Reading and Books

Nursebean Reads: July 2017

I have read far fewer books this year than last mostly due to a heavy work schedule. I am also listening to more NPR news (sadly) and podcasts. I am also having a harder time finding books I love. Nothing I have read yet has topped Lincoln in the Bardo. I highly recommend it.

Here are some recent reads.

I am glad I read A  Piece of the World and appreciated the characters and the way the author wove the story together that blended real settings and people with her fictional characters but I found it slow going at times.

I am going to be honest: Beartown was hard to read at times. I felt the foreshadowing and omnipresent voice of the narrator always commenting on the characters and the story was heavy handed and I found it hard to read knowing that something bad was going to happen but not knowing when or to whom.

Our book group read All the Rivers, a novel that was banned in Israel’s public schools about a romance between an Israeli woman and an Arab man who meet in Brooklyn. It was beautiful and poignant and led to a really great discussion as several members of our book group grew up in Israel.

I really enjoyed The Wangs vs. The World. It was timely, funny, poignant and I loved the characters. I read The Rules Do Not Apply because It was recommended by two bloggers whose taste I trust  but while I could appreciate that the author had been through some very tough experiences some of which were very familiar to me from my own experience, I just had a hard time relating to her. I felt really detached reading it which surprised me. I am listening to this on audio which is very good. The best thing I have read so far is the first 20% of this classic-my current read. I am loving the writing and the main character Isabelle Archer. I only wish my English professor father were still alive so I could discuss it with him when I finish the book.

Linking up today with Anne Bogel my chief book whisperer whose podcast What Should I Read Next is my major source of great new reads. I highly recommend it!

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Reading and Books

Nursebean Reads: May and June 2017

I have not been reading as much this year as last. Partly because I am listening to fewer audio books having already worked my way through Flavia De Luce and Robert Galbraith and partly because I am listening more to the news and to podcasts rather than audio books (I love this one, this one and this one and I powered through this one along with much of the country (although I am not sure I loved it in the end,) and partly because I have had less free time than usual due to business at work and to dedicating time to getting more regular exercise which has limited my reading time. But I did read these books in the last two months. This was my favorite which I found out about through Great New Books which is a great source of books I have enjoyed reading. This is a memoir and does follow the year of experimentation a la The Happiness Project, which seems to be a new genre, but I liked the author’s unsentimental writing style. She acknowledges feeling and sentiment without wallowing. Her writing is spare but quite beautiful. She is self aware but also seems to put her ego aside which I appreciated. The subject was very interesting to me because my brother is an ornithologist and though it is about birds, it isn’t really about birds. A pretty quick read that I will likely read again. Lots of food for thought.I read four other books, all of them good reads but none of them five stars. I Let You Go was engrossing and I liked some aspects of the story but there were was a really unlikable character whose thoughts and actions occupied a lot of narrative and that detracted from my overall experience of the book. I did like the writing though and would try other books by the same author.

I discovered Erin on the Art of Simple podcast and I ended up liking this memoir more than I expected to. She writes in an unsentimental way about things that were really quite difficult for her. Many of her experiences are things I went through. I have sometimes thought about writing a book but have stopped because I don’t want to revisit those times and out of respect for the privacy of the other people involved but I felt as though she did a very good job in telling her story. Highly recommend.

I listened to O Pioneers on audiobook and I would probably have done better reading it. The narrator of the version I read had a sort of sing song voice that came across a little too pollyanna to my taste. This totally reminded me of the Little House books. I will have to go back and read more of  Willa Cather (I understand that several of the books are basically a series?) and will give this another go. I didn’t dislike it but it was hard to engage when listening to this particular narrator.

Earlier this year I read this book which I loved loved loved so I expected to love Rules of Civility. I liked some parts of the book very much, particularly the etiology of the title and the history and the historical figure who coined the phrase but I didn’t love the book entirely, again due to characters making bad choices. I guess that is a theme for me this month. I am glad I read it but is wasn’t up to A Gentleman in Moscow.

I am currently reading this book which I am really liking. The writing style, the characters and the story are all working for me.

I started this book which I think I am going to really like. Sort of a modern era Rules of Civility. So far the characters are more likable.

And I got more than 80% through this when my library loan ended and it disappeared from my Kindle. I really want to know how it ends now. I have liked it but not loved it. The ending will likely tell the tale but it may be months before my turn comes around again.

What are you reading and loving right now?

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Reading and Books

Nursebean Reads: April 2017

I am halfway through Exit West and still not sure what I think but the quotation above was worth the whole book. It so beautifully captures a universal truth.

This month I was lucky to have a week off from work during which I traveled to Austin, Texas to see my son.

 

For me, travel on planes means quick easy reads: murder mysteries, chick lit, novels that don’t require a lot of effort. The five books below fit the bill.

I also recently read this book which is a companion book to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry which I enjoyed.  Thanks to my daughter for recommending it!

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I am almost done with two audio books, one quite long, The Gene and one quite short but very intense, The End of the Affair. I started reading The Gene last year and had a hard time getting through it as it is long and a bit long-winded. I loved the author’s prior book about cancer but this one has been a bit harder going. The author’s writing sometimes seems designed to show off rather than enhancing the narrative. He uses a lot of words with similar roots in sentences: “engender gender” is just one example. I liked it at first but then started to find it a distraction. When I realized that my library had the audio version, I started listening to it and that is working much better for me. It is funny how some books are better on audio and some are better read. At least that is how it works for me.

The End of the Affair read by Colin Firth is not my typical read. I initially wasn’t sure I would like it because although his narration is superb, the main character didn’t seem like someone I could identify with but halfway through, some things shift in the arc of the story and now I am really interested to finish it. I have been listening in small doses.

I also reread Travels with Charley this month which is just as good on the re-read. img_5648But the absolute best thing I have read so far this year is Lincoln in the Bardo. I am hoping I can get my book club to read it because I would love to discuss it with the group. It was brilliant, riveting, poignant. img_5646

It evoked so many things I have read but was also completely original. I was distracted at first by the many citations he uses. I was a history major and I wanted to know if they were actually real documents he was citing. I actually googled that question and I usually don’t google about anything I am reading until I have finished it. I found a review that criticized the author for making up some but not all of the quotes and once I realized that they weren’t all real and that I couldn’t really tell which were and which were not, I stopped paying attention to the citations and just read it quickly getting into the flow. I actually finished it in a day.  So so good. Just read it.

What books are you loving lately?

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Reading and Books

Nursebean Reads: January 2017

I am currently engrossed in this book which I was inspired to read by listening to Mel talk about it in this episode of the WSIRN podcast. It is so, so good. Even better, I am reading it while away for the weekend in the Berkshires in a house with a working fireplace-my idea of heaven. Read Mel’s post on how to take a reading weekend vacation for inspiration. And if you aren’t listening to this podcast yet, you should. I never miss an episode. They are always fun but the one with Mel was especially fun. I added several great books to my to-be-read list, discovered a new blogger and have new recipes to try. Bonus!

Recent books read include this one which is the MMD book club pick for this month. I loved it. I loved the story, the characters and their relationship, the sense of place, the writing-I loved it all. I am now off to find other titles by this author who I had never heard of before reading this book although she is a well-known author.

I also finished this book which our book group read last year. I loved the ending and the way she wove the stories together. An amazing debut novel.

I am alternating reading about vampires with reading these two non-fiction books.
I love both writers and I need something less scary to read before bed.

I am listening to this book on audio. Perfect for the commute.And I recently picked up this stack of books from the library. They are mostly inspired by Anne’s suggestions although I have wanted to read the Snow Child since this favorite blogger recommended it several years ago. Anne’s recent post about great winter reads sent me to the library for that one and two others.  A Manual for Cleaning Women is our current book club read. So many titles, not enough time! What are you reading this winter?

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Bias Binding, Gemma Tank, Made By Rae Patterns, Maine, Pearl Shift, Quilting, Reading and Books, Ruby Dress Pattern, Sewing, unplugged, Washi Dress Pattern

Nursebeansews a lot: 2016 year-end wrap up

I sewed a lot of garments in 2016, close to 40-I have lost track of the actual total. Most of them were for me, some were for others. When I looked back over the year, I found that although I sewed many garments, I actually made several versions each of seven favorite patterns: the Pearl Shift pattern from Green Bee Patterns and six patterns from Made by Rae: the Washi Dress, the Beatrix Blouse, and the Ruby Blouse which I had made before and the Luna Pants pattern , the Isla knit dress pattern and the Gemma Tank which were new to me in 2016. The newer patterns are from a line that Rae calls Presto patterns. They are less expensive and simpler to sew, which is probably why I was able to sew so many! Here are a couple of pictures of some of my makes with links to the patterns and my blog posts about things I learned while making them. I tend to make things in multiples because it is not much more work to cut out two versions than to cut out one.

The Washi Dress by Made By Rae, which I made for myself three times: two versions had sleeves and two versions were in double gauze. I also made a version with polka dots for my sister and a paisley version for my mother. The double gauze, while a bit tricky to work with, makes a wonderful winter version of the Washi. I have my eye out for another double gauze to make another long sleeved version of the Washi. I wear my charm version all the time.img_4434I have two more  Washi dresses cut out that I plan to finish soon. One is the Washi XP with a bow. I cut them out last summer before Gemma Madness took over my sewing life. Finishing my WIPs will be a priority for me this winter.img_2414I am excited to see how the XP version turns out. I think it will be perfect with a sweater and tights and boots for winter. I cut this out way back in the spring when I made a baby quilt for a friend and used this for the binding.

I also sewed several new versions of the Beatrix blouse and modified a shift dress pattern by adding Beatrix sleeves.img_4435I lengthened the Beatrix to a tunic length using the Pearl Shift pattern as my guide and made this Cookie Book version with a curved hem and this Alison Glass version with an exposed zipper and a straight hem. I wear them all the time with leggings and jeans.

I made the Pearl Shift four times: two in heavy cotton flannel and one each in a cotton-linen blend and in a black and white checked fabric. img_4436I have two more cut out and ready to sew, one for my daughter and another plaid flannel version for me. The original plaid Pearl that I made a year ago in the fall is probably my most worn garment ever.

I surprised myself this year by making pants! I highly recommend the Luna Pants pattern from Made By Rae. I made this clay colored version and this Fringe version, both with fabric by April Rhodes. I lived in them all summer.img_4437 I was surprised at how flattering they ended up being and they are incredibly comfortable.

I made three versions of the Ruby Pattern this summer, a plum colored double gauze blouse for me, a double gauze blouse with a yoke made of quilting cotton for a friend and a dress which I love in April Rhodes fabric. I just love her designs for garments.img_4439I have several other versions of the Ruby blouse cut out and ready to sew. Sew all the WIPs is going to be my resolution for 2017!

I learned a bit about how to sew knits on a regular sewing machine and made one each of the dress and top versions of the Isla Pattern. img_4440I have several more cut out and ready for an afternoon when I can sew them up. I highly recommend this pattern for those of you who are new to sewing knits.

The pattern I sewed the most though turned out to be the Gemma Tank. Rae launched this pattern over the summer and once she did, all my other WIPs went by the wayside. I literally have things I cut out to sew back in July that never got sewn because I was too busy sewing so many versions of the Gemma. I lined it, I lengthened it, I sewed it for my kids, I sewed many versions for myself. I sewed it out of thrifted men’s shirts and I learned a lot about bias binding. It was a lot of fun, a bit crazy but a great way to experiment with different fabrics. I am wearing them all the time. It has become a great layering piece for me. These are actually not even all of the Gemmas I made. Craziness!img_4438Other non-garment items I sewed this year were this quilt for a much awaited new baby boy-so much fun! and an afghan for my mother in law made from thrift shop sweaters. I also was privileged to be a pattern tester for the first time for this great skirt pattern which will be launched in the new year. I have fabric picked out and ready to go.  It is going to be a great new basic to add to my rotation.

Highlights of my sewing year included Me Made May-which is always fun and which brings so much inspiration from other sewers and a couple of mini-breaks (long weekends,) one in Maine and one at home and a micro-mini break (afternoon) that I spent exploring my old neighborhood. I also read a lot this year and tried very hard to stick to my 2016 New Year’s resolution to commit one day a week to being unplugged. That worked for about half the year and then life got busy and  I ended up having to spend time each Sunday in the office. But I tried to spend at least some of each Sunday unplugged from media, reading, taking walks,, going to church regularly and doing yoga. These are things I hope to find more time for in the New Year.

With best wishes to all for a happy and healthy New Year and time and energy to finish the sewing projects (I know that I can’t cut out one more thing until I sew through the pile I have accumulated of cut out projects, ) and thanks to all for following along with my sewing adventures!

 

Please note that my blog is not monetized and has no sponsors. I provide links to share online resources that I enjoy using. I do not derive any financial benefit if you click on links on my blog.

 

 

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Reading and Books

Nursebeanreads a lot: 2016 Summary of Best Reads

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The year is not yet over but as of yesterday December 13th, I had read or listened to 115 books in 2016. Here is the Goodreads summary (I love the pretty book cover mosaic!) As you can see, I liked most of them quite a lot-more than 100 were a 4 or 5 star read for me. This is largely because I have three terrific book whisperers who you can learn more about here. I also share details here of how I found time to read many more books this year than ever before. It has really been an amazing year for reading.img_4254Goodreads calculates all sorts of statistics. Here are two: number of pages read: 38, 937 (I actually may make it to 40,000 by December 31st. Who knew?) and longest book read (actually listened to on audible): Anna Karenina which is apparently 964 pages. It was over 34 hours of audio and took me over two months of daily commutes to finish but it is one of the books that I am especially glad I read this year.

Bloggers I follow choose their favorite books each year. Some choose three favorites. I would have a very hard time narrowing this list down that far but I tried, going through the list, to choose the books for each category that still resonate many months later. I came up with a list of 26 books, about 1 in 5 that I read this year (some are the first book in a series that I enjoyed.)

I actually rated 45 of the books I read 5 stars on Goodreads and some of the list of 26 weren’t even books I had rated a 5, so there are many other fantastic books on the list. You can click here to see the whole list.

Here are my most memorable books of 2016 by category. The first category is fiction. I chose these six books and would probably have to rank The Underground Railroad as my favorite. It is hauntingly beautiful.img_426311/22/63 was the first book I read this year and my first ever read by Stephen King. It still resonates with me. He is really a great story teller and this very long book kept me engaged over a three day period during which I inhaled it wanting to find out how it ended. This was also one of several books that I read this year that took place in the early 1960’s either during the year I was born or shortly thereafter which made it that much more compelling to me. It also takes place-at least some of it-in a small mill town in Maine, also a common theme of some books I loved this year and also one of my favorite places.

I just finished A Gentleman in Moscow and I highly recommend it. I loved the characters and the story kept me interested. A really good winter read. I have Rules of Civility, also by Amor Towles,  lined up to read next and I can’t wait.

The One-in-a-Million Boy was wonderful. Just read it. Great female protagonist, small town in Maine, compelling story.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven: World War II, unforgettable characters, beautiful writing.

Our Souls at Night is a quietly beautiful story. I loved it.

img_4289Non-Fiction: I read a lot of great non-fiction books this year, most of them recommended by Modern Mrs. Darcy or on her podcast. My favorites were Year of Yes, Big Magic and Being Mortal, all fantastic. I listened to Being Mortal on audio and the audio version was really excellent. Year of Yes is a must read for all my daughters. So, so good.

img_4291Classics ( also audio): I wanted to read more classics than I actually did but I did end up listening to Anna Karenina. This version was very enjoyable. I ended up finding it on sale on Audible quite cheap which was great because it took me so long to get through, I would never have managed with borrowing it from the library. I also listened to a fantastic version of The Wind in the Willows which I also bought for $2 on an audible daily deal. And I read or listened to books 2-7 of Harry Potter (which I would classify as a modern day classic) which were so good. I had read the first book almost 20 years ago when it was first published and I bought it for my now 30 year old son. I started listening to the Jim Dale audio books and listened to books 2-4 and then read the rest over Thanksgiving when I traveled to see my daughter. After the election I needed something to take my mind off current events. It was just the thing. Reading the whole series over a relatively short period of time really revealed to me just how brilliant J.K. Rowling is. The way she wove so many threads together by the end of the last book was just amazing. So glad I took the time to read these books!

img_4295Mystery: I read or actually listened to the J.K. Rowling (writing as Robert Galbraith) Cormorant Strike mystery series (three books in all but more are forthcoming, thank goodness). These were fantastic on audio. I was so sorry when I finished them. I also listened to the entire nine book Flavia De Luce series, also fantastic. They are a little gruesome, as are the second two books in the Cormorant Strike series, but the narrator is great and I loved them and didn’t mind the discussion of decomposing bodies etc. I found both series through Modern Mrs. Darcy. I also listened to one the Jackson Brodie mysteries by Kate Atkinson, one of my favorite authors. Her writing style is so brilliantly funny. I am glad that I haven’t read all of these because I look forward to reading them this year. The audio was really terrific but I also enjoy reading her books just for the pleasure of her writing style.

Audio-I read so many more books than usual this year. I have written this year in other posts why this is but listening to books has definitely made a difference and I have found some really good ones and learned how easy it is to borrow audio and kindle books from my local library and download them to my phone. This made is easy for me to read while going on walks, sewing, driving. One book I would definitely recommend listening to is Between the World and Me, which I have included in the memoir category below. I was listening way past my bedtime to the author read his powerful words.

img_4277Sci-Fi/Just for Fun: I would never have found this book without Modern Mrs. Darcy and the What Should I Read Next Podcast but it was really a fun read. I bought it for my nephew and my kids. I understand the audio version is excellent as well. A movie is in the works.

img_4293Memoir: My favorite book genre is memoir and I read many this year and had a hard time narrowing my list so here are eleven that are all fantastic. I loved Travels with Charley by Steinbeck which I had never read before this year. He started on a trip across the U.S. in January 1961, the month I was born, and started his trip in a small town in Maine which resonated with other books I read including When We Were the Kennedys, another fantastic memoir by the author of One-in-a-Million Boy. It was so interesting to hear him describe what the towns were like and what he encountered across the country. So much of it resonated even in this day and time. The more time passes, the more the same issues are present in our culture. It felt really timely to read it now. I won’t go into detail on all of the other books in this category. Many are well known. But suffice to say that they were all great reads that I would highly recommend. As I read my way through this year, I wrote several posts where I did mini-reviews of most of them. You can link to my other posts about my reading life here. And if you aren’t yet listening to the What Should I Read Next podcast, I highly recommend it. You can subscribe on iTunes or follow the podcast on Instagram at @annebogel and @whatshouldireadnext. I am tremendously grateful to Anne for her thoughtful recommendations to her guests and I haven’t gone wrong reading any of the books she recommends. I have also found all kinds of great books and audio books on sale by subscribing to her daily kindle deal emails. A tremendous resource for readers.

What books did you love this year?

Please note that my blog is not monetized and has no sponsors. I provide links to share online resources that I enjoy using. I do not derive any financial benefit if you click on links on my blog.

 

 

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Reading and Books

Post-Election Bibliotherapy

I couldn’t put these books down.  I highly recommend all four which are very different but very good.They all drew me in and made me want to keep reading which is what I need right now.img_4005I also highly recommend reading this letter and this post. Wise words for challenging times. Since the election last week, however, the only thing I have had the energy for is this series which I had been working my way through on audio book. The audio version is awesome but this  weekend I borrowed the hardcover books from my daughter and have lost myself in the story. I finished Book 4 tonight and will start the next in the series tomorrow. I am hosting my book group next month and we will be reading this book. But for right now, rooting for HP to overcome the forces of evil is just what I want to read.

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