Revisiting: I Love Big Books

Confession: I haven’t finished Lonesome Dove (yet).

So instead of posting my Part 3 Recap and my formal and final book review this week, I’m going to talk a little about big books and why I haven’t finished Lonesome Dove.


When I really consider it, I think the primary reason that (Lonesome Dove was driving me crazy and) I haven’t finished it, is that books are a social outlet for me. Which means a few things that I want to get out in to the open here:

1. I feel the need to read a lot of books

Between this blog and the people in my life who know I enjoy reading and recommending books, I feel the need to be turning over books much more quickly than one per month. Not all of the books I read are books I’d recommend, and I get asked for a lot of recommendations, so having read only one book in the last month, I found myself feeling upset that I didn’t have much to offer by way of book recommendations. This is 100% a self imposed pressure, but being able to recommend good books to friends is one of the things I enjoy most about my hobby, so I want to make sure I can do that.

2. I feel disconnected when I’m reading one book for a long time.

I definiteyl struggled to feel like I could or should post to my instagram or my blog this month– or in real life, have good conversations with my book friends! It really started to wear on me and make me feel disconnected from this community.


So to touch back on my original post, when I professed my love for big books for the very first time: A few characteristics that stood out in the books I was discussing at that time were readability, action, the feeling that pages were flying past, and the quality of the book (, which, tying it back, made it recommendable and therefore extra worthwhile.) My general feeling when I wrote that post was that the quality of the book was often increased in a long book because the character development and plot had more time to develop. I’m beginning to think that long books that are good for me when a story and a set of characters needs the length, but long books for the sake of being long may not be for me.

While I enjoyed Lonesome Dove (the 90% of it that I’ve finished so far), I wouldn’t say that I recommend it. It’s length came from the fact that it never found a central story line, but rather followed each character to wherever they may go, leading it to tell about five stories in one. While it was well written, it didn’t feel concise or efficient, which is (apparently) they way I need books over 800 pages to go.

So to summarize 🙂 , I’m not giving up on long books and I’m going to continue to not be fearful of long books, but if a book is going to take a month, I need to space it out. I need the feeling of turnover in my reading life, and those long books aren’t going anywhere. I’ll continue to read them over time, as I can.

Do you have thoughts on this topic? Let me know!

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FEBRUARY RECAP/MARCH PREVIEW

February.

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The month I read Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, and that’s it! I can’t remember the last time I only read one book in a month, but to be fair Lonesome Dove should count as four books. It is long! My full review will be out next week, and I hope I’ve inspired a few of you guys to pick this one up.

I did also listen to The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs and For Better and Worse by Margot Hunt on audio, both of which were solid four star reads. My review for For Better and Worse can be found here, and my review for The Bright Hour will be out soon!

Unread Shelf Project 2019

All three books that I read/listened to came from my Unread Shelf this month!  Here are the numbers:

Unread Books at Start of Month: 16
Books Read from Unread Shelf: 3
Books Purchased: 0
BOTM Selections: 0
Books Gifted/Lent: 3
Unread Books at the End of Month: 16

So, at least I didn’t go up! And I kicked a few big ones off the shelf. I feel good about this 🙂

March Preview

After a long (short?) month of reading one book, I truly couldn’t be more excited for March. At the top of my list are two ARCs I recieved this month: Leading Men from Viking Books and Parkland from Harper Books. After that it’s back to the Unread Shelf Project Challenge and March has two great nonfiction books for me in store — Indianapolis and Blood and Ivy. I have a good feeling about this month!

Lonesome Dove: Part 2

This is not a formal review of Lonesome Dove, meaning this post CONTAINS SPOILERS!  I thought these posts would be a great way to check in every 200-300 pages to recap the action and my feelings on it. This post is dedicated to Part 2.

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Once again, let’s start with a summary: This section really builds the story through the addition of the Arkansas crew. July Johnson, the sherriff of the Arkansas town where Jake Spoon killed a man, takes off from town to pursue justice. Followed shortly by his wife, Elimira – but in another direction. Then his deputy Roscoe is sent to let July know the news. So all of a sudden this whole cast of characters, as well as the crew from Lonesome Dove, are out on the planes. A lot happens: Lorena is kidnapped, Gus saves her, Roscoe is killed, Jake falls in with a bad crew, and Gus and the crew hang Jake. Wow.

Off the bat, I was surprised that there was a new cast of characters! I had just spent 280 pages getting in to the  Lonesome Dove crew! The new crew was interesting – brought a little comic relief if not much else. I ended up enjoying their chapters a lot since it was something a little different from what I was used to.

Particularly compared to Part 1, there is a lot more violence in this part. I’ve actually noticed that now when I’m out in regular society, I half expect everyone to be a gun wielding cowboy ready for a fight. Related: I’ve been listening to a lot more country music recently. Coincidence?

Newt remains a favorite character, although he has a smaller role than I expected him to have.  He seems to be the token relatable character, always saying what I would say. He’s frankly just not that invested in the horse business and not willing to accept things the way they are. I appreciate his commentary.

To touch on some of the action – Lorena being kidnapped and being forced to ride across the horse while tied at the ankles to the horse was absolutely horrific. That being said, I have to give credit to the writing, because this part was so vivid. The scene with Jake Spoon’s death was certainly surprising – I definitely didn’t expect them to really kill him. He got himself in a pretty bad situation with those band of brothers.

Despite all the plot advancements, geographically, it didn’t feel like they made much progress. I felt like they were constantly nearing the northern border of Texas. I did a quick google search, and there are heaps of maps of their route, but I quickly looked away to avoid spoilers of Part III. I can’t wait to check out the maps when I finish to see how everything is laid out.

One thing that makes this book stand out – and also makes it so long – is that no character is ever forgotten. Most books follow the story of one group, and other people can come and go, but McMurtry follows each character and story line wherever they go. Only now that Roscoe, Wilbarger, and Jake Spoon are dead will we, the readers, be finished with them. A huge factor in this is McMurtry’s skill with the third person omniscient style. He moves between points of view, even within the same paragraph or small section of a page, without it feeling confusing.

On a personal note, I loved that they went through Aiblene, Kansas! My boyfriend and I stopped there on our cross country road trip last year to see the house where President Eisenhower grew up and his Presidential Library/Museum. It was a really beautiful house and property, and the Museum talked about how Aiblene was on the cattle ranchers route heading north from Mexico. Now I feel like I’m experiencing it!

Overall, I’m liking this book. It’s long, but that’s kind of the joy of it. I’ve been reading this book for so long, just hanging out with my cowboy friends on the planes and I am here for it! Here’s to Part III!

Lonesome Dove: Part 1

This is not a formal review of Lonesome Dove, meaning this post CONTAINS SPOILERS!  I thought these posts would be a great way to check in every 200-300 pages to recap the action and my feelings on it. This post is dedicated to Part 1.

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Let’s dive right in with a quick summary: In Part I, we meet the crew from Lonesome Dove, which includes Augustus McCrae, Captain Call, Deets, Newt, Jake Spoon, Dish Boggs, and others. We establish that they are former cowboys, but currently cattle ranchers living in Texas, near the Mexican border. When Jake Spoon returns, after being away from the town for nearly twenty years, and suggests that the crew journey to Montana, the crew starts to mobilize to begin the trip.

My Thoughts:

The start of Lonesome Dove was.. good! It feels very introductory and set-up-y but I do have good feelings for where it’s going. Normally if I’m not well in to the story by page 100, I don’t have high hopes for the rest, so the fact that I read 228 very dense pages and still have hope for the rest says a lot.

One thing I was worried about in this book were the amount of characters. I thought about keeping a list, but McMurtry actually does a really good job of including context clues throughout this section to remind you of who each character is. Pro tip: a lot of characters have multiple names. While I suspected certain names were overlapping characters, it took me probably the first 50-60 pages to really be sure. For example, Augustus McCrae goes by Gus, Augustus, or McCrae interchangeable and Captain Call goes by Call or The Captain, and occasionally, Woodrow. But again, I found this surprisingly easy to pick up on.

While not a lot happened in the first part, I found the pacing of the novel really well done. I never felt bored and always felt like things were moving ahead. I think this is helped by the amount of characters, and the narration style that travels effortlessly from character to character, providing a lot of different opinions and keeping the plot advancing.

One note is that when comparing this book to modern standards, it’s pretty sexist. The story is set in the 1800’s, so it’s important in keep the story timely, but I will admit that a few times, I had the feeling that if I were more fussy about feminism (including retroactive feminism) I may not totally love this book. Having a whore in every town, and talking about how cheap a Mexican whore would be is not exactly 2019 conversation. Semi-related: I think it’s kind of funny that the author refers to sex as a “poke” and male genitalia as a “carrot”.

Overall, I think the cast of characters is great. The Gus vs. Call conflict, as well as the Gus vs. Jake conflict, is sure to keep things interesting. I like Lorena, but think she’s a fool if she thinks Jake Spoon is going to take her to San Francisco. And I think Newt is an interesting character with a lot of opportunity for controversy due to the unknown nature of his father! As they set out on the trail, I’m very interested to see how they can keep the story interesting. And how far will they go? All the way to Montana?

January Recap/February Preview

General Reading Vibe

January was a great reading month. I tore through books in the beginning of the month including the two books I read for my Unread Shelf, Hungover and My Absolute Darling.

My first three reads really lined up with my Dry January challenge I embarked on this month. Hungover featured the hangover, My Absolute Darling featured an alcoholic (ugh), and one featured ill bodies and liver transplant due to alcoholism. I think the combination of reading these books and taking a break from drinking taught me a lot and made me think about my drinking habits.

In case you’re wondering how Dry January went — it was OK! I learned a lot, cheated a little, and am ready to going back to drinking moderately without guilt in February. 🙂

The end of the month slowed down for me since work got busy and I got super sick (it was a bad cold, but for me it felt awful). Overall a very solid reading month.

Books Read:

5 Star:
My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent
Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
Calypso by David Sedaris

4 Star:
When Death Becomes Life by Joshua Mezrich
The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray
When You Read This by Mary Adkins

3 Star:
Hungover by Shaugnessy Bishop-Stall
The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

Unread Shelf Totals

I made a strong showing with my Unread Shelf this month. It really wasn’t difficult because recently my Unread Shelf has been looking so appealing! I have a lot to choose from (for better or worse) and can always find something I’ll like. I recently separated it from my Read bookshelf, so I can look at it like my own personal bookstore.

Unread Books at Start of Month: 22
Books Read from Unread Shelf: 8
Books Purchased: 0
BOTM Selections: 1
Books Gifted/Lent: 2 (Received and read 1 this month!)
Unread Books at the End of Month: 16

Looking forward to FEBRUARY

The theme for the Unread Shelf for February is gifted books! So that’s my main focus. In terms of Unread Shelf books I want to work on books given or lent to me by my friend Christine. There are a lot of these, but I’ll be focusing on Lonesome Dove and Sing Unburied Sing.

I’m also really excited to read a few ARC’s I’ve received from including Parkland by David Cullen.

Lonesome Dove will be my biggest challenge since it’s 945 pages and will be my longest book ever, but the rest of the titles are relatively short so here’s hoping I can squeeze them all in!

It should be a (another) great reading month! ❤

 

Who I Am as a Reader

I’m writing this post as part of an endless attempt to identify what makes me tick when it comes to books. I wrote in my 2019 goals post, that I want to get back to reading books in the genre of my choosing, ensuring that I’ll like most of the books I read. And while that may cost me points in the realm of diverse readers, I like to think that my tastes are diverse and that reading this way won’t dramatically reduce the diversity of books I read. So without further ado, here are some thoughts.

The #1 kind of book that will make me an emotional wreck and unable to put a book down:

Literary fiction about a strong teenage female, using their own personalities to overcome adversity. I don’t know why but this book is it for me. All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, The Great Alone, My Absolute Darling, Where the Crawdads Sing — these all meet the mark and are on my list of all time favorites.

I asked for suggestions on instagram the other week and was told to check out The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis, Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller, and The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne.

I strongly prefer books set in America.

I don’t have a problem reading about other countries, but I feel myself more naturally drawn to books set in the US.

I actually realized this as a preference when I was choosing books for my Unread Shelf Challenge selections. The theme was “a book set in a country you’ve never been to,” and I only had one book: Saigon Kids, set in Vietnam. I think it’s just a comfort thing for me – I love books set in New York since I used to live there (I hated them while I was living there though!), I’ve loved books about the West Coast since moving to California in June 2017, and I love books that take in the wild landscapes of our country. Add in all the complex issue we have here to learn about – racial issues, slavery, the criminal justice system.. and you’ve got yourself a book!

Natural Histories are so cool.

Remember when you were little and if you were lucky, you got to choose what museum you could go to? My favorites were by far the science center or the museum of natural history. That kind of history has always been mind blowing to me – it’s just so much bigger than yourself and its so rarely documented, so if you are able to get a glimpse in to what makes the great world spin, it is always worth the read in my opinion.

Not to make it a rule but Historical Fiction, Romance, Fantasy, and Dystopian Novels are not my thing.

Romance. Ugh. I’m just not here for it. Love? Yes, but I don’t need to know what your hands are doing down there.

Historical Fiction is sometimes fine, but generally I feel bored by the fiction aspect and would love to just dive in to the real history.

Dystopian novels/Fantasy in some cases are fine, but again, I just feel like I can’t relate. That or I get scared by how easily the whole world could just collapse at any given moment.

Thrillers are great from time to time

And finally, thrillers. Kind of my intro back in to reading post college hiatus, and always a fun thing to breeze through these days, I’m generally always down for a thriller!

Above all, I want to learn, feel, and think about things in a new way. The above state my natural preferences, but by no means encompass the books that I enjoy. Many of my favorites fall outside of these lines – and I love that. It’s hard to identify exactly what style of books is my favorite, but I think that’s kind of the point. If I could, then maybe I’d be done exploring and learning, and I never want to be done.

I hope you enjoyed hearing a little more about my reading tastes — and I guess a peak as to what you can expect on this page! I hope you’ll read this without judgement, but offer me suggestions for books I may like — or books that will push me slightly out of my comfort zone! 🙂

2018 Favorites

Can you believe we’ve almost made it to the end of 2018? I absolutely hate the saying, or any allusion to the concept, of time going by without us realizing it. I just want to live every moment and have so many moments to come! Call me sentimental, but what this means is that I love to look back on the year that just past and recognize the length of it and all the great books I’ve read along the way.

At this point I’ve reviewed almost all of the books I’ve read this year on this blog (since I started keeping up with it in April!) Instead of reminding you which of (ALL) the books I read this year I loved the most, I decided to keep my wrap-up to books published in 2018 only.

Of the 22 books I read published this year, I gave 10 of them five stars. That’s pretty high praise for the books that came out this year! And so as to not leave any out, I’m going to be quick and organize them by genre for you. Hopefully this will inspire you to pick one of them up in early 2019.

One of my favorites questions I’ve seen going around Bookstagram recently was “What was your favorite book of 2018/What should be my first book of 2019?” I loved that this question was one in the same, because I love this community of sharing book recommendations and enthusiasm. I hope you decide to pick up one of these great books and I hope to hear what your favorites of 2018 include!

My FAVORITE Genre going in to 2018: LITERARY FICTION

When it’s good, it’s SO good: NONFICTION

A (Generally) Less Well Liked by me genre: Historical Fiction

 

Your turn! Let me know which books you’ve enjoyed this year, and which of these, if any, you think you’ll pick up!

A Look Back on 12 Months of Nonfiction

Last week I shared with you some of my all time favorite non-fiction books, but I for the first “challenge” of Nonfiction November I’m going to take a closer look back on the nonfiction reads I’ve read over the past year.

When I look through my list of non-fiction reads since last November, the things that jump out to me are a) a lot of them are backlist titles with pub dates backing back 1999, and b) these are some of the best books I’ve read in the last twelve months!

In total, I’ve read fifteen nonfiction books, which I’m stoked about! I’ve talked about them a lot recently so I’m just going to organize them by mood here. I’ll link to another blog post if I’ve raved about it recently!

If you’re looking for….

A peek in to military culture, coming from a place of love: Ranger Games by Ben Blum

A book that will change your views on rape culture forever: Missoula by Jon Krakauer

A way to understand what goes on behind closed doors in North Korea: Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick

Nightmares for days (seriously though), but via an incredibly compelling tale: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

A way to indulge your inner whale lover: Spying on Whales by Nick Pyenson

A story about a city, that’s really about a team, and will warm your heart forever: Boomtown by Sam Anderson

A cautionary tale that teaches you to respect the danger of backpacking: Into Thin Air by John Krakauer

A way to understand the side of America who’s voting for Trump: Janesville by Amy Goldstein

An escape in to the middle of the ocean: Love with a Chance of Drowning by Toree DeRoche

A front seat to the 2016 election: Unbelieveable by Katy Tur

A coming-of-age slash fundamentalist mormon memoir: Educated by Tara Westover

History with a side of comedy along the Apalachian Trail: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

A calm and collected version of the 2016 craziness: What Happened by Hillary Clinton

An irreverant memoir of the military and christianity all at once: A Girl’s Guide to Missiles by Karen Piper

An often untold history of the largest city in America: The Mirage Factory by Gary Krist

Let me know if you’ve read and enjoyed any of these titles! I truly recommend them all!

October Reading Recap

You guys, I have totally failed you! (If you want to know why, check out Monday’s post!) I read five books last month and reviewed ONE. But anyway, here we are. I still think it’s worth summarizing the books from last month — and believe me, reviews are coming soon! Gimme a couple weeks to write them, but they’re all scheduled so in theory they will be written very soon.

Here’s what I read!

The Silence of the Girls
Rating: 4/5
Genre: Greek Mythology Retelling
Tone: Optimistic through trying times
Structure: Told mostly through the perspective of Achilles slave, with some other scenes thrown in there
Read if you like: Greek mythology, Circe, strong women

Where the Crawdads Sing
Rating: 5/5
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Tone: Dramatic, hopeful
Structure: Told primarily through the eyes of Kya, the protagonist
Read if you like: All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, Beartown, The Great Alone

Our Homesick Songs
Rating: 2/5
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Tone: 
Structure: Told from two points of view in two timelines – when the parents met and in present day
Read if you like: Little Fires Everywhere, Unique writing styles, Station Eleven

Come with Me
Rating: 3/5
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Tone: Sexually charged, sardonic
Structure: Told through the perspective of each family member
Read if you like: Books set in Silicon Valley, The Circle, Sourdough, Startup

The Nightingale
Rating: 5/5
Genre: Historical Fiction
Tone: Adventurous, loving, emotional
Structure: Told through the perspective of two sisters in different parts of France during WWII. They sometimes overlap, but are often separate
Read if you like: The Alice Network, All The Light You Cannot See, WWII historical fiction in general

Where I’ve Been

Hello my lovely readers,

I have been pretty absent on the blog for a while now. While I was keeping up with some posts and reviews in September/October, they were getting shorter, less heartfelt, and less consistent as the days went on. I finally decided to take a break until I wanted to write again, because producing bad content was worse than producing no content, in my mind.

I’ve spent the last six weeks or so working on myself, and I wanted to share a bit of that with you by way of a catch up. I have a ton of bookish posts in my mind for you, so keep an eye out for that as I work back towards a more regular posting schedule.

So here’s what I’ve been up to:

I doubled down on my job.

20181101_164456-01I’ve had a rocky year with work. For the first three months, I was absolutely miserable at my job, and luckily was able to find a new one. As this was only my second job out of school, no surprise here, that transition was hard. To make things worse, less than two months in to my new job, I found out I had to take two licensing exams within, effectively, two months. I studied for them, but honestly, I didn’t give my all to the test or my job during that time. I ended up failing the first test, and decided not to take the second because I wasn’t prepared for it. By the time all of that was over, I realized I hadn’t given my work my full attention in a very long time.

I want to succeed in my professional life, so I decided to commit to that. One of the best things I did was buy an Erin Condren Life Planner JUST for work. It makes so much sense to me now that I would need this, but so often we use planners for school work or personal life things and not for work. Buying a planner for work, setting daily goals, and achieving them has been huge for me. I’m working hard, feeling successful, and if I do say so myself, impressing myself for the first time in a long time.

I started Meal Prepping.

If you’re like me, you want to eat healthy. I’ve always struggled with eating healthy — I find it so weird that feeding ourselves is one of our biggest struggles as humans, but I’ve decided it’s relatively universal because think about how many services there are out there to help people feed themselves. I’ve been super anti formal “meal plans” for a long time, but somehow fate brought the Workweek Lunch Meal Prep Program and I together. (To be clear WWL is not a diet program and is sooo customizable/flexible so that’s a huge reason I decided to go for it!)

By fate, I mean the instagram algorithm. I was following WWL hoping it would inspire me to start eating the way she did, and a couple weeks in to following Talia, she started her Meal Prep Program. It’s only $8 per month so I put it on my personal card (aka I didn’t ask my boyfriend to pay for it) and got started. It’s an investment at first (I spent about $60 on meal prep containers from costco) and a learning curve (my first prep took me over 3 hours and most things tasted bad), but four (?) months later, I couldn’t be happier.

I’ve become more comfortable in the kitchen, I look forward to cooking every week, I save so much time and so much money, and I finally am able to eat the way I’ve always wanted to eat – healthy meals that make me feel full without feeling bloated. If you’re at all interested, feel free to ask me any questions, or just try Workweek Lunch for yourself

I participated in the Transformation Challenge at my Orangetheory Fitness Studio.

The basic rules are work out 3x per week for six weeks (I  did this!), weigh in at the beginning, middle, and end (I  missed the middle weigh-in), and then do some other challenges (I didn’t do any of these). As you can tell I’m not going to win. I violated 2 of the 3 rules, but the one that I did stick to is, in my opinion, the one that matters.

Three times a week may not seem like that much, but trust me it was surprisingly challenging. There was a time when I was going away for the weekend and went to a 6:50 – 7:50 pm class on Thursday night and was back at the studio for my third class of the week at 6:10 am the following morning. To that end, I attended my first (ever?) 6:10 am gym class. And not only that I attended MANY of them throughout the challenge. I got back in a routine and it felt really good. It may not sound like much but I’m extremely proud of myself for doing 3 classes per week for 6 weeks, and as an added bonus and I can totally feel the difference in my strength levels and the way my clothes fit. Horray!

I got braces.

This is the big one in terms of my mental health over the past month or so. Braces are something I’ve been thinking about for a long time — probably since I moved back from New Zealand, so 3 years ago! I never felt secure enough in my life to take the plunge until recently. I now know that I will be staying in San Diego for long enough to have the treatment, I’m at a new job where people know me, have friendships that I feel secure enough in, and am in a relationship I feel comfortable in (I should hope so haha It’s been 4 years!).

These things may sound vain, but getting braces has really rocked my confidence and I don’t think I’d be able to do it if I knew I had to make new friends or interview for a new job in the near future. I felt like I was at a comfortable place in my life to take the plunge and change my appearance for a year and a half for the greater good of the rest of my life. (I’ll be 30 1/2 when I get them off!) All that being said, it’s been incredibly difficult – physically and mentally – over the past week, but I think I’m starting to come around on the other side of it now.

So that’s it. That’s where I’ve been for the last six weeks – exercising, eating well, getting braces, and working hard at work. And all of that hasn’t allowed for a lot of time or energy to write passionately, consistently, and meaningfully about books on this page. But that’s something I want to change. And as I’m settling in to these new routines, I’d like to start again with this blog. So I hope you’ll keep reading! Thank you for being here!