Monday, April 24, 2017

March Reads

6 books, including one picture book and one audio, not a bad month of reading.  Here they are in no particular order.

Case Histories (Jackson Brodie #1)
Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
"Life After Life" is the first book I read by Kate Atkinson.  I really enjoyed it and so was looking forward to reading some of Kate's earlier works.  Jackson Brodie, the detective, and main character is a likeable guy.  Not "teddy bear" likeable, but down on his luck, needing a break, type of likeable.  The book starts with Case 1- involving a little girl who goes missing from her backyard one summer night when camping out with one of her 3 sisters.  Case 2- involves a young clerical worker who is killed in front of coworkers at her father's law firm.  Case 3- a new mother is losing her mind due to her crying, unconsolable baby and her demanding husband.  Her actions tell a brutal story.  Jackson Brodie gets to know all three cases as he tries to solve all three.  These stories intertwine, and once I got over the fact that the book wasn't written in short story form and the cases all did connect I was a much happier reader  At the beginning of the book I struggled with where the author was leading me.  Overall easy read, but not as enjoyable as "Life After Life". Jackson Brodie was enjoyable and so I just might have to try another Jackson Brodie mystery. 

Holes (Holes, #1)
Holes by Louis Sachar
On spring break the kids and I listened to this story.  I hate to admit I hadn't read (listened) to the story before this.  My son had already read the book, of course :). I found the story to be sad and a tad bit depressing.  The main character, Stanley, has to spend time at a detention camp for young boys.  He quickly learns that his main job will be to dig holes.  The warden is wanting to find treasure and she thinks the boys can dig the holes and locate the loot.  I can't say too much more for fear of giving the story away, but I did enjoy it, but think my kids enjoyed it even more.  Good family read/listen. 

Everything, Everything
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
I really enjoyed this book.  It is a young adult story about a girl who has a disease- think "bubble boy" and she can't go outside her home and she only every gets to see her mom and her housekeeper/health aide Carla.  Then one day things change when a tall, dark haired boy moves in next door.  The book is written not only in words, but pictures.  (Reminded me of some of the graphic novels my kids read).  I liked this book so much I picked it for book club in May.  I'm hoping the bookies like it as much as I did.  We've been reading some "heavy" stuff in book club, so although this story is somewhat heavy, overall I came away from this story with hope and happiness.  We all need a little hope and happiness amongst the real life and fictional tragedies in our reading lives. 

Serena by Ron Rash
I've joined another book club.  This one started out with some focus on picking books that have been made into movies.  The first book we read was Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty.  We read the book and then got together for dinner and watching the first episode of the HBO show made from the book.  Then we all put our picks for our next read into a hat and the next book was drawn.  Just happened to be the book I put into the hat.  I didn't know much about this book/story, but the fact that Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence played the main characters in the movie was indication that the book couldn't be that bad.  I have enjoyed most of the movies the two have played in either together or separate so I trusted them to have picked a good story to be involved with.  I was not disappointed.  This story of lumber baron Pemberton and his bride Serena is a story about so many different things: love, greed, power, wealth, the lengths a person or people will do to have it all.  An added bonus is a third character Rachel Harmon who births the illegitimate son of Pemberton soon after Serena and Pemberton are married.  Rachel's character was likely my favorite out of the three main character.  The setting was really perfect for this book and I felt the writing style depicted the 1920 Appalachian/Smoky Mountain atmosphere perfectly. 

Stone Fox
Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner
One of my monthly goals is to read a book with one of my children.  Either together, as I do with my daughter, or separately with my son and then discuss it.  My daughter is a huge dog lover.  To support her love of dogs I try to find books with dogs as the main character or theme of the story.  This book my sister gave to my daughter, as she knows her love for dogs, too.  It was overall not a real feel good story, but it has a happy ending which helps remove the other sad events that take place throughout the story.  The main character is a young boy who is trying to take care for his sick grandfather and also pay bills on the family home, while grandpa is sick in bed.  It has a little bit of a "little house on the prairie" vibe.  The boy's actions in the books remind me of how Laura Ingalls Wilder would have reacted if she were in his place.  A fun book to read with my 3rd grader.

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles
The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas
I had heard about this book in "The Book Page" magazine that most local libraries carry.  The description of the book just sounded so magical I added it to my "to read" list. I was a little surprised when I went looking for the book, because I didn't realize it was going to be a picture book.  I was a  little sad it wasn't a longer story because I thought it really could've made some good realistic fiction.  The main character is a loner and the following is a good description of the basis for the book (from goodreads)...It is his task to open any bottles found at sea and make sure that the messages are delivered. He loves his job, though he has always wished that, someday, one of the letters would be addressed to him. Then one day he gets a message in the bottle, addressed to no one in particular, the message is an invite to a party.  He doesn't know what to do because he always wants to make sure the message in the bottle is taken care.  So if there is a party he might as well show up for it because he doesn't want to disappoint the bottle's messenger.  You'll have to read the book to find out what happens to our bottle keeper.  If you haven't picked up a good picture book in awhile this is a great one to start with.

The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue Des Martyrs
The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue Des Martyrs by Elaine Sciolino
My trip to Paris with my son is swiftly approaching.  Due to this trip I wanted to try and pick a book to read a month that had some relationship with France, Paris, the French, etc.  I was lucky to pick up this great book at a library sale ($2 for hardback).  The author, Elaine Sciolino, knows how to write and she should since she was the former Paris Bureau chief for the New York Times.  She did a great job of describing  this street in Paris and capturing the atmosphere of the people, businesses, buildings and houses that grace this street.  This street can be found lying between the 9th  and 18th arrondissement (district)/ Montmarte, Paris.  I truly felt like I could smell the bread, hear the street sounds, and close my eyes and visualize this street while reading this book. She did a great job of weaving personal stories in with describing the street and its patrons.  We definitely will be taking this street as we walk to the Sacre Couer of Montmarte, a beautiful basilica with one of the best views of Paris- or so I've been told.  This was one of those books after reading I so meant to write the author and thank her for sharing her experience and opening up this street of Paris to me.  Maybe I'll write her after our trip to Paris and tell her how the book affected my visit and allowed me to traverse this area of Paris. 

Happy Reading friends.. and as always any book suggestions or comments on the above books I'm always all ears. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

My time away from Facebook...

So I started Lent early this year. I gave up Facebook for Lent.

I decided to give up Facebook for multiple reasons.  Here are the major ones:

1. It was a total "time suck" for me- I was wasting so much time scrolling through Facebook.  I was literally throwing away minutes or hours of my day.  Couldn't I be doing something more productive with that time? 

2. I was getting an ulcer, or at least I felt like it.  I was daily reading a ton of angry, negative, and mean posts.  The election had a lot to do with this.  Friends that don't share my political/life views would post negative comments.  Friends that did share my political/life views would post negative comments.  I couldn't really get away from it. I was very disappointed after the election and couldn't get out of my negative funk.   I'm a "feeler" and when people are negative around me it really gets under my skin and affects my own being.  All of this negativity also got me thinking about why we post what we post on FB.  Do I think I'm going to sway some person's mind about a political/religious/"big time" life decision/subject?  Nope likely not.  But I am likely to piss someone I call a friend off.  Some of you may say well maybe that person shouldn't be your friend then.  I think as I age I start to realize some of my favorite people in this world  don't agree with me 100% on all the "big" topics (i.e. politics, women's rights, religion, parenting, etc). However, because they don't agree with me or I with them does that mean I throw those relationships away? Stepping away from FB would not only filter out the bad, but also give me time to think about when I return to FB how I want my presence on social media to be.

3. The kicker for me- what really pushed me off the cliff and in a nose dive away from FB was when I had to "unfollow" a close family member.  This person has shared, inappropriately a picture of my beautiful kids and their cousins, with a total stranger who then had our kid's picture on their timeline.  It weirded me out.  The picture was totally innocent, a great shot of the cousins enjoying summer, but when you start to realize everything you put on FB can be shared with anyone- strangers, etc it makes you think is this form of communication really worth it?

So I took a break.  It was really lovely.  I didn't really miss it. I do feel like I was using my now free FB time- I read more, I interacted with my kids and husband more.  The time off social media flew by and I felt so much more happier without it in my life.

Now there were a few things I did miss while off FB. I wasn't kept abreast of all local events/gatherings. I missed keeping in touch with friends who live far away. I especially missed seeing pictures of family members.  Social media does make it easy to forge friendships that may otherwise not be sustainable due to distance.  For instance, I'm on a couple of different nurse practitioner boards and many of my colleagues on those boards live all over the US.  Not having FB to stay in touch with these amazing colleagues and friends was a negative. 

So how do you combat that issue-  distant family and friends?  One idea I had was I like to write letters (partially I think I'm just addicted to stationary and cards) and so I could send those friends letters and help keep the good old postal service in business.  I could also just take the time and send e-mails or utilize the messenger application on FB and send FB buddies messages.  Last, but not least I could actually pick up the phone and call these friends and talk the old fashioned way- by phone. 

For now I'll continue to have a FB account, but I'm not wanting to go back to reading/scrolling feeds countless minutes of the day.  I will utilize some of ideas above and message, e-mail, send a letter and even call my friends and family because having people in my life truly does make me happy. 

I of course would love your feedback on what you think about taking a vacation from FB.  Have you ever taken a hiatus from social media?  What was it like?  If not, do you think you could take a vacay from FB/Twitter/Instagram, etc?  I bet you could and you might notice yourself a little bit more content.