Saturday, September 30, 2017

A Month In The Life: September 2017

September is supposed to be sweater weather, right? Crispy leaves and a bite in the wind. But in Reno, our September started with a 100-degree weekend and took its sweet time about cooling down. Thankfully, we got a nice little cold front through and the first day of autumn was a chilly 60 degrees (with snow in the mountains). This ended up being a fairly mellow month, which was great because October promises to be rather busy indeed! In a good way, but it still was nice to have some chill time.

In Books...

  • The Year of Magical Thinking: I'd never read Joan Didion's work before, but this memoir about living through the simultaneous loss of her husband and serious illness of her daughter was really powerful. I can't even imagine being so eloquent about such devastating experiences.
  • Boys And Girls Together: This book was by the same author that wrote The Princess Bride, which I enjoyed, but I did not at all enjoy this one. While Goldman has a gift for characterization and dialogue, none of the five main characters, young dreamers who find themselves drawn to New York City, are good enough people to root for or compelling enough in their self-created dramas to get invested in. 
  • The Sisters Chase: This was our book club pick for the month and I did not like it. It indulged in one of my least favorite writing "tricks": hiding information known by the characters from the reader to drive its narrative. It was just deeply not my kind of book and I found reading it to be incredibly frustrating. 
  • Valley of the Dolls: This is the source material for a notoriously campy movie, and as such it should be no surprise that it's quite campy itself. There is an actual wig-snatching, y'all. At the same time, though, there's a real story here about the ways that the world preys on women. It's a good, entertaining read.
  • Duel With The Devil: This book tells the story of the trial of Levi Weeks, who was accused of murder and defended by no less a legal team than Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. Together, on the same side! It does a good job of setting the scene and providing the context for what was a sensational murder trial, but there's not really a lot of there there. 
  • Stay With Me: This debut got a lot of hype, and I think that does it a disservice. It's a good book (the writing is lovely and Adebayo does some great characterization) but not a great one (some of the plot turns border on ludicrous). It's worth the read, though, if you're interested in it and I'll definitely be following Adeyabo's career and looking out for her next work.

In Life...

  • Spent a weekend at Lake Tahoe: Just a couple weeks after going up to the lake with my mom, Drew's annual work convention was up there. So I took Friday off from work and joined him! I got to take my first-ever ride on the Heavenly Gondolas, which was really fun, and we made some new Australian friends! 
  • Started working out again: This summer was so beastly hot that I stopped running outside, but now that it's reasonable out there again, I've gotten back to it. I'd managed to drop some necessary weight during session but gained it back over the past few months so I'm pushing myself to be physically active (and conscious of my consumption). 

One Thing:

My office manager first introduced me to this, but now I can't get enough of kombucha! Ever since I had my gallbladder out a few years back, I've had some lingering digestive issues, but this has really helped with those because of the probiotic content. There are definitely people who tout health benefits beyond that, so while I do generally feel pretty good since I've started drinking it daily, I also am usually pretty healthy so that might not mean much. I've tried a bunch of different kinds, and have to say that KeVita's Master Brew Grapefruit is my tastes like a slightly sourer version of Squirt, one of my favorite sodas.

Gratuitous Pug Picture:

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Book 96: The Mothers

"Anna was fifty-eight, a wife and mother, a stalwart of the community. She had built a solid life. But that wasn't all of her. I'm not one person, Anna thought, none of us is. All the secret feelings I've kept inside- they are all the different people I am."

Dates read: October 8-10, 2016

Rating: 4/10

There are few things in the world that are as simultaneously alluring and terrifying as motherhood. For me personally, I am both on the one hand wanting to be a mom and raise children and watch them grow up, and on the other completely overwhelmed at the thought of the expense, and the responsibility, and the idea that I might get it wrong. Maybe I'm being naive, but I imagine many other women feel the same way. Some of them go on to have kids, some don't, and there's something anti-feminist about it, but it seems undeniable that wrestling with the decision whether or not to have children is fundamental to a female experience of the world.

Rod Jones' The Mothers is set in Australia over the course of several generations. It begins with Alma, who gets pregnant young and rushes into marriage with a man she barely knows. By the time their second child is a toddler, the couple is estranged, and when her husband brings home his paramour, Alma flees. She has nowhere to go, but is taken in by a young man about her age and his mother, who he still lives with. The two eventually conceive a child of their own, but he doesn't want to marry her and cuts off his support of their daughter, Molly, abruptly during her youth. Broke and desperate, Alma sends Molly to live in an orphanage for a time, but eventually reclaims her...and her father makes a surprise reappearance in her life. Molly grows up and makes a good marriage of her own, but finds herself unable to get pregnant.

Meanwhile, Anna is a teenage mother sent a religious home for unwed mothers, where she is convinced to give up her baby son for adoption despite her desperate desire to keep him. That son is adopted by Molly and named David, and spoiled as Molly tries to work through her own complicated childhood legacy. David, in turn, grows up to get his girlfriend Caroline pregnant, and even though he stays with her, he doesn't exactly do right by her. When David's older and has established his family, he wants to meet his birth mother, and she has complicated feelings about a reunion.

This book is hard to write about because there's not a lot there. The themes he riffs on, of the difficult choices women have to make around motherhood and the way mothers raise their children playing out in how they deal with their own parenthood, aren't new, and he doesn't do anything special with them. It does strike me as strange that this book was written by a man...the emotional costs of motherhood seem like a topic much more germane to a female experience. Not that it's written poorly or with a hamhanded treatment of the's fine if completely unremarkable, for the most part, but it made me wonder about Jones' own feelings about his mother. Was he raised in an environment where he became particularly empathetic towards women's stories, or does he have a more complicated relationship with mother figures in his life that he's trying to work out? Psych 101-ing someone based on one piece of writing is a completely futile endeavor, but his subject and treatment of it are unusual enough that it elicits the question, anyway. 

Tell me, blog you think our childhood relationship with our parents resonates throughout our lives?

One year ago, I was reading: The Circle

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Feature Sisters

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly linkup of book bloggers hosted by The Broke and The Bookish! This week, our topic was to chose ten books that highlighted a particular type of character. I figured I'd focus on sisterhood, since that's a subject that has a lot of meaning for me (my little sister is 2000 miles away and I miss her).

My Sister's Keeper: This Jodi Picoult tearjerker is about a girl who's been serving as a source of replacement body tissue for her sister, who's been struggling against cancer, for most of her life. When her sister needs her yet again, she takes her fight to be able to make her own decisions about her body to court. It's compulsively readable and really gets you by the heartstrings.

Game of Thrones: There are sisters all over this series, but the ones I find most interesting are Sansa and Arya Stark. The former wants nothing more than to be a great noble lady, while the latter strains against the boundaries she feels trapped into because of her gender. The ways that sisters struggle to define themselves against each other feels very true to me.

Atonement: This is a book I keep meaning to revisit, because I didn't care for it when I read it as a high schooler but I really enjoyed the movie when I saw it years later. It tells the story of Briony Tallis, whose jealousy of her older sister and overactive young teenage imagination lead her to make a careless accusation which destroys lives. Sisterhood is wonderful, but there's darkness there too and this is a powerful exploration of that.

The Descendants: This novel, about a father and his two daughters reacting to the accident that left the mother in a terminal coma, is more about the relationship of the family as a whole than the sisters specifically. But the sisters, both damaged by their childhoods in their own way, provide an interesting example of how two children can come out of the same household and wind up being very different people.

The Red Tent: This book, on the other hand, is deeply about sisterhood. This novel, which I've loved since I first read it in high school, tells the story of the only daughter of the biblical Jacob, starting with the story of her mothers. Yes, mothers, since it's not only her biological mother Leah who raises her, but also her aunt Rachel and their half-sisters (as Diamant tells it), Zilpah and Bilhah, all married to her father. To be four sisters is one thing, but four sisters sharing one man complicates the situation, and the ways the bonds between them change over time is beautifully drawn.

Sense and Sensibility: Pride and Prejudice has more sisters, but her siblings seemed like mostly window dressing to Lizzie Bennett's story. Sense and Sensibility is much more strongly rooted in the bond between Elinor and Marianne Dashwood...and any older sister who's used to fretting over a much more impulsive younger sister will recognize herself here.

Seating Arrangements: This book I had mixed feelings about as a whole, but thought it had an interesting perspective on sisterhood. While older sister Daphne seems, to younger sister Lydia, to glide through life without too much trouble, Lydia feels like a puzzle piece that doesn't fit. It's easy to feel, sometimes, like the life your sister leads is a reference point for the way you should or shouldn't live your own. Comparison and jealousy is a very real part of sisterhood.

The Other Boleyn Girl: I will concede that this book is kind of soapy and ridiculous, but I love this whole series and just embrace the fromage. Before Anne Boleyn ensnared King Henry VIII, he was enamored of her sister, Mary, who became his mistress for a time. They don't always like each other, which is very true of sisterhood, but the bonds of family prove very hard to actually break.

Housekeeping: I actually did not love this book, to be perfectly honest, but I did like the way that Marilynne Robinson played with the idea of sister relationships through generations. Ruth and Lucille are still quite little when their mother abandons them and drives her car off a cliff, and when several other arrangements fall apart, they wind up with their aunt Sylvie, who's...odd. She's basically a hobo, and Ruth finds herself drawn closer and closer to her while Lucille chases conventionality.

Spoiled: This fun, silly YA novel from the bloggers behind Go Fug Yourself tells the story of a teenage girl from flyover country who finds out, when her mother dies, that her father is a major Hollywood star. She moves out to LA to get to know him and the sister she never knew she had. It's predictable, in large measure, and maybe a bit too broad, but I liked the way the relationship between the sisters develops.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Book 95: Sophie's Choice

"I was unable to make the anthropomorphic leap and thus failed to comprehend the resemblance between a swan and any specific human being, but Sophie swore that they were dead look-alikes, began to call him Tadeusz and murmured to him in little glottal clucks and clicks of Polish as she heaved at him the debris from her bag. I rarely ever saw Sophie lose her temper, but the conduct of the other swans, bossy and preemptive, so fatly greedy, infuriated her and she yelled Polish swear words at the big bastards and favored Tadeusz by making sure that he got more than his share of the garbage. Her vehemence startled me. I did not—because I could not at the time—connect this energetic protectorship of the underdog (the underswan?) with anything that had happened in her past, but her campaign for Tadeusz was funny and immensely appealing."

Dates read: September 30-October 8, 2016

Rating: 6/10

Lists/Awards: National Book Award

Growing up, we all read books and stories about the Holocaust in school. We all learn about Auschwitz and the ovens. But for me, personally, there were three movies that took it beyond words in a history book and made the horror of it visceral: Schindler's List, The Pianist, and Sophie's Choice. They are all beautifully and powerfully made films that I never want to watch again. There's something about actually seeing it depicted on film that takes what is objectively horrible on the page (all three are based on books) and makes it just a harrowing gut punch almost too much to be borne. It's still hard to read about, but not as hard as watching it.

William Styron's original novel of Sophie's Choice takes us to post-WWII Brooklyn. It's not the poverty-ridden borough of A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, but neither is it modern-day wealthy hipster Brooklyn. It's in-between, an "ethnic" (read: mostly Jewish) working-class neighborhood. It's in a boarding house there that our narrator, aspiring writer and native Southerner Stingo, finds himself after he quits his dead-end publishing house job and can't afford Manhattan any longer. His first day in his new room, he's treated to the sound of noisy, athletic sex in the room right above his...and not too long after, he meets the lovers, Sophie and Nathan, in the midst of an awful, emotionally and physically violent public fight.

The pair are soon reconciled, though, and Stingo is quickly drawn into their orbit. Beautiful Sophie is a Polish survivor of Auschwitz who does secretarial work for a chiropractor, and the mercurial Nathan is an American Jewish medical researcher, and Stingo falls a little bit in love with both of them as he begins to write a novel based in his experiences of the South. But another messy fight and breakup between Sophie and Nathan ultimately reveals that neither of them is exactly who they seem to be and makes their tragic end seem inevitable.

This took me unusually long to get through: not because the subject matter is tough, even though it is, but because the book is just dense. Styron's prose tends towards the purple, and while usually I'm down with books that are on the overwritten side, it's a lot, you guys. It feels like the writing is struggling against the story, almost, trying to keep it from sweeping over the reader. There are plenty of remarkable passages, but the ratio of those to portions that drag isn't nearly high enough.

The story of Sophie and Nathan, when it manages to take off, is sweeping and powerful and dramatic (if a bit on the Freudian side...there's a lot of eros/thanatos stuff going on). But what grinds it to a halt is the character of Stingo. He's an obvious writer-insert character, and Styron badly overestimates how interesting the portion of the book that's devoted to his sexual frustration is. It's not only boring, it's cringe-worthy, especially the section where he jerks himself off while sharing a hotel room with his father and makes so much noise when he finishes that he wakes his dad up. I'm not going to say that no one wants to read about that because maybe someone does, but it's tonally discordant with a book that's mostly about the evils humans inflict on themselves and each other and the way we tell our own stories to try to shape the world into a way we can better cope with it. There's greatness here, but it desperately needed a better editor to cut it and make it shine like it should have. As is, it's worth reading but not something I'd honestly recommend.

Tell me, blog friends...can you rewatch those kinds of movies?

One year ago, I was reading: The Professor and the Madman

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: My Fall TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly linkup of book bloggers hosted by The Broke and The Bookish! This week's topic, our fall to-be-read list, is probably supposed to be focusing on fall new releases. But since I don't read a ton of new releases, I thought I'd show you the next ten books I'm reading! There will be a book club pick or two inserted in this lineup, but I don't know what those will be yet so here's what I'm planning to read.

Stay With Me: An ARC I meant to get to earlier but didn't, I've heard kind of mixed reviews of this story of an African couple debating polygamy in order to have a family. I'm curious, though, and some people seem to have really liked it, so I'm going to go for it.

Bonfire of the Vanities: Apparently this is very 80s-tastic...I've never seen the movie but it was a legendary flop, so I'm really curious about the source material.

The Royals: I know, I know, this book is filled with gossip and half-truths and is nearly a decade old now, to boot. But I've always been interested in the British royal family and I want to read it so I'm going to.

The Blind Assassin: I recently re-read The Handmaid's Tale and was struck not only with the relevancy of the tale, but the quality of the writing. I want to read more of Atwood's work, and also it won the Booker Prize, which is an awards list I tend to enjoy.

Player Piano: The only Vonnegut I've read is Slaughterhouse-Five, which I really did like, so I decided to read more of his work.

White Fur: I'm behind on getting to this ARC too, but I've heard some good stuff about it from bloggers I trust so I'm looking forward to finally reading it!

The Book Thief: A bunch of people I know love this book, but my middle school English teacher mother-in-law doesn't care for it...I'm curious who I end up agreeing with!

The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter: This book is one of those that tends to show up on lots of different "best of" lists, so I snagged it on sale for the Kindle.

The Underground Railroad: This book was a major hit last year and I've been meaning to read it for months, so it's time to finally make that happen.

A Vast Conspiracy: I love Jeffrey Toobin, so I was super stoked when I found a second-hand copy of his book on the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal so I could read it.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Book 94: The Circle

"Suffering is only suffering if it's done in silence, in solitude. Pain experienced in public, in view of loving millions, was no longer pain. It was communion."

Dates read: September 27-30, 2016

Rating: 3/10

I don't know about you, but a lot of my internet presence is tied to either my Google account or my Facebook account. It's so hard to remember a million different passwords and logins when you can just authorize logging in through Facebook and not have to worry about it anymore. But we all know it's not quite as innocuous as we'd like it to believe...we see the ads for that cute dress we looked at on our work computer show up on our home computer and know that we signed into the website selling that cute dress through Facebook. Technology and social media are awesome, but they're also new. If we're being honest, we don't really understand the full ramifications of putting so much of our lives on the internet. We're making a lot of it up as we go along.

In Dave Eggers' The Circle, we're ever-so-slightly in the future, and one large umbrella company has taken over most of what happens on the internet: all your social media and e-commerce goes through a TruYou profile, a product of The Circle. When Mae Holland, a recent graduate of an East Coast private liberal arts school who grew up in working class California, is able to get a job at The Circle through her friend Annie, she's thrilled. The sprawling and luxurious Bay Area campus is beyond her wildest dreams and the company is at the forefront of every breaking new development in internet technology. She's increasingly drawn into the world of The Circle as it encroaches further and further into formerly private arenas of life, and can't understand her family and friends who resist the shifting landscape of the world.

Theoretically, this is a really good book, a modern 1984. When you hear about things like the lawsuit in Spain about the right to be forgotten, it really makes you think about how deeply the internet has enmeshed itself in our lives. The Circle illustrates how slippery the slope could be for it to completely invade all aspects of our existence...microchipping and GPS tracking children to prevent kidnapping, very small constantly streaming webcams to open up closed regimes, politicians livestreaming their professional duties to make government transparent. All of these things sound like they're positive developments on the surface, but it creates a culture of constant surveillance.

Where the book fails, though, is the execution. Mae (short for Maebelline, which I thought was a nifty way to communicate what kind of people her parents were without having to spell anything out) is obviously meant to be an audience-insert character, like Twilight's Bella. But it doesn't work here to the extent it works for Twilight...the characteristics Mae is given, ambition and a certain amount of selfishness, render her mostly unpleasant. She needs to be a compelling character to have us follow her down the proverbial rabbit hole, but she has no real personality. She seems close to her family in the beginning, but drafts away from them easily and without apparent regret. She has "relationships" with peers like Annie and her ex-boyfriend Mercer, but we're not given any sense of history or any reason to believe that she's actually emotionally connected to other people. The writing is clunky, with awkward phrasing all over the place. It's extra disappointing because the ideas behind the book are there, and if it had been rendered better it could have been amazing. I understand why it flopped, and I wouldn't recommend it.

Tell me, blog you ever take technology breaks?

One year ago, I was reading: The Wolf In The Attic

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Love That Are At Least Ten Years Old

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly linkup of book bloggers hosted by The Broke and The Bookish! This is a topic that was MADE for me, since I am a devoted backlist reader. I tried to mix in both books I've read several times over the years, and books that I've read more recently but that I'm looking forward to revisiting. There's definitely something exciting about reading the new buzzy book that's on everyone's mind, but there are so many amazing books that are older but just as worthy of your time. Here are ten of my favorites!

The Virgin Suicides: Middlesex might have been the award-winner, but I've always enjoyed Jeffrey Eugenides' debut more. It's tightly constructed and beautifully told and I've been on a months-long mission to make it a book club read because I'd love to have a reason to revisit it yet again.

The Secret History: Every campus novel I read gets compared to this incredible story about a group of students who commit a murder...and none has quite measured up to the engrossing story and well-drawn characters of Donna Tartt's book.

Anna Karenina: I'd made a stab at this one in high school and only gotten through about 50 pages, but when I picked it back up a few years ago I ate it up. The portions about farming get a little dry but the bulk of the novel is incredibly good.

Emma: Austen, like Tolstoy, is an author I only was able to get a handle on later in life. I'm going to confess my unpopular opinion that Pride & Prejudice is overrated, and instead recommend Emma. If you've ever seen Clueless, you'll recognize the broad strokes of this story of a wannabe matchmaker.

The Namesake: I'd heard great things about this novel for years before I finally picked it up, but I'm glad I did. If you like books that are all about delving deeply into a character, you'll love this one about the son of Indian immigrants who hates his name.

All The King's Men: If you pay attention to politics for long enough, you'll probably realize that there are very few people in it who are either all bad or all good. This story is told through the eyes of a cynical reporter who becomes a right-hand-man for a governor and watches the once-idealistic candidate become a ruthless operator.

1984: I first read this book when I was about 12 and even though I didn't really get all of it, I got enough to understand its timeless message about government manipulation and control of information. It's a book I get something new out of every time I revisit it.

The Great Gatsby: I loathed this classic when I first read it as a junior in high school. I thought everyone involved was selfish and whiny. But when I picked it up again in college, I fell in love with its powerful language and indelible characters.

In Cold Blood: The first true crime novel, this book tells the story of a heinous murder in the middle of nowhere, Kansas, and the men who committed it, and what happened to them. It's almost impossible to put down.

The Stranger Beside Me: Another true crime classic, this brought Ann Rule to immediate prominence in the genre as she recounted working at a suicide crisis call center along a handsome young man named Ted Bundy as a series of murders swept Washington.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Book 93: A History of the World in 6 Glasses

"Unlike beer, which was usually produced and consumed locally, and wine, which was usually made and traded within a specific region, rum was the result of the convergence of materials, people, and technologies from around the world, and the product of several intersecting historical forces. Sugar, which originated in Polynesia, had been introduced to Europe by the Arabs, taken to the Americas by Columbus, and cultivated by slaves from Africa. Rum distilled from its waste products was consumed both by European colonists and by their slaves in the New World."

Dates read: September 24-27, 2016

Rating: 4/10

For someone who's as fussy of an eater as I am, my taste in drinks has changed a lot over the years. I changed over to coffee, finally, from my longtime Diet Mountain Dew habit only a few years ago once I was finally convinced that my continued possession of my own teeth depended on it. I drank mostly shots and liquor in college, wine through law school and early legal practice, and have become a beer person over the past couple years. I've ever developed a fondness for some kinds of tea...especially kombucha!

Tom Standage's A History of the World in 6 Glasses examines what was going on in the world as six different drinks were developed and had their heyday: beer, wine, liquor, coffee, tea, and Coca-Cola. It's set in that order, too, taking us chronologically from early civilization to close to the present day. While each subject is worthy of its own full book-length treatment, honestly, shorter examinations provide an interesting lens through which to look back at history.

I think the three most interesting segments are the ones regarding liquor, coffee, and tea. While anyone who remembers history class can probably connect the dots between rum and the large-scale slave trade, I think Standage does a good job of developing both that connection and going into the larger cultural history of liquor. The coffee section details not only the beverage itself, but the role that coffeehouses played in political intrigue, which is something I'd never read about before. And he does a great job tying the British imperialism to the tea trade, which isn't a connection I would have drawn on my own but was really insightfully done.

Nothing about it is particularly did more to pique my interest into looking more deeply into some of the topics it covered than captivate me on its own. But it's a novel way to look at the span of human history, it's well-written, and it's an enjoyable if not mind-blowing read. A good choice for the beach or the airplane!

Tell me, blog friends...if you had to drink just one thing besides water for the rest of your life, what would it be?

One year ago, I was reading: The Other Side of the River

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Took Me A Long Time To Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly linkup of book bloggers hosted by The Broke and The Bookish! Today's given topic is books that took a long time to read, and to be honest, this is a list I struggled to put together because I generally read really fast. Even for books I don't like, because I try to burn through them as quick as I can so I can move on to something better. That being said, there are definitely some books that I had to chip away at bit by bit, mostly because of length but sometimes because they were genuinely difficult.

War and Peace: This book took me about three weeks to read, because it is very very long. But there's a reason it's virtually always at the top of lists of best books: it's really incredible. Natasha might be one of my favorite characters in literature. Very much worth the time investment.

Les Miserables: Another super-long epic. I've actually never seen the show, but I did see the (very hit and miss) movie before I read it, and honestly I think it helped to have some sort of idea of the general plotline because there are so many characters and so much story that without an idea of generally what was going on I'd have been discouraged. It's also very good and worth the time.

Creative Mythology: This was the end of a four-book series that I'd found tiresome even after the first one but I'm both a completist and very stubborn. By the time I got around to this one, I was deeply and profoundly ready for the series to be over but they were really hard to slog through so it took weeeeeks.

A Suitable Boy: I read this the summer after my freshman year in college because my mom had a copy hanging around and it had always intrigued me. Another super super long one, this book actually taught me most of what I know about The Partition. I'd like to revisit this story one day when I have a LOT of spare time.

The Grapes of Wrath: This was the bane of my senior year of high school. I'm not much for Steinbeck and this is a lot of pages of Steinbeck. We had to keep these reading logs for each chapter, so I actually had to do a close read of every part of it and by the time I finished it I was so angry about reading it.

Vanity Fair: I'd made a stab at this in high school for fun and never was able to get into it, but a couple years ago I picked it up again and made it through. I usually have a hard time with books with unlikable protagonists, but once I decided that Becky's scrapiness was actually kind of admirable I got around to enjoying it if not loving it.

A Storm of Swords: All of the A Song of Ice and Fire books are long, but the third volume was the only one that stymied me on my initial read-through. I got bored and actually had to start it over again after getting about 1/4 of the way through because I put it down for so long that I couldn't remember what was going on. Once I made a second stab at it, it went really fast, but that first try was rough.

Don Quixote: I loathed this book so hard. It was all I could do to make myself spend just 20-30 minutes a day with it, so it went by slooooooowly.

The Divine Comedy: This is kind of cheating, because I read this three-part epic poem over the course of an entire semester in college. I loved it, don't get me wrong, especially since taking the whole class gave me so much of the context behind it...well, most of it anyway. Paradiso was kind of weak, but the other two parts were great.

Wolf Hall: Once I got into it, I really liked it (and its sequel even more), but I had a hard time getting grounded in the way Hillary Mantel was telling her story. It's one of those things that I'm glad I was able to push through until I got my head around, though, because it's a great book.