Monthly Archives: April 2014

Recent Readery

I thought I might update you on my most recent reads and how I’m doing on my challenges…

So far, I have read 15 out of 40 books for the yearly challenge. I’m pretty happy with my progress.

My thoughts on five recent reads:
The Rathbones by Janice Clark. 3 out of 5 stars. Moby Dick + The Odyssey + Edgar Allen Poe + Gabriel Garcia Marquez = this book. It had an interesting premise and was well-written; it was suffused with imagery. It was innovative while heavily laden with allusions to classic fiction. But, there was nothing “light” about it. No relief from the deep and the dark. This lead me to regard it more as an undertaking than as a genuine enjoyment.

The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer. 2 out of 5 stars. I was excited to read this because the cover included an approving blurb from John Irving, a favorite author of mine. I found the book incredibly disappointing. I felt that I could have done a much better job with the exact same plot, characters, and settings as my tools. Aside from the derivative style, I was mostly disheartened by Greer’s inconvenient plot. The story itself is complicated and resolves with a just-plain-stupid ending.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. 3 out of 5 stars. It was good. It was fine. But, was I as impressed as I ought to have been? A tour-de-force? Hailed by critics and the masses? Inventive, classic, and inspiring? Meh. Rather dull in my opinion. The circular, conversational narrative is tiresome if inventive. And, while the themes are suggestively bleak, they were simultaneously unsurprising. It simply doesn’t rate as highly for me as (I suppose) it should.

Night Film by Marisha Pessl. 4 out of 5 stars. I really enjoyed Special Topics in Calamity Physics. Pessl’s second novel does not disappoint. It is similarly complicated, similarly mysterious. But, it offers a whole new story with a whole new level of forethought. The mystery is deeper and the tale is darker. The characters are both annoyingly human and believably superior. Definitely suspenseful. Definitely delightful.

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. 5 out of 5 stars. I saved the best for last. I can’t even remember the last 5-star book I read… I LOVED THIS BOOK. Shriver’s style is exactly my aesthetic: precise, deliberate, exacting without being minimal. She has an immense vocabulary at her disposal and she hunts for the exact wording and structure to make her perfect point. In addition to the ideal of her style, the subject matter is both provocative and heart-breaking. The content may be difficult for readers, so consider yourself warned. I believe Shriver imbues her narrative with thought, consequence, and feeling. I believe she captures the essence of her narrator impeccably. I will admit that I initially thought the author was a man and was thus predisposed to awe at how well “he” captured “his” female narrator. Upon discovering Ms. Shriver was, indeed, a woman, I was not disillusioned as I could have been. It matters not the gender of the author… because the tale is that outstanding.

Both Never Let Me Go and We Need to Talk About Kevin are on my challenge lists. See the challenge entry here.

I have also updated my book bingo:

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(I did make a couple changes to the existing “daubs” but all of the selections meet the challenge standards).

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Rave: Blanford Nature Center

SPRING!!!

You will have to forgive the lack of posting. We have been blessed with wonderful weather. Finally. As a result, Ducky and I have been spending most of our time outdoors. After this past winter, the worst winter I’ve ever experienced (BLARGH!), we need to make every day count. However, the past week has coincided with the local school district’s spring break. All of our preferred haunts, like the zoo, playground, museums, and Frederik Meijer Gardens, have been flooded with extra guests also enjoying the weather and simultaneous break from school. So, we decided to explore a new locale. Thus, we discovered the Blanford Nature Center.

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I am so happy we did. We went twice last week. The cost was three dollars for me (adult entrance) and the Duck (two and under) was free. It must be a bit of a hidden gem because there weren’t many visitors. During several of our hikes, we didn’t pass a single person! Best of all, the acres of the reserve are centrally located right in northwest Grand Rapids.

Upon entering, you should visit Blanford’s Nature Center and wildlife rehab area. There is a nice gift shop where you can pay for admission, pick up maps and souvenirs, and get advice from the guides. In an interior room, you can visit with the caged rabbits, owls, kestrels, snakes, and turtles, just a few of the native inhabitants. They also offer educational programs about the animals, most of which have been relinquished to the center for rehab purposes. As you exit this gift shop area, you can take the attached boardwalk through the aptly-named wildlife trail. This trail is surrounded by additional large enclosures containing owls, hawks, vultures, and even a bobcat.

From this starting point, Blanford offers numerous walking trails: mulched, rugged, boardwalks. The miles of trails run through a preserve that explores wetland, forest, and meadow environments. Duck and I hiked several miles, exploring. We spied several birds, different native plants, and even crossed paths with a garter snake. The trails are open to cross-country skiers during the snowy months. The hikes were my favorite part… with the added benefit of tiring out the kiddo so much so that she needed some serious naps afterward. Hey-ohhhh.

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Adjacent to parking and the gift shop, are several small workshops. There is a vintage schoolhouse, outhouses, an original wigwam, a maple sugar shack, a horseshoe smithy, and more. They also offer a nice picnic area. This was Ducky’s favorite part. Every night since, when I ask her what she wants to do the following day, she responds with her numerous demands and inevitably includes a picnic.

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The farm trail leads from the picnic area to the Blanford Farm and School. The farm has a chicken coop and goat pen. They also have greenhouses. The school offers programs to students wanting to learn about farming, environment, and sustainability. While we were there, the students were cleaning, building bird houses, and running the sap for the maple syrup.

Altogether, we had a great time and we will definitely return soon. I am looking forward to hiking over the season’s change. They offer a co-op garden, which I may look into, as well as fresh produce from their own farm. I highly recommend Blanford as a great surprise destination for your family. Nature right in the heart of Grand Rapids.

Check out the Blanford Nature Center website for more information.

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Readery Challenge

So, I would like to participate in a couple of reading challenges this year. First, I set a 40-book goal for the year. That’s probably a bit low, but I’d like to complete at least one of the tasks I’ve set for myself. (Since I’m doing so well keeping up with my blog… Not). I have already read ten books since I began. (Hence the blog blahs. Oops).

I’m also doing the Random House book bingo.

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I have thus far read:
A BOOK WITH MORE THAN 500 PAGES, An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon
A BOOK WRITTEN BY SOMEONE UNDER THIRTY, Divergent by Veronica Roth
A BOOK WITH A ONE-WORD TITLE, TransAtlantic by Colum McCann
A BOOK YOUR FRIEND LOVES, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
A BOOK YOU HEARD ABOUT ONLINE, Pride and Pleasure by Sylvia Day
A BEST-SELLING BOOK, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
A BOOK BY A FEMALE AUTHOR, The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
A BOOK WITH A MYSTERY, The Rathbones by Janice Clark
Well, no “corners” or “lines” yet, but I’m going for the full-card anyway.

Last year, Inquisitr posted an article of the “Top 15 21st Century Novels Destined to Become Classics”.
This list included:
1. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
2. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
3. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
4. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling
7. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
8. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay by Michael Chabon
9. Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
10. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
11. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
12. A Storm of Swords by George RR Martin
13. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
14. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
15. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
I crossed out the books I have already read. I’m not sure I necessarily agree based upon what I have read. However, being just over halfway through this list demands my attention. I’m not sure I will read all seven that are left, especially with my already-extensive “to read” list. But, I’m adding it to my self-challenge anyway. Realistically, I will be pleased if I read four of the remainder.

Finally, I would really like to freshen up on some classics. Of TIME‘s All-TIME 100 Novels, I have only read a measly 15. Of Radcliffe’s 100 Best Novels, I’ve read a slightly better 18. Still embarrassingly pathetic. I would like to commit to five “classics” this year. Fingers crossed.

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