Showing posts with label family. Show all posts
Showing posts with label family. Show all posts

Monday, August 3, 2015

It's Monday, What Are YOU Reading?

Happy August, reader friends!  Part of me is sad that it's August, because it means summer is going to be over in a few short weeks.  And the other part of me is not sad at all, because this has been an AWESOME-SAUCE SUMMER.  We have had maximum fun since the weather warmed up, and I'm not sad at all for the coming autumn, because I know we have taken advantage of every minute.  Our boys are at such fun ages, and able to do so much more than last year.  When I think of last summer, it is a psychotic blur of trying to chase a 3-year-old while bottle feeding/diapering/lugging a 7-month-old baby that hated touching grass (seriously?).  This summer, much improved.

For example: this past weekend, we did our first family hiking day at Letchworth State Park in Castile, NY ("The Grand Canyon of the East"!  As all my west-coast friends roll their eyes.)  It was gorgeous, and the boys had a fantastic time.  My husband and I were big hikers before Small Fry was born, but we eased it back once babies arrived, as small infant + mountain climbing did not sound like fun.  However, we are now SUPER excited to share our love of the outdoors with the kiddos as they get older.

Anyway, I hope you are all enjoying these last weeks of summer as much as we are!  Let's talk books!  I'm reading:

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

I grabbed this one at random.  It's been on my TBR for ages, and landed on my 30 before 35 list as well.  I'm about 60% finished.  At first, I was intrigued, couldn't put it down...then I started to feel weirded out by the entire thing...and now I'm hitting a little bit of a bored lull.  It's quite a ride.  My review should be interesting!

Upcoming reads:

I've got my first book tour in quite a long time coming up, The Invisibles by Cecelia Galante.  Looking forward to this one!  Afterwards, I'm hoping to jump into Katie's Nonfiction Book Club with Packing for Mars by Mary Roach, and Other-But-Equally-Awesome Katie's Fellowship of the Worms readalong of A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki.

How has your summer been so far?  What are you reading this week?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

BOO! October 2014 in Review

This recap will be short and sweet, because life is just crazy up in here lately.  First, sadly, my aunt passed away on the 31st after a long battle with cancer.  This is obviously very upsetting for our family, and we are in the midst of figuring out all the arrangements, so I may be MIA a bit around here (as I'm sure you understand).

Also crazy for good reasons though.  Of course, Halloween came and went, which was much fun for our kiddos, especially Small Fry.  It's fun to see how trick or treating has progressed with him over the years.  At age 3, he is really starting to get into it, and he had a blast going door to door that night.  I had a blast too, especially when he got to the house giving out full size Snickers bars.  Because that's probably a little too much sugar for a three year old, right?  So Mommy and Daddy might just have to confiscate that...
The firefighter puts out the fires that the dragon starts, of course.
Anyway, let's talk reading!

In October I read 5 books:
Larger Than Life by Jodi Picoult
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Man V. Nature by Diane Cook
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

In addition, we did a little Six Degrees of Separation with 1984, and I gave two thumbs way up to the Gone Girl movie.

November is now upon us, and I am SUPER PUMPED for Nonfiction November!  Post about that coming tomorrow.  Definitely going to get my nonfic groove on this month.

How was your October, friends?  Any fun Halloween costumes to share?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

July 2014 in Review

Wow, I posted 3 times in the month of July.  Ouch!!  Ah well, you know my story these days, I won't repeat it.  But lots of fun is being had in the Redhead household this summer, and needless to say, I've been outside playing with the kiddos a lot more than I've been inside blogging!  We did a little family vacation last week, had several beach/pool days, many zoo/museum/park trips, and also celebrated Small Fry's 3rd birthday.
When did this happen?  Le sigh.
I've also continued my half marathon training...which is getting JUST A TAD more difficult as time goes on...but I'm impressed with myself!  I did a 7 miler yesterday, which is the longest I've run since 2008 (wowza).  Mileage is getting up there, but so far my knees haven't exploded, so I'm doing well.

Anyways, even though it was a light month, let's recap book activities in July...

In July I read 2 books:
Save Yourself by Kelly Braffet
The One and Only by Emily Giffin (review coming soon!)

I also jumped into the Six Degrees of Separation meme, which I would love to do again soon.  Anyone know what the August book is?

I know I said I was going to finish Gone With The Wind last month, but I'm still working on it!  About 200 pages to go.  I WILL finish it this month.  It's been worth the wait though, trust me.  Beyond that, I'm looking forward to finally getting a chance to read We Were Liars by E. Lockhart...I've heard so many amazing things about that book already!

What are you reading these days, friends??

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Lazy Summer Days...June 2014 in Review

Yes, things have been quite quiet around here for the last month.  Don't fret, I'm still here!  But after I stepped back from all of my ARCs, I decided to slow myself down (WAY down) with a chunkster I've been meaning to read for ages--Gone With The Wind!  And it's awesome!  It's also 1000+ pages, so I'm really taking my time with it.  This explains my lack of reviews around here.  However, it has been great to step back and lazily read one very long book, without any others pressing in with review deadlines.  I haven't done that since I started the blog almost two years ago, and I think I need to do it more often!  Very refreshing.  I highly recommend.

In non-book news, this month was a lot of fun.  Tons of outdoor time with my boys, a trip to Pennsylvania to visit my extended family, strawberry picking, Tater Tot turned 6 months old (WHAT?), and we even did a day trip to the beach.  Kind of.  Because growing up in New England, I'm rather a beach snob and find myself unable to really call the sand along Lake Ontario a "beach".  HA.
Our little crew picking "straw bee-dees" (according to Small Fry) last weekend
Also, I did start my half marathon training yesterday morning with an easy 3-miler.  Today was 4 miles.  I think my long run this weekend is supposed to be 5 miles, which will be the longest I've run in about 2 years.  YIKES.  Let the games begin!

Anyways, even though it was a light month, let's recap book activities in June...

In June I read/reviewed 4 books:
The Ocean at the End of the Lane  by Neil Gaiman
Fallout by Ellen Hopkins
The Hollow Ground by Natalie S. Harnett
The 3-Day Reset by Pooja Mottl

We also discussed the relative merits of book shaming, which got some pretty interesting comments.  Thanks for chatting with me, friends!

This month, I'm looking forward to finishing GWTW, and then moving into some suspenseful summer reads (namely Save Yourself by Kelly Braffett...tempting me currently from my nightstand!).  Also, this is the halfway point of the year, and I'm looking rather despairingly at my 2014 TBR Challenge.  Yeah, not going well again!  Guess I better get on that...

What's on your summer reading list??

Thursday, May 1, 2014

April 2014 in Review (and new blog goal!)

This was more relevant yesterday, but it's my favorite internet meme in the history of ever, so...

Happy May, my friends!  Such craziness around these parts last month.  April started out with a trip to Florida to celebrate my stepbrother's wedding.  We had an awesomesauce time, and Small Fry MAY have set the record for cutest ringbearer in the history of ringbearers.
WHO TOLD HIM TO PUT HIS HAND IN HIS POCKET?  Nobody. What a smooth operator, this one.
Then we came home, and it was the best of times (some 80 degree days, Tater Tot's first Easter, Small Fry's first time flying a kite) and the worst of times (I got the worst.headcold.ever, and then Small Fry got it too. Oy).

Also, I registered to run a half marathon in September.  WHAT?  I know, I have been possessed by a demon.  I have to admit I am pretty excited about it though.  I'm going to start seriously training at the end of June.  EEEEKKKK.

OH, and we bought a minivan.  We pick it up today.  I am officially a MOM now!!!
Anyway, to recap bookish stuff: In April I read/reviewed 5 books:
The Martian  by Andy Weir
Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke
Croak by Gina Damico
Crank by Ellen Hopkins
Driving Lessons by Zoe Fishman

And that was it.

The fact that "that was it" leads me to my new blog goal.  I know I have been totally time-strapped lately, and cutting back on blogging has been a necessity.  BUT, I do miss it.  I miss posting things other than reviews, I miss commenting on other blogs, etc.  So I'm setting a small goal for myself: each month, I will write at least ONE substantive post that is not a book review.  A musing on something book related, a Top Ten Tuesday, SOMETHING.  I think it will help me stay excited about my little blog space here...and also keep you all from being bored to tears too.

So, any suggestions for May's non-review post?  I know you're just dying to hear me wax poetic about something!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

March 2014 in Review...

Hello, lovely reader friends!  Time for my monthly wrap-up already.  2014 is already 25% over and totally FLYING by.

As you probably noticed, I really only posted book reviews this month, and not too much else.  I have come to the conclusion that time management will just not be my forte for a LONG time...because even though Tater Tot is getting into more of a routine (helpful!), he is getting busy busy busy.  Which is a lot of fun, but you know, busy.  And Small Fry continues to happily run circles around  me (even managed to dislocate an elbow this month...oh THAT was fun!  Slow down, child!!).
Holding up his arm in triumph after the doc popped his elbow back into place.  Trust me, there had not been smiles for MANY HOURS before this!  Oy.
What it really comes down to is this: most days, I have time to read OR blog.  Not both.  And reading generally wins.

So my plan for now is to mostly focus on book reviews.  I AM still reading, and I love to share my reviews (that's the reason I got into this in the first place, right??).  So at a minimum, I will keep up with that.  When I can do more, I will.  I have a long-term goal of *hopefully* participating in the fall Bloggiesta in September, and perhaps I can make that my turning point.  :)

Anyway, to recap: In March I read/reviewed 5 books:
Above by Isla Morley
Sous Chef by Michael Gibney
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Two Sisters by Mary Hogan
Ask the Passengers by A.S. King

And, I talked about my brief bookstore side-trip to Strand in NYC (heaven!).

Last month, I focused way-heavy on did I end up with so many after saying I was taking a break from them??  Part of this is because, as you may remember, my next TBR book baggie pick was Gone With the Wind, and truth be told...I am intimidated.  So many pages!  So much hype!  My challenge for April is to at least start it.  I CAN DO EEEET!

Oh, and in other news, I am leaving for sunny Florida for a few days, as my stepbrother is getting married this weekend.  WOOHOO!!  Looking forward to our first plane trip with the boys.  Very excited to celebrate with family...and experience weather above 50 degrees!!  Probably not much reading to be done on this trip, but who knows...maybe traveling will tire out my two little buggers?  Extra nap time?  :)

How was your March, reader friends?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

NEWS: Part 2!

I've kept you waiting long enough, eh?  Here's part 2 of my non-book-related news (recap part 1 here).

My reviews were kind of lackluster for a few weeks in May/early June.  Posting was scarce.  I tweeted a lot about food.

That would be because I'm pregnant.
Beaching the baby belly in Cape May last week
That's right kids!  Small Fry is getting a tiny companion in a few months.  December, to be exact.  (Christmas Eve, if you want to be more exact, although if this one is anything like Small Fry, we'll be watching the ball drop in Times Square before he/she arrives.  LATECOMER.)

In addition to being tired and somewhat sick, I have also been super nervous for the last few months, because remember when I posted about how February sucked?  That's because I had a miscarriage.  Which really did suck, emotionally more than physically.  So when I found out I was pregnant again in April, I got scurred.  I was reluctant to tell anyone and I didn't even want to treat it like the real deal, for fear of getting too attached.  However, we've had countless ultrasounds and prenatal visits by now, and things have been going smoothly.  I'm 14 weeks along and getting way more excited now that I'm in a safer spot, time-wise.

Anywho, I hope this explains a few things from the last couple of months: fewer "creative" posts, less presence on Twitter, fewer comments on other blogs.  I even had to post one of my Novel Publicity blog tour stops 2 days late (felt really bad about it, too), because I felt so tired/nauseous from morning sickness that I couldn't look at my Kindle for days on end.  (You know it's bad when the book blogger can't even bring herself to READ.  Oh my.)

This also explains why my monthly wrap-up posts have been kind of vague.  "Oh, I had a good month" in April should roughly translate to "OMG I'M IN A FAMILY WAY, Y'ALL!!  But I can't tell you yet.  Frick."

Nowadays, I am back from vacation and firmly in the second trimester (read: less nausea and fatigue), so I hope you will see a kick of enthusiasm from me around here.

So that's my news, officially out in the blogosphere.  I promise I won't plague you with details of my pregnancy here, but feel free to email me if you're dying to know all about round ligament pain and stretch marks.  I AIN'T SHY.

Sunday, June 23, 2013



First off, I hope you loved The Well-Read Vacay.  I pretty much go Internet-Silent when I go on vacation, but while I wasn't responding to comments/tweets/etc I did see all the lovely interactions happening on the guest blogs.  I hope you all adore Katie, Cari, Shannon, and Jennifer as much as I do, and continue to frequent their awesome bloggy blogs!

Second, where was I?  I don't usually post about the specifics of my vacation plans on the Interwebz beforehand, because I am a paranoid superfreak, but I will gladly share them with you now.  We rented a condo down in Cape May, New Jersey, and it was fantastic, though admittedly also hectic.  I actually had to leave last Saturday (with Small Fry in tow) without my husband, which was NOT the original plan. 

(**Potential buyers of our house should stop reading this post now and go do something read a book!  WOOOO!**)

Okay, are they gone?  My husband had to stay home because the downstairs of our house FLOODED 3 days before we left.  And did I mention that we are trying to sell said house, like ASAP??  We have never, ever had flooding before, but Mother Nature chose THIS moment to gang up on us.  So dear Hubs stayed behind to dry out the house and replace the carpet so that the Open House and showings we had scheduled could go on.  Luckily, he did a fantastic job and was able to join us in Cape May on Tuesday.

(If any buyers DID accidentally read that, please rest assured that we fixed everything...AND it's all written up in our property disclosure now...nothing but honesty here, people!!)

Despite that hiccup, we had an awesome time playing on the beach, going to the zoo, eating too much candy/fudge, and hanging out with my brothers (who are in the Coast Guard and stationed in Cape May).  Oh, and stalking Tina Fey.  She was vacationing there last week too!  I was on a mission to make us meet, share witty banter, and become BFFs, but sadly our stars did not align.  Next time, time.

In reading news, I actually managed to read 1.5 books, plus most of an audiobook during the drive (though I did take Cari's advice and left my Kindle in the condo during beach trips with Small Fry...very helpful!!).

So now I am off to unpack, and hopefully get these latest reviews written up for you soon.  Hope everyone had a fantastic week!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Big NEWS, and May 2013 In Review

There is a reason May rhymes with cray.  CUZ THAT MONTH WAS CRAY CRAY, Y'ALL.  As I alluded to earlier this week, I have two big pieces of news to share, and the time has come to grace you with one of them.

The Well-Read Redhead (and family) are moving!  

And not only are we moving...but I am taking on a new and much-wanted job title: CEO of Domestic Affairs.  (Stay at home momma, to the layperson.)  


My husband applied for a really great job a couple of months ago, but we didn't have our hopes up for it even a little.  Two months and many interviews later, he was offered the position.  Needless to say, our shock was GREAT.  However, shock was immediately replaced by excitement (great career step!  Kelly gets to stay home!) and also terror (we have to sell our house!  We have to buy a new one!  IN LESS THAN 2 MONTHS!  Please kill me).  But mostly excitement.
Jessie Spano, so wise.
The offer happened during Armchair BEA, so this greatly explains my absence at that time.  We are now steeped in the mucky muck of the home buying/selling process, among all the other wonderful things that come with moving 4 hours away to a town you know nothing about.  Chaos for sure, but we are really psyched about this opportunity, both for my husband and for our family as a whole.

(In related news, any book bloggers in the greater Rochester, NY area?  I need friends!  I promise I'm not (too) weird.  Maybe.)

So, that is Part 1 of my news.  Part 2 is forthcoming...soon.  (Suspense, I HAZ IT.)

Onward to May in review (book-wise).  First, as always, a photo depicting the month.  Despite all the insanity, Small Fry and I also took heavy advantage of the summer-like weather.
Small Fry at the water table, Mom in the kiddie pool, everyone's happy.
Now, the book-related goodness!

The May 2013 Fave/Least Fave honors go to:

May 2013 Favorite:  The Honest Toddler: A Child's Guide to Parenting  by Bunmi Laditan
May 2013 Least Favorite:  Don't Go by Lisa Scottoline

In total, I read/reviewed 7 books:
Frozen In Time by Mitchell Zuckoff
The Honest Toddler: A Child's Guide to Parenting by Bunmi Laditan
The Midwife's Revolt by Jodi Daynard
Don't Go by Lisa Scottoline
The Bridge of Years by May Sarton
I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag by Jennifer Gilbert
Mama's Child by Joan Steinau Lester

I also posted one new Small Fry Saturday Review of Does A Kangaroo Have a Mother, Too?  by Eric Carle.

I didn't do a lot of other book talk last month (preoccupied!) but I did flash you back to my star-studded engagement anniversary.  Good times.  And my participation in Armchair BEA was basically the equivalent of going to actual BEA and sitting in the hotel room the whole time.

June is going to be nutty around here as we try to get things in order for The Big Move before my husband's official start date (August 12!).  Plus, we have a vacation scheduled mid-month (much needed under the circumstances, though it also feels somewhat poorly placed now, time-wise...ah well).  I have a few book tours scheduled, so I promise not to disappear!  And I'm hoping to get a little beach reading done on vacation anyway.

Have a lovely month, readers...and stay tuned for more excitement!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Well-Read Redhead's 2013 Resolutions

Happy 2013, readers!!  Here's hoping for a fun and exciting new year!

It's time to review my resolutions for 2012 and see how I did.  These were the resolutions that I posted on my old pre-book blog.  Many of them are not book-related, but hey, that just means you get to know me a little better.  Who doesn't want that, AMIRIGHT?

The Well-Read Redhead's 2012 Resolutions: Pass or Fail?

1. Read at least 50 books: PASS!
According to Goodreads, I hit 59 books this year (not including kid books).  Sa-weet.

2. Run a 5k and a 10k: PASS!
I ran a 5k (with my personal best time for the course at 28:10) in June, and a 10k (first time ever, time of 57:17) in September.

3. Keep up with Small Fry's baby scrapbook through his first birthday: mostly PASS!
When I'm not reading, I'm scrapbooking.  I created Small Fry's own first-year scrapbook, rather than buying a pre-printed one at the store.  I'm happy to report that I only have 5 pages left (out of like 40 pages, I am not joking, so this is a big deal).  I am hoping to finish them in January, which means I will have it done only 6 months after his 1st birthday.  **pats self on back**

4. Be a level-headed momma: semi-PASS?
On the spectrum of anxious people, I am somewhere between your mom and this SNL skit:
And motherhood is an easy place to ride the anxiety train, which is why I set this goal for myself.  I think I did just okay with this resolution.  Being a mom has its inevitable stressful times (OMG SMALL FRY, NO MORE FOOD ON THE WALL, FOR THE LOVE), and overall my crying-freak-out episodes were pretty spread out.  I think I managed so-so.  Could be better.  Will continue to work on this.

5. Do as many fun family activities as possible: PASS!
I am obsessed with finding fun activities for the three of us to do, especially because I am home with Small Fry 2 days a week in addition to the weekends.  I think I did pretty well with this.  We did a Music Together class, as well as swimming lessons.  We did a really fun family vacation to the Outer Banks, and lots of good weekend activities like apple picking, playing at the park, farm trips, playdates, library story time, etc.  Small Fry is at a fun age and I want to keep active with him as much as possible!

6. Attempt to complete the 52 Weeks to an Organized Home Challenge: mega FAIL!
Yeah, this sounded like a great idea last January.  Three weeks in, I had a clean pantry and junk drawer and I was DONE.  I should have seen that coming...52 weeks of organizing?  Was I insane?

And now...

The Well-Read Redhead's 2013 Resolutions
both book-related and not

1. Read at least 60 books, and complete the challenges I signed up for.
If I did 59 this year, I think this is an attainable goal.

2. Mix in some varied content with my book reviews.
I started this blog mainly for reviews, but I want to mix it up a little more this year.  Some discussion posts, interviews, etc.  Still mainly reviews, but with some fun stuff mixed in.  (Feel free to email me if there is something specific you'd like to see!)

3. Manage my computer/phone time better.
Ever since I started the blog, I've found it increasingly easy to check my email, sift through my Google Reader, edit a review, etc. at random times of day...yes, sometimes inadvertently cutting into family time.  Which I don't want.  So I'm going to be better about making specific computer/iPhone time, rather than doing it randomly throughout the day.  Damn you, technology, for being so accessible.

4. Eat (and cook) with more variety, and more healthfully.
I am a horrible cook.  Like, really horrible.  Which I know is weird, because I am a bit of a foodie and love reading about food.  I just can't make it myself.  My parents' favorite story is when I was 12 years old, and I called my mom at work to ask her what boiling water looked like.  (I was making mac n cheese and had literally no idea.)  Things have not gotten much better since then.
My husband's cooking skills have carried us up to this point, but I need to do better here.  Especially because Small Fry seems to be becoming a picky eater.  I really want to be able to make a wider variety of (healthy!) food for him, so that he isn't stuck eating the same things over and over.  This is going to be an insanely hard goal for me, but I'm going to try to both become a better cook, and add more variety to our diets.  Pray for me.

5. Print photobooks of our past family photos.
I used to print actual prints and put them in photo albums, but I haven't done that in years.  I would like to print photo books from 2009 on, but I haven't taken the time to sit down and choose the pictures.  Really want to make a dent in that this year.

6. Work on my upper body and ab strength.
Every past year, my workout goals have been about running.  But I'm in a good groove with running now, so my new goal is to focus on strength.  I just started 30 Day Shred, and it showed me how spaghetti-like my arms have become.  Plus, my abs never really recovered their strength after Small Fry was born.  So these are two areas I want to work on this year.

Okay, that's it!  You heard 'em here first.  Now, what are YOUR resolutions for 2013??

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

How to have your books...and a sig other too.

A little while ago on Twitter, I was asked by my friend Cari (whose non-book blog you should totally check out):

Cari Renn (@CariRenn)
@TheWRRedhead could you do a post on your thoughts on diving into books without isolating the hubby all night/week long?

And I replied with:

Well-Read Redhead (@TheWRRedhead)
@CariRenn Hmmm yes I will think about that one!  Going to be a tough post because I have not perfected that art yet...LOL.

True story though, right?  If you have a significant other, AND you love reading, life gets hard sometimes.

My husband doesn't dislike reading.  In fact, when we go on vacations, he often gets lost in some book or other.  But during a normal work week, reading is not his idea of relaxation--mostly because he is in a PhD program while working full time, so he gets his fair share of reading in already.  It's okay, I get it--I didn't read much for fun when I was in school either.  But it's hard to be always reading when your significant other isn't--and even if they are, not much chit-chat happens when you're both buried in different books.

The main issue is that reading, while AWESOME, is a very solitary activity.  After our son goes to bed, Hubs and I love to relax together in our family room downstairs.  His idea of relaxing is vegging in front of the TV, flipping through all the channels, and eventually landing on DIY Network, or a repeat of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.  (Seriously, is that show ever NOT on?)  While I stretch out on the other end of the couch, buried in a book.

So, what to do?  How to spend good time together, but also Read All The Things?  Well, I thought about it a bit, and I've put together a few suggestions from my own experience.

1. Share the room.
You may have noticed above that Hubs and I sit on the couch together most nights--him watching TV, me reading.  As a reader, this is not easy to do, because I prefer to read in silence.  However, rather than retreating to the bedroom with my book, I always stay in the family room, because at least we are together.  The only real concession is that I end up reading a little more slowly, which I can live with.

2. Keep in "touch".
Just because you're both involved in different activities, doesn't mean you can't relax together at the same time!  Sometimes Hubs and I sit head-to-foot on the couch and give each other foot massages while I read and he watches TV.  Yes, we are both doing different things, but we are also both giving out awesome foot massages, so everybody wins.
(Note: in these cases, an e-reader comes in handy for one-touch page flipping.)

3. Pick one solitary activity per night.
One thing I struggle with is that many of my other hobbies are also anti-social.  Reading, scrapbooking, blogging, schooling people at Hanging With Friends on my phone...none of these are things I can do in collaboration with my husband.  And it's easy to start the night reading, then want to do a little scrapping, and then maybe work on the blog...but no.  Each night, I try to limit myself to one of these activities.  That way, my husband doesn't feel like I'm moving from one thing to the other, and never including him.  Try not to overbook yourself during your downtime if you want to also be present with your sig other.  (Of all my suggestions, I think I find this one the hardest to follow!)

4. Schedule breaks.
Sometimes it's fun to schedule in a break for you and your SO to drop your activities and hang out together.  For example, Hubs and I will agree that at the end of his Sons of Anarchy episode, I'll pause reading and we'll have an ice cream break together.  The advantage is that you know exactly how much interrupted reading time you're going to get, and you can plan accordingly.

5. Make up the time elsewhere.
Torn between spending the evening with your SO, and finishing the last part of Gone Girl?  Wake up a half hour earlier the next day to finish it up.  Plan to do the elliptical machine instead of the treadmill at the gym for your next workout, so you can read on the machine.  Think through your day, and find other times where you can squeeze in that reading!

6. Take a night off.
The most obvious (and important!) suggestion: take a night away from reading every once in a while.  I know, blasphemy!  But the best together time that the Hubs and I have happens when there's not a book (or a computer, or a phone...) between us.  We have movie nights, DIY project nights, fancy dinner nights, etc. where our other hobbies don't come into play.  Plan ahead or do it impromptu--either way, it's nice to switch gears every once in a while.

How do you balance reading with your romantic/social life?  What suggestions do you have for other voracious readers?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Book Review: Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama

Title: Dreams From My Father
Author: Barack Obama
Publisher: Times Books
Publication Date: July 18, 1995
Source: Received as a gift

Summary from Goodreads:

Dreams from My Father tells the story of Obama’s struggle to understand the forces that shaped him as the son of a black African father and white American mother—a struggle that takes him from the American heartland to the ancestral home of his great-aunt in the tiny African village of Alego. 

Obama opens his story in New York, where he hears that his father—a figure he knows more as a myth than as a man—has died in a car accident. The news triggers a chain of memories as Barack retraces his family’s unusual history: the migration of his mother’s family from small-town Kansas to the Hawaiian islands; the love that develops between his mother and a promising young Kenyan student, a love nurtured by youthful innocence and the integrationist spirit of the early sixties; his father’s departure from Hawaii when Barack was two, as the realities of race and power reassert themselves; and Barack’s own awakening to the fears and doubts that exist not just between the larger black and white worlds but within himself.

Propelled by a desire to understand both the forces that shaped him and his father’s legacy, Barack moves to Chicago to work as a community organizer. There, against the backdrop of tumultuous political and racial conflict, he works to turn back the mounting despair of the inner city. His story becomes one with those of the people he works with as he learns about the value of community, the necessity of healing old wounds, and the possibility of faith in the midst of adversity.

Barack’s journey comes full circle in Kenya, where he finally meets the African side of his family and confronts the bitter truth of his father’s life. Traveling through a country racked by brutal poverty and tribal conflict, but whose people are sustained by a spirit of endurance and hope, Barack discovers that he is inescapably bound to brothers and sisters living an ocean away—and that by embracing their common struggles he can finally reconcile his divided inheritance.

A searching meditation on the meaning of identity in America, Dreams from My Father might be the most revealing portrait we have of a major American leader—a man who is playing, and will play, an increasingly prominent role in healing a fractious and fragmented nation.

My Review:

Happy Election Day, America!  I felt it was only appropriate to hit you with a politically-based book today.  And no, I'm not going to tell you who to vote for--that is not the point of this review!  It's a review, plain and simple.  Pinky swear.

I actually picked this book up on a sort-of dare.  Someone (who will remain nameless) forwarded our family an email that listed all sorts of horrible things that Barack Obama has done or said regarding race, religion, etc.  The email stated that all of these things were true--and if we wanted the proof, just read Dreams From My Father, because Obama wrote it all himself!

And I thought, "Wait...did you just dare me, a loyal maiden of literature, to read a book and fact-check you?  CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!"  So here we are.

The first thing I learned in this book: Barack Obama had no idea, in 1995, that he would be POTUS in 13 years.

Because if he did, he would never have written this memoir.  And that's part of why I enjoyed it.

I can see why the right wing likes to tear this book apart.  I mean, does any sitting American president want to write a book that airs his family's secrets (good and bad)?  That frankly (in a refreshingly non-roundabout way) discusses their personal views and struggles with race and racism?  That kind of admits that they did blow a few times?  Nope, they don't want to do that.  But Barack Obama wrote exactly that book before he went down the politics path, and now here it sits, for the world to judge.

I'm quite disappointed that I didn't read this earlier in Obama's presidency.  I've heard about a lot of the details in news stories (and, ahem, email forwards), especially the ones that caused a media sensation (the Jeremiah Wright controversy, his Kenyan heritage, various quotes on racial politics, etc).  But reading the actual memoir was much different than perusing the latest headlines--it gives you the story from the horse's mouth, so to speak.

Obama's voice is remarkably young and honest in his memoir.  None of this typical political vagueness that we hear from every government figure these days.  But despite his relative youth upon publication, this memoir gives you the opportunity to see how his political, personal, and spiritual preferences awakened throughout his early life.  For example, he admits that in his high school and college years, he often rebelled against white culture, while trying to come to terms with his black identity.  But as he gained a wider range of experiences (as a community organizer in the Chicago projects, and during a long trip to Kenya to reconnect with his family), he started to build a more inclusive vision for how communities need to work together to create change:

"What is our community, and how might that community be reconciled with our freedom?  How far do our obligations reach?  How do we transform mere power into justice, mere sentiment into love? the conversation itself, in the joining of voices, I find myself modestly encouraged, believing that so long as the questions are still being asked, what binds us together might somehow, ultimately, prevail." (p 438)

He also freely admits that he was not religious in the early part of his life--he had both Muslim and Christian education, but did not join a church and explore his spirituality until his mid-twenties.

Neither of these admissions (about race or religion) are good for him, politically.  But they're honest--and how often do you hear honesty on the campaign trail?  This is just one of the many ways you can see that, at the time this was written, he did not expect to end up where he is today--and this lack of awareness makes the whole book feel more down-to-earth than your average political memoir..  (He even has a section, during his trip to Africa, where he waxes about how nice it was to be in a place where people recognized and knew how to spell his name.  LOL, if you only knew, dude.)  I've read his second book--The Audacity of Hope--which was published after he entered politics, and that one is MUCH more voter-image friendly (read: uplifting and unlikely to ruffle feathers).

Beyond the general tone of the book, I also enjoyed hearing the story of how Obama's life was shaped by his complicated and far-flung family.  He spends many years trying to chase the dreams that he believes will connect him with his father--a man that he only met once as a boy, and who died before Obama had the chance to truly know him. So much of his life has been shaped by this relationship (or lack thereof).  Despite the book's often-dense musings and descriptions, this family story kept me interested and wondering what discovery would come next.  In the end, you get a detailed oral history from his grandmother, which explains his father's and grandfather's lives through the eyes of Kenya's rocky past.  (As a boring ol' WASP with comparatively uneventful roots in Italy/Ireland/Germany, this was both fascinating and heartbreaking to read.)

Overall, I think any reader (from the right, left, or center) who enjoys political memoirs should give this book a try.  Obviously, you're going to read different messages into it, depending on your political leanings.  But it paints a portrait of a president that you don't often get to see--one of idealism and hope, before the political jockeying of Washington muddies the water.  For that reason alone, it's worth the read.

(Oh, and that email forward?  Nearly every line was either taken out of context or misquoted.  CHALLENGE COMPLETE!  Somebody call Snopes.)
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