Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What I've Been Reading

I think that one of the reasons I've been doing fewer posts is because I haven't been posting any reviews of book I've been reading.  And part of the reason for that is that I haven't been reading nearly as much this year!  (It's amazing how much less "free" time I have now that we have Satchel!)  By this time last year, I'd already read 24 books.  So far this year, I've read 9.  (In my defense...I wasn't working at all from January to mid-March last year.)  I figured I'd give a brief run-down of those nine books.

1.  Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout:  This collection of short stories won a Pulitzer in 2009.  I liked the fact that the stories were all tied together by the fact that the character of Olive Kitteridge was in each one, although in some stories, she was a very minor character (like she and her husband might have been eating at the same diner as the central characters in a story).  I gave it 3 stars.

2.  Cesar's Way: the Natural, Everyday Guide to Understanding and Correcting Common Dog Problems by Cesar Millan:  Have you heard of the "Dog Whisperer"?  This is Cesar.  He's a god among men, according to dog training types.  I got this book the day after we got Satchel.  Truthfully, I thought the book was interesting, but there were very few actual techniques listed in the book, which disappointed me.  I gave it 3 stars.

3.  Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead:  I don't remember why I chose this book, and I definitely didn't love it.  I gave it 2 stars.  It's the story of a boy who spends his summers on Sag Harbor (outside NYC).  The book jacket claimed that it was funny; I didn't think it was.

4.  Bel Canto by Ann Patchett:  This was an interesting concept.  Terrorists crash a birthday party, and the book tells the story of the "standoff"...which doesn't go the way you might imagine.  I gave it 3 stars.

5.  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer:  I really liked this book.  It's written as a series of letters among a journalist from London and people from the Island of Guernsey who formed a "literary society" during the German occupation of their island during WWII.  I gave it 4 stars.

6.  The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment by A.J. Jacobs:  This is a funny little non-fiction book.  The author literally spent a year involved in all sorts of crazy experiments, and he explains them in this book.  For example, for a month, he outsourced his life to a team of people in India, and he spent a month practicing "Radical Honesty."  I gave the book 4 stars.

7.  Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami:  A friend sent this book to me (she had read it for a literature class), and it was odd.  But good!  There were basically two plot lines going on simultaneously, and they were both a little sci-fi and mystical (although one storyline also felt like it may have taken place in the past).  I wanted to give it 4 stars, but I stuck with 3 because I didn't like the ending.

8.  The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson:  This is a young adult book that definitely brings up questions of ethics and science.  It begs the question...just because science has figured out a way to do something, should we necessarily do it?  I gave it 3 stars.

9.  Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah:  I think this was probably my favorite book so far this year.  It follows the stories of two best friends over 3 decades.  I thought it was fun that large portions of the book were set in Snohomish, Washington, which is only a few miles from here.  I gave the book 4 stars.

And there you have it!  All 9 books that I've read so far this year.  Looking over the list...I need to pick some better books!  I'm currently reading Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, and I'm enjoying it so's good for what it is.  I have a few more books sitting here that I'm looking forward to, too.  I'll let you know what I think.  :-)

Exciting Night!

Satchel has the adorable habit of keeping an eye out for Shawn to come home in the evenings.  Once he sees the car (from looking out the living room window), he gets super excited and runs down to the front door.  Usually, I'll let him go outside to meet Shawn.

That's what we did tonight when Shawn came home from his CrossFit intro class.  Almost as soon as I got outside, though, I heard a weird buzzing sound.  I eventually figured out that it was coming from our neighbor's house...smoke detector.  I didn't think too much of it; Lord knows I've set off my share of smoke detectors while cooking!  (Actually, now that I think about it, I think I've only set off the smoke detector twice.)  But I mentioned it to Shawn, and I also mentioned that I could smell something odd.

Being the nosy good neighbor that he is, Shawn went next door.  He tried looking into our neighbor's living room windows (they also have a split-level, so those windows are upstairs), but couldn't see well, so he knocked on their door...but no one was home.  I went over, too, and we agreed that maybe it looked a bit cloudy inside...or maybe their windows were a bit dirty.  So then Shawn scaled their fence so that he could unlock the gate and let himself into their backyard.  From their back porch, he told me that it definitely looked smokey inside, so he called 911.

Literally as Shawn pushed the dial button on his phone, the smoke detector stopped going off.  But he went ahead and explained the situation to the 911 operator, who sent the fire department.  In less than five minutes, we had two fire trucks, an ambulance, and the Sheriff on the street outside.  The firemen broke the neighbor's window to get in, and they discovered that a pot had been left on the stove (with the burner on) and had been smoking.  Fortunately, that's all it was!  We felt a little silly for calling about that (especially since our neighbors now have to replace a window!), but we had no way of knowing that's all it was.  And who knows...eventually that pot/food could have ignited and caused a much bigger problem!

We were a bit worried about how our neighbors would react when they rounded the corner of our block to discover a fire truck parked in front of their house!  So Shawn went to chat with all of the neighbors (many of whom were outside their own homes, watching), hoping that someone had the neighbor's cell number.  (No one had it.)  During this process, though, Shawn learned that one of the houses on our street (just a few houses down) actually burned to the foundation 3 years ago...and that was started by a grease fire on the stove.  So apparently all the neighbors thought that Shawn was smart for calling the fire department!

When the neighbor came home, Shawn talked with him...and he was apparently in good spirits (considering he came home to firemen in his house).  He was glad that Shawn had made the call, and he admitted that he was the one who left the house in a hurry and apparently forgot to turn off the stove.  And he didn't seem too upset about the window (which was our big concern...we felt a bit bad for that).

So...that was our exciting night!  I was going to take pictures to post...but I felt a little strange taking pictures of the firetrucks from our living room window.  :-)