My Constantly Evolving List of All-Time Favorites.

Kyle 's favorites books montage

Gone Girl
The Night Circus
The Woodcutter
The Graveyard Book
Sharp Objects
Dark Places
Shutter Island
The Passage
The Twelve
Rules of Civility
The Aviary
Heir to the Glimmering World
Wool Omnibus
The Weird Sisters
A Song of Ice and Fire
A Game of Thrones

Kyle Uniss's favorite books »

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Ups and Downs of Family and The Downs and Ups of "The Burgess Boys"

We've had a crazy week. This time of the school year is always crazy. We're getting ready for the end of elementary school for my older daughter, which means planning a whole celebration and a committee--luckily this committee is made up of some of my favorite moms. We are full steam into lacrosse, and it has been cold, so that means sitting along side a field cheering for said older daughter, and watching all the tween drama that goes into a bunch of nine and ten year-old girls fighting for a small ball with large sticks. Oh, and her dad (my wonderful husband) is coaching, so I get to cheer for him, too.

And there is daughter number two. Dance recital time. I don't know that I've shared this, but my younger daughter has Down syndrome, so her dance class is always fun. But this time of the year it's always a little nerve-racking, wondering if she and her wonderous special needs dance class will pull off the dance. This year they are dancing to Katy Perry's Firework, my daughters absolute FAVORITE song, so getting her to dance and NOT sing is difficult.

This year we also have the fun of a tax audit (ugh), an endoscopy for my younger daughter (to verify that she has Celiac disease) and a visit to the endocrinologist (because she may have thyroid issues as well). All this in the next two weeks. I'm so tired. But family is family, as 'The Burgess Boys'  teaches us.  And here's the review.


I have to say WOW to "The Burgess Boys." I had the luxury of listening to this book, and it was wonderful. I cannot wait to sit down and read it. Strout writes beautifully, and at times I felt that someone was in my ear reading poetry, the words are so lyrical and beautiful.

But that's just the wonderous icing on this story cake. The characters in this story are so well developed that you really know them. Although I'm done with the book, I'm worried about Jim and Bob, Susan and Zach, even Helen and Pam. I want to contact someone in the family and check on everyone...that is how attached I became to "The Burgess Boys" and the rest of the clan as I read this wonderful book. Strout did a phenomenal job with "Olive Kitteridge" and managed to recreate the same character magic in "The Burgess Boys".

With so many characters there is a chance that one or two won't be well developed, but even the 'minor' characters have incredible depth. We see the Burgess family at the height of their jerkiness, each in a different way, and we see them all find their way back to humanity, realizing that family does best when they work together.

We also get to see bleak, stark Maine and its epic struggle to hang onto its identity while accepting immigrants, something with which Maine seems to have trouble. Maine has had influxes of immigrants, from French Canadian loggers and Swedish factory workers who came to Maine for jobs to modern day Somalis fleeing a war torn county.

This is the story of family, and what people will do for family. There are times in the Burgess family lives when they can't stand each other, but they come together because they need each other. Each member of the family falls way down into the pit of despair, but they make it back up into the good parts of life. This isn't a happy ending story, but it's not a sad ending either. It's an ending to a part of life, and that means there's some good and some bad.

Definitely read, or listen to,The Burgess Boys. And if you haven't done it yet, check out Olive Kitteridge. You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Comfortable at home and cozy comforts with Maeve Binchy

It's spring time in Ohio. Finally, I guess. As a girl raised in Colorado, I'm used to a winter that can rear its ugly head all the way into May, or even June or July if you live in the higher elevations. Of course, in Colorado you can have beautiful, sunny days reaching into the 70's in January. Weather in Colorado is incredibly wonky--but I've decided that almost every state says that--except California, who seems to think every day there is sunny. Every day is not sunny in California, but don't tell them that.

Back to Ohio. Ohio does have some weather fluctuations, but there almost one constant. It is gray A LOT of the year. Sunny days are celebrated and loved. It took me a while to adjust; Colorado is sunny almost all the time, except when it is snowing or, in the summer, an afternoon thunderstorm. But I have adjusted, and have celebrated the last few sunny days along with my fellow Ohioans. All the sun came to an end last night, with the loud crash boom of a sudden thunderstorm, and now we have a rainy day. I really don't mind. Except that I have to work, and I would rather hibernate under a warm comforter and read my Kindle all day. My work day doesn't start until noon or so, so today I did cuddle up and read. I did not go to the gym (my excuse? My hair was colored yesterday, today was my swimming day, and I didn't want to mess up my new wonderful color), so I snuck back under my down comforter and read. And read comfort. I read Maeve Binchy. So, onto that review.

“Because we always regret what we don’t do, rarely what we do do.”

I don't know why but I went off of Binchy for awhile. And by awhile I mean about four years. May be I was feeling high brow and eschewing all feel-good literature. Maybe I was into dark mysteries. Maybe, because my senior thesis was on James Joyce, I was feeling Binchy would be too happy, too 'comforting', compared to Joyce. Maybe it was because I always read her when I went to my mother-in-law's house and she passed away, and reading Binchy made me sad. I think it was that last one, since I'm tearing up a bit now.

Any way, I decided to read her again last week when I heard about her passing. Her books are a bit of fluff, but fluff like going to your hometown and only seeing the good parts. Fluff like going to your grandma's, who doesn't say anything about your faults and even spoils you a bit. Fluff that makes you feel good even though you know outside there is a world where everything is not perfect, where you have to pay your bills, and make dinner for your family. So I fell into the fluff. And it was awesome.

Binchy creates a wonderous vision of Ireland, mainly Dublin, where everyone is closely connected and all the wrongs are righted in the end. She has a knack for bringing back many characters from earlier books, much like another favorite, Stephen King (although they are nothing alike, they do share this tendency).  This makes Dublin seem like a big community where everyone is only one connection away from the shopkeeper down the street. Because of this large sense of community, all it takes is for the right people to meet and the lonely fall in love, alcoholics see the light, bitchy women get there comeuppance and apologize to those they hurt, misunderstandings are straightened out, and adulterers, drug dealers, and/or women beaters are kicked to the curb and usually meet a bad end. Just as we wish it was in real life.

While I was reading this book I found myself reading (mostly in my head, but sometimes out loud) with an Irish accent, inserting words like 'GRAND' and 'LOVELY' every once and awhile. I nestled in and didn't want to put the book down. I wanted to go to St. Brigid's Heart Center and get a job just so I could be part of this wonderful Ireland.

I did not want Heart and Soul to end, as I remember feeling with all Binchy books. I wanted to curl up and continue to be engulfed in this world. Ensconced. Enmeshed. Entranced. Hmm, I may have to pick up another Binchy book for tonight. Her books make me smile and sigh contendedly, and I don't think this is a bad thing. In fact, I think every once and awhile a book should make you smile and sigh. Everyone needs a reason for that.

The newest Binchy book is A Week in Winterpublished a couple of months ago. It's on my to read list, but will have to wait a bit. I wish I could jump right in, but I have so many books on my Kindle that I can't justify it. I'll wait for another rainy day or a sad patch in life, whichever comes first, and then take the trip back to Ireland. I can't wait to be sad.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Finding time for everything and wasting time with Sparks the Night

I love this little blog I've created. It lets me vent and create all at the same time. But it has been suffering because of my family. I'm sure every woman goes through this--I know most of my good friends do, and lately I have been feeling it as well. Wondering how women get everything done and still have time for themselves. I mean, I don't ask for a lot. But the point is there is never enough time to get done all I want to get done. And that includes sleep. I never get enough sleep.

Being a mother means giving up part of yourself. People trying to get pregnant, who want children more than anything need to realize that children mean giving up who think you are. Not that there's anything wrong with that, not that I would change anything--I feel like my family completes me and has made me a better me--and more than that, they have made me realize it isn't all about me. But everyone, I mean, EVERYONE, needs something that makes them a little more. I like a couple of things (well, more than that, but . . . ) and I think if I get to do them they make me a better person. But finding time to do them is difficult, and finding time to do one of them means the other things I like to do suffer. Do you follow? No? Well, let me explain a little.

Okay, so the four (I know I said a couple, but my first swim coach taught me that a couple could be anywhere from two to twenty) things I really like to do are exercise, read, write and socialize. I also have two daughters, ages almost-10 and 8 (actually, almost 9, but that remembering that they're only 15 months apart reminds me of the first four years of their lives and how little sleep I actually got), and their activities keep me running. Dance, swimming, lacrosse, school volunteering, PTO, IEP meetings (for my younger daughter--more on that at a later date), doctor appointments (again, for my younger daughter), play dates, parks, sleepovers . . . I'm exhausting myself. Plus there are all the things that I don't do for them that I feel like they should be learning--ice skating, skiing, reading clubs, family hikes, family bike rides . . . that make me even more tired. Yes, they are in school all day, but I work (from home, but I do work), and I'm married (and sometimes he is a big child), and both of those things take time out of my life. Again, I like my work and I love my husband, but they cut into 'me time.'

So, what I've found is that I can usually get one thing in a day that is all mine IF I keep my life the way it is. I can combine somethings; when I do the elliptical I can read, and when I'm working or writing I can listen to books. But that is about it. Reading and and swimming don't work well together, nor does writing and socializing. Kinda rude to rip out the laptop while we're pouring out our lives over wine and flatbread pizzas.

I'm sorry that my blog has been suffering, but I think I have a solution. I think I've got to start getting up earlier and writing. At 6:00. Yep, that sounds really good at 7:30 on a Sunday night. But getting up is another thing. My creative muse needs to get in there and overpower the sandman so I can get up at 6:00. Guess I'll start getting my muse to the gym and attempt to weaken the sandman. He is REALLY strong. I mean offensive lineman strong. So the muse will have to use different muscles to overpower him. I think she can do it. I mean, women have inner strength that men dream about, right?


Speaks the Nightbird by Robert McCammon

This book was a great story wrapped up in way to much descriptive narrative. I listened to this book, otherwise I could not have finished it. If I had been reading it, there is no way I could have made it through the first half, because the first half was incredibly boring, and, as noted above, my life is too busy to waste on boring books. It was perfect for work; I like background noise while I work, and that's what the first half was--background noise. It meandered and wandered down dead ends, but that was okay while I worked.

By the time it got to the story I was, luckily for me, just enough invested in the characters to keep listening. The actual story was wonderful--mysterious, interesting and thrilling. It took a long time to get the goods, but once there it was worth it. The dead ends seem to find the highway, finding its way to the meat of the story. McCammon does a great job of bringing in all the interesting characters and story lines from the first bit of the book and helping them make sense. It just takes a long while.

 Bottom line: if you have time, read this book. It doesn't seem to be available on Kindle, but I would suggest listening to it on a long car ride. Or maybe at night when you are trying to go to sleep. It is available abridged (31 + hours) or unabridged (41 + hours).