Monday, October 11, 2010

Review: Everything Is Going To Be Great by Rachel Shukert

Everything Is Going to Be Great: An Underfunded and Overexposed European Grand TourEverything Is Going to Be Great: An Underfunded and Overexposed European Grand Tour by Rachel Shukert is the smart and witty telling of the author's trip through Europe (well actually through Austria and the Netherlands) on a non-existent budget.  The "grand" is definitely tongue in cheek - Rachel goes to Europe as part of an ensemble cast  performance in which she has an non-paying, non-speaking part and is forced to wear a "poo" hat.  And we're off .  .  .

Dedicated to her craft, Shukert is just happy to be part of a cast and thinks little about the fact that she will not be earning money while in Europe.  You have to admire her sense of adventure and willingness to take risks.  The risk-taking continues as she meets men while abroad and dives into relationships and casual sexual encounters.  As much as I could not imagine taking these risks, I couldn't help laughing at the predicaments in which she found herself.  When she loses a cap and needs emergency dental work, she lands herself in one of the most outrageous scenes of all with three Italian men.  Again, not something I imagine myself doing but her telling of the story is smart, irreverent and self-deprecating.

This may appear to be a travel memoir but you will find little in the way of not to be missed sights or historical highlights.  The book is really more of an anthropological study - Shukert shares observations about the essence of people in the countries she visits and examines their customs with her trademark humor.  I can still see the pre-Christmas scene in Amsterdam as the Dutch clamor to see Sinterklaas - the Dutch answer to Santa Claus.  Here is how Shukert describes Sinterklaas:

There is no Santa Claus in Holland.  Santa is jolly.  Santa is too fat to ride a bicycle, and his obesity is a drain on the national health care system.  Santa is financially generous for no logical reason.  Santa is completely antithetical to the Dutch way of doing things. 
Photo  Credit
In Santa's place is a tall, thin and fastidious bureaucrat called Sinterklaas who dresses like Torquemada, the leader and spiritual godfather of the Spanish Inquisition
Despite Shukert's derisive description of the Dutch holiday tradition that is Sinterklaas, she heads out to see him arrive at the main train station on his feast day and is nearly trampled by the masses as they clamor for a sighting or perhaps a small piece of candy from Sinterklaas. While being trampled, she keenly observes the Dutch - her observations, like much of the book are insightful and irreverent. 

While not a traditional travel memoir, this book is a wonderful coming of age story as Shukert learns valuable life lessons and quite a bit about herself amid ill-advised sexual escapades and a near poverty existence.  Best of all, she keeps you laughing throughout!

Thank you to Erica at Harper Perennial for providing the copy of this book for review

Sunday, October 10, 2010

24 Hour Read a Thon: Wrap Up Post and Meme

After some desperately needed sleep, I am back to write my wrap up post.  I participated in the read a thon for about 21 hours this time.  Not all the time was spent reading - I spent quite some time commenting, cheering (unofficially) and twittering.  This time, I elected to raise money for the Colon Cancer Alliance which really gave purpose to my day. Here is a summary of my October 2010 Read a Thon:


Hours Reading: uncertain thanks to nap of indeterminate length mid-day (estimate 8 hours reading)
Finished: I Know I Am, But What Are You? by Samantha Bee
                 The Corrections: A Novel by Jonathan Franzen
Started: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Pages Read: 465
$$ raised: pages read: $46.50
                  comments: $2.10 (.10 per comment and still counting - so keep commenting!)
My company will match donations I make so that will double the total when all is said and done
Mini-Challenges: Wordle and Non-Fiction Read a Thon (see these on my updates page)

Which hour was most daunting to you? Hour 20. I definitely hit the wall and was struggling to stay focused - which is why I decided to hear to bed!
2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? Anything someone really wants to read - not something they have to read.  I finished The Corrections which is bigger and doesn't seem really suited to the read a thon but I wanted to finish it and really enjoyed it.
3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? I think a mini-challenge that encourages comments early on really gets the community aspect of the RAT going.  Maybe  I will host one next time!
4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? The organization was fabulous!
5. How many books did you read? 2 (and a very little bit of a 3rd)
6. What were the names of the books you read?  I Know I Am, But What Are You? by Samantha Bee and The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

 The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Random House Reader's Circle)The CorrectionsI Know I Am, But What Are You?
7. What book did you enjoy most? The Corrections
8. Which did you enjoy least? None. with only 2, I liked both!
9. If you were a cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s cheerleaders? N/A (they were great BTW)
10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? Definitely - and I will sign up to do some cheering along with my reading!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Dewey's 24 Hour Read A Thon: Updates

Time: 12:40
Hours Reading: about 2 (been blogging, commenting, twittering etc)
Reading: I Know I Am, But What Are You? by Samantha Bee
Pages Read: 148
Mini-Challenges: None (so far)

When I did Read A Thon in April, I thought it lent itself well to fund raising and planned to read to raise money for the next one - but I forgot until I saw Teresa at Shelf Love's Read a Thon post where she announces that she is raising money during the read a thon for highschool classroom library projects.

So, a few hours into the read a thon, I am announcing that I will be donating $.10 per page read during the read a thon to The Colon Cancer Alliance.  My Dad was diagnosed with colon cancer a number of years ago and fortunately is doing well now but I am acutely aware of the risks posed by this disease and the importance of early, effective screening.

How can you help?

Comment - for every comment received during the read a thon, I will donate $.10 to CCA.

Back to reading!

Hour 12 Update

Time: 7:05
Hours Reading: uncertain thanks to nap of indeterminate length mid-day
Reading: Night by Elie Wiesel
Finished: I Know I Am, But What Are You? by Samantha Bee
Pages Read: 239
$$ raised: $24.80
Mini-Challenges: None (so far)

wow - 12 hours in - I haven't accomplished much thanks to my nap but with dinner on board I am ready to burn the midnight oil.  Here is a quick summary of my read a thon experience so far:

1. What are you reading right now? Night
2. How many books have you read so far? 1
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?  More books and late night silliness!
4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day? Moved everything to tomorrow - something tells me I may be too tired for all that tomorrow!
5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? No interruptions except my need to sleep
6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? I love that in addition to non-stop reading, participants are doing tons of blogging, commenting and twittering
7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Have a commenting mini-challenge earlier in the event
8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? Try to rest more the day before
9. Are you getting tired yet? So far, so good (thanks to nap!)
10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered? I am sure others have discovered this but varying my location and taking frequent breaks is helping me pace myself and not burn out!

Remember - for every comment I receive, I will donate $ .10 to Colon Cancer Alliance so keep those comments coming!

Hour 15 Update
Wordle: Reading in the City

The above is a "wordle" - this is new to be but it is the subject of the Hour 15 Mini-Challenge hosted by Reading Through Life.  The website creates a word cloud for you with the content of a blog post you submit or any other collection of words.  My wordle was created with the content of my post on the best places to read in NYC.  Check out the mini challenge and the wordle website and have fun with your word collection!

Time: 10:30
Hours Reading: uncertain thanks to nap of indeterminate length mid-day (estimate 5 hours)
Reading: Night by Elie Wiesel My bookshelves need some major organization - I cannot find my copy of Night so I have moved on to The Corrections: A Novel which I have about 1/3rd left to finish
Finished: I Know I Am, But What Are You? by Samantha Bee
Pages Read: 314
$$ raised: $32.30
Mini-Challenges: Wordle - see above

Hour 20 Update

I can't believe I made it this late -  I was flagging a bit about 2 hours ago but I got a second wind and I was able to push through it.  Here is my summary so far:

Time: 4:10 AM
Hours Reading: uncertain thanks to nap of indeterminate length mid-day (estimate 8 hours)
Reading: Nothing right now - debating whether I can start something else or just go to bed
Finished: I Know I Am, But What Are You? by Samantha Bee
                 The Corrections: A Novel by Jonathan Franzen
Pages Read: 459
$$ raised: $45.90
Mini-Challenges: Wordle and Non-Fiction Read a Thon

I hate to miss any action but I think I am out for a few hours - need to sleep.  Might try to catch the final hour in the AM (oh right, this is the AM - I mean later AM)

Dewey's 24 Hour Read A Thon

And we're off!

The Dewey's 24 Hour Read A Thon is officially underway!  During the event, readers try to read for as much of the 24 hour period as they can while  checking in with their fellow 400 participants!  I did this for the first time in the winter and loved  - I didn't understand much about it before starting but totally understood the allure after doing it.  I feel much more prepared this time around!

First up is an introductory meme:

Where are you reading from today?
          The Big Apple - more specifically, my couch, bed and futon in guest room 
3 facts about me …
          1. I do nothing without a cup of coffee each day

          2. I LOVE to travel - preferably to far flung places

          3. I am a handbag addict - never met one I didn't like!
How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?
           I have 5 books in the pile (although two are partially read)
Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?
          My only goal is to read for the majority of the day and night and comment on blogs about every           1.5 hours.
If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, any advice for people doing this for the first time?
         First and foremost, have fun and enjoy the other participants!  More practically, a
         little planning goes a long way.  As much as possible, minimize other responsibilities
         for the day (I failed miserably at this the first time - I had to stop mid day and take care of
         my taxes!)

         Off to read!!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sunday Salon: 3 October 2010

The Sunday

October - how did that happen?  I love Fall but I am dismayed by how fast the year is going by!  Although I wish time would slow down, I am looking forward to some things I have planned for the end of the year.  Each year, some friends and I take a big trip over the holidays - last year we toured India and this year we are heading to Thailand.  Thailand has been on my "must visit" list for quite some time so I am really excited to be going this year - I just booked my flights!

September in Review
 I have been reading a lot more of late but my reviews have slowed down - I need to get into a routine so that I finish them in batches and post over the following week instead of trying to write them during the week.  With work, I just can't get to them during the week - I need stress relief which books provide but I cannot read and write reviews in the limited time available during the week.  So, for October, I am going to try a review writing schedule  - let's see how it goes!

Here is what I reviewed this month (click to link to the reviews):

The Lies We Told
Unnamed (audiobook)
Home For Broken Hearts
A Summer Affair

Reading Plans

Callapidder Days is hosting Fall Into Reading where participants state what they plan to read during the event period (Sept 22 -Dec 20).  I participated in Spring Into Reading and although I didn't read everything I had planned, it was fun to look forward for the season.  My list for Fall will consist mostly of books needed to complete the many Challenges that will be closing out by the end of the year:

Midnight's Children: A NovelThe Corrections: A NovelThe Caliph's House: A Year in CasablancaLadies CoupeBombay Time: A NovelBroken VersesFamily MattersThe Piano Teacher: A NovelThe White House Doctor: My Patients Were Presidents - A MemoirSerious Men: A Novel
Night (Oprah's Book Club)A Confederacy of DuncesCatch-22The Time Traveler's WifeBlack, White & Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self
Life of Pi Lost Lustre: A New York MemoirThe Financial Lives of the Poets: A Novel (P.S.)

Wow - I have a lot of reading to do! But I am looking forward to all these books!  What are your reading plans this weekend, month, or season?