Now that the joys of Christmas and the sparkle of a New Year have dulled, we have entered the heart of winter…and flu season. As I currently type this, I am curled up on my couch, littered with Kleenex and cough drop wrappings. Sounds like a glamorous Instagram moment, right?
(These are my Alaska and North Dakota picks for my Make America Read Again challenge – to read the full list of books this year, click here.)
January certainly started out with a wintry bang, didn’t it? Bomb cyclones and government shut downs aside, it’s been a rather lovely start to 2018 in our household. Despite a relatively harried holiday and work schedule, C and I managed a few days of rest and recovery…and, of course, reading. We both had been feeling more than slightly burnt out with work and routine, which is honestly why I haven’t been updating this little blog of mine lately. We are used to having the time on weekends to travel and explore, but now that Charles is becoming more involved in his firm that means a whole lot of weekend work for him (and weekend boredom for me). On a non-work related note, I was also getting SUPER burnt out from reading all of the American lit for this year’s reading project…although I do love me some American bravado, in my heart I will always choose Brit or French lit as my true love.
But after planning a couple of exciting adventures together for the spring (more on those in a few weeks) and me taking a reading break with some strategic Netflix binges of “The Crown” and “The Great British Baking Show,” we’re feeling energized and motivated for this year.
(These are my Virginia and Kansas picks for my Make America Read Again challenge – to read the full list of books this year, click here.)
Winter is coming, y’all. I am currently wrapped up in my late grandmother’s crochet blanket she made many moons ago, my 90’s style Meg Ryan turtle neck, leggings, and fuzzy Halloween-themed socks keeping me warm in this 29 degree wind chill. The best part about living in Atlanta? These cold spells are SHORT – instead of the six months of dreary winter, we get little hints and peeks of chill and then return to our normal 70-degree afternoons.
The only sad part about this cozy situation is that I didn’t get to spend all weekend curled up with my piles of books. I had two days of Continuing ed classes, tickets to this month’s musical at the Fox Theater (not complaining about this one at all, especially as the husband is finally back from all his work travels so he could join me), and an overflowing list of errands to run. It was a wonderful weekend, if a bit busier than I would’ve liked on this frigid weekend. Still, I managed to squeeze in some precious time in my book nook. Round two of my Halloween-themed reads cuts rather close to home and explains why I love podcasts like My Favorite Murder and shows like 60 Minutes: nonfiction crime.
(Note: this book review is my Mississippi pick for my Make America Read Again challenge. to read the full list of books this year, click here. I also was given this advanced copy of the book in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley and Scribner publishing, thank you to both for the honor and opportunity.)
Before moving to Atlanta, Charles and I experienced a season of life that we dubbed “the Nomadic years.” Between the two of us, we spent the past decade bouncing between Greenville, Charleston, Boston, Los Angeles, and Birmingham. We both took a strange sort of pride in our amalgamation of home-bases, of being from a little bit of everywhere (but of course, always claiming Alabama as our true home). We were used to constantly shifting, adapting, and never committing to one city or friend group because after all, a few months or a year later, we would be moving on again.
So now that we’ve moved to Atlanta, we sometimes struggle with the realization that this city of Coca-Cola and Chick-Fil-A will most likely be our home for the next several decades. How does one establish the adult-version of home??!
It took us several months to adjust to this new way of life – of driving to work instead of walking or taking the subway, of oppressively hot summers and laughably nonexistent winters, of strangers who stop to talk to you just to talk and not to ask for money or favors. It wasn’t until this summer that we truly started forming real roots in this town, reaching out to old friends from high school and college who are now based within “the ATL,” or branching out into new social circles. But once we did, our summer plans exploded into dinner dates, weekend volunteering, and day trips across the state line. Every weekend since June has been absolutely packed, y’all. And we didn’t even take a big vacation!
So, suffice it to say my plans for the “summer of writing” were completely dashed. C’est la vie, it was still worth it.
However, Charles and I were getting a bit run down with all the excitement- the only “home-cooked” meal we had for weeks was the occasional random salad we threw together, our laundry basket was overflowing, and our cats (d’Artagnan and Gilbert, named after literary characters naturally) were feeling rather ignored. So we spent this Labor Day weekend regrouping and resetting our lives.
And of course I made time for a whole lot of reading :).
Review: Sing, Unburied Sing!
Y’all, this latest novel by Jesmyn Ward (out tomorrow!) was such a deeply compelling read. This was the first story by Jesmyn Ward I had ever read, though I’ve seen her in several interviews and already knew she was an intellectual, articulate creative. Plus she is a Southerner and her story settings are in the South, so I already knew her work fit right into my wheelhouse. The opening pages proved my gut right – Ward is incredibly gifted at transporting you into her Mississippi.
The sky has turned the color of sandy red clay: orange cream. The heat of the day at its heaviest: the insects awoken from their winter slumber. I cannot bear the world.
Ward’s novel is a Mississippi Delta-styled Odyssey, as twelve-year-old Joseph sets out on a roadtrip with his less-than-stellar mother Leonie, his toddler sister Kayla, and Leonie’s best friend Misty. They are heading up to Parchman to pick up JoJo and Kayla’s white father (Leonie’s boyfriend) Michael from jail, where he has spent the past three years serving time for drug dealing. Meanwhile, JoJo and Kayla’s grandparents (and their true parental figures) as the grandmother is suffering from her bout of cancer. Naturally, several disasters ensue.
This book is the epitome of a dysfunctional family novel, and Ward does not hesitate to bring in the dark and grisly for this realistic portrayal of life in the South. The opening chapter includes a rather ghastly description of JoJo slaying a goat with his grandfather for their weekly meal prep. When reading this book, the writing causes you to use all five senses – whether you want to or not, you and those characters are smelling and seeing and hearing the same things.
“I washed my hands every day, Jojo. But that damn blood ain’t never come out.”
Every theme you can think of for a typical Southern novel comes into play in this book – race relations, poverty, religion and superstition, substance abuse, family dynamics, and agriculture come sharply into focus in turn. And yet each issue is brought to the reader’s attention with such grace and subtlety, you hardly understand what Ward accomplished until about thirty pages later. And she handles some of the more volatile subjects with such care and reality, it’s truly a work of art.
The majority of the book is a character study, but an added layer to this story is the theme of ghosts, both literal and figurative. Evoking the style of Toni Morrison, spirits do haunt several of the characters; but other family members are merely are haunted by their past. Part of this novel is about the ability to move from the past, to forgive yourself as well as others, to learn from your mistakes – or the failure to do these things. Mostly, Ward displays a deep and unabiding empathy for her characters; for their intrinsic humanness, for their custom combinations of vice and virtue.
Frankly, this novel ripped me apart a bit, and I think the ghosts of JoJo and Kayle and Pap are going to stay with me for quite some time.
This book is going to be big, y’all. Read it, read it, read it. (With tissues). Again, it’s being released TOMORROW!
Rating: 5/5 Stars, if not more
Read if: You love Southern Fiction, family-driven novels, you’re a human with a soul
Now that I’m back to the blogging world, what books did you read over the holiday weekend? Do y’all have any suggestions on books to read that are set in New Mexico or South Dakota? I’m still struggling to find books for a few states…
Last week, a friend of mine asked how I tear through so many books a year. My secret to success is, like most millennials, through my iPhone addiction: I listen to a whole lot of audiobooks.
Y’all, I spend a lot of time in my car. Last year, I commuted from Boston to my first “real” job as a dentist and on a good day, my commute was an hour and a half. EACH. WAY. Now I live in Atlanta (the city of collapsing interstates) where I spend the majority of my free time sitting in a gridlock of honking cars.
Although I tend to choose my Kindle over my remote control, I still appreciate the fact that I am living during the Golden Age of Television. I am always looking out for the latest books-turned-movies or television series, and this year an entire treasure trove of stories are being released on HBO, Netflix, and, as always, at the movie theater. Here are my thoughts on the shows and movies that have recently been released or are about to come out:
If you’re like me, scrolling through your Instagram on a Saturday morning, chances are you’re going to come across at least half a dozen French-inspired snapshots. There’s usually some variant of the millenial “blush pink” color featured in the girl’s clothes or accessories, and a background of a boulangerie, cafe or even, for the less subtle ‘grams, the Eiffel Tower.
Sometimes there’s a bit of backlash over these wannabe Parisian’s, scoffing at our bougie fascination with Chanel and macarons. Other American tourists bemoan the French snobbery and unfriendliness. My response: get over yourself. Paris is perfect, has been for centuries, and you’re just jealous. Also, stop being so loud and obnoxious with your deafening whines about having to walk everywhere and how America is the greatest country on Earth (manners much?), your insistence on wearing neon shorts and flip flops, and your staunch insistence on ordering super-sized hamburgers when you’re in the culinary capital OF THE WORLD, and maybe the Parisians will be nicer to you. Just a thought.
My love for le Francaise began early, when my parents came home from their own trip to France and brought back both a French and English copy of the original Madeline. At the time I was so young I couldn’t read either copy, but the illustrations of the twelve little girls strolling by the Eiffel Tower and the tiger in the zoo are still seared into my memory. The pages of the books became worn over the dozens and dozens of times I poured through the books at the kitchen table.