m sort of a nut for the 1920’s and the ex pat writers, so a fictional novel told from the point of view of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley, about their time in Paris as ex pats when Hemingway was just getting his footing as a writer hooked me immediately.

Continue Reading…

The HerStories Project: celebrating female friendships

This spring I read a collection of stories about women and friendship called The HerStories Project. I’ve admitted my lack of awesomeness at female relationships here before.

Even when they are at their best, I feel like the weakest link in all of my female friendships. I feel unsure, inadequate, and anxious.  And that is when things are going WELL.

I thought maybe this anthology of essays could give me a clue to the elusive female friendship. What I found out was that I am not alone in my pain and questioning in friendships.

female friendships

I read this book  of female friendships while sitting in my bag chair in the shade of our tree during spring break while my kids played in the yard and rode bikes and trikes. Like any collection, there were stories I skimmed over because they didn’t reach me, but for each of those there were stories that deeply connected with something in my heart.

Vicky Willenberg had me nodding along to her piece, “Big Girl Friendships” as I related to how my friendships have changed now that I am an adult.

Pam Moore’s piece “Pen Pals” reminded me of my best friend who lives almost three hours away. We send notes and texts to each other randomly, yet we rarely speak on the phone. However when we see each other it’s like no time has passed.

Alexa Bigwarfe’s piece “Birds of a Feather Flock Together” encouraged me to get to know the women in my real life better–the moms in my subdivision, the ladies in my church, the teachers who I work with.

I cried through Allison Slater Tate’s piece “To My Best Friend on the Occasion of Her First Pregnancy.” My best friend married five years before I did, but had her first baby four years after I had my first. I had two kids by the time she had her first and my excitement for this new journey was summed up by Allison.

And it was like Alexandra Rosas was writing my life in her piece “On Feeling Lonely.”  We both suffered severe loneliness and depression after the birth of our first sons. Her words are exactly perfect.

Story after story I was reminded that I am not alone in my messy feelings about female friendships.  I thought this stuff was supposed to get easier as we get older, but no. Not so much.

This is why I am so excited to announce that HerStories is coming out with a second anthology in September called My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends and I am a contributor! That’s right, I’m going to be published in print…again! I am sharing my story about how I am in the season of losing friends right now.

Can’t wait until September to read stories of friendship? The first anthology is still available and I highly recommend it.

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In other fun news, I am taking over the Bonbon Break Instagram Feed today! Come follow along!

Bonbon Break
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