Monday, April 29, 2013

Thank you, Aspartame!!

You sucked away my ability to read and remember.  2012 was the WORST. I only read 28 books, and that was a chore.   Of course, I think it was a combination of a lot of things, but blaming the aspartame is the easiest.

Since last August, I'm 94% off it (the aspartame, that is).  I'm walking more (not enough, but more).  Eating a lot more fruit.    I don't have a trainee for the first time in 7 years.  I don't have a major remodeling project going on.  I feel like I can breathe.  

I have been traveling a lot for work, but that's ok for now.  It's letting me spend time with Sally in Starkville, and my Aunt and cousins in Jackson.  It's part of why I moved.  Most of all I'm READING. 

And reading.

And reading!!!!!!!

I've read 27 books this year already.  And I can TELL YOU WHAT THEY ARE ABOUT!  I have comprehension and retention.  Miracle.  Here's some brief notes about them - what I loved, what I didn't. 

From the Morning News Tournament of Books short list:

  1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - There was a twist ending and no I didn't see it coming, so it was fun.  Was it the greatest book in the world deserving of all the hype?  No.  Was it a fun beach read?  Surely. 
  2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - YA book, and if you know me, you know that I usually cringe at YA books because I am greatly annoyed when they are told from the perspective of a YA with a 40 year old voice (I'm looking at you, My Sister's Keeper).  The narration in this one didn't bother me so I was able to focus on the story.  I think there could have been a lot more character development here, but for a YA book it was probably enough.  Pretty good.
  3. The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson - Hype, hype, hype-ty hype.  Sheesh this book was hyped to the hilt.  I'm sort of glad it was, though, because otherwise I wouldn't have gotten more than halfway through it.  It took that long for me to feel invested and frankly, interested.  I would have given up had I not been convinced that there had to be more to it.  In the end I was glad I stuck with it.  Maybe I just wasn't in the right frame of mind for the first part?  I don't know.  I think I wanted more about the complete insanity that is North Korea, and although there was some of that in the first part, the second part made it way more clear.  North Korea.  Holy Cow it is amazing to me that a place like that can even exist on the earth in 2013. Glad I read this, and yes, I can recommend it highly.
  4. Bring up the Bodies and
  5. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel - Winner - 2009 Man Booker Prize. Winner - 2009 National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction.Winner - 2010 Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction. Winner - 2010 The Morning News Tournament of Books.  Since Bring up the Bodies (sequel to Wolf Hall) was in this year's Tournament, I felt like I needed to finally give in to the hype and read them both.  Plus I was feeling historical, and Henry the VIII was one crazy MFer that I didn't really know much about.  These books are really about Thomas Cromwell, who I could take or leave.  He was "trusted advisor", but he isn't nearly as interesting as the trusted advisors in Game of Thrones, so whatevs.  Anne Boleyn and Henry were both nuts though, so that made this series pretty interesting.  It was way better than Pillars of the stupid Earth, but it's no Baroque Cycle. 
  6. Where'd you Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple - Fun. Twist ending.  I like a good twist ending if I don't see it coming.  This book kept me giggling.  I liked the story, I liked the character development.  I like how the layers of Bernadette were peeled away one at a time, and how we got to see them go through the eyes of third parties.  I also like the reminder about how we don't ever really know what's going on in someone else's life, and shouldn't make assumptions.
There were 3 books in the pre-tournament round, all dealing with the war in the Middle East.  I was only really interested in reading one of them, The Yellow Birds, but I liked that one so much that I continued and read all three.
      7. The Yellow Birds by Keven Powers- this book made me think differently about soldiers coming back from war,   how inadequate my thank yous are, made me wonder if my words and actions (buying dinner for a soldier when I see them in the airport, for example), are more trivializing and demeaning than supportive.  I'm still struggling with the idea.    The writing is beautiful, and the first bits grabbed me so hard and shook me.   
      8.  Fobbit by David Abrams - Funny, but lacks plot.  I can't say it any better than Craig Ferhman, who compares and contrasts Fobbit and The Yellow Birds here:
     9. Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain - wow. The inanity of people separated from war by whole oceans. We, who live in air conditioned comfort, who can walk around the block unarmed and unafraid, are so clueless. And yes I include myself in this number. For us to bring kids home, parade them around like prize showdogs, then send them back into battle. My notes here are not meant to be a commentary on war, but on how shallow and weird we can get when we are far removed from reality. (see also: the people that live in the capital in the Hunger Games).

There's the first batch.  More to come!

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