Category: Family

Mar 12

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka

Book Club, Family 21

Privit Bookworms,

That’s a Ukrainian greeting right there, translated into familiar characters, because Ukrainian uses a whole different alphabet. It looks pretty cool, but I thought I’d avoid having y’all think I was hacked first thing in my post. Why all the chatter about Ukrainian? A book, obviously. Last month I joined The Book Wheel and Love at First Book in their book club. Their choice was A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka.

tractors2The title is deceiving, kids! Very little of this book has anything to do with tractors. It’s actually a family drama. There’s this Ukrainian family that emigrated to England in the aftermath of WWII, see? They lived happily ever after… Or at least, more happily ever after than would have been possible if they’d stayed living under the thumb of a government employing a secret police and famine as a means of submission.

After a good long life, the mother of the family succumbs to cancer. Things start to get dicey when a few short years later, the elderly patriarch proposes marriage to a Ukrainian immigrant in her 30s who is obviously (at least to daughters Vera and Nadia) out for money and citizenship. It’s every bit as scandalous as it sounds, I promise.

I was pleased how quickly this book moved- it kept a good pace without feeling rushed. I found it to be an easy read, with an unexpected amount of humor injected into what could have been a wildly depressing story. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy myself nearly as much as I did. Yay for happy surprises, right?

It’s kind of ironic that I picked up this book now, you know? Ukraine isn’t ordinarily a country I’d expect to be popping up in the news, but there it is all embroiled in conflict. Sadness for all involved. However. I did learn something, thanks to Ukraine’s newfound notoriety. I have a Facebook friend who knows ALL THE THINGS about Russian culture. Anybody else out there have a knee-jerk desire to refer to Ukraine as “the” Ukraine? APPARENTLY, Soviet-era Russian newspapers popularized the phrasing “the” Ukraine in order to belittle the country. Grammar aggression? Low blow, guys.

 Tell me bookworms, have you ever been reading a book to have it suddenly become topical? 

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Dec 09

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

Family 26

Good Day, Bookworms!

I hope you all had a fantastic weekend! We had our first snow of the season here, and I did some Christmas shopping. It was all very festive, minus the slick roads. Nobody likes a slick road.

geekloveIn addition to traversing treacherous terrain (say that five times fast) I managed to finish reading Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. The Binewskis are a family of carnival folk. Desperate to create their own brood of travelling human oddities, Al and Lil Binewski employed the help of amphetamines, arsenic, and radioisotopes during each of Lil’s pregnancies. Prenatal vitamins were way too normal for their tastes. Their resulting children were certainly unique. Olympia, our narrator, is an albino hunchback dwarf. Her sisters, Elly and Iphy, are conjoined twins and piano impresarios. The eldest of the children is Arturo. He’s got flippers for limbs and an ego beyond comprehension. Chick, the baby of the clan, while outwardly normal, possesses a strange and wonderful gift that makes him a valuable and dangerous asset.

I went into this book expecting a quirky, fun read. I got quirky in spades, but fun was in shorter supply. Geek Love is a novel unafraid of delving into the darker side of human relationships. Every time I thought things couldn’t get any more bizarre, they did. Just when I thought I was getting a grasp on the message Dunn was trying to get across, it slipped right through my hands. This book kept me guessing, that’s for sure. What it also did was make me uncomfortable.

The physical abnormalities didn’t phase me. The embracing of their deformities as assets made me rather fond of the Binewskis. The fact that Al and Lil resorted to dangerous measures to provide themselves with a meal ticket skeeved me out, though. It’s hard to know how much the children’s personalities were influenced by chemicals ingested in utero and how much was a result of their unusual upbringing, but mental health is not the Binewski family’s strong suit. Because Arty. Whoa.

I can’t say that I LOVED this book, but it certainly made me think. I would highly recommend Geek Love to anyone who enjoys a darkly quirky read. If unusual confrontational situations appeal to you, and you’ve got a soft spot for carnivals, give Geek Love a try!

In the spirit of embracing our own oddities, let’s talk. What’s something unusual about YOU that you’ve chosen to embrace? Talk to me, Bookworms! Let’s be weirdos together!

*Purchases made through links on this site produce a small commission for your friendly neighborhood blogger. Your support is appreciated!*

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Nov 21

An Anniversary Song

Family, Humor, Personal, Romance 50

Howdy Bookworms!

Today marks four years since I married Jim. Last year I wrote a series of Limericks to celebrate. This year I thought I’d try my hand at a song parody. I’m bad at being overtly affectionate, so I opt for the tongue-in-cheek. I got in touch with my inner Carly Simon, and it’s… ridiculous. The story of us, Weird Al style (to the tune of “You’re So Vain”):

You walked up to the soundboard, and I noticed that you were hot.

It was apparent you didn’t realize it, I fell for you right on the spot.

I made a mission for myself, to see you become mine.

I started to think about how I should stalk you,

How I should stalk you, man.

You’re so sane.

Compared to me you’re quite well adjusted.

You’re so sane.

Your oddities are merely eccentric-

You walk quick and nitpick…

This was our engagement photo. Highly functional relationship!

I met you more than 10 years ago, when you were still quite naive.

Over the years I managed to wear you down,

And now you can never leave (muahahahaha)

You’re stuck with me till the end of time, which fills me up with glee.

I hope you don’t mind that I still suck at cooking,

Still suck at cooking, oh.

You’re so sane.

Actually, you’re probably crazy.

But I won’t complain,

Because you love me even when I am lazy.

Don’t you? Don’t you?!

i married you

When the nonsense tunes are sung in our house, it’s usually all your fault.

Now that I’ve given one a try, I warn you they may never halt.

With all our puns and cheesy jokes, it’s been a lot of fun.

There’s nobody else that I’d rather have married,

Rather have married, but-

We’re insane

We’re a charming pair of neurotics

It’s so plain-

Look at our surveillance home electronics.

And comic harmonics. 

Thanks for putting up with that, Bookworms. Happy Anniversary, Jim! Thanks for putting up with me. XOXO.

 

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Oct 21

Contributing to the Literacy of a Minor

Children's Fiction, Family, Personal 48

G’day Bookworms!

It’s Monday, which is not fun. However, I had a fabulous weekend, and that helps make up for it. I went back to the homestead in the Chicago burbs. There I spent some QT with the fam, met up with some pals from high school who also happen to read my blog (Jackie and Ashley kind of rule), AND I had a fabulous brunch with the one and only Quirky Chrissy.

I’m going to pull the proud Auntie card an monopolize this post, because I love the crap out of my nephew. He has a real, honest-to-goodness name, but I refuse to use it. Instead I refer to him as “Squishy.” “The Squish,” “Squisherson,” or some other ridiculous variation. Why? Because THIS:

I basically nicknamed my nephew in honor of a jelly fish. But he’s so CUTE and he has the best CHEEKS and I LOVE him. So there. Anyway, this weekend Squishy and I did some reading. He was REALLY into One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue FishHe was flailing and pointing excitedly as only a 5 month old can do. What’s that you say? Of COURSE I documented our reading session!

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I’m a very animated reader when it comes to Seuss, and Squish is clearly a fan.

Squishy's talents include smiling, being cute, and diaper blowouts.
This book had a mirror in it, so it was a hit with Squishy. It also had a penguin in it, so I was a big fan, too! Now, being 5 months old, he was a pretty captive audience. It’s not like he’s capable of physically escaping my grasp or anything, but there were some happy coos going on, so I’m confident he enjoyed himself. At least, I’m confident he enjoyed himself with the reading. I take no responsibility for subjecting the innocent child to the abject humiliation that followed. THAT was Grandma’s doing. (I take no responsibility, but I did take JOY. So much joy. Have you ever seen a cuter sock monkey?!)

Sock monkeys haven never been so adorable.

This poor kid. He’ll probably hate us for this when he gets older, but how could we be expected to resist? That was my stellar weekend. How was yours, Bookworms? Anybody do anything awesome? Hang out with a monkey? C’mon, share with the class!

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Sep 23

Banned Books Week 2013: Eleanor and Park?!?!

Banned Books, Coming of Age, Family, Young Adult Fiction 61

Hey Bookworms!

It’s time to celebrate Banned Books Week. Every year the national book community sets aside a week to celebrate FREEDOM!!! (I hope you imagined me bellowing that a la William Wallace in Braveheart because that is how it sounds in my head.) There are few things that raise my hackles the way banning books does. Of all the crazy shiznit that goes down in The Handmaid’s Talewhat has always bothered me the MOST is the prohibition of women reading.

The American Library Association doesn't want you to ban books either. (Image courtesy BannedBooksWeek.org)

The American Library Association doesn’t want you to ban books either. (Image courtesy BannedBooksWeek.org)

Books are banned and challenged by all sorts of people for all sorts of reasons. They’re banned by governments for spreading subversive ideas. They’re banned by religions for containing content they find offensive. Lately though, the groups that seems to be getting the most press for trying to ban books are parental groups.

Most of the time, I try to keep my nose out of the Mommy Wars or any debates on parenting. Sure, I have opinions, but as I do not yet have any progeny, it seems ill advised to wade into those waters. HOWEVER… Some yahoos in Minnesota tried to have Eleanor and Parkthe brilliant coming of age novel penned by the ridiculously talented Rainbow Rowell, banned from their schools’ reading lists.

Yep. This is happening right this minute. A group of parents in the Anoka-Hennepin school district has chosen to wage a war against my beloved E&P. If you feel like raising your blood pressure, you can go ahead and take a look at their list of complaints on the Parents Action League website. What’s got these parents all riled up? Profanity mostly. Because, you know. Middle and High School aged children have never heard a bad word. They’re certainly not using them either (GASP.) Also, it’s chock full of “crude and sexually charged material.” Sure. For a book where no actual sex takes place. Hand holding is described in all its intensity. The characters in this novel never graduate beyond some making out and minor groping! But of COURSE normal teenagers wouldn’t know anything about THAT either. 

eandp

In fairness, I wouldn’t recommend reading Eleanor & Park to a young elementary school student, but we’re talking about teenagers. I’ve been a teenager. They’re a heck of a lot smarter than groups like Parents Action League ever give them credit for. I’d think parents would be stoked at the idea that their kid was assigned a book in school that they ACTUALLY wanted to read. Dismissing the messages presented in Eleanor and Park based on concerns over naughty words and heavy petting is a ginormous mistake. There’s so GOOD to be had in E&P!!! It addresses bullying, abusive home situations, first love, body image, being different, and GYM CLASS. I’m positively flabbergasted that anyone could object to this book, it has ALL THE LESSONS!

Of course, the Parents Action League also promotes an aggressively anti-gay agenda, so I shouldn’t be surprised by any of this… My only hope here is that the kids in this district decide to rebel against their parents. I came of age when “explicit lyrics” labels began being posted on the outside of CDs (remember CDs, guys?!) All those warning labels did was make it easier for me to decide what album to buy next. Explicit lyrics meant the album was going to be edgy and cool and everything rock was supposed to be. I can only pray that teenagers do as they’ve done for centuries and come to the same conclusion about Eleanor & Park. 

So, Bookworms. I suppose it’s stupid to ask if you agree with me about Eleanor & Park specifically, because differing opinions obviously won’t sway my beliefs. However. I am curious. How much say do you think it is appropriate for parents to have in the curriculum assigned to their children? We’re talking public school here. Weigh in y’all. What do you think?

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Aug 05

Rainbow Rowell, I'm Your Fangirl!

Blogging, Coming of Age, Contemporary Fiction, Family, Friendship 44

Hiya Bookworms!

It’s Monday, but today we’re going to talk about Rainbow Rowell’s new release, so it officially sucks MUCH LESS! Remember last week when I told you all about my BlogHer experience and how the awesome folks at St. Martin’s Press were doling out free books? I saw Fangirlsitting there and tried to appear professional and interesting, while my innards were all a-squiggle. Rainbow Rowell’s new book!!! I basically received this book as swag from the publisher. They were handing out books to tons of people who were never going to write about them on their blogs. I’m going to put it out there as a full disclosure anyway, because I’m SUPER ethical. (So dang ethical I deserve a cape and a headband, y’all.)

As you may recall, my love of Eleanor & Park (review) was intense. I’ve been waiting to read Rowell’s earlier book Attachmentspartially because I was afraid it wouldn’t be able to live up to Eleanor & Park. Luckily, by putting a free copy of Fangirl straight into my crazy hands I was able to overcome the fear and read more Rowell.

FangirlFangirl is about a girl named Cath and her first year away at college. She’s a twin, but her sister Wren has decided that she wants to try striking out on her own a bit. Cath is left to fend for herself, and she drowns her sorrows in fanfiction. In Rowell’s world, there’s a Harry Potter-esque series of books about a boy wizard named Simon Snow. Cath and her sister Wren spent their childhoods obsessing over the characters and became very active in the fandom. In fact, Cath’s fanfiction pieces? They get thousands upon thousands of hits daily. She’s got some serious talent, but can’t seem to break free of the imaginary world someone else created. There’s a lot of love and growing up and universal college experiences in this book. I just freaking LOVED IT.

A couple of things I loved. First. Cath and Wren are identical twins. Their mother was unaware she was having twins, and had only chosen one name, Catherine. Instead of coming up with another name, she just split the one she had in half. Cather and Wren. My Mother-in-Law has been threatening for years that the family is due for a set of twins. While I find twins wonderful and adorable, the idea of dealing with two newborns simultaneously is more than a little daunting. I told my MIL that if I had twins, I’d name them both Seamus, you know, as punishment for making me birth two at once. (That is a true story, but I was obviously joking. Now that I’ve got Rowell’s inspiration, I’d name them Sea and Mus.)

Second. Levi! This character comes into the picture as Cath’s roommate’s ex? boyfriend. He hangs around a LOT, which annoys the snot out of Cath… At first. Levi is a farm boy. He hails from a tiny town in rural Nebraska and majors in Ranch Management (Yes. That IS a thing.) Cath is from Omaha, and while it doesn’t sound very metropolitan to most of the world, it’s as urban as Nebraska gets. I SO had this experience in college! (I was from the Chicago suburbs and went to school in the middle of the state. There were kids who thought that our campus of like 80% white kids was diverse. It was weird.) Anyway. While I was in college, I totally met my very own Levi (minus any romantic undertones.He’s a good friend of my husband and is now married to a really fabulous woman. They have a 2 year old boy who is just about the cutest thing in the world. He loves books!)

The thing about Levi and “Steve” (spontaneous pseudonym) is that they are the kind of guys who would go out of their way to walk you home from the library after dark. The guy you could call to change your tire if you were living alone and didn’t know how to do it yourself (or did know how to do it yourself in theory but would rather have someone who actually knew how to fix cars do it in practice.) Needless to say, I mentally pictured Levi looking exactly like my friend, even if he was a little more rodeo where my friend is more muscle car.

I don’t know if it’s my adoration of Harry Potter that made me relate to the fangirl in Cath… Maybe it was her slightly awkward college experience that got me. Sure, her experience was significantly weirder and worse than mine, but the same way Eleanor & Park captured that high school feeling, Fangirl captured college. The whole learning to detach from your parents thing? The character that reminded me of my pal Steve? The EVERYTHING of it all? So much YES. Rainbow Rowell, I am now your fangirl. If I ever meet you, I’ll be the girl who breaks her leg tripping over her shoelace on the way up to the table where you’re signing books. If you could sign my cast instead of my book, that’d be cool too.

So Bookworms! Obviously, one of the biggest things that stuck out for me in this book was that Levi reminded me of my buddy Steve. Have you ever read a book that had a character that was SO TOTALLY someone you know? Tell me about it!

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Jul 12

Angela's Ashes and My First World Problems

Coming of Age, Family, Memoirs 31

As I live and breathe, if it isn’t my wee Bookworms!

I hope you read that in an Irish accent, because I just finished reading Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. Angela’s Ashes is the story of Frank McCourt’s childhood, if you can refer to spending your formative years in abject poverty and borderline starvation a “childhood.” This book rates right up there with Jeanette Walls’s Glass Castle for the “I cannot believe anyone could survive that” factor. Of course, McCourt darn near didn’t survive.

AngelasAshes

McCourt’s parents are both Irish immigrants. They connect at a party in Brooklyn… In more ways than one. Oh yeah. Frankie was either a miraculously fast growing fetus, or he was conceived well before his parents’s wedding. It’s the dawn of the Great Depression, but the McCourts just keep multiplying. To add to the chaos, Frank’s father Malachy is a raging alcoholic. He cannot keep a job for long, and even when he’s working the wages rarely make it beyond the pub. He regularly lines up his toddler boys to ask them if they’ll be willing to die for Ireland after a bender. I can’t say a whole lot more about this book without spoiling a ton of things, but I will tell you the family ends up moving back to Ireland… And if you thought things were bad in America, Ireland put those struggles to SHAME.

Comic by Roz Chast

Comic by Roz Chast

I ran across this cartoon and it cracked me up because it’s so true. I tend to gravitate toward the “Way Worse Than Your Life” section, so I’m going to list out a few reasons I’m feeling guilty for my first world problems, courtesy of Angela’s Ashes. I’m going to list out some things I ought to remember…

1. The next time I complain about my less than svelte physique, I shall be grateful that I’ve never had to rob an orchard for food, have a pig’s head for Christmas dinner, or give my siblings bottles of sugar and water because milk is too expensive.

2. The next time I complain about having a cold, I shall be grateful that it isn’t typhoid fever.

3. The next time I turn my nose up at cleaning my toilets, I shall be grateful that I HAVE toilets. Private toilets.

4. The next time I am frustrated with a rainy day, I shall be grateful that it does not rain inside my house.

5. The next time I look in my messy closet, I shall be grateful that it is full of clothes that are clean and do not contain parasites.

Have any of you Bookworms read a book that smacked you upside the head with how lucky you are? Do you prefer your memoirs from the “Way Worse Than Your Life” section, too? Tell me about it!

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Jul 03

Finders Keepers? The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman

Book Club, Family, Historical Fiction 36

G’day Bookworms!

Today we’re taking a trip to Australia. Actually, we’re taking a trip to an island outside of Australia that is completely uninhabited except for a lighthouse keeper… And any immediate family members he might acquire. That’s right. I finally read The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman. (Thanks in no small part to BOTH of my real-life book clubs for choosing this as a summer read and to my Mother-in-Law for loaning me a copy… And to my Mother-in-Law’s friend who loaned the copy to my Mother-in-Law in the first place. Whew. That felt like an Oscar speech.)

THE-LIGHT-BETWEEN-OCEANS

Alright. So. It’s the 1920s. There’s this Australian dude named Tom Sherbourne. He fought in WWI and came back in one piece (at least physically.) He decided to work for the Australian lighthouse agency to make sure ships didn’t go crashing into things at night. It doesn’t hurt that he is still recovering from, you know, WAR, and he finds it beneficial for his psyche to be isolated. One day he meets Isabel while on shore leave. She lost both her brothers in the war and wants to get the heck out of her parents house and her small town… Plus she thinks Tom is cute. After a courtship that takes place mostly through letters (and even the letters are only delivered once every three months- this lighthouse island is way remote) the two get hitched and move out to their island. Where their only companions are each other. And some goats. Romantic, no?

Things are going along just peachy keen until Isabel starts having miscarriages. She is absolutely heartbroken that she’s been unable to carry a child to term. One night, a week or two after a third tragic loss, something strange happens. A boat washes up on the beach of Tom and Isabel’s island carrying a dead man… And a baby. Isabel sees it as a miracle and that God has delivered her a child. Tom wants to alert the authorities, but after watching his wife become immediately attached to the child, he caves. He’s been through psychological turmoil and he just can’t bear to see his wife suffer that way. They rationalize to themselves that the child’s mother likely drowned before the boat washed up and that they’re doing a good deed by keeping the baby… And passing it off as their own. Because, you know. That ALWAYS works out just fine. (Old Testament, anyone?)

I liked this book… But I did not LOVE this book. Unfortunately, it came to me at a time in my reading when I’d  just finished several INCREDIBLE books that knocked my doggone socks off. For me, it dulls in comparison to some of those titles (Me Before You, Tell The Wolves I’m Home) I also think I may have been at a disadvantage reading this because I don’t have kids. The whole maternal bond and the loss of children thing… I mean, I get it in theory, but I think it’s one of those things you can’t really FEEL until you know what it’s like to have a kid. The sort of insane lengths someone would go to in the depths of grief. The unbelievable pain of having your child vanish without a trace. I know this book has gobsmacked a lot of readers, and I don’t want to take anything away from it, because it’s very nicely done. It just didn’t sing to me the way some others have.

That said, this book got me to thinking of other titles with similar themes, what with the baby theft and family secrets and all. If haven’t read The Light Between Oceans but you loved The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton (Australia, baby swapping, heartbreak), Fall on Your Knees by Ann Marie MacDonald (baby swapping and heartbreak in Canada- an all time fave of mine), or Fortune’s Rocks by Anita Shreve (forced adoption and scandalous affairs at the turn of the 20th century), give it a shot. And of course, if you loved any of those titles and haven’t read The Light Between Oceans, it’s probably something you’d enjoy.

Soooo my Bookworms. I must know. Do you think you’d enjoy living on an isolated island like Tom and Isabel? Are you more of a social butterfly? Do you simply like the idea that you can escape your spouse if they happen to be driving you bananas one day? Isolated island living: paradise or claustrophobic? Tell me about it!

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Jun 20

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Book Club, Contemporary Fiction, Family, Friendship, Psychological, Romance, Tear Jerkers, Travel 42

Good Day Bookworms!

Have you ever paid attention to the stuff you do every day? I’m not talking about the chores or the errands or the work. I’m talking physical stuff. Walking. Climbing stairs. Getting dressed. Bathing. Eating. Driving. Typing. What would you do if you couldn’t do ANY of that for yourself anymore? The thought probably makes you uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable. It makes me sad. It makes me feel guilty for being able bodied when others may not be, but extremely grateful for my independence.

I don’t typically give this line of thinking much attention, because it bums me out. However, several people recommended this book about a quadriplegic to me and I figured I’d give it a shot.  Somehow Jojo Moyes managed to make Me Before You devastating, uplifting, heart-wrenching, and heart-warming all at the same time. Don’t ask me how she pulled it off. The talents of authors are beyond me, but this one, THIS ONE got to me.

Me-Before-You-Cover_

Louisa Clark is a 28 year old girl living in an English tourist town that features a castle. She has spent several years working in a local cafe and is caught completely off guard one day when she’s told the cafe is going to close. Suddenly, Louisa finds herself out of work in a terrible economy. She has no college education (or, uh, University, as the British would say) and is qualified to do little more than work in a chicken processing plant, which is just exactly as gross as it sounds.

Louisa’s qualifications will allow her to be a “caregiver,” and it is one of the few positions available through the unemployment agency (which is called something different in England but it sounds like roughly the same thing.) She’s sent on an interview with no real idea of what’s in store for her. To her shock (in spite of an embarrassing skirt splitting incident during the interview) she lands a job helping to care for Will Traynor. Will was hit by a motorcycle while crossing a street. A serious mover and shaker in his previous life, Will has been without the use of any of his limbs for over 2 years. As you can imagine, he’s not too happy about it.

Louisa and Will don’t start off especially well, what with his intentionally trying to make her uncomfortable and all, but over time they grow rather fond of each other. Everything seems to be going pretty smoothly (or, at least, as smoothly as possible when catheters, muscle spasms, and infection are par for the course) when Louisa is hit with some dizzying news. I AM NOT GOING TO TELL YOU WHAT IT IS! But. The rest of the book is about Louisa trying to get Will to get out of his grumpy funk and have some adventures. Will is from a very wealthy family and was very successful before his accident, so the fact that he is practically a sommelier and has a penchant for evenings at the symphony come as no surprise. Apparently rich people are very fancy and predictable that way. No mention of cheeses. Pity.

Read this and your next long trek through the parking lot in the rain won't seem so inconvenient.

Read this and your next long trek through the parking lot in the rain won’t seem so inconvenient. (SOURCE)

I was not expecting to like this book. I thought it was going to be a complete downer, but, while there are some seriously sad elements, there are also some uplifting bits, and occasionally, it’s downright funny. Me Before You also raises some ethical conundrums that will leave you reeling. I’ve got so many FEELINGS, you guys! I want you to feel them too.

Bookworms, have any of you read Me Before You? What did you think? We can’t really discuss the elephant in the room because of SPOILERS, but we can talk about how much it sucks when people who don’t need it steal the disabled parking spots. That is some nasty karma y’all. I have many, many faults, but I never park in a handicapped space. I also return my shopping cart to the cart corral. Perhaps this will keep me from being reincarnated as a turd. How about you?

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May 24

Perfectly Imperfect: The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman

Contemporary Fiction, Family, Friendship 39

Happy Friday, Bookworms!

Let’s do some math, shall we? Assuming that you sleep 8 hours a night (which you should, if at all possible, because sleep is awesome) you spend a third of your life in bed. Let’s say you work full time… An 8 hour shift. That’s another third (approximately, because weekends, but whatever I swear a have a point) of your life at work. A third of your life! You spend just as much of your time with your co-workers as you do with your family, and with Mr. Sandman. Now, now. Don’t go getting all depressed about how mean math is. A lot of life happens in the workplace. Imagine what the walls of your place of employment would say if they could talk (I happen to know what my walls are thinking because I converse with them regularly. I’m obviously NOT talking to myself all day. THAT would be ridiculous.)

the-imperfectionist

The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman takes a look a the lives of a newspaper staff over the course of the paper’s lifespan. The newspaper was started to provide an English language news source to expatriates living abroad. While the central office is based in Rome, foreign correspondents are stationed strategically around the globe to offer the inside scoop from the ground level. The newspaper is full of idealistic journalists, fancying themselves muckraking newsmen in the golden age of print journalism. Even though the bulk of this story takes place during the dramatic decline of the industry, you get the feeling that each staff member is trying in their own way to recapture that magic. It calls to mind images of men in suits with press passes tucked into their hatbands and the sounds of typewriters clacking and clanging.

The inner workings of a newspaper can be pretty stressful. Deadlines loom, tempers flare, egos inflate. Inside this pressure cooker, each employee has their own set of issues, traumas, tragedies, and baggage to handle. The Imperfectionists is a novel, but it reads almost like a collection of short stories, each employee getting their own tale. The stories are woven together with vignettes on the history of the newspaper itself and its evolution over the decades. The overly passionate copy editor and the unassuming reporter and the douchebag war correspondent all contribute to this odd little microcosm.

Generate your own nonsense HERE

Generate your own nonsense HERE

The characters all were flawed, but were ultimately pretty likeable in spite of themselves. Rachman performed a delicate balancing act when describing romantic entanglements… He managed to portray all the excitement, passion, and heartbreak the characters experienced without crossing the line into melodrama. I found this book to be a quick read, and I enjoyed the slice of life aspect of each character’s short story. I am solidly in “like” with this book. It didn’t grab my soul and make mincemeat of it, but if it were a person? I’d give it a hearty handshake and buy it a drink. Like an old school news reporter might do.

Bookworms, my dears. I hesitate to ask you this question, but… One of the most entertaining characters in The Imperfectionists is a copy editor who is the ULTIMATE grammar and style Nazi. I shudder to think that I may have committed one of your personal grammatical pet peeves, but what are they? Do abbreviations drive you batty? Do you notice when people use homonyms incorrectly? Do you ever want to reach through your computer screen and edit someone’s Facebook status? Tell me about it!

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