Monday, June 22, 2009

Still Alive and Reading

It has been a month since I last posted. I'm not really sure why, either. I've been reading, and I've been keeping up with everyone else's blogs. But, for whatever reason I can't seem to find the time to post. I enjoy blogging immensely, but it has begun to stress me out a little bit. I'm way behind on my reading challenges, as well. Therefore, I'm making some mid-year resolutions. I contemplated giving up the blog, but I do enjoy it. So, as a compromise with myself, I will no longer stress over how long it has been since my last post. Hopefully, you'll keep reading it even if I don't add to it weekly. I'm also going to drop all of my reading challenges. I love the idea of reading challenges, but I just can't stick to a reading schedule. I'm a mood reader and don't want to feel like I have to stick to a timetable. There is just way too much going on in my life for me to stress over one of the things that brings me the most joy -- reading. Maybe, one day when I'm retired I'll be able to devote more time to blogging and can join the ranks of some of you super bloggers who post daily. It's just not realistic for me right now. O.K., if you're still reading this, I do have a few quickie reviews just to catch up.

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
I liked this book even though it is rather dark. It's definitely not one you want to read if you're already depressed. It's about two sisters who are raised by a succession of family members, all of whom have different degrees of eccentricity and/or mental illness. This is the first book I've read by this author, and it was the first book she wrote. I have Gilead and Home in the tbr pile. I'm not sure how similar they will be to this book, but I've heard great things about them both. My favorite thing about this book is Robinson's language. Her prose is beautiful.

Valeria's Last Stand by Marc Fitten
This was a really fun book. It reminds me a little of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society in that it is funny while also dealing with serious issues. At it's heart, is Valeria who has spent her entire life alone and standing in judgment of everyone in her tiny village. Unexpectedly, she falls for the local potter, which sets into motion a string of events that changes the little village and Valeria forever. This book is not necessarily on the same literary level as Housekeeping; however, it is a perfect antidote the melancholy you may feel after reading Robinson's book.

The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton
I read this book for one of my book clubs. I had heard of the real camel bookmobile and assumed that this was a nonfiction account. However, this is indeed a novel, which is loosely based on the Kenyan Camel Bookmobile. The heart of this story for me is the culture clash between the traditional ways of the itinerant villagers and the well-meaning American librarian who wants to bring literacy to the desert. This was probably one of our better discussions for this reason. Western society tends to assume that we have all the answers and that our way of life is always better. However, what happens if people are happy living the life they are living? This is brought up in the novel when someone brings to Fi's attention the fact that even though Westerners are literate, they rarely know their ancestors just a couple generations back. In stark contrast, the nomadic tribes enjoy an oral tradition in which they remember, recite, and pass on the stories of their forefathers. Of course, I believe in the value of literacy and education, but we must always be careful to try to understand and respect the cultures we encounter and not just assume that different means not as good.

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
I don't really even know where to start with this book. I know people either usually love or hate Woolf's work. I'm quickly falling into the LOVE category. Her writing is so different and does take a little getting used to; however, it is well worth the effort. It is so difficult to explain. She tells very intricate stories, and the reader gets to know quite a few characters all from inside the characters own heads. There is very little direct dialogue and very little background information. I'm not sure how she pulls it off, but it works. To say that her writing is gorgeous is an understatement. In this book, we get a glimpse into the lives of the Ramsey family as they live out one summer at the beach. Again, it defies description. If you haven't tried her writing before, give it a try. Just know that you can't read this fast or you'll miss too much. This is the kind of writing that you should linger over. In fact, I found myself rereading the same passages over and over.


Mad Housewife said...

I've enjoyed your blog and am glad you're back.

The Marc Fitten book sounds very appealing. And I'm probably the only one who hasn't gotten around to The Guersey Literary and Potao Peel Pie Scoiety, so that's another one to add to my list...

Charley said...

Mark Fitten stopped by the bookstore where I work not too long ago as part of his tour of 100 independent bookstores. I haven't read his book yet, but he seemed like a really nice man.

Diane said...

No need to stress yourself out over a blog. As long as you are doing well, happy and reading --that's all that counts! (I enjoyed Housekeeping; Robinson and Gilead too, but her latest Home (not so much).

Sarah said...

Good to see you bloging again! I'm a mood reader as well, so don't join up with challenges. I also don't have the time or inclination to blog daily, although I enjoy the blogs of some people who do.

I'm glad to hear Housekeeping is good as I have been meaning to try Robinson's work.

I agree with you about Woolf- I'm in the live category, her writing is so good you do re-read it/read it aloud.

BooksPlease said...

I enjoy reading your blog and am glad you didn't decide to give it up. I agree about the reading challenges - I get full of enthusiasm when I read about them and then, well I read other books. I'm a mood reader too and sometimes the thought that I "should" read a book because of a challenge is enough to turn me off the book.

I am retired and yes in theory I have more time for blogging, but I still find myself squeezing it in between doing other things.

Thanks for the reviews. I wish I coud condense my thoughts as well as you do. The only book you list that I've read is To the Lighthouse, which I loved too. Valeria's Last Stand appeals to me right now from your description.

JoAnn said...

I'm so glad you're 'still alive and reading' and applaud your decisions on challenges and blogging! You need to keep the fun in all of this!

The only book you mentioned that I've read is Housekeeping, and I completely agree with you. The writing was just beautiful and it's what kept me going. I haven't read her other books...for some reason Gilead just doesn't appeal to me. I do have To The Lighthouse on my shelf though. Every time you write about Woolf, I want to pick up one of her books. Don't know what I'm waiting for! It's good to hear from you!

Rebecca Reid said...

I completely understand that feeling. I like these mini-reviews. Don't go away forever, but don't feel stressed to have to post. That takes away the point, I'd say!

Lisa said...

mad housewife, thanks for the support! Let me know what you think if you read either one of these books. I absolutely loved them, but I did hear a few negative reviews of the Guernsey.

charley, Fitten came to my hometown bookstore, but I didn't make it by to meet him. I love meeting authors even if I haven't read their work. However, it usually makes me want to read it.

diane, I know I shouldn't stress, but I fall victim to thinking that I should be able to do it all, which just doesn't happen. Sometimes, the followup/sequel doesn't manage to live up to the hype.

sarah, glad to hear from a fellow mood reader. I also love following the blogs of those who manage to post daily. I just have to realize I can't do that. What is your favorite Woolf book? I would have a really hard time choosing just one.

booksplease, thanks for reading. I also enjoy reading your blog. I know what you mean about still having to squeeze things in. When I'm on vacation or have a few days off, I usually don't read any more than I normally do. I'm not sure what happens with the time. I guess I just have too many things that I like to do. Valeria's Last Stand is a really fun book. I hope you try it.

joann, thanks, I feel better already. I definitely don't want to do anything to take the fun out of reading. Woolf is different from anyone else I've ever read. It takes concentration and time, but it is well worth it. Although, I know of quite a few people who don't like her writing. I'd be interested to see what you think.

rebecca, you're exactly right. You know, I kind of like the mini-reviews myself. I may just stick with that format, especially when I feel pushed for time.

Nymeth said...

When blogging becomes stressful, it's a good idea to take some time off. And when challenges begin to feel like chores, I say throw them out the window and follow your reading whims!

I too was convinced that The Camel Bookmobile was non-fiction. It sounds like it raises some very interesting questions, namely about what exactly "educated" means.

Lisa said...

nymeth, you're so right! I guess I just need confirmation from all you sweet bloggers. I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought The Camel Bookmobile was non-fiction. I guess it's because I knew there really was a camel bookmobile. Yes, the book does raise some good questions that challenge western perceptions.

Tara said...

It's nice to see you posting! Like you, I am busy and there is just no way I could post every day! I make it a point not to try stress myself out about it - no reading challenges for me.

Housekeeping sounds amazing. I always, always, hear great things about MR's writing. I need to give it a try someday.

Dorothy W. said...

It's hard work sometimes keeping a blog going! I'm glad you're staying with it, and I think it makes sense to post only when you really want to, even if that means posting less often. That's what's great about feedreaders -- I get your posts no matter how frequently or seldom you write.

Lisa said...

Tara, I know everyone is so busy these days. I guess I just put too much pressure on myself to keep up with those who are able to post religiously. I'll be anxious to hear what you think if you read MR. I have only read this one book. So, I'm not sure if it's representative or not. Thanks for the encouragement.

dorothy, thanks! I started out doing this for me in order to keep up with my reading in a more organized way. So, I guess I shouldn't worry so much about losing readers. I don't have a huge following, but, the readers I have are awesome!!! I've gotten so many encouraging comments from lovely bloggers like you.

Lezlie said...

The Camel Bookmobile always looks interesting to me.

As for the other, only blog when you want to. Your blog, your rules! We'll still be here. :-)


Iliana said...

Well, I am so glad you are sticking around with us in the book blogging world! :)

I totally know what you mean about not wanting to stress over challenges, etc. I've been thinking a lot about the changes I've seen in the book blogging community over the past 5 years and I do feel that it's gotten a bit more overwhelming in a way. So many blogs, book tours, etc. So, I've been doing a bit of thinking about what I want for my blog going forward. Not making any changes necessarily but just assessing things if you will :)

Anyway sorry to ramble. Just wanted to say I really enjoy your reviews and sharing the book talk!

Lisa said...

lezlie, it is a really interesting book. I'm really glad I read it, and I'm not sure I would have had it not been for it being a book club pick. Thanks for the encouragement.

iliana, I guess it's easy to get caught up in all the excitement over challenges, tours, etc. I just have to realize what is manageable for me with my schedule. It sounds like you have a good handle on yours. Thanks for the comments.

Literary Feline said...

I am glad to see you loved To the Lighthouse. I've been considering picking that one up for the Classics Challenge, which I have yet to start but really should have already.

It is so good to have you back again. You have to do what works best for you blogging wise, and it sounds like you are doing that. :-) You're stuck with me as a reader.

Lisa said...

literary feline, that is so sweet. Thank you! I do hope you give To the Lighthouse a try. It would be a perfect book for the Classics challenge.

Izzy said...

As a former librarian, I am really impressed with your blog! I totally agree with your comments on Virginia Woolf. It is ages since I read her - you have inspired me to go and rummage on the shelves and take her down again. I would love if you would consider listing my blog on your list of book blogs next time you are updating. Thanks again and best regards.


happy said...

Valeria's Last Stand by Marc Fitten is interesting. The author did compose a fine debut novel. I am intrigued as to the fact that the author plans this novel to be the first of the Paprika trilogy.

Mystica said...

I also had heard of the camel bookmobile and the work that was being done. Greg Mortenson seemed to have struck a right balance with his schools in Northern Pakistan without causing any ill feeling to the local inhabitants.
Its a balancing on a tightrope act to do what you think is good for a community, also keeping in mind their own views and ideas.