Category Archives: My Thoughts

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

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Following instructions, I powered though the rest of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.  I am so happy I didn’t set it aside and forget about it.  Was it the best book I’ve read in a while?  No.  Was it a stand out favorite?  No.  Would I read it again?  No.  But……  Was it good?  Yep.  Did I like the overall story?  Yes.  Would I recommend it to a fellow reader?  Yes.

Like I always do before and after reading a book I headed to Amazon to check out customer reviews.  I read the reviews before starting the book to get a sense if the book will be worth reading in the first place.  I rarely read a book that receives less than a 3 star (out of five) approval.  Then after I finish I go back to compare my thoughts with others who have read it.  Amazon customers gave this book 4.3/5.  Not surprising, it was sweet and simple.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

The Unlikely Pilgrimage
of Harold Fry
by Rachel Joyce

The story follow Harold Fry on an unlikely pilgrimage (go figure).  He receives a letter from an old friend, Queenie, who is in Hospice, dying of cancer.  Harold quickly wrote a response and set out on foot to mail it from the nearest post.  But soon he passes the post office and continues walking and begins to believe that he must deliver his response in person and he must walk to her, over 600 miles.  He believes that as long as he is walking she will stay alive.  Along the walk Harold meets an eclectic variety of people, some walk with him while others give him food, shelter, gear, but all of whom encourage his mission once they hear about it.  Throughout the story the reader is haunted with two obvious questions… Will he make it to his destination?  If so, will Queenie still be alive?

Along with Harold’s story, the reader is introduced to Harold’s wife, Maureen.  He loves her dearly but the two have had a rocky marriage for numerous reasons (none of which are infidelity, a thank you to the author for avoiding that overused option).  As Harold walks and transforms, Maureen goes through a transformation of her own.  She starts the story a bit annoying but finishes endearing.

The book was okay.  I didn’t hate it but I was bored.  The story follows an old, retired man who is walking over 600 miles, how much excitement can there really be.  I don’t know what I was expecting when I started reading this book but just 1/3 in I was bored out of my mind.  If you read the synopsis you get the gist of the story.  I should have expected little thrills and drama and that is exactly what I got.  Imagine a man in his 60s walking for nearly 90 days; slow and time consuming.

The story was well written, the characters were mostly likeable, and the plot was cute.  I wanted Harold to succeed in his pilgrimage and for he and Maureen to work out their problems.  I feel bad that I didn’t love the book as much as Amazon reviewers did (4.3/5 stars) but I absolutely understand why a lot of people did like it.  It was just too flat for me right now.  Maybe I needed something with a little more thrill, more adventure (like a 600 mile walk isn’t enough adventure, haha) especially after reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Harold’s adventure just didn’t measure up.  It was a sweet, beach style read that I’m sure a lot of people have/will enjoy.

To give credit where credit is due, image is stolen from www.amazon.com.  As always, that is a direct link to the book if you wanted to get your own copy.

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Reece-nt anxieties

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Last week when I told Reece we were going to the airport to pick up daddy he didn’t seem to believe me.  Even the night before I said to him, “In the morning we get to go get Daddy!” to which he shrugged it off and said “okay, goodnight mommy.”  It was a bit sad but I figured when he saw Kyle his whole demeanor would change.  Thank goodness it did.

Glued to daddy

Glued to daddy

We brought daddy home and Reece was glued to him like flies on a garbage can.  There was no peeling him away.  Reece wanted to show daddy this and that and wanted to involve him in EVERY move he made the rest of the day.  Luckily Kyle had the following day off of work so Reece got to spend even more time with his hero.

But the first day back to work was hard.  Kyle went to PT and came home just as the kids and I were eating breakfast.  Reece didn’t even know he had left.  Then Kyle showered, put on his uniform and eventually left.  Reece was a little unhappy with daddy walking out the door but I wasn’t prepared for how much he would ask for him throughout the day.  Every few minutes, “Daddy at work?”  which I would answer “yes” then, “Daddy’s not coming home.” And I would have to explain to him that it was a regular work day and in just a few hours daddy would be coming home.  I tried to set up a time for me to bring Reece to Kyle’s office so he could see daddy wasn’t away but his work day was so busy there just wasn’t any time.

I figured this was a little hurdle in an otherwise smooth TDY (Temporary Duty) and transition back to normal and so far it has been.  A few nights after Kyle got back we decided on pizza for dinner so I placed the order then grabbed my keys, shoes, and Kylee to pick it up.  Kyle was cutting the grass as Reece played outside so I figured I would leave them and Kylee and I would go on our own.  Reece saw what I was doing and said he wanted to go so without a thought I loaded him up into his seat, then Kylee.

Suddenly Reece started screaming for daddy!  When I asked him what was wrong he screamed/cried to me that we couldn’t leave daddy home.  Kyle wasn’t going to go (he was still cutting the grass) so I unbuckled Reece and told him I would be back soon.  That was too much for him too.  Kyle and I explained to him what was happening ten different ways but still he wanted both parents and his sister to ALL go together.

After five full minutes of crying and us explaining to him that I would be back if he stayed and that daddy would still be there when he returned if he went Kyle finally gave up and told me to just go.  I hopped in the driver’s seat and took off.  Kyle says he cried the entire time I was away saying “Mommy and Kylee left me!”

He has gotten a little better about one of us leaving but still gets noticeably concerned until we are all together again.  Kyle and I have decided that we can no longer call his TDYs “work” because it freaks Reece out that daddy is going to “work” on regular days; it confuses him.  We have started calling them “missions” in hopes that Reece will be able to prepare himself and know the difference when daddy is on a mission and when he is at work for a normal day.  We keep reassuring him that we will always be together and no matter how long daddy has to go away for he will come back.  This is turning out to be one of the biggest hardships of military life that we have had to face as a family.

Sadly, we are quickly preparing Reece for another mission that Kyle will be going on in the very near future.  We have started talking to him this afternoon about the upcoming trip and all the changes that comes with it.  We are looking for a global map so we can track where Kyle is going/has been, setting up a calendar so we can mark the days, filling a jar of Hershey Kisses for nightly kisses from daddy, and keeping up with his routine to make the transition as smooth as possible.  I can do my best when it comes to reassuring him (and soon Kylee) but there is only so much that I can do, they are going to feel what they are going to feel and all I can do is be there to comfort them.

To-do, almost done (plus some)

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Every time Kyle has to leave I make a list of all the things I want to accomplish while he is away.  I can’t pinpoint why I am so much more productive when he’s gone, I just am.  After I put the kids down I turn on some music and get to work.  I usually stay up until some crazy hour of the night then crash into bed out of sheer exhaustion.  It is the only thing to look forward to concerning Kyle’s absence.

This go-around I wrote out a list that had 18 things.  Easy ones such as anchoring the cable in our bedroom to the wall and more time consuming ones such as refinishing the dining room table.  It is a dream list, one I know I won’t finish but at least everything is written in one place so that I can stay reminded of the things I want to do.

Kyle comes home tomorrow morning and I must admit, while looking over this list and looking around my house I feel like I made some serious headway.  I put away all of the stray linens that were still sitting in boxes since we moved, I went through/sorted all of my clothes and thrifted a ton, I cleaned out the truck, organized Kylee’s closet by size, started Reece’s busy book, re-covered the corkboard, painted our growth chart, and anchored that damn cable in our bedroom.  In addition to checking off those things from my list I also organized the laundry room, moved the unused couch ottomam out of the living room, hung a shelf in the kitchen, cleaned up my bookshelves, organized my desk, moved and organized the kids’ bookshelf, cleaned out the fridge, and cut the grass.

I love that things are getting done.  I have these grand plans to stay as productive when Kyle is home but deep in the back of my brain I know this is not the case.  We prefer to spend our time together by being together.  We may not be doing anything glamorous but watching TV with him takes precedence over thrifting old clothes.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no intentions of becoming a bum when Kyle is not away and blaming it on wanting to spend time together.  There are so many things that need to get done around the house that would be more fun if we did it together such as painting the picnic table.  It will be hot and messy work but it will be worth it for 1. The end product and 2. A fun way to be together while accomplishing something.  Who knows, maybe I’ll even let him help me refinish the dining room table (this is a project I have a little OCD over).

I am a little sad that not everything on my list was completed.  I wanted him to come home and I proudly show him everything checked off but I know as soon as he walks in the house he will notice a big difference with all the changes I was able to make.   I feel so accomplished.  Plus there will be more trips and to-do lists in the near future.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon

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I have read a lot of really great books but there are few that leave me wishing the book would never end.  The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon is nearly 700 pages and I still wanted more.  I was sad when it ended but the story was complete with no need to go on.

This was one of the four books Kyle selected for me as a birthday present back in May.  I was unsure about it after reading the synopsis on the back because comic books aren’t really my ‘thing’. But it had won the Pulitzer and I am a sucker for accolades so I decided to jump in when I was ready for my next book.

The first thing I noticed was the author’s witty voice.  The sentences felt like they belonged in a comic book.  They had the personality and attitude to match the purpose of the sentence.  There was no fluff, no unnecessary exaggerations; you got what you needed and nothing more.  I hate overly descriptive books where the author takes four pages to paint a scene down the dust on furniture and was relieved that Chabon never once wasted my time with that crap.  There was so much story on every page that even though it took me a while to read, it kept me so engaged that time flew right by.

The Amazing Adventures  of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon

The Amazing Adventures
of Kavalier & Clay
by Michael Chabon

Joe Kavalier and Sammy Clay are the two protagonists in this epic novel.  Joe escaped from Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia leaving behind his family in hopes of making enough money in America to pay their fair to join him.  Sam, his cousin had big dreams of striking it rich by producing comic books but he has no artistic talent.  The two join up, Joe illustrating while Sammy comes up with the storyline, to create a super successful series called The Escapist about a masked man who can escape from any bonding.

The relationship between the cousins is wholesome.  Both are about the same age with similar interests (magic and especially Harry Houdini) and both desire to be successful even if it is for two seriously different reasons.  They work together, and have a believable and authentic feeling relationship.  I fell in love with the young men, whole heartedly wishing nothing but the best for them.

As the two become successful Joe is hit time and time again with the news of his family’s status.  He saves every penny he can to help get them out of harm’s way even going so far as paying for the passage of other Jews to better the chances for his brother.  Over the years Joe develops a relationship with Rosa which softens him some but the future of his family is always in the back of his mind.

Sammy was raised mostly by his mother while his father traveled in a circus like setting.  Struggling with his own sexuality, a physical handicap, and the lackluster payout of his comic authorship dreams, Sammy cannot find a stream for direction in his life.

I just loved this book.  This is the type that I wish I was still in DC with my book club ladies so we could discuss it.  There was so much story and although I was reading it for what seemed like for-ev-er I still could not put it down.  There were no dull moments, no characters I couldn’t stand, no sub-plots that didn’t connect, and no missed opportunities.  There is so much to talk about but I do not want to give away any of the book so please believe me when I tell you that this book was great.  Don’t be daunted by the length of this novel just pick up a copy and read it (you can thank me later).

After finishing I was doing a little research and discovered that The Amazing Adventures of The Escapist was actually made into a comic book in three parts which I quickly ordered and am now waiting on.  Since I ordered them used from a private seller it will take a while for them to arrive but once they do I hope to devour them and write additional reviews.

Comic Book Fever

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It seems lately I have had much less time to read than normal.  The book I am currently reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon is really interesting so I want to dive into it any chance I get but those chances are much fewer and far between lately.

I am only 150 pages into this 650-pager but I am loving it.  The story follows Joe Kavalier and Sammy Clay, cousins who try to cash in on the comic book craze of the early 40’s.  Joe, an escaped Jew from Hitler’s Germany, has amazing artistic talent which he puts to use in hopes of striking it rich in hopes that he can get his parents and brother out of harm’s way.  Sammy, crippled by polio and living with his mother, has the dream and the drive to carve out a career in comics but lacks any artistic capabilities.

Comic books –and graphic novels- typically aren’t my thing.  I took a Modern American Novel class while in college which required me to read three graphic novels, Maus 1&2, American Born Chinese, and Gemma Bovary.  I was surprised how easily I got into them and how quickly I plowed through the pages.  They changed my perspective on graphic novels, I even read a few on my own when I worked at Borders.  Lately though, given I don’t have regular exposure to this genre like I once did, comic book and graphic novels have once again attained an unwarranted aversion. pow

When I was recently unpacking my library, I came across the only comic book I have ever purchased for myself, Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.  I bought it because it makes ‘best novels’ lists year after year.  It is the only graphic novel to make Time magazine’s ‘Top 100 Novel’ list.  With all the praise and popularity of this book I bought it because I needed to read it.  But I still haven’t.

As I read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay I can’t help but want to read Watchmen now.  I want to read it bad too.  If I hadn’t made the promise to myself to stick to only ONE book at a time I would have pick it up and read through the night.  But I can’t.  I am determined to finish Chabon’s book before I crack open the next one.

So that is the point of this post.  I want to read more but I seem to have less reading time lately, I am enjoying the book I am currently reading and it has inspired me to read another book which I can hardly wait to do!  It is a reader’s conundrum.  It looks like I’ll be reading through the night until this fever dies down.

Making plans and hoping for the best

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Thanksgiving is a big deal in my family.  The other holidays are shared within each little family or with friends but for Thanksgiving, everyone finagles their calendars to ensure we can all come together on a Thursday evening to fill our bellies with delicious turkey and all its accoutrements and simply be together.  It is a big deal and I have no plans on missing out.

This year, given that we live on an isolated formation of rocks in the middle of the ocean, getting home for the holiday is taking more planning than usual.  In addition to going home to see family in Florida for the holiday I also plan on stopping for a long layover to spend time with my Aunt and cousins who do not live in Florida and see Kyle since he will be in the middle of a long training course near where my aunt lives.

I hate making decisions and definitive plans.  There are so many factors and things that could go wrong.  With two small kids and the appropriate amount of luggage that will inevitably ensue, planning this intricate trip could take a lot of research, muscle, and sanity.

First off flights are stupid-expensive.  I am doing acrobatics trying to find flights that wouldn’t require me forfeiting one of my kids to cover the price.  I am looking at every travel planning website, individual airlines websites, and military Space-A to come up with the best course, comparing routes and finances, to ease the stress of this trip.

This brings up a whole separate list of things that can happen:

– Flight connection troubles. Delays, cancelations, or the possibility of no seats if we do Space-A.

– Renting a hotel in an unfamiliar place.

– Renting a car and driving in an unfamiliar place.

– Luggage + two small kids and I only have two hands.

– Layovers, short and long.

It seems that I also have to plan around the unknown.  Kyle will be in training and we don’t know how much time he’ll have off while we’re there.  We are flying into the airport close to my aunt so that we can spend time with her and introduce her to Kylee but also so that we can rent a car and drive to see Kyle.  If for some reason Kyle won’t be available the whole time we are there I don’t want to burden my aunt with the craziness that it my clan.  Right now it looks like Kyle will be able to spend time with us but this is the Army, nothing is ever so concrete.

The thing is I really want this to work out.  I think it would be an amazing adventure –and feat- of we can see Kyle, my aunt and cousins, and my Florida family over the Thanksgiving holiday without breaking the bank and my sanity in the process.  I can do it.  I will make it my personal mission to find flights, car rentals and hotel rooms so that this trip will work.  When the time comes I will load up our luggage and wrangle the kids using every ounce I have in me and make the best of the given situation.  It has to work out because there is no other option.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

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It is rare –not impossible- to find a movie that is substantially better than the book.

I picked up Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer at a bargain book sale when we still lived in DC.  Kyle had said he wanted to see the movie so when I came across it in a stack I bought it.  I love books that have been made into a movie so I scooped it up and planned to read it before we had the chance to see it.

I started reading it sometime in the middle of last year.  It was hard to get involved.  The story was told in a disjointed way.

The main story follows Oskar Schell, a nine year-old boy who goes out on an adventure to find the lock that belongs to a key he found in his deceased father’s closet.  The key was in a blue vase in a small envelope with the name Black written on the outside.  Oskar, thinks this is a clue to a mystery his dad wants him to solve like the missions he went on when his dad was still alive.  He sets out, visiting every person with the last name ‘Black’ in the five boroughs of New York City.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Extremely Loud and
Incredibly Close
by Jonathan Safran Foer

The story also is told in letters.  Letters from Oskar’s grandfather to his father before he was born, as a baby and every day as he grew up.  He left Oskar’s grandmother after she revealed to him that she was pregnant.  Without giving a direct reason he just left for the store one day and didn’t return.  In the letters he explains himself and gives accounts of his life.  He never meets his son.

Thirdly, the story is told from the perspective of Oskar’s grandmother.  Being her only grandchild and that they are neighbors, she and Oskar are incredibly close.  They talk any time of day or night on two-way radios, they spend time together when he is out of school, and since his father’s death she is the person he can connect with the most.

I didn’t enjoy the book.  It was okay but so choppy, hard to connect with.  I found myself caring less and less about the key and Oskar and wondering more about the grandparents’ relationship which isn’t really the meat of the story.  Oskar and his key mission got redundant in parts; a lot of it felt like filler.  When I flipped the last page I was glad to be done.  It was a decent story but not one I would give raving reviews about.

Then we watched the movie.

The movie didn’t focus much on the grandparents.  His grandmother had only a handful of lines but her importance to him was still conveyed.  Oskar’s grandfather left more of impression on me and Oskar than he did in the book but his story didn’t take over like it did in the book.  The movie was all about Oskar, his dad, his mom, and his mission to find the lock that matched his key.  I was engrossed in the movie from start to finish.

This was one of the few times that a movie surpassed its literary counterpart in telling such a great story.  The book’s details were unnecessary and there was no time in the movie that I felt I knew more for having read the book.  The movie captured more heart and sincerity than all 356 pages of words and pictures.  It was so much better not seeing everything from Oskar’s perspective –he has a mild form of an unnamed social disorder- so others’ emotions weren’t as visible in the movie when they were missed in the book.

I laughed, I cried, I was on the edge of my seat, and I was satiated when it was over.  There was nothing I would change.  I had a sour taste in my mouth when we sat down to watch the movie.  I figured it was going to be an ordinary way to spend a few hours one afternoon but I was totally wrong.  I was surprised to find out it only was nominated for a handful of awards and received mixed reviews from critics.  The book had me feeling indifferent to the story but the movie made me fall in love.  I would recommend the movie to anyone who asks but the book, only if you have the time.

To give credit where credit is due, image stolen from www.amazon.com

As always, that is a direct link to the book if you wish to get a copy for yourself.