Naked Greed by Stuart Woods

Woods, Stuart Naked GreedI started listening to Naked Greed by Stuart Woods today. I’m giving blood through the American Red Cross and wanted to find something to keep me distracted during the process. This book was available through my public library e-books so here we are. Just a few chapters in and I’m rolling my eyes. My how many easy coincidences there are for the main character, Stone Barrington, to fall in to so easily. The dialogue, especially being read out loud, comes across as too formal and over-explained. It sounds more like a movie script. The first few chapters have been very repetitive, explaining the same two minute story three times to three different characters. I’m hopeful the story will pick up, but based on the Amazon reviews I’ve read, I don’t expect it to.

This is my first Stuart Woods book, one of the appeals of picking this one up this week. It’s also the first time in awhile that I’ve “read” a thriller. I’ll let you know if it’s worth a read. If you don’t hear from me again about this one, you can take that as your answer.

2015 Reading List

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Partial stack of 2015 books read. Most books not shown were borrowed from the library.

This past year was a record setting year for books and pages read. Since I started this blog mid-year, I thought it best to list all the books read in 2015 in one places. Odds are good this will become an annual list.

My goal for 2015 was 45 books, turns out I only got around to reading 24. Here’s to a better 2016 challenge (Goal of 40 books)!

Alphabetically listed, past post links provided in bold:
The Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 2; Revelations by J. Michael Straczynski, John Romita Jr. (Illustrator)
Ape House by Sara Gruen review
The Bone Season (The Bone Season #1) 
by Samantha Shannon
Champion (Legend #3)
 by Marie Lu
Counting By 7s 
by Holly Goldberg Sloan review
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
If I Stay (If I Stay #1) by Gayle Forman
The Husband’s Secret
 by Liane Moriarty
Landline by Rainbow Rowell review
Legend (Legend #1) by Marie Lu
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing
by Marie Kondō, Cathy Hirano (Translator) review
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson
The Martian by Andy Weir
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
The Mime Order (The Bone Season #2) by Samantha Shannon
The Mine (Northwest Passage #1) by John A. Heldt
The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan
Prodigy (Legend #2) by Marie Lu
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline review
The Sacred Mirror: Evangelicalism, Honor, and Identity in the Deep South, 1790-1860
by Robert Elder review
Serena by Ron Rash
Where She Went (If I Stay #2) by Gayle Forman
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Oz #1) by L. Frank Baum, W.W. Denslow (Illustrations)
The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember by Fred Rogers

Highlights from 2015:
Here’s the short list of books that I didn’t get to review officially, but are well worth a read. I loved The Husband’s SecretMiddlesex is a well deserved Pulitzer Prize winning book that provides a beautiful story about a hermaphrodite. The Bone Season and The Mime Order are from my favorite series right now by Samanatha Shannon. The Third installment is due out this fall. The Martian and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand were fun and entertaining reads that are well worth the time. Landline is by another one of my favorite authors, Rainbow Rowell, she is a great writer and I compare her style and cadence to that of John Green’sSerena was made into a movie starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawerence that apparently went straight to DVD. The book was a bit of a thriller and did not go the way I thought it would! Don’t let the netflix description of the movie fool you, the book’s main theme is not the loss of a child.

I read The Wizard of Oz out loud to my kindergartner. This was a lot of fun and became a theme recently for us. We’ve watched the movie and our local theater did a production of it that he and I went on a special date to see! Not to mention, our neighboring town used to host an annual Wizard of Oz festival that was world renowned.

If you have question about any of the other books listed, send me a message or ask in the comments! All of these books can be found on Amazon and many can be found at your local public library.

 

Wild in Audiobook

IronMan
Iron Man cross-stitch. Work in progress. Will be 8×10 and 70k stitches when complete!

I’ve been a little slow to start on my reading challenges for 2016, let alone finding time to write more than one sentence at a time. Call me distracted, I’ve been working on a cross-stitch of Iron Man, an American Flag full size crochet quilt, trying (and failing) to launch a handicrafts store, Leslie A Curry-Handicrafts, Crochet, and Mosaic, and trying to manage a chaotic phase of life. What better way to multi-task while reading than to use an audiobook? Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed had been highly recommended by one of my girlfriends a couple of years ago, so when it was available through my public library’s electronic catalog, I decided it was time to give it a go.

Why this book and why now:
I started listening to this Wild (315 pages) as a distraction during a dental appointment for a crown prep. A few minutes in, and I wasn’t sure it was the right choice. Graphic detailing of toenails falling off didn’t help much to distract me from the pain and discomfort of the drilling happening in my mouth.

The story of Cheryl’s relationship with her mother and the process of losing her pulled me in for what I anticipated to be a much different story. Many of the details of this book have left me since I read it back in January, but much of what I remember has to do with Cheryl making one mind-boggling decision after another in regards to her personal safety. I understand that Cheryl was dealing with depression and perhaps some PTSD after her childhood experiences. I wish more of the book and self exploration acknowledged these traumas. Instead, Cheryl continued to put herself in one dangerous situation after another without drawing any understanding to the idea that she was actually perhaps suffering from some very big emotional issues. I was mystified that while waiting for a DJ she just met at a random club to get off work for their “date” that she willingly went into a strange man’s van to smoke weed. After which she traipses off with the DJ to his house way out in the middle of nowhere to hopefully have sex. All the while, no one knew where she was or who she was going with. This is after she dabbled with heroine or meth after leaving her self-admitted very good husband.

I understand that everyone’s personal journey is different and that the ways we each cope with stress, anxiety, depression, joy, fear, you name it, can be expressed or experienced in absolute contradiction to how another copes. I wish for Cheryl, that she had had someone who would have helped her find a safer way to deal with her mother’s death and need for self discovery. I’m still trying to understand why Cheryl felt it was acceptable to cause her body so much harm and pain in forcing her way through the PCT. Many of her stories in the book graphically describe her feet that were mangled, scabs and bruises that took weeks to heal, drastic dehydration. This is not heroic in my opinion, this is self-mutilation.

I am glad for Cheryl’s sake that her story has a peaceful ending. I’m grateful that for all the seedy situations she put herself in, she walked away unharmed by another human during her trek.

Recommended reading for:
This is not a book I would recommend, however, if you are looking for a memoir about a young woman who is able to come out the other side of some questionable choices, then you might want to give this one a try. I’d recommend two books on a similar topic before this one: The Glass Castle: a Memoir by Jeanette Walls or The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank

The final word:
I’m certainly glad I experienced Wild as an audiobook. Had I been reading it in book form, I am almost certain it would have been added to my “won’t ever finish” list on goodreads.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up


So about that promised review of Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I suppose it is past due. And those promised photos? Didn’t happen. Here’s why. I didn’t find the book as helpful as I had hoped. I didn’t like reading the book, it took me six months to finish and it would have been longer if I hadn’t been trying to beat my friend (see his book blog here) in our annual book challenge. The very top of the trees concepts of only keeping things or buying things that truly bring you joy were certainly worth some meditation. The writing in this book? Left much to be desired, I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and chalk it up to “lost in translation”. I believe this book is better classified as a memoir than an actual self-help book. Most of the book is spent reflecting on Kondo’s own life and thoughts rather than the practical application of her technique.

The most helpful part of the book was the revelation that some (read: many) of us were never actually taught how to tidy. This point was a bit of a gut check as I recalled how often I reprimanded my sons for not tidying their rooms well enough. Shortly after reading this passage, I did a little decluttering session with my 9 year old and his dresser drawers. I sensed he was keeping some clothes only because he thought I wanted him to keep them, so I set the record straight. I told him to clean out all his drawers and only keep the items he knew he would wear and the ones he really liked. We went through each piece of clothing together and when I thought he was keeping it to please me, I reminded him he would not offend me by making his room more pleasing to him. We got rid of a lot of clothes! It also helped me to see what sort of style he preferred.

We were so successful with his clothes, my husband and I set to work on all the books in both of our sons’ rooms. We emptied both of their bookshelves onto the kitchen table. MOUNDS of books! I knew we had a lot, but it was a little shocking to see it all laid out. And wouldn’t you know, we had duplicates! Books, especially books in the library of my growing and varied children, are hard for me to let go of, however by making my boys part of the process we got rid of two paper boxes of books. This lead to them reading more on their own since their book shelves weren’t busting at the seams, ready to spill on top of them lest a jenga tile be removed too quickly.

Speaking of books, Kondo’s whole section dedicated to books was one section that provided a new outlook on decluttering my library. A couple of Kondo’s observations worth mentioning:

“You read books for the experience of reading. Books you have read have already been experienced and their content is inside you, even if you don’t remember it.” Page 89

Books to Keep “The most difficult ones are those that give you moderate pleasure–those with words and phrases that moved your heart and that you might want to read again.” Page 93

Since starting this blog (and my reading notebook, the source of most of this content), it has become much easier to pass along a book. I have captured the emotions the book made me feel. And I have a very tangible, detailed list of what I have ready, why I have read it, what it has taught me. My bookshelves are lighter since starting this blog because I am able to “keep” those parts of the books  that have changed me.

“The moment you first encounter a particular book is the right time to read it.” Page 95

The final word:
This is not a book I particularly enjoyed reading. It is only because of writing this post that I realize how much I did in fact learn. Ideally, Marie Kondo’s newest book, Spark Joy will address some of the practical implication parts that were missing from this book. This book is a good fit for someone just getting started with decluttering or who does not have a lot of practice with minimalism.
Other Selected Quotes:
“Order is dependent on the extremely personal values of what a person wants to live with.” Page 6

“I’m sure many of us have been scolded (during our childhoods) for not tidying up our rooms, but how many of our parents consciously taught us how to tidy as part of our upbringing?” Page 10

“You only have to experience a state of perfect order once to be able to maintain it.” Page 30

“We should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of.” Page 41

“It is actually our rational judgement that causes problems.” Page 59 Malcolm Gladwell wrote an entire book on this concept Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. I listened to it as an audiobook in 2014.

“The true purpose of a present is to be received. Presents are not “things”, but a means for conveying someone’s feelings.” Page 108

“Things that are cherished shine.” Page 200

Sunmark Publishing 2013

 

Book Indexing The Sacred Mirror

Happy New Year! I hope you had a restful holiday season celebrating with family and reading something new!

As well as spending a lot of time with all of our extended family, I spent a large portion of my holiday break indexing a book! The Sacred Mirror by Robert Edler is the work I had the privilege of working through this holiday. The experience and process of indexing is always thrilling! To be such an important, albeit anonymous, part of a finished book gets my adrenaline flowing. I feel elated when helping an author in this final stage of writing their book. It truly is a privilege to be entrusted with this important resource. Book indexing has been a rewarding and educational experience for me. An experience I hope to continue to pursue with more intention.

The Sacred Mirror by Robert Elder will be available in April 2016 (University of North Carolina Press). The topic of the book thoroughly discusses evangelicalism, identity, and honor culture in the deep south. With our current political climate and other civil issues hitting the headlines, the timing of this book could not be better. The whole time I was reading (and reading, and re-reading) this book I felt like many of the issues and observations Dr. Elder were making could apply to our societal structure today. I particularly find myself thinking on his observations about the shaming and guilt people of the south felt during the antebellum period as a result of their church affiliations whether Methodist, Baptist or Presbyterian . It’s quite astounding to realize that some of the sexual impurity issues “society” finds taboo to discuss or teach about today are rooted in traditions dating back to the founding of this country. Reading this book has opened my mind and understanding of the world we live in. While this book is a scholarly work intended to be a resource for those studying the antebellum time period of evangelicalism, anyone interested in understanding the roots of our nation would benefit from reading this work.

This is why I love to index books. Constantly learning something new, problem solving through a difficult entry, getting in the mindset of the end user of the book to make the index that much more effective. Indexing is not something I sought out, but it has found me. My passion for books, for learning, for reading, for helping others, for doing something unique, it all comes together when I index. It truly is a happy place for me. If you are interested in learning more about indexing, I suggest you check out the American Society for Indexing for robust resources. You may also want to grab a copy of Indexing Books by Nancy Mulvany.

The Sacred Mirror is the fifth book that I have indexed. My other indexes can be found in the backs of these books:

Emigration, Nation, Vocation: The Literature of English Emigration to Canada, 1825-1900 by Carter F. Hanson (Oct. 2009, Michigan State University Press)

Anselm (Great Medieval Thinkers) By Sandra Visser and Thomas Williams (2008, Oxford University Press)

The Devil’s Topographer: Ambrose Bierce and the American War Story by David M. Owens (Aug. 2006, Univ. of Tennessee Press)

Unintended Consequences

I was afraid this might happen. When I started this blog one of my hesitations was that it would cause me to fall behind in my actual reading. Obviously that has proven to be the case. I still have a handful of books that I’ve already read that I want to share with you, like the Martian, Samantha Shannon’s The Bone Season and The Mime Order (one of those favorite authors I mention in my About page), and most recently The Husband’s Secret. 

I feel guilty starting a new book with so many others not receiving my promised reflection. More than wanting to help a person find the right fit in their next book, I want to preserve my reflections for my sons. My older son is an avid reader. He reminds me of the thrill experienced in discovering a new world. He teaches me that every story can impact people in very different ways. We become closer by sharing what we read together.

My hope for this blog was and still is, to be able to share it with him when he is an adult with his own family. To show him that I was a young parent unsure of what I was doing, but still wanting to show him the world he could change and love and be a part of. I want these passages to give him confidence in his friendships and relationships as an adult. I hope he can find in my writing a voice that will be able to reassure him in moments of doubt.

So because of that, these posts might become more brief, but also more frequent. I am recommitting myself to this blog and this memory for my sons to discover one day. I’m currently reading Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I’m sure I’ll have lots of pictures and tips to share with you!

Ready Player One

Ready Player OneReady Player One
Published August 16, 2011
Broadway Paperbacks an imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc.
By Ernest Cline

Started June 22, 2015
Finished June 26, 2015
Pages 372

Brief synopsis:
Ready Player One is a videogamers version of a dystopian society. WADE3 and OAISIS friends Aech and Art3mis are bound together to fight the proverbial “man” in an attempt to save all that is dear to them. Ready Player One is a blast from the past of all the things we loved about the 1980s, and perhaps a few glitchy things we didn’t.

Why this book and why now:
Ready Player One has been on my to-be-read list for a little over a year. As I was getting ready for our family fishing trip to Cass Lake, Minnesota, I wanted to pack plenty of fun vacation reads, especially because I wasn’t planning to fish. Quiet cabin in the middle of northern Minnesota sounded like the perfect setting to catch up on my reading. The tone and all that I had heard about this book seemed to fit the bill for this trip.

Ready Player One was strongly recommended to me by a computer programming consultant I was working with last year. She had recommended The Martian (review to come!) which is currently one of the best books I’ve read in 2015. Following her recommendation again seemed like a wise choice. I was not disappointed!

The day I chose to read this book, I had actually had what I believe was a legitimate nervous breakdown while on our vacation trip. I am very much a planner and my in-laws are much, much more a go-with-the-flow type. After five days of playing in the opposite Myers-Briggs category, I was pretty much a mess. Reading always helps me to regain my center, in the midst of joy, grief, boredom, you name it, I have yet to find that reading the right book at the right time doesn’t help me find myself again.

This book was the perfect fit for my situation right out of the gate. The whole premise of the book was being immersed in an alternative reality. Hello! Exactly what I was trying to do! From the beginning, we see Wade3 being surrounded by people, tons of them in the place he lives, in the whole neighborhood of stacks, everywhere, there are people, but he felt so alone and disconnected there. They didn’t share his interest or passion. It was only when he found a secluded place, by himself where he could focus on his passion did he come alive. That’s not to say his alternative reality in the OASIS wasn’t without its downsides. No real life human interaction, no positive human touches, everything was simulated. The further along I read, the more and more I saw how the OASIS is already being built: Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Role Playing Games, Xbox. All of these things are distracting us from real human interaction. Myself included.

It has become part of our vernacular to say “my friend on facebook shared…”, but in all honesty, when is the last time you talked to most of the people you reference with that sentence? My husband and I, for a short while, set a curfew for electronic devices. We realized we were spending our limited time together glued to our devices, checking scores of games, checking status updates, pinterest, you know, very important marriage building activities. Those couple of weeks where we really focused on unplugging were markedly different. We felt more in synch, more connected, we were better partners and better parents.

As the adventure in Ready Player One progresses, WADE3 is forced to interact with people in real life to better his chances of winning the easter egg hunt. These moments of introduction were some of my favorite parts of the book. My favorite quote from the book came out of this collection of scenes: “I didn’t know how to connect with the people [in the real world]. I was afraid, for all of my life. Right up until I knew it was ending. That was when I realized, as terrifying and painful as reality can be, it’s also the only place where you can find true happiness.” Page 364

My two boys getting on the bus for the first day of school 2015.
My two boys getting on the bus for the first day of school 2015.

I think that’s one of the reasons we cling to some of our alternative reality. We want to capture and remember every moment of true happiness. Today, my facebook newsfeed is flooded with parents capturing the first day of school send offs. It’s so very exciting to watch the kids get on the bus, but it is terrifying and painful to let them go, to entrust them to a world we cannot control or always undo. One of my real life friends said it best “I guess this is what it’s really like to have your heart walk around outside of your body.” Terrifying, but absolutely amazing at the same time.

Recommended reading for:
If you’re looking for a realistic dystopian novel, this is not it. If you are looking for a fun, geeky/nerdy dystopian novel, this is the winner! Ready Player One has a heavy emphasis on 1980s pop culture. This book reminded me that I have never seen a Monty Python movie and must remedy that soon. I had a lot of fun talking about this book with my dad, remembering when we played Atari together and so many other videogames.

If you’re looking for a book to connect with when you are feeling lonely, a little adrift, or are up against something seemingly insurmountable, this book might be what you need. It’s also a great story to make you think about how you define what a true friend is and what friendship looks like to you.

This book would be appropriate for an older middle school student or above. I think anyone born before 1990 would benefit more from this book since so many of the pop culture references are very specific to the 1980s. The story line itself does not require a full understanding of this decade, but it greatly enhances the enjoyment of the book if you are able to pick up on the nuances.

The final word:
Ready Player One is a well written book that I will often recommend. I look forward to sharing this one with my son in a few years.

What’s your favorite video game, movie, book or song from the 1980s? If you were to create an easter egg hunt to find your fortune, what would the theme be? Let me know in the comments section!

New words learned:
If not directly defined in the book, definitions are obtained from Merriam-Webster.com
Anorak (Page 119): British slang term for an obsessive geek
Impecunious (Page 270): having little or no money

Selected quotes:
OASIS-Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation

“It was a partnership destined to alter the course of human history.” Page 53
This quote is in reference to James Donovan Halliday and his business partner Ogden Morrow, the futuristic duo intended to emulate Steve Jobs and Wozniak.

“I watch a lot of YouTube videos of cute geeky girls playing ‘80s cover tunes on ukuleles. Technically, this wasn’t part of my research, but I had a serious cute-geeky-girls-playing-ukeleles fetish that I can neither explain nor defend.” Page 63

“OASIS had evolved into something horrible. It had become a self-imposed prison for humanity. A pleasant place for the world to hide from its problems while human civilization slowly collapses, primarily due to neglect.” Page 120

“I didn’t know how to connect with the people [in the real world]. I was afraid, for all of my life. Right up until I knew it was ending. That was when I realized, as terrifying and painful as reality can be, it’s also the only place where you can find true happiness.” Page 364

Other notes:
Agent: Yfat Reiss Gendell
Editor: Julian Pavia
Foundry Literary and Media: Hannah Brown Gordon, Cecilia Campbell-Westline, Stephanie Abou

What was your favorite video or arcade game growing up and why? Let me know in the comments section!