Snow Day! Perfect time to update the blog. Let's start by catching up on all these books. So many books.
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Ok, this is obviously notthat "shades of grey" story, so let's move past that immediately, please.
Instead, this is the story of a Lina, a 15 year old Lithuanian girl, who is taken from her home along with her mother and brother during World War II when Russians invaded the Baltic States. She, along with many others, were put on trains and taken to work camps. She eventually is taken to Siberia.
It's historical fiction, so people actually were put through this, which is something I wasn't aware of.
Great book. As I said, I wasn't aware that all of that had actually happened, but the book (though fictional) did a great job of telling the story of those people and some of the horrors that they faced, without being too graphic. I got caught up in the story and the characters, and the very simple writing.
And I got to the end and was like "What? That's the end?"
It was a great book, and I definitely recommend it.
Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
A fantasy-type story set in some other land where there are ruling families who continually usurp the throne of the realm. As the story opens, Robert is king, having taken the throne from the dragon family and exiled the remaining two members.
What the heck?! It was a freaking THOUSAND pages and absolutely NOTHING happened!!
Can you tell I'm still upset about it?
Ok, so I was reading it. And I was hating it. And I would have totally given up 100-200 pages in, but I know so many people who are super into this, and I felt like in order to be taken seriously when I said it was awful, I had to actually finished it. So I did.
And it was awful. I totally hated it. And nothing happened. It was a THOUSAND pages, just to introduce some characters.
Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington
This novel tells the story of Alice Bliss, a 15 year old girl whose father signs up with the National Guard and is deployed to Iraq/Afghanistan. Her family struggles with the absence of her father, and she does most of all because he's her favorite.
I cried through the entire book.
It was a short read, fairly predictable, and just entertainment. But the character caught me, and I really did get pretty emotionally invested. So it's was a tiring read because I was crying.
If you are up for that kind of book, I'd recommend it.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Cheryl Strayed writes a memoir about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail which runs from Mexico into Canada. She took three months and hiked 1,100 (or so) miles.
Scene that freaked me out:
"There was the fact of the moon and the fact that I was sleeping out in the open on my tarp.
There was the fact that I had woken because it seemed like small cool hands were gently patting me and the fact that small cool hands were gently patting me.
And then there was the final fact of all, which was a fact more monumental than even the moon: the fact that those small cool hands were not hands, but hundreds of small cool black frogs."
Me reading this: Ah! Ah! Aaaaaahhhhhhhhh! No! Ew!
I wasn't sure I could keep reading. But I did.
This story is set up as how Strayed found herself on the PCT, how she overcame her past and huge obstacles, and figured out who she is and who she wants to be.
She has some huge obstacles, her mother dies, she gets divorced, and she is a heroine user (she claims she was never an addict, but isn't that what all addicts say?), and a one-night stand-er. So she goes out on the PCT and learns that she is woefully unprepared. And she does learn a lot while she is hiking alone. But I was kind of disappointed by some of her actions which suggested to me that this whole being "found" wasn't really any different than being lost. For example, she is at her last stopping point, and goes into the town to collect her box of supplies. She meets a guy and goes into his camper with him and takes the chewable opium that he offers her. Then she meets another guy and spends two days sleeping with him. And I'm like, ok, if you are still doing drugs and sleeping with strangers, how has your life changed?
I thought the story of the hike was really inspiring. I loved the talk about the physical challenge, the beauty of nature, the time with her thoughts, and the people that she met.
But it felt really Beatnik to me, which since it was set in 1995... or 1998, seemed really out of place. But also I've never been able to understand the Beatnik culture. So it was a little weird.
Overall, it's a mixed review. I really enjoyed parts of it and other parts were really weird.
The Beauty Experiment by Phoebe Baker Hyde
Phoebe Baker Hyde is living with her husband and baby daughter in Hong Kong and has an experience with a certain red dress what pushes her over the edge and leads her to decide to do an experiment and take herself out of the female beauty world. She realizes that she is inundated by all these messages that tell her if she will just buy this dress, or that lipstick, or that concealer that she will be beautiful and have the life that she imagines, and she realizes that it just isn't true. She also realizes that she has a super vicious internal Voice that is promoting all of that and making her feel really worthless, and she wonders if she can silence the Voice by not participating in the beauty/fashion world.
So she sets up some fairly intense rules for herself. She cuts her hair short, no makeup, and no shopping for new clothes for an entire year.
Then she tells this story as movements between her original experiment in 2007-2008, her "present day" 2011-2012, and results from a survey she conducted.
I was fascinated by this book. Ok, I'm a total minimalist. I wear a tiny bit of mascara and no other makeup, I just cut all my hair off, and I go clothes shopping like twice a year. So I don't really get the buy-in to the whole makeup culture anyway. But I totally understand the message and pervasive idea that if we will just do _____, then we will be beautiful/happy/fulfilled/life will look the way we always imagined. And that I thought was one of the most important things that she discusses that she came to a new understanding of through her experiment.
I was also really interested in all the things that came out for her as she was doing her experiment. At the start, she said it was all about the beauty culture, but as she goes through, she realizes how many things she has tied to that beauty culture.
A Favorite Part:
"My search for inner beauty--or whatever I thought I meant by it--has far outlasted my experiment and seeped into every corner of my life. Although it's still easy to wish for otherness, it's better, if harder, to become the parent and partner I truly am, and to find beauty in the voice I already have."
Final Recommendation: Please go read this book, and then talk to me about it!