June 28, 2014

TSS | June Wrap-up & July TBR

I've been over on YouTube a lot lately posting videos in the community we refer to as "BookTube." I haven't always remembered to cross post my bookish videos here on the blog, but I will try in future to remember to do this! You can find me on YouTube at http://youtube.com/MsTerriB

I managed to actually read some of the books that were on my June TBR stack (I'm notorious for creating lists & stacks and then completely ignoring them) and you will see them here in my June Wrap-up video. Since I didn't think my July TBR warranted its own video, I included the books I'll be reading in the coming month. Enjoy!


Bonus stupid picture (screenshot from the video):

What goes on video, stays on video.

The Sunday Salon.com

The Sunday Salon is a weekly virtual get together where readers share thoughts about their reading. We write about books and reading on our own blogs and then visit and chat with other saloners through the comments feature.

June 27, 2014

Video | #FridayReads June 27, 2014

Here's what is on my reading stack for the weekend. One of them I will probably finish over the weekend. The other is a wee bit more long term than that!



June 25, 2014

The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

The Sirens of Titan is Kurt Vonnegut's second novel, published in 1959. The story is told by a future historian and takes place over a forty-plus year time span, "sometime between the Second World War and the Third Great Depression." It is a romp through time and space and can be, quite honestly, a bit hard to follow. But then, there is a reason why we at least perceive ourselves within a linear and defined time/space continuum. Well, at least most of us do. I don't really know what I'm talking about, but reading Vonnegut has that effect on me.

There are three main characters in The Sirens of Titan: Malachi Constant, Winston Miles Rumfoord, and Rumfoord's wife, Beatrice. Vonnegut builds up all three characters and then uses that build up to tear them down. (Who does he think he is? God? Hey, maybe this plays into the story. Hmmm ....)

Rumfoord is a bit of a prophet figure. Beatrice made me start thinking about Dante's Divine Comedy, but I'm not really sure where my brain was trying to go. Let's just say there might be something to that. Or not. 'The excesses of Beatrice were excesses of reluctance." Maybe that is why I was thinking of Dante. That and the name "Beatrice." And I'm not sure what was up with poor Malachi. I'm sure he is a type ... or ... a type of a type .... (Oh Vonnegut, you REALLY messed with my mind in this book.)

There is also an alien. A machine alien. With inflatable feet. His name is Salo. He's got a missing part that plays a big part in the novel. To tell you more would be spoilerish. So, I won't. "The machine is no longer a machine. The machine's contacts are corroded, the bearings fouled, his circuits shorted, and his gears stripped. His mind buzzes and pops like the mind of an Earthling - fizzes and overheats with thoughts of love, honor, dignity, rights, accomplishments, integrity, independence." Aliens in science fiction are often foils to humanity and help us define our human nature, and so Salo fills this purpose. I think.

The Sirens of Titan is a morality tale. It is satire that is somewhat humorous, but ultimately sad and depressing. The characters are powerless. I think they are powerless. I think I'm supposed to think that. Yeah, kinda bleak.

The central idea of the book is: What is the meaning of life? What is the purpose of human existence? I won't tell you how Vonnegut answers these questions, but if you've been paying attention at all here you can probably guess.

Some random thoughts because, honestly, I don't know how to incorporate these into a review:
  • Vonnegut smacks down organized religion yet honors personal belief.
  • The Church of God the Utterly Indifferent (I'm sure there is a whole theological discussion just in this name.)
  • Free will: Yes or no? (Not really answered and kinda argumentative loop-ish, just like in real life.)
  • Earth as God's spaceship (I'm telling you, there is some whacked stuff here people!)
  • I'm pretty sure Douglas Adams was influenced by this novel.
This novel is about Ideas with a capital "I". If you like Ideas, satire, social commentary, characters representative of types or other literary characters then you will like The Sirens of Titan.If you need a plot that hangs together well, characters that are developed with understandable motives then you might be a bit bewildered as to why some of us actually like this book.

If you find Vonnegut's satire and humor tiresome and/or depressing, you might find that you like (can tolerate?) his writing in short bursts; try his short stories in Welcome to the Monkey House.


Edited to include a link to my video review on YouTube > http://youtu.be/toXsf2f93h0

June 21, 2014

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential was first published in 2000. He wrote it for fellow cooks and those in the restaurant biz. Bourdain wrote it to "sound like [he was] talking, at say ... ten o'clock on a Saturday night, after a busy dinner rush, [him] and a few cooks hanging around the kitchen, knocking back a few beers and talking shit." This is exactly what it sounds like. It was a surprise to Bourdain when the book was more widely read by the general public and then, of course, criticized for being a blustery piece of tell-all expose. It is blustery, and Bourdain freely admits this, but that was not the intent nor the audience. Bourdain tells it like it is. He pulls no punches and you get a good look at what really happens in the cooking world.

Bourdain has a rough and biting sense of humor, but he doesn't use that humor to tear others down and is often self-deprecating. I like it. He reflects on what it takes to be successful in the cooking world. You've got to have a sense of humor about it or you won't survive.

Bourdain talks tough, but he is a hopeless romantic. Just read the "Mission to Tokyo" chapter to see some of this. A lot of Bourdain's bluster is a macho New York cover and partly what has allowed him to survive in a tough world. I do look forward to reading his more recent book, Medium Raw to see if the older Bourdain confronts his younger blustery self.

One of the characteristics which I admire is Bourdain's apparent ability to take people as they are, recognizing that we are all a bit of a mess but still worthy of respect. He is a curious person, interested in the world and people around him, always up for new experiences (sometimes to his detriment), and willing to take responsibility for his thrill seeking behaviors.

I read Kitchen Confidential out loud to my husband. Bourdain's writing style matches his voice (if you watch his TV series, Parts Unknown, you'll know what I mean). Many of the chapters can be read as stand alone articles, yet there is a cohesive story told through the whole.

I would recommend this book to those curious about Bourdain, and to those who have worked in the restaurant business or are interested in it and want an inside look. Those who are considering a career as a chef might want to read it to get a sense of what they are likely to experience; the chapter titled, "A Day in the Life" gives an inside look that will scare your pants off! He also offers a chapter with advice for those who do choose to pursue this career path.

I loved this book. It has been accused of being an expose. It has been described as both memoir and documentary. I think it is a love story. It is a wonderful homage to a business and life that has been both brutal and ultimately fulfilling.

Video version of my review: http://youtu.be/ekMg9hLWbKc


June 17, 2014

Top Ten Books On My Summer TBR!

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created at The Broke and the Bookish

I love to think I will get a lot of reading done during the summer months, but I often end up reading less because of summer activities and heavy workload. Nonetheless, I do have some books that I would like to read sooner rather than later. Maybe writing them down will help me stay focused. Who knows. I can try, right? So without further ado …

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro Story about postwar England? Yes please! I've read passages that just sound so lovely. I really do need to get on this one and quit saving it.

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut This is part of my Vonnegut project. I want to get a good sense of the author and his writings so am in the process of reading many of his books in a fairly short period of time.

This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz Love, longing and "the inevitable weakness of the human heart" (blurb on back cover). Isn't this what summer reading is all about?

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee Reader confession time: I have never read this modern classic. I think I need to fix this reading gap.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter Takes place on the Italian coastline circa 1962. I test read a few passages and I liked the writing. It also seemed stylish. Also, the cover is GORGEOUS. And if that wasn't enough, NPR calls this book "a literary miracle." I'm such a sucker.

Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear I just love Winspear's character, Maisie Dobbs. These books are found in the mystery section of most bookstores, but I wish they would just categorize them in fiction. They really are refreshingly different.

Hell Is Empty by Craig Johnson I'm in love with Longmire … I mean, Robert Taylor … um, isn't Robert Taylor really Longmire?? Anyway, I loved the books before the TV show and this is where I'm at in the series.

Matilda by Roald Dahl I loved this movie so much and have never read Roald Dahl.

Aya by Marguerite Abouet & Clement Oubrerie This is a graphic novel about the golden time in the Ivory Coast, 1978. There is a tendency by some to lump the countries of Africa together and have a single image of what it means to be African. This graphic novel challenges that image. Deirdre (Didi) brought this book to my attention. Visit Didi at http://didibooksenglish.wordpress.com or http://youtube.com/frenchiedee

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo I have wanted to read this for a long time, but it is so HUGE. I thought that summer might be a good time for me to get started. I may not get it finished by the end of summer. No promises here!

What's on your summer reading list?

June 11, 2014

Video | The House on Paradise Street by Sofka Zinovieff

I learned a lot from this book. It would make an EXCELLENT read for book clubs because of the themes; there is much that can be discussed.



June 9, 2014

Video | Book Haul May 2014

I tend to purchase books when I'm traveling. I have some favorite used bookstores I like to visit when I'm in Utah and Colorado. I'm excited to read ALL of these books!