The Sunday Salon: A Month of Two Readalongs

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Sunday

You know a pregnant woman is nesting when she signs up for too many reading projects/reviews, especially when she is very close to her due date. Yep, that's just what I did.

Back when I was just newly pregnant and delivery/baby was a distant idea, I decided that I wouldn't make any commitments in reading or blogging, starting from May to some unknown month. The way I saw it then, I was likely going to have a ton of things to do and it didn't make sense to add more to my plate. Now that May is here, and I was right - there is a ton of things to do - I am more desperate than ever for life and work to be more normal than it is. I don't want to pause the things that have been a constant in my life. Instead, signing up for readathons, readalongs, and book reviews seem to be just what I want to distract myself from the ongoing chaos that is preparing for a baby. If I didn't have reading as a hobby, I'd probably be fretting about trying to get things done, even though, let's be honest, what is the point of all this prep work? It's not like we are moving house.

Anyways, the point of all that rambling is to say this - I'm doing two readalongs this month (and super excited about them). I also have four books to review this month (gulp!). Oh, and Armchair BEA is also towards the end of this month, and although right now I'm undecided about whether to participate, I know very well that I WILL end up participating, so might as well get that planned out.

I haven't done a readalong in forever, so I am excited about the two I'm doing this month.

Flowers for Algernon readalong

Care of Care's Online Book Club and I somehow got talking about reading Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes when I mentioned purchasing this book last month. I'll admit not really knowing much about this book except that it comes much-recommended. It is later that I learned that this book is on several school lists (of course, it is) and banned at several too (of course, it is) and that it is some kind of science fiction book. So this month, we are doing a completely casual no-rules readalong and may post about the book when we are halfway through it. I think Care is probably already past that point so I need to catch up. Trish of Love, Laughter, and Insanity has also joined in - she has also started reading the book couple of days ago, so at this point, I'm the only one yet to turn a page. I promise - that's happening today. We will be tweeting about this book using #MayFFA.

A Visit from the Goon Squad readalong

The other book I'm reading along is A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan with Alex of The Sleepless Reader. She had just bought the book last month and I had always been eyeing this title for a while. I had given this book a try when it first came out but for some reason, I never got past two chapters - I don't remember why. I started this book yesterday and it is turning out to be wonderful so far and hard to put down. I've only finished one chapter so I'm not too far in, plus I probably won't be rushing it anyway - I'm enjoying the writing a lot. I had suggested tweeting about this book using #goonsquad but I don't think that hashtag was well thought out because umm.. well you can search for that hashtag and find out why. So we'll have to find another one.

So, if you are interested in any or both of these books, jump right in and let one of us know. Both are going to be low-pressure - we aren't doing any discussion posts, which always makes the actual reading suffer for me, because then I am trying to just meet that deadline. You can post often about the book if you wish, or none at all.

In other matters, the husband and I are heading for the early morning show of Avengers: Age of Ultron. I loved the first movie and have been waiting for this second one for a while, so I'm quite excited. Have you seen this movie yet? Or planning to?

The Walking Dead (Vols. 9 to 23) by Robert Kirkman (No Spoilers)

Thursday, April 30, 2015

I just realized that it has been a while since I talked about the Walking Dead books. I posted about the first 8 volumes here, but since then I've caught up to Volume 22, so that's 14 books since Compendium 1. Volume 23 just got released yesterday so it will be a while before I purchase it and then Volume 24 is coming in September.

So far I love how far the series has come. We started with the undead being the biggest threat but now, it is the people who are alive who cannot be trusted. No surprise because isn't that the motif of most apocalyptic books? Still, it's interesting how many different ways this idea can be portrayed. I just hope it doesn't become old news.

There have been some awfully sad and sometimes very graphic events in these books. Much like in the TV show, but sometimes I feel that even the show doesn't always go to some of the places the books have been to. There is one particular incident concerning the death of a much-loved character that I am totally dreading. With the series now only a few volumes behind, that incident could possibly come very soon - maybe next season. I found it very interesting that they jumped ahead to the Wolves storyline - possibly to extend said character's numbered days? If they even show that scene on screen, on top of being one of the saddest deaths ever, it will also be one of the hardest deaths to watch, just because of the sheer violence of it. I am both curious about and totally dreading it.

Other than that one incident, I like where the characters are currently. There's a semblance of peace and order, and some kind of civilization is in existence, but new people who arrive aren't always willing to accept it. I find that funny - if you don't like a place, leave it. Do you really want to destroy all that for no reason other than your lack of trust? Of course, some people are innately nefarious, but it's when the neither bad nor good people muddle something that it bugs me - we don't need a plot like that, it feels too convenient and unbelievable.

I can't wait to see where the books are heading next. So far, some of my favorite characters are still hanging around, though two of my favorite characters in the TV show aren't in the books (one dead long ago, one never penned in these books). But most of the characters are so different now even from where they are currently in the show - Rick, Carl, Maggie, just to name a few.

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Cellist of Sarajevo
If this city is to die, it won't be because of the men on the hills, it will be because of the people in the valley. When they're content to live with death, to become what the men on the hills want them to be, then Sarajevo will die.

The Cellist of Sarajevo has been a book I wanted to read for quite a while. Every time I read a review of this book, I feel compelled to read the book itself but then pretty soon I forget all about it. When I saw this book at my B&N store early this year, I picked it up almost on a whimsy, and a few weeks later, I dived into it.

This is a very short book, but it is by no means a fast read. I found myself wanting to stop often, to ponder the passages and their meanings. There is so much depth in this book, which is interesting because plot-wise, there isn't much. I wouldn't even say that this is a character-driven story, which it is. To me, it felt more like an action-driven story - how something you do ends up having a lot of consequences and can change the path of your future, how you give the impression of being a certain kind of person but deep inside you are nothing like that vision, how you never wanted to be involved in something but life and war brings you to the exact spot you swore off. The Cellist of Sarajevo is a very interesting study of humans and war, specifically humans in war, with the Bosnian War as the backdrop.

At the center of the story is the titular cellist, who is a minor character of this book. He has just resolved to play the cello at the site of a bombing for 22 days to mourn the 22 people who died there. (This cellist is inspired by Vedran Samilović, the real-life cellist who used to play in ruined buildings.) The arcs of three other characters, Arrow, Dragan, and Kenan evolve around the cellist's resolution. Arrow is a sniper who never wanted to kill people, and yet here she is, targeting the rebels and gunning them down. She is so good at what she does that she has thus far escaped capture. However, her newest assignment - protect the cellist at all costs - is likely to be far more dangerous than aiming her gun at remote rebels.

Dragan is one of the lucky few who still had a job. Every day, he makes his way from his house to the bakery where he works but there is one intersection that he needs to cross which is occasionally the focus of some sniper's fire. This particular day, the sniper has his scope focused on the intersection making Dragan unable to cross for a long time. It is here that he learns some valuable lessons about the indomitable human spirit even in the eyes of real danger.

Kenan makes a trip every few days to a water reservoir to fill his six bottles with enough water to keep his wife and kids sated for a few days. He also takes two extra bottles for his elderly neighbor whom he doesn't like and who doesn't give him any gratitude or appreciation. So far, he has been lucky although there is plenty of danger that he needs to face during this journey. But this time, he isn't so lucky.

There is so much to love in this book. Galloway's portrayal of what war does to people is interesting. Two of the characters identify themselves more as cowards than heroes. I would hesitate to call them cowards because they are really just scared. Kenan, the father, appears stoic, in control of himself, and confident in front of his family but the moment he steps outside for one of his frequent trips to get water, he crumbles to the floor because he doesn't want to die nor does he want to go out and walk in front of the enemy. Dragan doesn't try to help a friend who gets shot when she tries to cross the intersection but he does get embarrassed when a total stranger helps this woman over to the other side. Arrow, on the other hand, is more of a self-righteous person. She doesn't want to kill a weaponless person just because they seem to be in enemy territory. She would rather die than lose her principles.

I loved The Cellist of Sarajevo more than I thought I would when I first started it. The best comparison I can get for this book is any of José Saramago's books, which are incredibly difficult to plow through but by the end you are rewarded with an excellent story, wonderful characters, and plenty of wisdom to ponder. This isn't a book you want to rush through. It would make for an excellent night-time reading - the chapters aren't long, the characters are very identifiable, and despite how sad the circumstances are, you can't help but feel uplifted by the positive aspects of the book.

This book is from my personal library.

The Sunday Salon: After the Readathon

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Sunday

The readathon

Unexpectedly, I was able to find some time to take part in yesterday's 24 hour readathon. Gone are the days when I did try to stay up all 24 hours to read, but it's still great to carve out some dedicated reading time. Although I feel like I had been reading mostly all day, except for the 3 hours after lunch when we stepped out for some errands, my clock tells me I had only read for 8 hours in total, including one hour this morning. It's funny how when you actually time yourself, you find there's a lot of time that goes into other stuff, necessary or otherwise. Still, 8 hours is longer than I have ever spent reading a whole day, at least in recent times.

I had been posting my updates on Tumblr and Twitter, so to summarize my overall stats:

Books finished
From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess by Meg Cabot
The Walking Dead, Vol 21 by Robert Kirkman

Books in progress
Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill (about 50 pages left)
The Magicians by Lev Grossman (about 75 pages left)

464 pages | 8 hours


So far, today is slowly shaping up to be another day of chores, which is fine by me. I'm slowly beginning to genuinely realize that there's not much time left before the baby is here. 2.5 months sounds like it's far out there, but 11 weeks feels like time is just going to a-fly. My appointments have also now become a biweekly exercise and not a once-a-month routine anymore. Plus, I still have classes coming up over the next couple of weeks, there's a hospital tour I need to make, meet our pediatrician of choice, buy a crib (from among the bazillion highly rated ones), rearrange some of our rooms, paint the playroom, and then get ready for family who will be here mid-June. Honestly, I'm not too fussed - I know it will all fall in place in time, I guess I've just not had such a busy few months to look forward to since grad school.

The husband's heading to Dallas for some training, so it's another week where the dog and I try to pretend to entertain each other. I'm glad though for all the reading time I had yesterday. I'm looking forward to spending the evening finishing up the two books (Dept. of Speculation and The Magicians), and then get into that blissful state where I wonder what to read next. Hopefully, before I start my next read, I'll get some reviews written, because I am woefully behind there.

Okay readathon, here I come (I think)

Saturday, April 25, 2015

I wasn't planning to do the readathon this time. What with a crazy busy week at work and a list of things I would like to get done this weekend before the husband leaves to Dallas for a week of escape from the nesting wife training, it doesn't look like reading was going to be a major highlight today. But I somehow managed to re-evaluate my chores and push some off to tomorrow, because isn't that what we do anyways when a good book calls our name?

So today, I'm hoping to spend more time reading than I usually do. I still have a few phone calls to make today, crib-shopping to do, and "support" the husband with some of his more man-tasks. Still, I'm totally thrilled to be doing this. I know once the baby comes, reading is going to be a luxury, at least for a while. And I want to milk it while I can. There's no better time to go into a rut than when you actually cannot read. I probably also won't take part in any of the challenges, although I'd love to (I had so much fun with them a few years ago) but I'm hoping today will be more about reading, blogging, and visiting other participants.

Here's the stack I hope to dip in and out of. I didn't exactly plan my reading this time so I just picked whichever books on my shelves pricked my fancy. I'm hoping my reading mood will more dictate my reading choices through the day. I'm just under 100 pages from finishing The Magicians and am halfway through From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess.

I will be mostly tweeting or tumbling about my readathon progress, and will do a full-wrap up post here tomorrow once I am done.

Opening meme
What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
From Virginia, where it's rainy, dreary, and gloomy today. So that makes for a perfect reading day!

Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
Have to say I cannot wait to read The Walking Dead Vols 21 and 22. Now that season five is over, it's time to catch up with the books.

Which snack are you most looking forward to?
Since I'm pregnant - anything sweet! Yes, not healthy at all, but we know who to blame for that.

Tell us a little something about yourself!
I've been blogging for more than five years (!) - that five year mark snuck up on me during last Christmas. I mostly read literary fiction and listen to nonfiction. I love graphic books and can never seem to get enough of them.

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 know I have participated thrice in the past but my plan is the same as before - read more, spend less time on the internet (or the phone).