Monday, October 15, 2012

January First

For some reason, I thought this was a novel until I started reading and realized it’s a memoir. Oops. It actually reads like a novel in many ways, with an intriguing narrative and tight writing. The raw emotion spilling forth from it surprised me though. Usually people, even those writing memoirs, step back and don’t put quite everything out there the way Michael Schofield does.
The book is about Michael’s young daughter’s descent into madness. From the time she was three it was clear she had mental issues, but it took a long time to determine exactly what because of her age. The family had to deal with her wild behavior and the uncertainty of how to fix it. The cover explains that it’s schizophrenia, which is rarely diagnosed in children and is why it took so long to diagnose her. It’s also extremely difficult to distinguish a typical child’s fascination with playing pretend and creating imaginary friends and a schizophrenic’s hallucinations.
Young January becomes worse after the birth of her baby brother, and she often lashes out at him, violently attacking him and her parents. I cannot imagine dealing with what this family goes through. They have to protect their son from January and can’t get through to her. At first, they think it’s just an extreme version of a child misbehaving, but then know it has to be something more. They love their daughter and want to take care of her, but how can they do that and keep their son safe? Who believes them when they talk about how hard she is to handle?
Reading about the family’s experience with medical professionals was extremely frustrating. I would lose my mind if I to deal with what they did, and this book would scare me off having kids if I wasn’t already sure of decision not to have them.
There’s something that bugs me about Michael though. Despite his focus on helping his daughter, I just don’t like him. I think it’s the way he treats his wife. I’m a bit shocked that they’re still married after the way he tended to portray her. Although since at one point he admits they went two years without kissing, they don’t seem to have much of a marriage anyway. Everything is focused on the kids. I understand circumstances drove them to that, but if I were her, I’d be pissed about the book. He lifted himself up as January’s savior, while the evil wife just wants to lock her up.
I recommend this book if you’re interested in mental illness or like memoirs about people working through difficult circumstances. I read this at a good time because Ryan is currently taking a class on teaching students with special needs, and that came up in the book because they try to keep January in mainstream classes. It was interesting to talk to him about how they handled things and issues he may have to deal with once he’s a teacher.

Into the Darkest Corner & Broken Harbor

In high school, I read a LOT of mysteries, probably more than I read any other genre. Since then, I rarely read them but have craved them recently and heard great things about two more literary mysteries and enjoyed both of them. I think a lot of mysteries follow a pattern, especially when you read a lot by one author, so it was refreshing to read these two, which both have more developed characters and stronger writing in addition to a gripping story.
Into the Darkest Corner
In Into the Darkest Corner, Elizabeth Haynes added depth by giving her main character OCD and having her in recovery from a traumatic experience before the action even starts. The narrative alternates between her present and her past, and you aren’t sure if the thriller part will only be in the past part of the narrative or if it crosses over into the present.  It surprised me by focusing quite a bit on how screwed up female friendships can be.
While Haynes does a better job at explaining why a woman would stay in an abusive relationship than most stories of domestic violence do, I still don’t understand why she went back to Lee the first time? She knew it was a bad idea and did it anyway. After that, it became impossible to leave and I understood that by then he had too much control by that point for her to get away even when she plans carefully and tries her best. Haynes tries to show how her friends liked Lee and didn’t understand why she broke up with him, but that still seems crazy to me since she knew there was something wrong with him. But, when reading about domestic violence I usually spend most of the time yelling at the woman to leave and didn’t do that as much here, so she did something right.
Broken Harbor
One random thing about both of these novels – in England and Ireland, it appears common that you can lock someone inside a house or room. This happened in Into the Darkest Corner with a room, and I assumed that the person probably added an external lock to the door. But then, it came up again in Broken Harbor. Someone was worried about whether to lock someone in the house and risk a fire starting and her not being able to get out, or not locking the door and her possibly leaving in a bad mental state and getting into trouble. I’m confused as to how you can lock someone in a house, or more accurately, why houses would be set up that way unless you were a bad guy trying to hold someone captive. It wasn’t noted as something strange, so I assume this is common practice over there?
Anyway, on to the review. Broken Harbor by Tana French was much more literary than I expected, delving more into the detective’s psyche and personal issues than you usually find in mysteries. Usually even with recurring detectives, they usually have a couple of quirks, maybe a romance or two, and that’s it. You don’t go much below the surface with them, and the focus is on the plot, the murder, not the detective’s life.
At the same time, French does a good job with the mystery, slowing giving you clues and suspects and evidence and making you question everything, except sometimes the thing you should be questioning. It made me think about how when things are presented as fact we have less of a tendency to mistrust them, we make assumptions based on “facts” and then that can lead us down the wrong road.
French also points out that sometimes we never learn why something happens. We might not truly know what caused someone to snap. This is one of the most frustrating things about life to me – I want to know everything. I hate it when I hear about something that makes no sense to me, whether it’s an act of horror or the popularity of Honey Boo Boo. (Who are these people watching that crap and WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU???)
I will definitely check out French’s other novels and hope to read at least one of them this fall. I love this time of year and the good reading that fits with the cooling weather and Halloween and grey skies.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Dewey's Readathon - Post the Fourth

And I'm back to Dewey's Readathon! OU stomped Texas 63-21 (and those last 14 points for them came against our second/third string). It was awesome. Since then I've done a little more reading and finished another book. Now I'm either going to continue the Agatha Christie, try to make a dent in The Casual Vacancy (I'm about halfway through), or start The Shining. It might depend on if the rain starts back up and my headache. I may have to take another break because of the headache if it doesn't clear up soon. Ugh. I hope everyone's having a great reading day!
  • Books in Progress: The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (reread), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
  • Books Complete: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer Smith and When It Happens to You by Molly Ringwald  
  • Snacks: chips and queso, carrots and hummus, white chocolate
  • Blogging stuff: some commenting on other posts, some time on Twitter (@Sparksmarks)
  • Time spent reading: 4 hours and 20 minutes  
  • Pages read:   537 (236 in The Statistical Probability of Love, 31 in The Mysterious Affair at Styles, 33 in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and 237 in When It Happens to You)

Dewey's Readathon - Post the Third

 Dewey's Readathon is going well for me so far! I'm enjoying Molly Ringwald's When It Happens to You. I like short stories that are connected, giving you snippets of different characters and perspectives. But now I'm off to cheer on the Sooners as they beat Texas! Boomer Sooner! I'll be back after the game!
  • Books in Progress: The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (reread), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling, and When It Happens to You by Molly Ringwald  
  • Books Complete: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer Smith
  • Snacks: scrambled eggs with bacon and cheese for breakfast
  • Blogging stuff: Introduction meme, some commenting on other posts, some time on Twitter (@Sparksmarks)
  • Time spent reading: 3 hours and 20 minutes  
  • Pages read:   424 (236 in The Statistical Probability of Love, 31 in The Mysterious Affair at Styles, 33 in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and 124 in When It Happens to You)

Dewey's Readathon - Post the Second

Time for my first update for Dewey's Readathon! I cheated and got started reading a little early since I'll be watching OU/Texas later and won't make it all night.

Introductory Questionnaire

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? Oklahoma City! Boomer Sooner! :)
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? I guess I was most excited about The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight since I started with it, but I'm also excited about starting The Shining later on.
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? Probably chips and queso and salsa during the football game
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! I'm Lindsey and obviously I love to read. I'll read just about anything, although I particularly like classics - especially British literature, literary fiction, and YA (and I'm attempting to become a YA author). I also read quite a bit of nonfiction, mainly histories and biographies/memoirs. When I'm not reading, I'm working in PR, spending time with my husband and two cats, watching college football and hockey (although not so much this season with the lockout), writing, or spending way too much time on Netflix. My favorite teams are the OU Sooners and the Pittsburgh Penguins. I'm happy to have the AHL (the minor league for the NHL) in OKC now and we have several awesome NHL players with us this season due to the lockout.
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? I've participated in several readathons, but none on OU/Texas day! So...that will definitely be a big a interuption. We're not going anywhere or having people over though, so it might not be too bad. I just hope the game goes my way and I'm not depressed the rest of the day.

Anyway, here are my stats so far!

  • Books in Progress: The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (reread)
  • Books Complete: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer Smith
  • Snacks: Almond milk, water, raisins
  • Blogging stuff: This post, about to check out a few other people's intro posts and see about the mini-challenges
  • Time spent reading: 2 hours
  • Pages read:   267 (236 in The Statistical Probability of Love and 31 in The Mysterious Affair at Styles)
Happy reading!

Dewey's Readathon - Post the First

Woohoo! Dewey's Readathon is here! I scheduled this last night, so hopefully I'm up and reading already. :) I've got a stack of books ready to go:

  • The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
  • The Shining by Stephen King
  • Various poems and stories by Edgar Allen Poe
  • Fixing Delilah by Sarah Ockler
  • When It Happens to You by Molly Ringwald
  • The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer Smith
And I'm sure I'll get distracted and read from some other books too. :) If you're participating, I hope you have fun and look forward to connecting with you!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Weekly Update: Oct. 12, 2012

I feel like I had a long week at work this week, culminating in an all-day video shoot today. Video shoots drain my energy because you spend all day hurrying up and waiting. I also got my first two rejection notices on my query about my novel, which hasn't bothered me so far. I'm just glad they're responding instead of leaving me waiting. :) Hopefully something will happen at some point. Anyway, I'm looking forward to getting lost in some good books tomorrow for Dewey's Readathon. I'm just sad the Readathon is on OU/Texas weekend! I'll be spending quite a bit of the day watching the game, yelling Boomer Sooner and insulting Texas. :) I'm sure I'll get a good chunk of reading done too. I'm planning to get up early a read for several hours before the game and get back to it afterwards. I don't plan to stay up all night though - I'm cranky without sleep!

Update from last week:

  • Books I'm currently reading:

    • Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen
    • The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling - still having mixed feelings
    • The Italian by Ann Radcliffe
    • The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner
    Upcoming reads:

    • Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
    • The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett
    • The Shining by Stephen King
    • Stories/poems by Edgar Allen Poe
    • Lots of YA for the Readathon
    Books finished:

    • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
    • All Road Lead to Austen by Amy Smith
    • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
    • Crossed by Ally Condie
    Posts this week:
    Books abandoned:
    • Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie - I only read about 40 pages and was enjoying it, but I knew I wouldn't be able to finish it by it's due date at the library so I decided to stop and check it out later rather than try to rush through it.