01 June 2017

The Circle by Dave Eggers -- All that happens must be known


Book drought OVER. 

Run, do not walk, to your nearest book seller/library and grab yourself a copy of Dave Eggers' The Circle. 

I stumbled on it completely by accident. I clicked on one of those "read these books before they become movies" links the other week. Somewhere down on the list was this book, The Circle, with the title character being played by Emma Watson. The cover looked like something I had seen in our library so I figured I'd give it a try. 

Gracious heavens.

This book was such a wild ride, I'm not even sure I know where to begin. 
Mae Holland gets a job at the most powerful internet company, the Circle. At first, it is just that: a job. She slowly learns that maximum involvement in all the activities offered on campus is expected, rather than optional. Her desk starts out with her main screen to process Customer Experience questions. By the end of her first few weeks, she has at least four screens she must pay attention to. (Never mind the wearable tech...) Oh, and did we mention that the company keeps track of employee participation? Your "PartiRank" is tied to how many events you attend, how many social media interactions you have, how many feeds you sign up for. More and more of her life happens on the Circle campus and through the many social media platforms employees use throughout the day; there a fewer moments spent "off grid" with her family or out on the bay in a kayak. But isn't that part of the whole point of the Circle? 

The Circle looks at what "right to information" might mean in a boots on the ground kind of way. I like technology, wearable tech, and all the rest of it as much as the next person. However, I'm growing to appreciate those moments when I'm not tethered to my phone or an internet connection. Today, I spent the day outside looking at the different architectural styles represented in my neighborhood. Sometimes unplugging is the best thing for your perspective. 


I highly recommend this book. I had trouble reading it before bed, not because it was scary (thought parts were very disconcerting) but because it made my brain over think things too much. I'm just adjusting my schedule back to regular hours so I think I'm finally sleeping properly. Just in time for summer hours to start in two weeks! Sigh. 

If you pick it up, PLEASE let me know what you think! I have a few semi-spoiler thoughts I'd love to share with you!

In other news, my Buffy marathon has slowed. I finished season six (ALL. THE. FEELS.) and have season seven waiting at home. I almost can't bring myself to start it because...then it will be over. Again. I'm supplementing the in-between-time with the second season of Angel which, ugh, is more disappointing than I was expecting. I think there are a few good episodes coming up, but I'm just using it as background noise for my knitting. 

PS In doing some research for this post, I found out that this Circle movie was already released? I don't know how I missed it. Reviews aren't too favorable, but the trailer was just the right kind of terrifying. 

15 May 2017

If the apocalypse comes, beep me

Well, I'm glad I embraced series in my last post because that is all I seem to be able to read these days. I don't quite know where comic books fall into this, but I've been reading a lot of them. 

This year, fans saw a 20th anniversary reunion of (most of) the Buffy the Vampire Slayer cast. After I cried (because there is NO WAY that Buffy is 20 years old), I decided it was time for a rewatch. I'm not even sure what number rewatch this is. Possibly five or six. I've lost count. The more I see season 1, the more I find it isn't as rough as I originally thought. It's been a few years since I watched it, so I was delighted when parts of the show were unfamiliar or flat out surprised me (Season 1, Episode 7--I'm looking at you!). The lines between the seasons are blurring, but I think the first four seasons are some of the best episodes. But of course, you can't forget about the season 6 gems: Once More, with Feeling and Tabula Rasa. OR the emotional drain that was almost the entirety of season 5. And for my Shonda fans out there, rewatch season 5 knowing that Ben grows up to be Frank Delfino from How to Get Away with Murder. 


Yes, well, and then I picked up the Buffy comics and made my way through the Buffy Omnibus comic collections. All seven of them. 

Continuing with the series theme of my life right now, I recently finished the second book in the Evil Librarian series. This one was sillier and funnier than the first, I think. I'm not desperately waiting for the next book in this series (not like I am for the last Invisible Library book) but I'll read it when it comes out, for sure.
Speaking of desperately waiting, I am waiting for a different copy of Buffy season 6 to come into the library. I forgot to mention that halfway through season two, Netflix took the show down. So now I have to do things the old way: borrow it from the public library. So far, I've gotten very lucky...so I should have seen this coming. In the waiting, I've watched Pushing Daisies again and caught up on the last few episodes of Reign. I mean, what else am I supposed to do, laundry? 

I'm in a bit of an book drought. I'm rereading Possession, which of course I love, but that is going slowly. I have a book in at the library soon, so I'll let you know about that one if I ever get it.  

Are you re-reading anything amazing? I hope so. Share the last book you just couldn't put down. I'm always up for a good suggestion! 

(Oh. PS. I've been tweeting my Buffy rewatch, so if you really need to know all my thoughts, you can pick it up over at @laura_heffner under the #buffyslays20 and #buffyrewatch tags.)

22 March 2017

Who am I kidding? I love series!

For the longest time (certainly for the lifetime of this blog, at a minimum), I have been anti-series. I talk about it in this post back in 2015 when I picked up Percy Jackson against my better judgment. Since then, I've picked up Game of Thrones (oh excuse me, A Song of Ice and Fire), the Jack Taylor novels, Bright Empires, and maybe one other? I forget now.

So I'm officially giving up on my anti-series postulating. Here, I lay it to rest.
Mostly because I've started two new series (and restarted an old one) and I don't need to hear about it!

I finally picked up The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman. It has been on my list for a little while after seeing a friend put it on their list. I finished it in a few days, and I fell in love almost as soon as I opened it. Irene is a junior librarian at The Library, and most of her job involves going into alternate worlds to obtain specific books, either to preserve the link from The Library to that particular world or to prevent "inappropriate technology" from causing trouble in the world. I tried to beg, borrow, and anything else short of actually stealing to get my hands on the next book as soon as humanly possible. I ordered it from the public library, through interlibrary loan at the office, AND as an ebook through the public library's digital collection ALL at the same time. I've read the first three and have to wait until December for the fourth. THIS is the reason I used to despise reading series. The wait. The worst. Ugh.

On a whim (and in post-The Invisible Library slump), I picked up a book called Evil Librarian. After reading about librarians (mostly) being the good guys, let's get a baddie in the mix. It felt a bit sophomoric (I mean, it does take place in a high school, so totally appropriate), but the story was still very good. Recommend it to the theatre/book nerd/Buffy fan in your life. You won't be sorry (and neither will they). I didn't realize it was a series until a passage in the book made me think, "There's no way they are just going to end this after one book...Oh great. Well done. You've picked another series. What other life long rules can you break in a month?" It wasn't nearly as good as The Invisible Library (in my opinion), but I'm still probably going to go after book two when I have time.

In TV news, I've started The West Wing and holy crap. How have I not seen this show before now? It is GOLD. I mean, pure gold. It is smart, it is funny. It is quick and witty in a way I was not expecting. The characters are strong, and the story is good. I cry at least once a season, mostly during the Christmas episodes. I'm only at the beginning of season 3, but I've started trying to ration my episodes, so I don't finish too quickly. In an effort to keep the show from really ending, I've also started listening to The West Wing Weekly podcast. The guys (Josh Malina and Hrishi Hirway) go through each episode in exquisite nerdy detail. Josh will join the cast of TWW soon, but I haven't gotten to his part yet. They ask on actors from the show to guest and talk about their time on set. They also talk about some of the political points that are brought up on the show and have real life congressmen and people in the political world come on and speak to how things actually work.
I love love love it and the show and recommend y'all get moving on this so we can talk about it!

Believe it or not, that basically catches you up on the reading I've been doing this month. And will you believe it? I'm still ahead of my reading goal! Pro-series. Ahead of my reading goal. Look out. Something big is coming!

What are you guys reading? Anything so good you've lost sleep because of it?

15 February 2017

Another Day of Sun

It's about a month (and a half? Time is weird.)  into the new reading goal, and I don't have too much to report. Who knew those words would ever come out of my mouth? 

So far, I have three books finished. Only three, I mean, unless you count Genesis. Then I have four. It has been slow going, but not terrible. I mean, like I said, my goals are going in a different direction this year. While the reading speed necessarily needs to pick up, my progress bar is moving a lot slower. 

I already mentioned finished LWW last month. I haven't made too much progress with Prince Caspian, though. I imagine that is in part due to picking up library books, TV shows and not loving lugging my giant copy of the series with me everywhere. I picked up a copy of The Pilgrim's Regress (which I have had borrowed from my church library for FAR too long. I should probably just buy a copy at this point. It is embarrassing.) and fell in love with Lewis all over again? How? I'm not sure exactly, but when a man gives seven (7!) different definitions for the word "romanticism," complete with examples and variations, how can you not fall in love?  Have I made it out of the 16-page introduction and into the actual text of the book yet? Not exactly, but oh man. That introduction! 

I have a copy of A Year with C. S. Lewis, select readings from his various works, that I've added to my daily routine. There are times I skim, times I underline, and times I write furiously in the margins in a feeble attempt to understand what he's trying to say. It hit me the other day why Lewis resonates so much with the Christian community. It isn't that he explains the mysteries of the faith; rather, he brings them to a simple form of understanding. He puts things into language that makes you say, "Oh! That's it! I've had that thought too, but that makes so much more sense." Must be why Bantam Books called him "The Most Important Christian Writer Of Our Century" on the cover of The Pilgrim's Regress. I'm sure he would have hated that...

Onto fiction! 
I read The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and loved it...until the very end when I hated it. It's all secret boarding school societies, awkward social interactions, old boys clubs, girls vs boys, etc. A lot of it made me think of Rory at Yale, trying to prove herself (to Yale, to her family, to Paris--even though she is great and wonderful just as she is!), well, I guess almost everyone. I loved the sneakiness of secret society, especially ones that are meant to have been part of the inception of the school. Secret passageways, an old journal full of adventures, and mysterious clues littered around campus? Yes, please! Everything was going great for me until the very last chapter. It...well, it seemed to fall flat? I remember being disappointed by where our main characters ended up. Almost like all the character development achieved through the book had been forgotten, like parts of the Gilmore Girls Revival! (Oops--too soon?) 

The other book I managed to finish last month was my second Fannie Flagg novel, Friend Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. Gracious. It was just as delightful as the first Flagg book I read last year, if not more so. Maybe it is my penchant for nontraditional/non-chronological story-telling, but I absolutely loved that we hear most of the story second hand and through newspaper clippings. It was like going through an old scrapbook. I will be getting my hands on this movie soon. I know I saw it years ago with my mom, but don't remember too much about it. I might have to put a few more of Fanny Flagg's books on my list. She wrote a series? Great. I'm doomed. 

Even with the pace (and goal) considerably reduced, I still managed to be on target for my reading goal. Seriously, no one is more surprised than me! How are you guys doing with your reading lists? Anything let you down hard or completely take you by surprise? 

PS Guys, I'm kind of addicted to the La La Land soundtrack. It is glorious and just the right mix of instrumental music and sing-a-long songs. I have it turned way up today to give me lots of energy to clean. 

04 January 2017

New Year, New Goals

Happy 2017 to all my faithful readers! 

Day three of a new year and I've just set my reading goal. It is half of what my goal was last year. As you all know, I didn't meet my goal in 2016. I'm really surprised but totally accepting of this fact, really. My much reduced goal of this year isn't defeat. The biggest reading challenge I had last year was to read the New Testament in a year. I didn't mention it on here. I think I wasn't sure it would happen and I didn't want to publicly fail at one more thing. However, I did it. I made it through. This year, my personal challenge is the Old Testament. That will prove a challenge, as I'll need to at least double the daily reading goal to make it. That goal is more important to me, so I backed off my fiction reading goal. 

Hopefully, even though I'll be reading less (ha. Maybe.), I want to be updating things here a little more. I'm looking to try a few new things so keep your eyes open for that. 

I have officially dubbed this year C. S. Lewis year. It isn't a special anniversary year or anything. During some knitting projects a few weeks ago, I picked up the movies and realized I really did love them. So I picked up my tome of all seven stories and started in with The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. To my never ending surprise (and thanks to the old BBC miniseries) I have this book almost memorized and I never realized it. The story is enchanting but simple. I think in my head I built it up over the years, thinking it was rife with allegory and symbolism and high literature things. And while yes, it has those things, it also doesn't. It is good storytelling, plain and simple. I've since finished LWW and moved on to Prince Caspian. This one is a little bit slower reading for me, but still good. With the movie time line fresh in my mind, it is interesting to see what they kept, what they didn't, and what they moved around and adjusted for cinematic effect.  I'm heading to the library today (or sometime this week) to pick up two non-Lewis books. We'll see how that goes. 

I've somehow gotten into the TNT show The Librarians recently. I'm a few episodes in and kinda hanging around to see how it develops. I also just started the second season of Galavant and LOVE IT. It is the comedy I needed to start the new year off properly. There might be more TV reviews in the future if I can't shake this cold that has been lingering for about a week. 

Those are just a few of the things I've got going on this year. What about you? Have you set a reading goal? A different goal, maybe? What you are excited about in the coming year? 

06 December 2016

Make it Work Or How I somehow almost caught up to my reading goal

I'm still not quite sure how it happened, but I'm only six books away from my challenge goal. I've been spending a lot of my time knitting and TV watching (Gilmore Girls, Gilmore Girls Revival, The Crown, Parks & Rec). It was wonderful and lovely, but that number of books I still had to read wasn't getting any smaller. Suddenly, my knitting projects were ... done? And I had some time on my hands. I guess I could clean? Bah. Hahaha. Of course not. 

And somehow I made it work. I'll tell you again, like I do every few months, that I'm super done with series. Really, I am. But I mean, I still have one more book from A Song of Ice & Fire, so I might as well finish. I hate that they take me 6 weeks to finish! I love the story and I'm curious to see what he does with his characters next, but man. Six weeks is such a long time. 

Catch up time. I read two graphic novels; Lumberjanes and Adulthood is a Myth. I wasn't thrilled with the new Lumberjanes, but admittedly, I am well beyond the age demographic. Adulthood is a Myth was hilarious...and I finished it in about 10 minutes. It was good, but not laugh out loud good. Also, there is a good chance I've seen 70% of the comics on the internet already. 

A work friend recommended The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend and I was ready to fall in love with it; alas, it wasn't meant to be. It was a real struggle to get into. The premise was darling and caught my attention, but too many characters introduced in too many general ways caused massive confusion on my part. By the end, it finally got good. But by then, it was fairly predictable and honestly, I couldn't tell if I genuinely liked it or was just glad that it was over. 

I listened to How the Marquis got his coat back, a short story by Neil Gaiman that follows up on the Marquis de Carabas from Neverwhere. I listened to the dramatization on BBC Radio 4, so I'm not sure it counts as the whole story, but I'm counting it anyway. 

And that brings November Reads to a close. 
Though we are only 5 days into December, I somehow managed to read four books already. It must be some of that Waverly Magic. In fact, I know it is. I realized I hadn't read the newest Wavery Sister's book by Sarah Addison Allen and it had been quite a few years since I got lost in the world. I read both Garden Spells and First Frost in about a day. She hasn't lost her touch, and I don't think I'm romanticizing the memory of a wonderful read. She weaves such magic into the every day that by the end you want to live in Bascom just so you can maybe run into Sydney (for that hair cut that gives you a perfect day) or attend a catered event by Claire (for a meal that reminds you of only the happiest memories). 

My favorite find over the last few weeks, though, was The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg. Yes, that Fannie Flagg of Fried Green Tomatoes fame. She tells a beautiful story with incredible women. Actually, the more I think about it, stories that involve women primarily. I can count 3-7 men in the entire story, verses the 13+ women that the story is about. I love that. Anyway, the chapters sometimes ended on cliffhangers that kept me from getting any sleep and almost made me late for work because I needed to finish those last few pages!  I'm adding Fried Green Tomatoes to the list (for next year, of course) because I can't imagine it being anything less than glorious. 

I'll end it here. I hope to have another book/TV review for you soon. After that, I'm in the final crunch to maybe try to meet my goal this year. Did you have any last minute book surprises? You know I'm always looking for new recommendations!  With just about three weeks left to the year (!), are you close to meeting your goal? Let me know!

01 November 2016

October: In which I'm struggling to meet my goals

Ya'll, I have been trying hard to meet my reading goals for the year. I promise! I accidentally started knitting earlier than usual this year, so that took away some of my prime summer reading time. I also tried a few audiobooks which were really unexpectedly wonderful, but took twice as long as actually reading, so I think that's the other reason I'm so behind. I looked at the stats and think it might be entirely possible that I won't reach my goal this year, and I'm kinda okay with it. Don't get me wrong, I love reading and I love reading more every year. I love having a goal to work toward and love that Goodreads sets up the challenge in the first place. But I end up putting so much pressure on myself to read MORE, and I noticed that this year it's less about good books and just about more books.


I finished a (one. single.) book this week and I thought I'd share. It's a cute little thing called "love in lowercase" and I think I fell in love with the title before I even had a chance to read the blurb on the back. However, upon further examination (and actually finishing the book) I think I fell out of love pretty quickly. It was a translation, so I was completely ready to give it all kinds of slack. I've had a mixed history with translations and now I try to approach them carefully, fully realizing that the translation could be the thing that sucks, rather than the story itself. Like most films of non-American origin, this book left me feeling empty and a little sad. But as Sally Sparrow says, sad is good because it's like happy for deep people. Love in Lowercase made me think about the little things that we do in life, the interactions we have with the people around us. Sometimes, we only hold the door or say hello to our fellow travelers. To the person receiving the gesture, though, it could have been the most human interaction they had in the day, therefore making it very meaningful. And sometimes people we meet by chance have more of an impact on us than the scores of family members and well wishing friends we have in our life daily.

A few years ago, I read  Game of Thrones. I liked the first book a lot, but when I tried to get into the second, I didn't do so well. And then I let my friend borrow it and well...It dropped off my radar. This summer, I needed something to listen to on a long drive. It could be music or...well, maybe I could try that audio book thing. I grabbed Game of Thrones again. I knew it would be long enough and I liked it the first time. Well, I ended up LOVING it. The audio book was done so well that when I finished book 1, I knew I needed to get my hands on book 2. And I was not disappointed. The only drawback is that, while great for vacations, my daily commute is thirty minutes MAX round trip. It took me ages. That, coupled with the fact that the CD player in my car started to get tired, is why when I finished book 2, I reached for a physical brick sized book. On a good day, I could manage about 100 pages. It is still a huge commitment.
And every day I wake up and look at the book on my bedside table I think, "And this is why you swore off (most) series long ago, man." Sigh. I'm fairly committed to finishing now, though. I'm almost 400 pages into book 4 and then I only have one more to get through. I can do that, right?


I have two other books waiting for me (if I ever finish). I finally got my hands on a copy of Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson. I'm maybe 10 pages in and I'm in love. The other is a recommendation from a friend, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald. Fingers crossed I get to at least one of them before the new year.

Tomorrow starts the final two months of the Goodreads challenge. Are you finishing strong? Or did you get stuck like me, not getting a count but determined to finish SOMETHING just the same?
You can do it! (And I mean, remember: there's always next year!)