Busy weekends and buys weeks, but I’ve been enjoying some reading time lately. Up now, I’m reading
It’s a really interesting, fun and thought-provoking read.
What are you reading this week?
**Linked up with Book Journey**
“Oh, so, you’re reading Murakami?” my brother commented, motioning to the book on the end table in my family room. I knew he’d read some Murakami—or I assumed so because they were on his bookshelf and you know I’ve read everything on my bookshelves.
“Yeah,” I said. “I just started. I’m just on page 20 or so and it’s kind of weird.”
“Hmmumm,” my brother said in a way that foretold the rest of the book. I didn’t know how weird it would get. But he did.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle was the most weirdly wonderful novel I’ve ever read. It’s weirdness is interesting in it’s almost run-of-the-mill way. Not to say that every book is as weird as this is, but the novel itself is almost a completely normal book but then there are these really weird parts of it.
At once the story seems mundane, but there was always an undercurrent of oddity that makes the mundane almost a lie. In this book, Murakami was able to pull off an impressive feat—taking the simple and making it complex, the mundane and making it bizarre.
Murakami’s success in this book can definitely be attributed to two things: 1) a rich imagination and 2) excellent writing. In the beginning when I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue reading the book, the excellent writing kept me going.
Writing 5 out of 5 stars
Murakami’s writing is richly imaginative, detailed and complex. It’s simply wonderful.
Character Development 5 out of 5 stars
Only one character, Toru Okada, was really well developed in this story, but as the story progressed, the minor characters began to take on a lot of depth and complications.
Plot Structure 5 out of 5 stars
The plot of this story was one of the seemingly normal things, but it wasn’t normal. Toru was doing and experiencing a lot of unusual things and these experiences contributed to an odd plot. But the plot moved on at a good, smooth pace.
Storytelling 5 out of 5 stars
The story Murakami told here was just amazing, and he has quite a way about storytelling.
Total 5 out of 5 stars
After finishing this book, I wondered how I’d waited so long to read any piece of Murakami’s work. In fact, I almost wondered if the previous 28 years of my life were in some way a lie just because I hadn’t read this book. Have you read it? What were your thoughts? Have you read any other book that caught you as completely off guard as this one did for me?
Sensitivities: rape (briefly depicted), prostitution (briefly mentioned), brief sexual activity, gruesome torture (detailed) and murder (referenced)
A new feature I’m adding to book reviews is a sensitivity warning. I may enjoy the book and recommend it, but there could be some things that could be bothersome to others.
My reading is starting off quite well in the New Year! I’m close to finishing
Unfortunately, I won’t be finished by tomorrow for the book club I read this for. I’m still undecided about going; do I want spoilers or not? Right now, I don’t think so. I am happy I read this book because it’s great, but I really want to discuss it with someone!
My holds at the library should be ready this week for
I’m really excited to dig into some more diverse authors, topics and themes ahead of my Exploring Black History Month Through Literature series next month. That name’s certainly a mouthful. Maybe I’ll think of a catchier name by then.
What are you reading this week? What is your favorite book by a black author?
**Linked up with Book Journey**
A couple years ago my brothers, sister in law, husband and I came across a going-out-of-business sale at the oddest book store. None of us, self-proclaimed book lovers, had ever heard of any of the books. Nick handed me this audiobook. It sounded weird, but at less than a buck, I took a chance. I’m very glad I did.
Told over the span of 50 years, this multigenerational story uses multiple points of view to tell a complicated sometimes absurd story.
The book starts briefly narrated by Zach. We don’t know much about him and we learn just a little about his father. This is just a teaser before moving into the third person limited narration mainly focused on patriach Will Friedrich.
One of the fascinating aspects of this book was how little Friedrich, a pioneering neuropharmacologist and trained psychiatrist, knew nothing about actual people especially his family. The story mainly centers around each member of the family and some friends eventually figuring out of acknowledging that fact.
This audiobook was skillfully read by Mark Deakins and Lincoln Hoppe. They were both able to really embody the feel of the book during their particular parts.
Writing 4 out of 5 stars
The writing in this story was tight and intriguing.
Storytelling 4 out of 5 stars
The pacing and set up of the story kept me interested in finding out what happens next.
Total 4 out of 5 stars
Have you ever read or listened to Pharmakon? Have you ever found a diamond in the rough in an odd bookstore?
in which I share my planned reading for the week ahead
Well, this week I took a break from reading Dracula by Bram Stoker because this book came in at the library:
I’m reading this for a public book club in a couple weeks. With the new season starting for this program, I decided to push myself to join as much as possible. This book sounded pretty good, but it’s even better than that. I can’t wait to hear what others have to say!
As soon as I finish this, I’ll be back to Dracula. Despite my slow reading, I’ll definitely get done by late October when the new show premiers. (I hope it’s better than what reviewers have said.)
What are you reading this week? Are you a member of a book club? Do you have an interesting theme or concept or a certain book genre?
This collection of Laura’s pre-Little House writing has been skillfully edited by William Anderson who interspersed very relevant and interesting tidbits between the pieces. The entire collection provides a great peek into Laura’s writing life but also her life after the Little House books ended. (Did you follow that? Written before the Little House books, these pieces share what Laura’s post-Little House life was like.)
One thing that stood out to me was how wise Laura was and how capable she was as a writer sharing her wisdom through stories. Laura was also humble about this (and her success in general). When asked about her success, Laura said, “I was amazed because I didn’t know how to write.” Ahh, our humble, loveable Laura was really humble in real life. This makes me unspeakably happy!
One of the columns in the book is an account of the building and finishing of Laura’s dream house at Rocky Ridge Farm. What captivated me about this was her attention to detail and how contemporary she seemed. Laura’s writing is always clear and forthright, but her article is contemporary for a reason beyond that–in today’s world of shelter blogs, it’s interesting to see that Laura was as thoughtful about the details as many men and women are today.
Again, Laura sounds relatively modern in her column about how farm wives can make extra cash by hosting summer boarders in their homes. That’s not the part that sounds modern; in fact, the entire concept of boarders is outdated. But she spoke of how visitors from the city would pay well for the breath of fresh air and fresh food from the farm, not dishes and ingredients brought from the city. My mind immediately went to things like farm-to-table restaurants, backyard square foot gardens, farmers’ markets and more.
Overall, this was a great, well-edited collection. William definitely knows Laura and understands her in a way that most people don’t. He connected the various phases of Laura’s pre-Little House writing life with well-researched and well-reasoned commentary on Laura’s life and motives. I would highly recommend this book to any Laura lovers.
The love story of Laura and Almanzo starts in These Happy Golden Years, so the title of the book, pulled from a song Pa played, is so appropriate. I really love their love story right down to the end when Laura puts down and never finishes The First Four Years after Almanzo’s death.
There was one thing that I’ve been waiting months to comment on: bombing main in the cutters! After Laura returns from her teaching job, all her peers (and Almanzo) starting cruising up and down main street in their cutters. Almanzo, Laura, Cap and Mary lead the way, but it becomes a very popular past time. As a teenager in small-town South Dakota, I spent hours driving up and down main street, chatting with my friends. I laughed when I realized that Laura and friends were the first (or very close to the first) teens to bomb main in South Dakota. I owe her for more than I previously thought!
Laura spends her school breaks teaching in the country, studying at night to keep up with her regular classmates and riding back to De Smet on the weekends with Almanzo. I really liked how wonderful Almanzo is in this book (or always). Without being asked or told, he guesses that Laura will be homesick, so he drives 12 miles one way to pick her up Friday afternoon and another 12 miles one way to take her back on Sunday. He spent a lot of his time driving back and forth. I really respect him continuing to drive Laura back and forth when she tells him there’s nothing in it for him.
Mary returns home toward the end of the book, sad to have missed so much and to see Laura marry Almanzo and leave them. Everyone, including Laura, is sad that their happy little life is changing, but, as Laura tells Mary, she and Almanzo just fit together. As sad as she was to leave her family of origin, she was excited and happy to be starting her life with Almanzo.
And then comes the small, rushed wedding. Laura in her black dress. Ida witnessing with her beau. It’s all so sweet.
From the first time I read this as a child, I’ve always remembered Laura’s black wedding dress. Ma said it would bring bad luck. It definitely seemed true for the first few years of their marriage, but we know it all turned out well for Laura and Almanzo.
What is your favorite literary couple? Do you love Laura and Almanzo’s love story as much as I do?
in which I share my planned reading for the week ahead
Thanks to a long trek around town to find a new big girl bed for Claire, I was able to finish Small Wonder by Barbara Kingsolver. It was really great, but some of the essays were pretty deep and took a little more time to read. I can’t wait to review it for all of you!
When we arrived home and unpacked all the new goods, off the bookshelf came
I was given this book a year and a half ago in a Christmas exchange. My only request was the giver’s favorite book. I feel bad that I haven’t started this yet, so I figured now should be the time. I hope it’s good, and I don’t cry too much!
**Linked up with Book Journey**
What do you have planned for this week? I hope it’s great!
Yay! We’ve finally reached the point in our journey when Mary admits to acting vainly like a good girl. Didn’t know you were on this journey with me? Well, if you’re reading this then I think you are. So let’s journey on!
On page 12, as Laura is guiding Mary across the prairie during their daily walk, Laura admits that she’d always wanted to slap Mary when they were children. Mary replied with, “I know why you wanted to slap me,” Mary said. “It was because I was showing off. I wasn’t really wanting to be good. I was showing off to myself, what a good little girl I was and being vain and proud, and I deserved to be slapped for it.”
I believe this moment is the reason Laura made Mary such a goody-two-shoes or that at this point she decided to get a little jab at Mary. Or maybe I just don’t really know. My theories are probably half baked, but it’s fun having them.
Mary admitting to acting good was the death knell to Mary as the good girl. Laura and Mary were able to spend time together (mostly on their walks because Laura had to work long hours). Their time together was a good last hurrah before Mary went off to college. While I’ve said and thought a lot about what a waste it was to send Mary to college, I don’t really believe it was entirely. Or at least now I don’t. Mary learned how to live a rich life despite her blindness. She learned to read Braille, write letters and play the organ, things that served to enrich the rest of her life. Her life was by all accounts I’ve read, a happy, quiet life.
(That was hard for me to admit.)
The town of De Smet is really gaining a vibrancy in this book. The literaries sound like such fun events, right down to a town spelling bee. The final literary can be excluded, after all it was a racist pantomime complete with black face. There’s nothing to defend this behavior, unless you consider it was normal at the time a good excuse for racism. Excluding that incident, it’s fascinating to me how the town easily came together for a fun time. There was little need for planning, no need to elect leaders. (Thanks, Pa!) All they needed was a group of people and years of schooling in which repetition was forced over an actual understanding of the material.
Like I said before, I usually just remember random, small moments from books that seem trivial. Like the Encyclopedia Brown case that he solved by telling his dad that the man couldn’t have just returned home after driving hours because he’d just stood his young son on the hood of the car that should have been crazy hot. See? Important.
What I do remember from this book involves Laura and Mary’s walks, but not Mary admitting to being a fake good girl. I remember Laura talking about the openness of the prairies with its gentle (but deceiving) rolling hills. But mostly, I remember Laura saying she could see to the Wessington hills. That was my hometown! I remember reading that as an elementary student, marking the page and excitedly showing it to my best friend the next morning on the school bus.
What were your thoughts on Little Town on the Prairie?
It seems like The Long Winter is one of Laura’s most popular books. I think it’s because it’s just a very memorable book. They almost starve, people. Not hard to forget that! But even more than that, it’s very different from the prior books in its more straightforward approach to Pa and his failures. After all, every book up to this point has been all about how wonderful Pa is and how he’s able to get them out of so many scrapes. Sure, Pa anticipated a bad winter when he saw the muskrats’ burrows, but he didn’t think too much of it. (That and Ma talked him out of his worry.)
This is where I start to get really uncharitable. I don’t like Mary. At this point, I’ve spent six books with her (2 with a blind Mary), and she just keeps getting worse. Starting with things like, “‘It must be one of Laura’s queer notions,’ Mary said, busily knitting in her chair by the stove. ‘How could cattle’s heads freeze to the ground, Laura? It’s really worrying the way you talk sometimes.'” (page 50). Well, first of all, they were frozen to the ground, Mary, and second of all, stop being so judgey. And, I also realized that whenever I thought of Mary, I would picture Claire Danes’ cry face in Little Women.
OK. Now I really want to talk about the Ingalls’ family busting their asses to send Mary to college. Why? I know it was a good experience for her in a life that wouldn’t be full of much excitement, but it almost broke the family. Like the time during The Long Winter when the family was running out of money. Ma quietly grabbed her pocketbook (the one that held “Mary’s money”). Pa stated loudly, “Mary, it may be the town’s running short of supplies. If the lumber yard and stores are pushing up prices too high…” Pa then paused so Mary could be a good girl to volunteer her money. The family was at risk of freezing, why did Mary get a choice? It’s at this point that I have to remind myself of the book’s fictional nature. (Deep, cleansing breaths.)
One other odd point that I really noticed reading this book was the sometimes odd sentence structure, such as “Teacher came to the door and boys and girls must go in to their lessons.” Appropriately in the past tense, that sentence would read “When Teacher came to the door, boys and girls had to go in to their lessons.” I feel like the sentence structure is supposed to emphasize the point as a lesson to the younger generation. Let’s face it, you know in her old age Laura was probably appalled at the behavior of young people!
What I remember most is Almanzo and Cap driving to find everyone food. Funny how stories of bravery really stick in your mind!
Have you read The Long Winter? What did you think? Am I mean for not liking Mary?