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Author Archives: Laura

About Laura

Mom on the move, always with a book.

2016 Book Club books

I’m still participating in (and running) two book clubs.book-club

As always, we read some great books and some OK books.

So, what did we read?  Strong recommendations are in bold.

In one club, we read:

  1. The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer by Sydney Padua
    This was a fun read, and very interesting to a Silicon Valley book club, but I’m not sure if the appeal will generalize.  We were able to follow up with a book club trip to the Computer History Museum to see a working modern production of a Babbage Engine.
  2. God Help the Child by Toni Morrison
  3. The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
    This book was unlike anything else I’ve read.  It was creepy, disturbing, and beautifully written.  It mixed ghosts and ballerinas and a maximum security Juvenile Detention Center.  It has depth and texture and ambiguity. It has amazing characters that are terrible and sympathetic at times, and sometimes simultaneously.  It has black and white and shifting shades of grey, and  led to a great book club discussion.
  4. A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
  5. Digging to America by Anne Tyler
    A book with perspective on what it means to be a parent and what it means to be an American.  As character perspectives change, so do the reader’s view of the events in the story.
  6. Euphoria by Lily King
    An entirely unexpected view of the world of an anthropologist in the 1930s.
  7. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
    Quite literally a tale of life and death, or rather thoughts on life and death.  The writings of approaching death by someone who understdands it well from an intellectual perspective, but who has to learn about the more personal side.
  8. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
  9. Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson
    An insightful and laugh out loud funny view of living with mental illness.
  10. The Railwayman’s Wife by Ashley Hay
    A beautifully written book on learning to live with loss, both as an individual and as a town.
  11. My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem
    An inspirational view of how to make a difference in society.  The timing of this, coming right after the election, made this discussion mean even more to our group.
  12. The Year We Turned Forty by Liz Fenton

And the other:

  1. Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta (Silicon Valley Reads)
  2. Sherwood Nation by Benjamin Parzybok (Silicon Valley Reads)
  3. Speak by Louisa Hall
    Overall, this book looks at what it means to be human, or to have a soul, or to really understand and empathize with what someone says. The different views range from a young woman traveling to America in 1663 (who has a closer bond to her dog than the people around her) to people dealing with modern (and the nest generation) of artificial intelligence.    The book gave us rich material for discussion. Based on the experience of my book club, it is of interest and accessible to people regardless of their level of interest in and understanding of technology.  It is one of my favorite books I read this year.
  4. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
    I wasn’t looking forward to reading this book, but in the end I was very glad I did.  It is an overview of various approaches to care for people approaching the end of their lives, and what helps, and what doesn’t.  As the title says, it is about what matters in the end.  I’d go as far as saying that most adults over age 40 or so should read it, to start thinking about the issues around life, death, aging, and terminal illness as they start to be inevitable in most families.
  5. The Precious One by Marisa de los Santos
    The strength of this book is in the characters, which I loved.
  6. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Zevin Gabrielle
    This is a fun choice for reading group discussion because of being a book about books and bookish people.
  7. The Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik
  8. American Housewife: Stories by Helen Ellis
  9. Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family by Amy Ellis Nutt
    This is a book about an important current issue, told about a family who never expected to have to face the situation. I particularly liked the balance of their personal story and looks at the research into the science behind gender.  It was ver readable and relateable.
  10. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
    I didn’t know anything about the story of this sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff in WWII.  The story is beautifully told from the perspective of seveal different characters, which lead to an understanding of how many different kinds of people were affected by the war and by this particular incident.
  11. The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan
    Another book about an aspect of WWII I (and my book club) knew nothing about going in.  This is in the US, the side of the Manhattan Project working with materials. I liked the balance between the personal, the historical and the scientific.  The book lead to great discussion about the time period, about living in a time of war, and about differences between now and then, as well as about the process of writing a book like this.
  12. Paradise Lodge by Nina Stibbe

In the end, there is only one of these 24 books that I don’t think was a good choice for book club discussion.  Even the ones I didn’t comment on generally lead to good conversation, whether we liked them, or just thought they were ok.

I was surprised at how much I liked many of the non-fiction books we read, and how good the discussion was on these.

Anyone have books to recommend for reading (and talking about) in 2017?

 

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2017 in Book Club, books, L, M

 

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I’m still reading

I may not still be writing, but I’m still reading.

I’ll post a few 2016 wrap-up posts as updates.

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Fluffy Books

Visit Tinykittens.com for more information about Hula and other rescued kittens.

A fluffy kitten to go with the fluffy books! Visit Tinykittens.com for more information about Hula and other rescued kittens.

Popping in with a quick post!

I asked my Facebook community for some suggestions for fluffy, non-mentally demanding reading, and oh boy did they come through!  Books, series, and authors in a variety of genres for me to choose from.  (I’m dealing with some health issues– nothing serious, but I’ll be dealing with some intervals of stress and physical discomfort and need some distraction).

I’ve read about 1/3 of the list (counting series I’ve started, and authors where I’ve read a few books.)  I’ve generally enjoyed those that I’ve read, so I’m looking forward to exploring more.

If you need something fun and not too demanding to read, check out the list!

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2014 in books

 

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An interesting view of Divergent

I’m back with another movie related post, although this is about an adaptation of a book.  And it’s just a pointer to someone else’s post.

But it points out something that never occurred to me, and that I think is really important.  It’s about Divergent and it’s anti-rape-culture message.  Go, read it, and let me know what you think.

The “Divergent” Rape Scene: Here’s Why It Matters

(I enjoyed the movie.  I’m rereading the books now, and hoping I like Allegiant better on a straight read-through than I did when I read it when it came out.  I don’t have high hopes, though.)

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2014 in movie

 

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Favorite movies of 2013

moviesNow that I’ve completed my Best Picture Oscar Nominee viewing, I’m ready to sort through my list of favorite movies from 2013.

I watched a lot of movies over the last year.  I count 33 movies that I think would be eligible (date-wise) for the 2014 Oscars, but many of my favorites weren’t nominated for anything.  I’m mostly OK with that.

Here’s my top 10 list:

  1. Hunger Games: Catching Fire
  2. Frozen
  3. Saving Mr. Banks
  4. Austenland
  5. American Hustle
  6. Nebraska
  7. Her
  8. Gravity
  9. Now You See Me
  10. Captain Phillips

Looking at this list, I think I can say I have eclectic taste in movies. Many of these movies appear on everyone else’s lists, but there are a few that aren’t.

I liked Frozen and Saving Mr. Banks for the same reasons everyone else did.  You can look at my Oscar Nominees post to see what I liked about American Hustle, Nebraska, Her, Gravity and Captain Phillips.

For the less usual ones: I found Catching Fire to be emotional, inspiring, thought provoking, visually intriguing, and wonderfully acted.  I loved the books, and I thought this was an excellent adaptation. Austenland never took itself seriously, and was the most fun I’ve had at the movies in ages.  I loved the twists and turns in Now You See Me.

There were only 3 movies on my list that I didn’t like.I’m not claiming these are the worst movies of the year– I generally try to avoid anything I think might qualify for that title, and I think I generally succeed. One was an Oscar nominee I went in expecting to dislike, and it was pretty much what I thought it would be (The Wolf of Wall Street).  One of them (The World’s End), I should have known better, I generally don’t like movies like that, but the trailer got my hopes up more than it should have.  And one (The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug) was a straight up disappointment– I didn’t dislike it, but I really wanted and expected to like it.

The other 30 were all enjoyable viewing experiences, some more than others.

I’m quite intrigued to see what 2014 brings in the way of movies.

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2014 in movie

 

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Thoughts on the 2014 Oscars

moviesI’ve abandoned the blog for longer than I care to think about, and now I’m back, I’m talking about movies rather than books.  Sorry about that!

Once again, I’ve made the effort to view all of the Best Picture Nominees.  It was a strong field of nominees, and I enjoyed expanding my horizons with some of them that I wouldn’t have otherwise watched. I thought I’d share my thoughts on the top races.  These aren’t predictions, but are my opinions.

(And yes, this is a little late in posting– I finished watching the nominees at midnight last night.)

BEST PICTURE

(From bottom to top)

9) The Wolf of Wall Street: I just don’t see the redeeming value in this one.

8) Philomena:  In interesting story, competently told.  I enjoyed it, and there was nothing wrong with the production, but it didn’t wow me, and there were many other movies that did.

Positions 7-4 are essentially a tie– the movies are very hard to compare, and they all have specific areas of strength.  I won’t be upset with any movie after this point winning as Best Picture.

7) American Hustle: From an entertainment standpoint, this may be my favorite of the nominees.  It was fun to watch. The cast is fantastic as an ensemble.  And really, that’s all I get from this movie.  Let me know if I’m missing something.

6) Captain Phillips: An incredibly intense experience, and I really think Tom Hanks should have been nominated for best actor.  It was an interesting look at how a situation can fall apart, even under strong leadership.

5) Her:  I found this a highly enjoyable movie, looking at life, love and technology. The visuals were great as well.  I think a little more of an edge might have been interesting, but maybe not as much fun.

4) Dallas Buyers Club:  An emotional and thoughtful look at a situation from the recent past, and one that still hasn’t been entirely solved today.   The acting was very well done.  I didn’t find the movie entertaining, but it was well worth watching.

3) 12 Years a Slave: This movie is incredible.  It’s an important story, very well told. It’s well done enough that it is not a pleasant experience to watch.

2) Gravity:  A visually stunning, incredibly intense experience. I felt the fear of being lost in space.

1) Nebraska This movie had everything, including visual artistry, emotional impact, engaging characters, thought provoking situation, great acting– and it was still entertaining.  Every aspect of Nebraska is well crafted.  The description of this movie doesn’t do it justice, it is really worth seeing.

And a few other races where I have an opinion:

Actor in a Leading Role

(5/5 nominees viewed)

Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club, for his excellent work in a difficult role.

Actress in a Leading Role

(3/5 nominees viewed)

Sandra Bullock in Gravity, she carried most of the weight of the movie.

Actor in A Supporting Role

(5/5 nominees viewed)

Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club, another difficult role well played.

Actress in a Supporting Role

(3/5 nominees viewed)

Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle, for the wrong reasons.  I loved her in American Hustle, but I think she faced many more challenges in her work with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and I don’t think she gets enough credit for that.  And I also have something of a crush on her, like much of the rest of America.

Or Lupita Nyong’o for 12 Years a Slave, if I really am picking only based on the listed performance.

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

(Only 2/5 nominees viewed)

But I’m still picking Frozen, because I think it was a really good movie.

DIRECTING

(5/5 nominees viewed).

Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave. Or Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity.  Or Alexander Payne for Nebraska.  Or David O. Russell for American Hustle. I can make an argument for any of the nominees, even Martin Scorsese for The Wolf of Wall Street (I think he did a good job of making the movie he intended to make.  Just because I don’t see the point in the existence of the movie doesn’t mean I don’t recognize that.)

SHORT FILM: Animated

Mr. Hublot gets my nod, for being a movie with heart and character and visual appeal.  Room on the Broom is a close second, for being a children’s book brought to life in a very appealing way.

SHORT FILM: Live Action

I’ll go with Helium.  I loved the whimsy and the emotion.  I actually think in many ways, the best one was Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me), which was intense and told an important story and was no fun at all to watch.

I’ll be interested in seeing who wins tonight!

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2014 in movie

 

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Review: The Original 1982 by Lori Carson

Original 1982My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

There were many things I did like about this book, but some aspects didn’t quite jell for me.

Summary via Goodreads:

It’s 1982, and Lisa is twenty-four years old, a waitress, an aspiring singer-songwriter, and girlfriend to a famous Latin musician. That year, she makes a decision, almost without thinking about it.

But what if what if her decision had been a different one?

In the new 1982, Lisa chooses differently. Her career takes another direction. She becomes a mother. She loves differently, yet some things remain the same.

Alternating between two very different possibilities, The Original 1982 is a novel about how the choices we make affect the people we become-and about how the people we are affect the choices we make.

The first thing that intrigued me was the premise of life done differently. The first book I encountered that suggested this approach was Penelope Lively’s Making it Up, which was well written and interesting, but didn’t deliver on that promise to me. The Original 1982 does that, presenting the choice that changes things, and marking out a new path (and comparing it to the old) that follows that decision.

I liked Lisa, the main character, in both versions of her life, and both paths were interesting, and completely different than any life I’ve seen.. She was surrounded by people that I wanted to get to know, and a few I didn’t, but I liked reading about anyway. I enjoyed the author’s writing. The book was written as a letter to a daughter that never was, and that choice resonated with me.

My biggest problem was that I wanted more, from both of the paths. Big issues were touched on, then the story moved on. Relationships were introduced, but not explored.

The second problem was that I didn’t entirely buy the new path, and I can’t tell if that was deliberate. Was I learning from this that Lisa is deceiving herself about what her life would have been like, or did the author fail to construct a life I could buy into? How much is the original life based on the author’s real life, and is the new life her personal wish, or does it belong only to the character of Lisa?

I enjoyed reading the book, and I’d love to have the chance to argue some of these questions with someone else that read it– I think it would be a very interesting book club choice.

I read this book as part of a TLC Book Tour, and was provided a copy of the book to read and review.  For other opinions on this book, visit the other tour stops:
TLC Book Tours

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2013 in books, reviews, tour

 

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