Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Serious Lack of Productivity...

School has been out for two and half weeks and I feel like I have officially hit a wall. After dealing with the craziness of the school year, all I wanted to do was nothing, and that is essentially how I have been spending the last three weeks....doing nothing. Sure, I have walked 4+ miles every day and done a little bit of cleaning around the house, but nothing super productive and it is kind of boring.

I have decided to change that today. The next few weeks are going to be a little crazy with a beach trip, yearbook camp, and AP training...all three back to back to back, but once those are done and out of the way, I am hoping to actually spend the remaining five weeks of summer being productive. And I am sure my husband will appreciate me actually doing something during the day while he is at work too.

I have three major things on my summer to-do list:
1. paint at least one room in the house
2. organize office/guest room so that it is functional
3. begin organizing documents for teaching license recertification

While I cannot really do the first item until we hit our one year mark in the house and the builder comes to fix the cracks and nail pops that have appeared over the last twelve months, I think all three are completely doable once I return from the three weeks of crazy.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Book Review: In the Unlikely Event

School is officially out for the summer, which means more time to relax, work on things around the house, and, of course, read. After a sixteen-year hiatus in the world of adult fiction, Judy Blume, who is well-known for her children and young adult titles, such as Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Superfudge, Blubber, and Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, returns with In the Unlikely Event, a hugely engaging and solid adult novel full of dept and humanity.

image courtesy of Amazon.com
In the Unlikely Event takes place in Blume's hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey during the early 1950s, when the city was shattered by three plane crashes within two months. The neighbors in the diverse, working class city are confused and frightened--how likely is such a thing to happen not once, but three times? Unsure of what is behind such a thing, many rumors begin to fly through the town...communists, aliens, another war.

Fifteen year old Miri Ammerman lives in Elizabeth with her single mother, uncle, and grandmother. She is the center of a large cast of character who tries to navigate this strange period when passenger planes fall from the skies into the center of their lives. Miri's uncle is a newspaper reporter and he gives firsthand reports of each crash, going back and interviewing everyone, and reporting analysis of the crashes. His first hand accounts are included in the novel, in newspaper format, which adds another layer of depth to the storyline.

In the Unlikely Event is a fully engaging novel, with a cast of characters that is almost too big, I had a lot of those, "Wait a minute, who is that again?" moments while reading. That was one of the major issues I had with the novel, as it was sometimes very difficult to figure out how each character fit into the story and what their background was. 

I give the novel an 8.5 out of 10 and I really hope Blume's talk of this being her last adult novel is just that...talk.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Book Review: Finders Keepers

I do not like scary things and for some reason, I used to think Stephen King only wrote scary books, so I refused to read any of them. My husband, on the other hand, LOVES Stephen King; in fact, The Stand is one of his favorite books and he buys King's novels like I buy versions of Harry Potter. When 11/22/63 was published in November 2011, David kept telling me how awesome it was, continually mentioning that it was more of a historical/science fiction-esque novel and there was nothing scary in it. I was intrigued, mainly because I find the Kennedy's fascinating, so I decided to give it a try...and read it in three days. Since then, I have read more of King's novels, and even gave It a try (could not finish it--nightmare inducing!). 

Last summer, I bought Mr. Mercedes for David as a just because present and ended up reading it myself after not liking anything else I picked up. I really liked the storyline and that it included so many elements of the mystery/detective genre, so I was super excited to learn that it was the first book in a trilogy.

image courtesy of Amazon.com
Just like Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers opens with a grisly murder scene; however, that and the return of Hodges, Holly, and Jerome, the heroes from the first book, are really the only similarities between the two novels. Where Mr. Mercedes was more of a straightforward detective/murder mystery, Finders Keepers is a literary thriller.

Rather than picking up where Mr. Mercedes left off, we instead meet Morris, the terrifying villain, and Pete, the teenaged hero. The two characters are separated by more than four decades and are incredibly different from one another, but what causes their lives to intersect is their shared passion for the writings of John Rothstein, a reclusive JD Salinger-type author.

The first third of the novel is pure and powerful storytelling, something that I am beginning to see is what King is fantastic at as I read more of his work. This part of the novel spans four decades, from the murder of Rothstein in the 1970s to the economic downturn in the US in the early 2000s to the murders accounted for in Mr. Mercedes. With the scene set, the final two thirds of the novel are complete, white-knuckle thriller. It is a not a mystery or a "who-done-it," as the reader knows who the bad guy is from the first chapter, but regardless, you find yourself on the edge of your seat (or in  y case, awake at 2:00am) as Pete desperately tries to save his family from Morris, all while Hodges, Holly, and Jerome are trying to save Pete.

Interspersed throughout the latter half of the novel are some truly chilling scenes between Hodges and Brady, the psychopathic murder from Mr. Mercedes, that seem to be setting us up for a terrifying final novel.

I give Finders Keepers a 10 out of 10 and highly recommend it (especially to David who needs to get in gear and read Mr. Mercedes as well).
  On a completely unrelated side note, I literally had to stop reading about 100 pages in, go into the office to grab a highlighter, and mark this line: "For readers, one of life's most electrifying discoveries is that they are readers--not just capable of doing it, but in love with it." Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone did that for me in sixth grade, but never have I seen such a beautiful way of describing it. This line is definitely going to be prominently displayed on my book wall when school starts back up in September, so thank you, Mr. King. :)