Musings From A Bookmammal


9 Comments

Stacking the Shelves–5/9/15

Click to join the fun!

Click to join the fun!

Stacking The Shelves is hosted at Tynga’s Reviews and is all about sharing the books we’re adding our shelves–books we’ve bought in physical stores or online, books we’ve borrowed from friends or the library, review books, gifts and ebooks!

This week I have five new books to share–two are used book purchases and three are from the library. Ready? Here we go!

5.9.15

Never Can Say Goodbye: Writers On Their Unshakable Love For New York edited by Shari Botton       I’m an easy mark for a book of pieces by different writers on a common topic, so when I found a “like-new” used copy of this book I snapped it right up. I’ve only visited NY once and while I enjoyed it and would love to go back someday, I can’t ever picture myself living there–so I’m interested to find out why the 27 authors featured in this book can’t picture themselves ever leaving.

Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea, and the Charter School That Beat the Odds by Joanne Jacobs       I may not be a teacher anymore, but I still love reading narrative nonfiction about schools, teachers, and students. This book tells the story of how a particular charter high school was formed in San Jose. The reviews I’ve read say that this is NOT an idealistic, fairy tale account of the process, but rather a realistic view of the successes and challenges that occurred–and that’s a plus for me!

Golden State by Stephanie Kegan       I’m always intrigued by stories that tackle the theme of how far we’d go to protect the ones we love–and this novel is about a woman who suspects that her brother is involved in a “Unabomber”-type crime at a college campus.

The Half Brother By Holly LeCraw       This novel takes place over the course of a year at a New England boarding school and involves a love triangle and a long-buried mystery. That’s enough to get me to give it a try!

State By State: A Panoramic Portrait of America edited by Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey        Fifty authors were each asked to write a piece about one of the fifty states–this book is the result of that project. I don’t think this is a book that I’ll read straight through in one sitting, but I think it’ll be great for browsing. Plus–there are lots of cool charts! (Who knew that Minnesota has the highest voter participation rate???)

How about you? Have you read any of these? Which books found their way into your home this week? Please share!

Advertisement


18 Comments

Musing Monday–Habits Of A Library Lover

Click here to play along!

click here to play along!

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme hosted by A Daily Rhythm that asks you to muse about one of several “bookish” questions… or you can just ramble on about anything you like that pertains to books! You can join in by clicking the graphic above. Go ahead–it’s fun!

Here’s my musing for this week about using my local library:

25c41eed283bd7af84d8229e3ac38e03I love to read, but I’m not independently wealthy—so I depend on borrowing library books pretty regularly to keep up with everything I want to read. Don’t get me wrong—I buy A LOT of books—but there’s just no way that I’d be able to get my hands on all the new releases out there without the help of my local library. I check out eBooks and audiobooks fairly regularly and once in awhile I’ll borrow a DVD—but the main draw for me is the books!

I’m very lucky to live in a town with a great library system. My local branch isn’t too close to where I live—it’s kind of out of the way to make a special trip—but I tend to stop by on my way home from work most Thursday or Friday nights. I find it helps me keep track of when books are due if I try to check things out on the same day of the week—believe me, this is a lifesaver when you’ve got stacks of library books all over the house! My library really doesn’t have a firm limit on the number of books that you can have checked out at one times (I’ve asked!) and I think there’ve been times when I’ve had at least a dozen library books in hand. The loan period is three weeks and you can renew if no one else is on the hold list. Right now I’ve got nine books checked out:

Picture1(So far I’ve finished Small Mercies, which was a good family saga taking place on Staten Island, and I just started Early Warning, which is the second book in what will be a trilogy.Have you read any of these?)

Once in awhile I’ll stop at the library on a Saturday morning and I tend to get there right when the family story time session is ending. I absolutely LOVE seeing the little kids pour out of the events room clutching whatever craft they’ve made that day and racing towards the kids’ section!

One thing that’s changed about my library habits over the past few years is that I rarely go into the library to just browse anymore. I used to plan on staying a good hour whenever I’d go—I’d usually have a list of specific books I wanted to find, and then I’d wander the shelves and pick out books that just looked interesting. Nowadays I do it all online—I’ll put the books I want on hold, or get on the waiting list for titles that aren’t available, and then I’ll stop by for only as long as it takes to pick them up. And with automated self-check out machines, I rarely interact with any of the librarians. It’s definitely efficient, but sometimes I do miss just wandering the stacks and finding unexpected new books or old favorites.

2312973323371462Something I love about my library is their willingness to order just about any book that they don’t currently carry—not just get it through interlibrary loan, but actually order it and add it to their collection. The requestor is then automatically added as #1 on the hold list for the title when it comes in. Plus, if you’re a total book geek like me, you get the thrill of knowing that other people will now have the chance to borrow a book that you recommended! Last week I made these two purchase requests and both were approved, so I’m anxiously waiting for the emails that will let me know that they’ve arrived!

I’ve also gotten into the habit of putting myself on a ton of waiting lists. When I hear that a new book is coming out, I automatically check to see it my library has it on order–if they do, I get on that list! My waiting list is usually made up of dozens of titles, but right now there are only ten books on it. The one that I’m most excited about is Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman which will be released on July 14–I’m #38 on the list of nearly 200 (so far!).

How about you? What’s the library situation like in your area? Do you use your library regularly? Why or why not? Please share!


5 Comments

Friday Finds–5/1/15

Click here to join the fun!

FRIDAY FINDS is a weekly meme hosted at A Daily Rhythm–it’s a chance to share the books you ‘found’ and added to your TBR list this week (they don’t necessarily need to be books you purchased)…whether you found them online, in a bookstore, in the library — wherever! Click the icon above to join in!

I’m limiting myself to the new books that have actually entered my home this week–-bought new, bought used, and/or borrowed from the library. I’m not listing books that I simply added to by TBR list–that could take days! This week it’s 2 books from the library–a pretty light week for me! Ready? Here they are:

Friday FInds 5.1.15Early Warning by Jane Smiley      This is the second book in a trilogy covering the lives of multiple generations of an Iowa farm family in the 20th century. I absolutely LOVED Some Luck, the first book in this series—it was one of the best books I read last year. Smiley uses an innovative technique of telling the story by using each chapter to cover one year in the life of one particular member of the family. As we read, we uncover events that have already happened, but that haven’t been explained . . . we’re left to put together clues based on what other characters say and feel about these events.

Some Luck covered 1920-1953, and Early Warning spans 1953-1986—again, with each chapter covering one year from the point of view of a single family member. This latest book was just published on 4/28, and I was thrilled to be #1 on the library hold list! (I may or may not have shrieked a little bit when I got the email notification) I really can’t wait to dig into this novel and I only hope that it measures up to the first book!

If you’re looking for books that offer dramatic plot twists and cliffhangers, these probably aren’t for you. But if you like family sagas and character-driven novels offering a taste of real life, please give this trilogy a try!

The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson      As a former bookstore employee, how could I resist this title? I had to pick it up, even though the premise is somewhat out of my comfort zone. It’s about a woman who works at a bookstore by day, and at night has fascinating dreams about an alternate life—a life that  she once thought she wanted for herself.  I’m really not sure what to expect from this book, but I’m willing to give it a try!

How about you? Are either of these on your TBR list? What books did you discover this week? Please share!


10 Comments

Musing Mondays–Ten Bookish Questions

Click here to play along!

Click here to play along!

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme hosted by A Daily Rhythm that asks you to muse about one of several “bookish” questions… or you can just ramble on about anything you like that pertains to books! You can join in by clicking the graphic above. Go ahead–it’s fun!

Here’s my musing for this week–

I adapted a couple of questionnaires I’ve seen recently into the ten bookish questions below. Ready? Here we go—feel free to play along!

credit Carol Marine

credit Carol Marine

1. How long did it take you to finish your last book?  Hold on while I check my Goodreads account . . . The last book I read was The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House. I started it on April 21 and finished it this past Saturday, so that’s five days. By the way—it’s a pretty good book! If you’re into American history and/or the presidency and want a lighter yet interesting read, it’s a good pick.

2. How many times do you stare at your bookshelves each day? Well, I have bookshelves in every room of my house except the bathrooms, so it’s pretty hard to avoid looking at them! I will say that I view my books as comfort objects, so looking at my bookshelves is a very calming experience for me. Plus, I’ve always loved the patterns that the spines of books make on the shelf—kind of like a crazy quilt of books.

credit Michele Del Campo

credit Michele Del Campo

3. How many Goodreads friends/books do you have? I joined Goodreads in January 2014 (late to the party—I know!). As of today I have a total of 899 books listed. (Seriously? I can’t get one more on there to get to an even 900?) Here’s the breakdown: 416 books that were read before 2014, 137 read since I joined, 1 currently reading, and 345 on my TBR list. I have 17 Goodreads friends. If you want to compare books, just click on the Reading Challenge link at the upper right!

4. Do you ever quote books in public? I’m sure that I have, but I can’t remember any specific instances. However, I do have this freakish ability to remember very specific lines of dialogue or even short passages from books, and then I will obsess over trying to recall which book these lines are from. I can usually eventually come up with the correct title and then I have this enormous sense of relief! Does anyone else do this???

5. Do you ever re-read books? I used to be a HUGE re-reader! There are some books I’ve probably read a dozen times. Since I started book blogging I hardly re-read at all because great book recommendations just keep coming from my blogging buddies! I did just re-read To Kill A Mockingbird because I wanted to review it in advance of Harper Lee’s new novel to be released in July—and I’m so glad I made the time to do so! My thoughts about this re-reading are here if you’re interested.

credit John Lidzey

credit John Lidzey

6. Do you judge a book by its cover? I don’t think I’ve ever decided NOT to read a book because of its cover, but covers certainly can prompt me to pick up a book. And speaking of covers, has anyone else noticed the trend over the past year or so of novels featuring a cover shot of a closeup of the back of a woman’s head? What’s up with that?

7. Do you take pictures of your books before you read them? Ummm. . . is this a thing now? I don’t do this.

8. What are your biggest distractions from reading? No question—fiddling around on the internet. The internet is a blessing and a curse for booklovers! Plus, the hockey playoffs are going on right now and that is really cutting into my reading time. (Go Blackhawks!)

credit Onelio Marrero

credit Onelio Marrero

9. Where is your favorite place to buy books? As a former bookseller it pains me to say this, but I buy 90% of my books online these days. My absolute favorite online book site is Abebooks, where you can search for used books from booksellers all over the US and even the world. I’ve bought literally hundreds of used books through Abebooks over the years. I do like to go to my local B & N occasionally and just wander around and browse—although these days their book selection keeps getting smaller to make room for the ever-increasing selection of toys, puzzles, workbooks, blankets (?) etc. Case in point–the biography section at my local B & N is now one case of books—ONE CASE! It used to be an entire section! (OK—mini-rant is over)

10. Do you always have a book with you? Silly question–of course! I always have my kindle in my purse and I usually have a physical book with me as well. You never know when you’re going to be stuck in traffic at an extra-long stoplight!

How about you? Do we share any of the same answers? Feel free to borrow these questions for your own blog—if you do, leave your link in the comments and I’ll check out your responses!


5 Comments

Stacking the Shelves: 4/25/15

Click to join the fun!

Click to join the fun!

I’m trying out a new meme this week–Stacking The Shelves is hosted at Tynga’s Reviews and is all about sharing the books we’re adding our shelves–books we’ve bought in physical stores or online, books we’ve borrowed from friends or the library, review books, gifts and ebooks!

This week I have six new books to share and all are borrowed from the library–no book purchases this week. Ready? Here we go!

4.18.15

Alone in the Kitchen With an Eggplant: Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler

This is one of those backlist titles that I’ve been meaning to read forever. I love to cook, I love reading about food and cooking, and I usually eat alone—this collection has ME written all over it!

The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Andersen Browne

I really enjoy behind-the scenes nonfiction, and I’ve also read a lot of books about the Presidency, First Families, etc—so I’ve been looking forward to this new release for quite awhile. I’m about 2/3 of the way through (note the bookmark!) and it’s a good read—just enough gossip to make it interesting but not enough to make it seem tabloidish.

In Some Other World, Maybe by Shari Goldhagen

This novel covers the lives of three teens who meet at the movies in the early 1990s and whose lives continue to intersect over the next twenty years. It’s billed as a “six degrees of separation” novel and that concept has always intrigued me.

Nantucket Sisters by Nancy Thayer

Nancy Thayer is one of my automatic authors—I’ll read anything she writes and have loved her books for over 25 years. This novel was released last year and looks like a great read about female friendship.

Small Mercies by Eddie Joyce

I love novels told through multiple viewpoints, so I’m looking forward to digging into this novel about a family who is still working through their grief over the death of an adult son during 9/11. The story takes place ten years after this loss and spans one week in the life of an Italian Irish American family living on Staten Island. This is a debut novel and I think it’s going to be my next read.

Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America by Jill Levoy

This is a new narrative nonfiction work about a “typical” murder investigation in Los Angeles and the larger issues of urban crime. Not exactly light reading, but I’m in the middle of a big nonfiction reading phase right now and I’ve heard good things about this book.

How about you? Have you read any of these? Which books did you discover this week? Please share!


16 Comments

Getting Ready For July 14 . . .

to kill a mockingbirdI don’t re-read books nearly as much as I used to, but I decided to revisit Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird in preparation for the release of Go Set A Watchman this summer. I remember reading (and enjoying) Mockingbird in my 9th grade English class but didn’t recall much about it except for the broad plot points. I actually remember more about the movie that all of the freshman English classes saw once we finished the book. This was in the pre-DVD and even the pre-VCR days. We watched the movie on an actual reel-to-reel projector and the film broke right before we were FINALLY going to see Boo Radley. I can still remember my teacher racing up the aisle of the auditorium to fix it as about 100 9th graders groaned in frustration!

Anyway . . . about a week ago I figured it was time to review so I’d be ready for Harper Lee’s new (old?) novel to be released on July 14–and I was amazed on so many levels. My memory of the book was that it was mostly about the trial of Tom Robinson, with the mysterious Boo Radley showing up every so often. I remembered Scout, Jem, Atticus, and Dill—but no real specifics beyond that.

I’m not sure if it’s just because so many years have gone by since my initial reading, or whether much of the greatness of the writing and the depth of the storyline went over my head as a 14-year-old, but I was blown away by how much was packed into this novel. The many plots and subplots (obviously SO MUCH more than a story about a trial!), the nuances of social class, the aspects of racism that are all too true—and relevant–today, the ebb and flow of small town life, the MANY instances of  understated humor . . . plus, I had completely forgotten about the “ham incident”. And I’ve got to admit that I teared up at the end.

In retrospect, I’m not really sure that my 9th-grade self was ready to appreciate this book. I’m so glad that the soon to be released Go Set A Watchman gave me the “excuse” to rediscover this American classic. And it makes me wonder . . . how many other books from my past reading lives deserve a second look?

How about you? Have you rediscovered any books lately? Are you planning to read Go Set A Watchman? Please share!


9 Comments

On Hiatus . . . But Still Reading!

Hello there!

I’ve been pretty quiet here lately—I haven’t written a post since December 1, and I sure haven’t been visiting and commenting on as many blogs as usual. I’ve been traveling a lot more for my job recently, and that has definitely cut into my regular routine. (The up side is that when you’re sitting in airports, it’s a perfect excuse to read!) So—this post is to say that my blog is going on hiatus for the foreseeable future. I’ll still be visiting your blogs—and hopefully commenting more than I have been recently—and, of course, I’ll still be reading and updating what I’ve read and what I want to read on my Goodreads account.

I wish you all a wonderful holiday season, and hope that each of you finds a very special book under the tree!


28 Comments

Monday Musings–My Favorite Fiction of 2014

Click here to play along!

Click here to play along!

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB that asks you to muse about one of several “bookish” questions… or you can just ramble on about anything you like that pertains to books! You can join in by clicking the graphic above. Go ahead–it’s fun!

Here’s my musing for this week–

Where did 2014 go? I can’t believe that today is the first day of the last month of the year. I’ve had a great reading year, and today I decided to reflect on my favorite fiction titles from the past eleven months (I’ve read a total 0f 98 books so far this year, and 43 of them have been fiction. My top nonfiction titles will get their own Monday Musing post later this month!).

The ten novels below are all books that stayed with me long after I finished the last page, and all are books that I recommended to others during the year. Ready? Here we go—in order of when I finished each title:

tell the wolves i'm homeI started Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt at least twice during 2013, but I never got beyond the first couple of chapters. For some reason I just couldn’t get into the story. But this novel continued to show up on “Best Of . . .” lists, so I decided to give it another try. I have no idea what made the difference, but this time I couldn’t put it down.

This novel is set during 1987. The main character is a 14-year old girl who, along with the rest of her family, is dealing with the recent death of her uncle from AIDS. She forms a secret friendship with her late uncle’s lover and, in doing so, learns to process her feelings of grief, while also starting to come to terms with her changing relationships with her parents and older sister.

This is really a beautiful book, and I can’t believe it took me so long to realize it. It captures the essence of the mid-to-late 1980s very well—and it vividly brings back the fear and ignorance that surrounded us during those early, frightening years of the AIDS crisis. It paints a great picture of those teen years when you’re trying to figure out where you fit in, or if you even want to fit in. It’s also a very moving story of working through loss. (Finished January 11, 2014)

sisterlandI liked Sisterland a lot more than I thought I would. I’d put off reading it because, although I’ve enjoyed other books by author Curtis Sittenfeld in the past, the subject matter of this book initially didn’t appeal to me. It’s billed as the story of two twin sisters who share a psychic ability–the ability to predict the future by listening to their special “senses”. I’m usually not into books dealing with any sort of paranormal activity (I guess I’m too much of a natural skeptic!) so I wasn’t in any rush to read this book. But once I decided to give it a try I found that this book is about so much more than psychic ability–it’s about family, loyalty, marriage, parenthood, betrayal, forgiving–and although the “senses” of the twin sisters do play a big role in the story, it wasn’t an overbearing plot point for me. (Finished February 11, 2014)

book of unknown americansI absolutely LOVED The Book Of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez. It’s a novel about immigration, assimilation, staying true to your roots, family, unconditional love, friendship, and what we will endure to benefit those we care for. The story is told through multiple viewpoints, which is always a selling point for me, and I thought Henriquez did a great job of capturing the different voices of the characters throughout the book. I don’t understand why this book didn’t get more press—but this is one of those novels that I wanted to hand out to total strangers on street corners. (Finished June 12, 2014)

The Vacationers by Emma Straub was definitely one of this summer’s hot beach reads. Taking place over a two week period, this novel tells the story of an American family’s vacation to the island of Mallorca. The trip should be an escape from the tensions that are brewing at home in NYC, but the family finds that they can’t escape secrets, rivalries, and conflicts. The novel is made up of fourteen chapters—one for each day of the vacation—and the author does a great job of portraying the ebb and flow of the emotions of a close-knit group of people who are forced to spend most of each day together, and who find that they may not know each other as well as they assumed. I found this novel to be a relatively quick read, but also completely absorbing—and I just love the cover! (Finished July 18, 2014)

everything i never told youEverything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng takes place in Ohio in the 1970s and tells the story of a middle-class Chinese-American family, their relationships with each other, and how they cope with the sudden death of the middle daughter and the uncertainty regarding the cause of this death. This novel really recreates the time period well—a time when mixed marriages were an oddity and when racism was much more blatant in mid-America than it is today. Moving back and forth between the present and the past, and back and forth between the point of view of the five family members, this is a very moving story that makes the reader wonder how well we really know the ones we love. I was still thinking about the characters long after I finished the book– a sign of powerful writing. (Finished August 3, 2014)

still life with breadcrumbsAnna Quindlen is one of my “automatic authors”—I’ll read anything she writes. I adore her collections of essays—I often feel that she’s speaking directly to me–and her last novel, Every Last One, is one of the best books I’ve read in the past several years.

I really didn’t know much about the plot of this novel, and I think that’s the best way to go into it—part of the appeal of this book was that I really had no idea where the characters were headed. It tells the story of Rebecca Winter, a sixty-year-old photographer who experienced huge artistic success in her past. For various reasons, she decides to spend some time in a rental house in a small town near her NYC home-base. She forms relationships with her new neighbors and we also learn about her relationships with her elderly parents, her ex-husband, and her adult son.

It seems to me that Anna Quindlen found a new voice when crafting this novel—the narrative is unlike any of her others. The chapters—some only a few paragraphs or a page or two, many longer–move fluidly back and forth between the main characters and pivotal events. There was a lot of very subtle humor woven throughout, and I quickly decided that this was a book I really needed to savor in order to appreciate the writing. I felt invested in what happened to every character, and the dialogue rang true—which is always a deal-breaker for me. And when I got to the end, I immediately thought “I wonder what’s going to happen next!” (Finished August 16, 2014)

big little liesBig Little Lies by Liane Moriarty     The setting of this novel is an elementary school, and I usually enjoy reading novels taking place in any kind of academic setting—fortunately this book was no exception! At the beginning of the book we learn that a death has occurred during a school-sponsored event, but we don’t know who has died or what the circumstances were. As the book progresses we learn more and more about the parents involved, their children, and the secrets that are being kept from various family members and friends. Another great book covering the theme of how well we really know our friends and family. (Finished September 7, 2014)

paying guestsThe Paying Guests by Sarah Waters is an incredible novel. I found myself hiding away during my lunch hours at work to get in another chapter or two, and I even found myself reading at stoplights on a few occasions (I am NOT KIDDING!). I was completely immersed in the plot and the characters, and I found myself wondering over and over how Waters was going to resolve everything that was happening.

I completely agree with most other reviewers who say that it’s best not to share too much of the plot, so I’ll just say that this psychological thriller takes place in post WWI London. A young women and her widowed mother are forced to take in boarders (“paying guests”) for financial reasons, so they rent the upstairs of their home to a newly married couple . . . and drama and passion of all kinds ensues.

This novel weighs in at over 500 pages, but it seemed like a pretty quick read to me. I never felt bogged down with the plot or the characters, and the Waters did an excellent job of making me feel as though I was living the day-to-day life of a young women in early 1920s London. (Finished October 3, 2014)

 some luckThe premise of Some Luck by Jane Smiley was really intriguing to me—it’s the first book in what will be a trilogy spanning 100 years in the life of an Iowa farm family. This first book takes place from 1920-1953, and each chapter covers one year. Every chapter also contains the points of view from several members of the family–the husband and wife, their children (from birth into adulthood), and a few members of their extended family. As the chapters—and the years—progress, we experience the ebb and flow of their everyday lives, including births, deaths, marriages, the Depression, WWII, and many other events. I loved this book and thought it was a wonderful “slice of life” novel. I also really enjoyed the “one chapter for every year” technique because not everything that was happening to the characters was fully revealed–sometimes I had to “connect the dots” between chapters to figure out what had happened since a particular character was featured.

If you’re into stories that include big cliffhangers and huge, dramatic plot points, this may not be to your taste—but if you like a book that puts you right there beside the characters, I highly recommend it. And as a bonus, I just found out that the second book of this trilogy—Early Warning—is due to be published in May 2015. I can’t wait! (Finished October 9, 2014)

florence gordonFlorence Gordon by Brian Morton is a novel that seems to have slipped under the radar. It’s about 75-year-old Florence Gordon who lives in present-day NYC. She’s an author and a feminist icon, she’s brutally blunt with family, friends, and strangers alike, and she’s contemplating writing her memoirs. The book begins when her adult son,  his wife,  and his  college-age daughter return to New York after several years away—and Florence finds that as much as she wants to remain in solitude with her work, she becomes involved in the activities and issues that are surrounding her son and his family.

Florence was such a fascinating character to me! During the first ten pages of the book she abruptly walks out of a surprise party thrown in her honor, informing her friends and family that she’d much rather be home working at her desk. How can you not want to know more about the kind of person who can pull that off? And what a talented author Brian Morton is to be able to completely capture the personality of his main character is such a few pages!

There are over 100 chapters in this book, and they range from less than one page to a dozen pages or more. At first I thought that this would be distracting and that the technique would interrupt the narrative, but I very quickly got into the rhythm of Morton’s writing. I was thoroughly invested in each of the main characters and in the day-to-day flow of their lives—and the way that Morton chose to end the book was not at all what I was expecting. (Finished October 19, 2014)

How about you? Have you read any of these? What’s on your favorite fiction list this year? Please share!


2 Comments

Raising Sharp Readers by Colby and Alaina Sharp

I don’t  re-post writings from other bloggers very often–but this post from the Nerdy Book Club Blog about raising readers is so wonderful that I just had to share it. PLEASE click through to read the entire post–you won’t be sorry! Enjoy!
And to my American blog buddies, I wish you all  a happy Thanksgiving holiday!

Nerdy Book Club

7 years ago, we were elated and terrified to welcome the first of our three little readers into the world.  As parents, we don’t do a lot of things right – Breslin’s gone to school with his pants on backwards enough times to verify that.  But, we have managed to turn out three little people who love reading fiercely.  Here are some of our thoughts on how we have helped to foster and nourish that love in our home.

1. Have books everywhere.

Our oldest isn’t one to go the bookshelf and pick up a book. He’s not the type of kid that you tell to go and read a book. What we’ve found is that if we have books laying around all over the place (tables, floor, car, bed, etc) he reads a ton. Sometimes he’ll find a book laying on the coffee table and read it cover to cover…

View original post 1,211 more words


17 Comments

Top Ten Tuesday–Top 10 Books On My Winter TBR List

Click here to play along!

Click here to play along!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted over at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week a new question or theme is presented. This week’s prompt is:

The Top 10 Books On Your Winter TBR List

I decided to list ten books that will be released from December 2014  through February 2015—plus two early March releases because when you live near Chicago, winter sometimes goes on into April! I’ve got 6 fiction and 4 nonfiction picks. Ready? Here we go—the Top 10 Books on my Winter TBR list!

22715829     21411936     22318500     22522296     22571771

When Books Went To War: The Stories That Helped Us Win WWII by Molly Guptill Manning (Dec. 2)      This book will be released next week, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it! It’s about the initiative to send books overseas to the troops during WWII, and the rise of paperback publishing that resulted from this movement. I read an excerpt of this book in a magazine recently and was absolutely riveted.

Almost Famous Women: Stories by Megan Mayhew Bergman (Jan. 6)      This is a short story collection consisting of fictionalized accounts based on the real lives of real women.

I’ll Have What She’s Having: My Adventures In Celebrity Dieting by Rebecca Harrington (Jan. 6)      Rebecca Harrington wrote Penelope, one of the funniest novels I’ve ever read—it’s one of those books that people either love or they just don’t get it. In this book, Harrington tries her hand at nonfiction and relates her experiences in recreating the dieting habits of famous people. I’m not expecting any hard journalism here—I’m mainly just curious as to how Harrington’s writing skills will translate into nonfiction.

West Of Sunset by Stuart O’Nan (Jan. 13)         I love Stuart O’Nan’s novels (Songs For The Missing is one of my top ten book club worthy reads) so I’m really looking forward to his latest. This one will be a departure in style for O’Nan—it’s based on the last three years of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life, and I’m curious to see how this one will pan out.

Love By The Book: A Novel by Melissa Pimentel (Feb. 3)       This novel—compared by some to Bridget Jones’s Diary— traces a year in the life of a young woman living in London who decides to follow a different dating guide every month for a year in her efforts to find true love.

22551750     16130601     22535503     22320464     22551730

The Half Brother by Holly LeCraw (Feb. 17)      This novel is set at a New England boarding school and involves secrets and betrayals between two brothers. I love books that take place in school settings!

Golden State by Stephanie Kegan (Feb. 17)      This novel is being compared to Defending Jacob and We Need To Talk About Kevin,  two novels that I thought were both very disturbing and very thought provoking. This book is about a young woman whose brother is accused of committing acts of terrorism against several California universities—and she needs to decide how far to go to protect her brother.

Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon (Feb. 24)      This novel shares a similar theme to Golden State—how far a father will go to protect his son, who is involved in a school shooting.

Just Kids From The Bronx: Telling It The Way It Was—An Oral History by Arlene Alda (March 3)       I love reading oral histories and I’m looking forward to this new contribution to the genre, describing what day to day life was like over 60 years in the Bronx.

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing Of The Lusitania by Erik Larsen (March 10)     I really don’t know much about the Lusitania tragedy, but I love the way that Erik Larson—author of one The Devil In The White City—turns historical events into narratives that almost seem like novels.

How about you? Are any of these books on your radar for this winter? Which books are you looking forward to over the next few months? Please share!


6 Comments

NONFICTION NOVEMBER–WEEK 4: Reflections On My Exploding TBR List!

NF November 2014Welcome to the 4th and final week of NONFICTION NOVEMBER—the second annual celebration of all things nonfiction! I participated last year and had so much fun meeting new bloggers and adding great nonfiction titles to my TBR list–and I had even more fun participating this year! If you’re into reading nonfiction and want to join in the fun, just click on the graphic to visit this week’s  linkup.  Be prepared, though—your TBR list will explode with great NF books!

I can’t believe that this is the last week of the month—and that also means that it’s the last week of Nonfiction November. I had such a great time participating again this year (although craziness in my non-blogging life caused me to skip posting altogether during Week #3) and I loved getting to know some great new-to-me bloggers.

This week’s Nonfiction November prompt is about reflecting on the month and all of the additions to our TBR lists. I added so many great titles to my list this month, but I limited myself to selecting the ten that I’m most eager to get my hands on for this post. I have to admit that I lost track of where I heard about each title, so unfortunately I can’t link up to where I originally discovered each book—but I’m grateful to all of the Nonfiction November bloggers who helped my TBR list to EXPLODE with great books!

Here’s my list (in no particular order) of the top ten nonfiction titles I’ve added to my TBR list this month:

19522903     22715829     20696029     22693222     16283550

GI Brides: The Wartime Girls Who Crossed The Atlantic For Love by Duncan Barrett         This book focuses on four women who married American soldiers during or right after WWII and then came to the US to begin their new lives. I’ve always been fascinated by wartime marriages between two people who are basically strangers to one another and I’m hoping this book will shed some light on this issue.

When Books Went To War: The Stories That Helped Us Win WWII by Molly Guptill Manning       This book is being released on December 2 and I can’t wait to get my hands on it. It’s about the initiative to send books overseas to the troops during WWII, and the rise of paperback publishing that resulted from this movement. I read an excerpt of this book in a magazine recently and was absolutely riveted.

By The Book: Writers On Literature And The Literary Life From The New York Times Book Review by Pamela Paul        I ask you–what’s not to like about this book made up of interviews with 65 contemporary authors? This book is at the top of my Christmas list this year!

The Residence: Inside The Private World Of The White House by Kate Andersen Brower        I love reading American history, especially about the presidency, and I love behind-the-scenes nonfiction—so I was  excited to find out about this upcoming book written from interviews with White House staff serving Presidents Kennedy up through President Obama.

Serving Victoria: Life In The Royal Household by Kate Hubbard        As I said above, I love behind-the-scenes history, but I’ve read very little British history, so I’m looking forward to this book that’s based on letters and diaries written by Queen Victoria’s staff.

6178648     20873711     9476510     18679391     20949450

Nothing To Envy: Ordinary Lives In North Korea by Barbara Demick        Since I read Without You There Is No Us earlier this month I’ve been curious about North Korea, and I hope this book will provide some answers.

Lives In Ruins: Archeologists And The Seductive Lure Of Human Rubble by Marilyn Johnson        I know next to nothing about archeology, but I love reading fly-on-the-wall accounts of unfamiliar jobs. THis books sounds like it’s got my name written all over it!

Those Guys Have All The Fun: Inside The World Of ESPN by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales        I just finished this 700+ page book this weekend and really liked it—it matched my love of oral histories with my love of sports. I’ll be honest—if you’re not into sports there’s really nothing that’s going to appeal to you about this book, but if you’re a sports fan and also enjoy behind-the-scenes nonfiction, you’ll love it.

Liar Temptress Soldier Spy: Four Women Undercover In The Civil War by Karen Abbott        EVERYONE is reading this book! I just borrowed the eBook version from the library and am hoping to get to it soon.

Dr. Mutter’s Marvels: A True Tale Of Intrigue And Innovation At The Dawn Of Modern Medicine by Christin O’Keefe Aptowicz        This is the story of the Philadelphia physician in the mid 1800s who, among other innovations, pioneered the use of ether as anesthesia, the sterilization of surgical tools, and techniques for helping the severely deformed. I actually started reading this last night and so far I’m hooked!

How about you? Have you read any of these? Did any nonfiction titles make it onto your TBR list this week? Please share! And please click on the November Nonfiction graphic above to find this week’s  linkup to more great nonfiction finds!


27 Comments

NONFICTION NOVEMBER–WEEK 2: Oral Histories

NF November 2014Welcome to week #2 of NONFICTION NOVEMBER—the second annual celebration of all things nonfiction! I participated last year and had so much fun meeting new bloggers and adding great nonfiction titles to my TBR list! If you’re into reading nonfiction and want to join in the fun, just click on the graphic to visit this week’s  linkup. A new prompt and linkup will be posted every Monday throughout November. Be prepared, though—your TBR list will explode with great NF books!

This week, participants are invited to create  a nonfiction reading list covering any topic. It’s a chance to be an expert on the nonfiction topic of your own choosing! Or, you can put out an inquiry to the  bloggers who are participating and ask for suggestions for books on any nonfiction subject. This was by far my favorite week of last year’s Nonfiction November!

 

One of my favorite nonfiction genres is the ORAL HISTORY. The simplest definition of oral history isthe collection and study of historical information using sound recordings of interviews with people having personal knowledge of past events”. I find it incredibly fascinating to read about the same event, place, or time period from the points of view and transcriptions of the actual voices of many different people—and that’s what a good oral history does for the reader.

Studs Terkel is widely believed to be the father of the modern oral history genre. A New Yorker by birth, he came to Chicago as a young man and made the city his home. He authored over a dozen oral histories over the years that covered diverse topics such as race, the Great Depression, spirituality, war, and many others. He had the incredible gift of being able to ask the right questions at the right time and to create a safe environment for his subjects to open up and share their deepest thoughts. I was lucky enough to hear him speak at an author event held when he was in his nineties—and although his body and his hearing were failing him, his mind was as nimble as a man at a quarter of his age. Terkel was truly a Chicago icon, and when he died a few years ago it was the end of the era of a certain type of writer. I have an entire shelf on one of my bookcases that’s devoted to his books.

Here are a few of my favorite oral histories–by Terkel and by other authors:

 

workingWorking by Studs Terkel

I first read parts of Working when I was in junior high and picked up my dad’s copy. The subtitle of the book tells it all—“People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About Doing It”. Terkel interviewed over 100 people about their jobs—farmers, teachers, factory workers, athletes, salesmen, and many more. The result is a portrait of the people who make up everyday America, and who make America work. It also brings home the theme that self worth is so often tied to how we feel about how we earn our living. Written in 1972, the book is obviously a bit dated—many of the jobs discussed have changed drastically or no longer exist. But the spirit of the people who share their stories still rings true. If you’ve never read any oral histories by Terkel, start with this one–it’s still in print and readily available!

gigGig: Americans Talk About Their Jobs by John Bowe, Marisa Bowe, and Sabin Streeter

The authors of this oral history openly admit their admiration of Studs Terkel and their hopes that this book is the modern day imitation of Working. Written about 30 years after Terkel’s book, Gig includes people sharing their experiences in more modern professions, including video game designer, corporate headhunter, and crime scene cleaner. I think this would be a great pick for reluctant readers in high school—the sections are brief yet very engaging–as well as for anyone who enjoys the oral history format.

 

good war“The Good War:” An Oral History Of World War II by Studs Terkel

Another favorite by Studs Terkel, this Pulitzer Prize winning book captures the voices of everyday people whose lives were affected the “the war to end all wars”—both on the front lines and at home. Most of the people interviewed for this book were Americans, but there are Japanese, German, and Russian voices represented as well. If you enjoy reading historical fiction set during this time period, this would be a great contrast!

 

londoners

 

Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now—As Told By Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It, and Long For It by Craig Taylor

The author of this fascinating book spent five years talking with an incredible diverse cross-section of Londoners and paints a vivid picture of modern London. I’ve never been to London, but this book made me feel as if I were there–experiencing both the negatives and the positives of this historic city.

 

snlLive From New York: An Uncensored History Of Saturday Night Live by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller

I started watching Saturday Night Live back in the Jim Belushi/Dan Ackroyd/Bill Murray days. This is a truly riveting oral history of that groundbreaking show as told by the cast members, writers, producers, hosts, musical guests, and more. I’ve heard that this book has been recently re=released with updated interviews, but I haven’t read that version yet. If you’re a SNL fan, or if you enjoy reading about TV and the entertainment industry, do yourself a favor and grab a copy of this book!

 

i want my mtvI Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution by Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum

I’m also old enough to remember when MTV actually played music videos 24 hours a day. I can still recall gathering in the TV lounge of my college dorm to watch the premier of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video—we’d never seen anything like it before! This oral history traces the first decade of MTV and features transcripts of interviews with nearly 400 musical artists, directors, TV and music executives, and MTV VJs. Reading this book completely took me back to the 80s!

 

How about you? Have you read any oral histories? Do you enjoy this format? Please share–and please visit the current November Nonfiction linkup (just click on the graphic at the top of this post) for more great nonfiction suggestions!


17 Comments

NONFICTION NOVEMBER: WEEK 2–Become The Expert / Books About The Kennedys

NF November 2014Welcome to week #2 of NONFICTION NOVEMBER—the second annual celebration of all things nonfiction! I participated last year and had so much fun meeting new bloggers and adding great nonfiction titles to my TBR list! If you’re into reading nonfiction and want to join in the fun, just click on the graphic to visit this week’s  linkup. A new prompt and linkup will be posted every Monday throughout November. Be prepared, though—your TBR list will explode with great NF books!

This week, participants are invited to create  a nonfiction reading list covering any subject. It’s a chance to be an expert on the nonfiction topic of your own choosing! Or, you can put out an inquiry to the  bloggers who are participating and ask for suggestions for books on any nonfiction subject. This was by far my favorite week of last year’s Nonfiction November!

I’ve been intrigued by the Kennedy family for as long as I can remember. Although I certainly don’t admire everything about them, I find the Kennedys endlessly fascinating, and I’ve read and collected many books about the members of this huge American family over the years. In fact, I have a whole section of one of my bookcases devoted to books on this subject. Here are some of my favorites. I’ve read all of these more than once, and these are the ones that I tend to recommend the most:

13588421Patriarch: The Remarkable Life And Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy by David Nasaw       No matter what your opinion is about Joseph P Kennedy, you have to admit that the man lived an incredibly fascinating (and ultimately tragic) life. This is a wonderfully thorough biography of the man who created the foundation–and the finances!– for the Kennedy dynasty.

 

1338253The Day Kennedy Was Shot by Jim Bishop    This was the first Kennedy book that I ever read, and it’s an almost minute-by-minute account of the events of November 22, 1963.  I read this book for the first time when I was in high school, and I’ve re-read it many times since then. There was quite a bit of controversy when this book was originally published—it was definitely NOT endorsed by the Kennedy family—but I think it’s a must-read for anyone who wants an intimate accounting of the Kennedy assassination. Everyone knows how this story ends, but the book reads like a novel of the very best kind.

1106483The Death Of A President by William Manchester     This is a true classic in the Kennedy genre. Published in 1967 and written at the request of the Kennedy family, the author was personally selected to write the definitive account of the assassination. Of course, hundreds of books have been written about the topic since then—and Manchester was obviously working under the Kennedy family’s agenda—but this is still a must-read for anyone interested in the life and death of JFK.

290802America’s Queen: The Life Of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis by Sarah Bradford    This is the most informative, non-tabloid-ish biography of Jacqueline Kennedy that I’ve read. And the title is inspired!

 

 

9547969Jackie As Editor: The Literary Life Of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis by Gregory Lawrence    I knew that JBKO had worked as an editor in New York for several years, but didn’t know how much she truly loved books, or any of the specifics about how or why she got that job, what her day to day life as a working woman was like, or why she left the publishing business. This book answered all of these questions and more, and provides information that gives the reader a more well-rounded view of her life after she left Washington. Bonus–it’s also a really interesting view of the publishing world in the 1970s!

1469237Kennedy Weddings: A Family Album by Jay Mulvaney     This is a great coffee-table-style book filled with wonderful photos and details about nearly every Kennedy wedding—and with such a large family, there have been dozens! Beginning with the wedding of Rose and Joe Kennedy and moving along through the weddings of their children and grandchildren, this book is a great treat for readers (like me!) who just can’t get enough of this famous family.

 

524665The Kennedy Women: The Sage Of An American Family by Lawrence Leamer     This book provides intimate details about the lives of the daughters and daughters-in-law of Joseph and Rose Kennedy. I was especially interested in the details about Patricia and Jean, the lesser-known sisters.

 

6030598The Last Lion: The Fall And Rise Of Ted Kennedy by Peter Canellos     Published shortly after Ted Kennedy’s death in 2009, this biography provides a well-balanced portrait of the successes and failings of the youngest Kennedy brother.

 

 

447974Sons Of Camelot: The Fate Of An American Dynasty by Lawrence Leamer    Another meticulously researched book, this book focuses on the third generation of Kennedys and how they’ve chosen to carry on the family name and mission.

 

 

How about you? Have you read any of these? Is there a particular historical family that intrigues you? Please share–and please visit the current November Nonfiction linkup (just click on the graphic at the top of this post) for more great nonfiction recommendations!


44 Comments

NONFICTION NOVEMBER–WEEK 1: Favorite Nonfiction of 2014

NF November 2014Today marks the beginning of NONFICTION NOVEMBER—the second annual celebration of all things nonfiction! I participated last year and had so much fun meeting new bloggers and adding great nonfiction titles to my TBR list! If you’re into reading nonfiction and want to join in the fun, just click on the graphic to visit the first linkup. A new prompt and linkup will be posted every Monday throughout November. Be prepared, though—your TBR list will explode with great NF books!

This week the following prompts are presented:

 

What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

I’ve always loved nonfiction and I read a lot of it. So far this year I’ve read a total of 92 books, and 47 of them have been nonfiction. I never really have a plan for what I’m going to read during any given time, so it’s just by chance that half of my books so far this year have been nonfiction. For Nonfiction November, I’m not planning on exclusively reading nonfiction—but I’m hoping to find many more nonfiction titles to add to my TBR list. I’m also hoping to find new-to-me bloggers who share my love for books in general and nonfiction in particular!

What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?

I have to be honest—this question is so unfair! There is no way that I can select just one favorite nonfiction title of the year! So–I’m combining these questions to describe the four NF books that I enjoyed the most this year and that I find myself recommending the most often. Ready? Here we go!

empty mansionsEmpty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr.

If you love to escape by reading about the lives of the impossibly rich, or if you like a good modern day mystery, give this book a try! Huguette Clark was a reclusive New York heiress. Born in 1906, she grew up in incredible wealth, and after an extremely brief marriage (she returned home alone just days into her honeymoon) she eventually owned enormously expensive homes in California, New York, and Connecticut–yet they stood vacant as she lived her last twenty years in a simple New York City hospital room, despite being in excellent health. She gave away millions of dollars in money and gifts to charities, foundations promoting the arts, and to her employees–some of whom never saw her or spoke to her except via phone or through closed doors.

At her death in 2011, her estate was valued in excess of $300 million. However, she’d left TWO signed wills—one favoring her remaining family members (distant relatives from her father’s first marriage, most of whom hadn’t spoken to her in decades–she had no children of her own), and a second will leaving everything to her lawyers, long-time private nurse, and other employees. The question was, had she been in control of her decisions, or was she being controlled by the people she hired to care for her and manage her money? And why did she spend the last 20 years of her life living in a hospital, when even her doctors agreed that there was no medical reason for doing so?

When I finished this book, I immediately went online to do some research about what has happened with Huguette’s estate since the book was published—but I won’t share what I found, as I don’t want to create any spoilers for those of you who may choose to read it. This book was not only one of my favorite nonfiction reads of 2014, but it’s one of my favorite books of any genre.

boys in the boatThe Boys In The Boat by Daniel James Brown

I don’t “do sports” but I love reading about them. I’ve read lots of books about baseball and basketball, but I knew virtually nothing about the sport of rowing (or “crew”) before I started this book. It’s the story of the 1936 US rowing team that won the Gold medal at that year’s Summer Olympic Games in Hitler’s Berlin. The author paints such a vivid picture of the young men on the team as well as the skill required to excel at this sport–I had absolutely no idea! There’s a lot of anecdotal information about the Depression era that’s very interesting, and it also created a great interest for me about the 1936 Olympic Games.

reading in wildReading In The Wild by Donalyn Miller

I work in educational publishing and I’m always on the lookout for ideas on how to help kids learn to love to read. This book discusses in plain language how teachers (and parents) can help children become lifelong readers. Miller offers the opinion that many practices commonly used in classrooms—such as reading journals and contests—can actually work against helping children understand that reading should be a part of our everyday lives and not simply something to be done in school. She also provides practical suggestions on how educators can create an authentic book-loving culture in their schools. Many of the ideas presented apply to parents as well. I completely loved the message of this book!

Maeve's TImesMaeve’s Times: In Her Own Words by Maeve Binchy

I was sad to hear of Maeve Binchy’s death a few years ago–so imagine my delight when I learned that a new Binchy book was to be published this year! I was even more excited when I found out that it was to be a collection of nearly 100 of her columns that were originally published in The Irish Times, starting in the 1960s and continuing through 2011. Presented in chronological order, these pieces offer a whole new glimpse into Binchy’s writing style. I had no idea that she had been a columnist, and I devoured this book over a couple of marathon reading sessions in a single weekend. The topics range from humorous slices of life, to character sketches, to news reporting, to controversial opinion pieces. The only thing that tripped me up a bit was the very frequent use of Irish slang and terminology, which I don’t recall encountering too much in her novels. However, this makes total sense in that her columns were most likely intended exclusively for local Irish readers, while she must have known that her novels would find an international audience. I loved this book, and was so grateful to see an entirely new side to one of my favorite novelists.

Honorable Mentions/Just Missed The List:

Relish: My Life In The Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff

Love, Nina: A Nanny Writes Home by Nina Stibbe

Sous Chef by Michael Gibney

How about you? Have you read any of these? What types of nonfiction books do you enjoy? Please share—and please visit the first November Nonfiction linkup (just click on the graphic at the top of this post) for more great nonfiction titles!


13 Comments

WWW Wednesday–10/29/14

Click to play along!

Click to play along!

To participate in this weekly meme hosted by MizB, simply answer the following questions:

WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

UsUs by David Nicholls is the new novel by the author of One Day. It’s the story of Douglas Petersen, a fifty-something husband and father who reminded me of a milder, less intense version of Don from The Rosie Project. Shortly before Douglas and his family are set to leave London for a month-long summer vacation through Europe, his wife tells him she no longer loves him. They decide to take the trip anyway, as this will most likely be the last summer that the three of them will spend together. Douglas, however, has an extra agenda—he views the trip as his last chance to mend his relationship with his wife and his son.

The book alternates between the present vacation and the events that took place when Douglas first met his wife, as well as the history of their marriage. Nicholls does a great job of portraying the tension, the optimism (on Douglas’ part, anyway!), and the hopelessness that surround this vacation, and the atmosphere of Amsterdam, Paris, Venice, and Barcelona are portrayed vividly—even to someone like myself who has never been to Europe.

I enjoyed the first half of this book immensely. The second half seemed to drag a bit, and parts of the end of the novel seemed a bit unrealistic to me (I can’t be too specific here as I don’t want to include any spoilers!), but I’d still recommend this book as a very unique portrait of a marriage and a family at a crossroads.

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

Nothing yet—I just finished Us yesterday and haven’t had time to start anything new!

WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

9.30.14 CI’m pretty sure I’m going to start the new YA novel Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley in the next day or so. I’ve been hearing a lot about this book—it’s being billed as one of the most important YA books of the year–and one of my reading goals this year was to read more YA novels.

 Told from alternating points of view, this historical fiction novel is set in Virginia in 1959 and tells the story of two female students—one white, one black—who attend a newly integrated high school. I’ve read a lot of African American history, so I’m very interested in how this YA novel will compliment the nonfiction that I’ve read about this topic. I know that this isn’t going to be a light-hearted read, but everything I’ve heard about this book tells me it’s a book that needs to be read.

How about you? Have you read either of these? What are you reading this week? Please share!


34 Comments

Musing Monday–Used Or New?

Click here to play along!

Click here to play along!

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB that asks you to muse about one of several “bookish” questions… or you can just ramble on about anything you like that pertains to books! You can join in by clicking the graphic above. Go ahead–it’s fun!

Here’s my musing for this week–

TBR bookcaseThis is my TBR bookcase. I bought it about a month ago when my piles of unread, purchased books became hazardous stacks in a corner of my bedroom. There are 61 books here—6 of them were bought new, and 55 of them were bought used.

Most of my book purchases used to be new books. This was mainly because I worked in a big-box book store for seven years and enjoyed a very generous employee discount. But when I left that job ten years ago I quickly realized that I just couldn’t keep up the pace of my book buying habit if I was paying new book, non-employee-discount prices—so I started investigating ways to buy more used books.

I’ve always been a fan of used book sales—my local library has a huge one every June and I always pay the “First Look” fee to get in there on the very first evening of the sale. I also love going to actual used book stores, although there are very few in my area. These places are great for browsing and for finding unexpected treasures—but not so successful if you’re looking for a specific title. And now that I’ve been book blogging  for a little over a year, I find that my wish list of titles has exploded because my blogging buddies keep telling me about so many books that I just HAVE TO READ!

For the past ten years or so I’ve bought most of my used books online from independent used bookstores. I use Abebooks for this—it’s a sort of clearinghouse for used books where you can search thousands of used bookstores all across the US and even in Europe for a particular title. (Side note—I have absolutely no affiliation with Abebooks, but I’m a loyal customer and have bought hundreds of books through this site over the years.) I’ve found that I can often find a hardcover in great condition for much less than the price of a paperback—I usually pay less than $5 per book. Plus, you can link to Abebooks (and many other bookbuying sites) directly from Goodreads–very convenient, but very dangerous!

I do still buy some new books. There have been days when I’ve left work on my lunch hour to go to the bookstore to pick up a book on it’s release day because I JUST CAN’T WAIT! And I do still go to the  bookstore to just wander around and buy something that I’ve never heard of but that catches my eye. But used books have definitely become my preferred way to buy books. Unless I suddenly win the lottery, I don’t see this changing anytime soon!

How about you? Do you purchase most of your books new or used? Please share!


21 Comments

Sunday Stealing–It’s All About Books This Week!

Click here to play along!

Click here to play along!

I haven’t participated in the Sunday Stealing meme in ages, but how could I resist it this week? All the questions are about BOOKS! Ready? Let’s go!

1. Favorite childhood book? It’s a tie between Charlotte’s Web and Harriet the Spy.

2. What are you reading right now? I’m about half-way through the new novel by David Nichhols called Us. I’m reading an advance copy on my kindle—it’ll be released on Tuesday 10/28. It’s about a British family who go on vacation through Europe right after the wife tells the husband that she wants to leave him. Not exactly the carefree trip that was originally planned!

3. What books do you have on request at the library? I’ve got 15 books on the hold list right now.

4. Bad book habit? I’m not sure there’s any book habit that’s bad—but I buy A LOT of used books. I mean A LOT of them. I recently bought a new bookcase so I could keep all the used books I’ve bought but haven’t yet read in one place.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library? A ton of new releases on my hold list all came in at once, so I have a whopping 16 books checked out right now. Two are finished and waiting to be returned—the rest are clamoring to be read! Luckily my library loans books for 3 weeks and you can renew—but only if no one else is in line for the book. My library also doesn’t have a limit on the number of books that can be checked out at once.

6. Do you have an e-reader? I’ve had a kindle for almost four years, and I just ordered the new Kindle Voyage. I use my kindle mainly for digital ARCs and sometimes for library books. I always prefer a “real” book!

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once? I’m usually reading more than one book at a time, but right now I’m only reading one. That’s rare for me.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog? YES!!! I’m reading many more new releases because I keep hearing about them from my blogging buddies!

9. Least favourite book you read this year (so far)?  I just did not understand all the hype about the novel We Were Liars. I think I’m the only one in the world who didn’t like this book, but I just didn’t get it.

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year? That’s a tough one! I’ve read a lot of great books this year. I’ll narrow it to two favorites. Favorite nonfiction: The Boys in the Boat—about the 1936 US Olympic rowing team. Favorite fiction: The Paying Guests—a psychological thriller set in post WWI London.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone? I’ve been getting better about this since I started book-blogging. There are so many blogging buddies out there whose opinions I’ve grown to trust, so if one of them loves a book I’m pretty likely to give it a try, even if it’s one that I wouldn’t ordinarily pick up.

12. What is your reading comfort zone? I prefer realistic, contemporary fiction, and narrative nonfiction.

13. Can you read on the bus? I haven’t ridden a bus in ages, but since I can read in the car, I’m sure I could do it.

14. Favorite place to read? The big blue overstuffed chair in my office/library. It’s especially my favorite pace to read when one or both of my cats join me there!

15. What is your policy on book lending?  I will loan out my books but only if asked—I don’t offer to lend because I think it puts the lendee in an awkward position if they don’t really want to read it.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books? If it’s my own book and there’s no bookmark available, I will dog-ear—but it’s not my first choice.

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books? Yep! But again, only in my own books, of course.

18. Not even with text books?I’ll take this to mean did I ever write in my textbooks—YES—highlighting, notes, the whole thing.

19. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?  I actually wasn’t too sure about The Paying Guests (see #10)—I’d never read anything by Sarah Waters before, I haven’t read much fiction set overseas in the early 1920s, and I didn’t know much about the plot. But I’m so glad I took the plunge and picked it up!

20. What makes you love a book? I love a book when I am invested in the characters and find myself thinking about them even when I’m not reading the book.


21 Comments

WWW Wednesday–10/22/14

Click to play along!

Click to play along!

To join this meme hosted by MizB, simply answer the following three questions:

WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

florence gordonI really don’t know why I’m not hearing more buzz about Florence Gordon by Brian Morton—it’s a new novel that seems to have slipped under the radar. It’s about 75-year-old Florence Gordon who lives in present-day NYC. She’s an author and a feminist icon, she’s brutally blunt with family, friends, and strangers alike, and she’s contemplating writing her memoirs. The book begins when her adult son,  his wife,  and his  college-age daughter return to New York after several years away—and Florence finds that as much as she wants to remain in solitude with her work, she becomes involved in the activities and issues that are surrounding her son and his family.

Florence was such a fascinating  character to me! During the first ten pages of the book she abruptly walks out of a surprise party thrown in her honor, informing her friends and family that she’d much rather be home working at her desk. How can you not want to know more about the kind of person who can pull that off? And what a talented author Brian Morton is to be able to completely capture the personality of his main character is such a few pages!

There are over 100 chapters in this book, and they range from less than one page to a dozen pages or more. At first I thought that this would be distracting and that the technique would interrupt the narrative, but I very quickly got into the rhythm of Morton’s writing. I was thoroughly invested in each of the main characters and in the day-to-day flow of their lives—and the way that Morton chose to end the book was not at all what I was expecting.

This isn’t a novel that resolves everything and answers all questions by the end—instead, I was left wondering what was going to happen next, and I still find myself thinking about the characters—I’m especially wondering what will happen to Florence’s grand-daughter and how her life may change . Perhaps there’s another novel there. . .

This was a great read for me and I’ll definitely be investigating Brian Morton’s backlisted titles!

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

UsI received an ARC of Us by David Nicholls which is due to be published on October 28. I enjoyed Nicholls’ previous novel, One Day, and was excited to begin this new book about Douglas, his wife, and their teen-aged son who go on a European vacation shortly after Douglas’ wife informs him that she no longer loves him. Douglas views this vacation as a final chance to convince his wife to stay in the marriage, as well as a chance to connect with his son before he leaves home for college. The book alternates between the present trip and the events that took place when Douglas first met his wife, as well as the early years of their marriage.

So far this novel is reminding me a bit of Emma Straub’s The Vacationers (which I loved)—a family in crisis who leave their home for a holiday to try to escape their troubles and repair their relationships. The main character of Douglas is also reminding me of a milder version of Don from The Rosie Project. I’m about 1/3 of the way through this novel and am looking forward to finding out what happens next!

WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

As usual, I have absolutely no idea—but I know I’ll find something!

How about you? Have you read either of these? What are you reading this week? Please share!


22 Comments

Musing Mondays–Bookish Bingo!

Click here to play along!

Click here to play along!

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB that asks you to muse about one of several “bookish” questions… or you can just ramble on about anything you like that pertains to books! You can join in by clicking the graphic above. Go ahead–it’s fun!

Here’s my musing for this week–

Reading-Bingo-smallI saw this bingo card on kwizgiver’s blog a few weeks ago and thought I’d see how many squares I could fill in with books I’ve read so far this year. Ready? Here we go!

More than 500 pages: We Are Not Ourselves by Mathew Thomas weighs in at 640 pages. I read part of this as a library book and part on my kindle, so luckily I didn’t have to lug it around with me!

Forgotten classic: I haven’t read any classics this year—just about everything I’ve read this year was published in the last year or two.

Book that became a movie: I haven’t read anything this year that became a film—but I did read a book ABOUT the movie industry—Pictures Of A Revolution by Mark Harris.

some luckPublished this year: Some Luck by Jane Smiley—it was just published on October 7. It’s the first book in what will be a trilogy and I loved it!

Book with a number in the title: 1963: The Year Of The Revolution by Ariel Leve.

Author under 30: Katie Heaney is in her mid-twenties and wrote the memoir Never Have I Ever –I thought it was OK, but I’m about 25 years older than her intended audience.

relishBook with a non-human character: I don’t usually read books that have inanimate objects as main characters—but the graphic memoir Relish by Lucy Knisley had a lot of food and recipes in it, so I’m going to count it for this category!

Funny: I Work At A Public Library by Gina Sheridan is a collection of very short vignettes and quotes from library workers. If you’re a booklover, parts of this book are laugh-out-loud funny. One of my favorites—a library patron wants to know where to find autobiographies of dragons.

sisterlandFemale author: Curtis Sittenfeld sounds like a man, but SHE is the author of several novels including Sisterland, which is about adult twin sisters who grew up sharing psychic powers. I liked this book a lot more than I thought I would.

Mystery: Big Little Lies by Lianne Moriarty probably wouldn’t be considered a hard-core mystery, but the plot kept me guessing up until the end.

hiddenOne Word Title: Hidden by Catherine McKenzie was a great alternating point of view novel about a man (who dies in the first chapter), his wife, and a woman who may or may not have been his lover.

Short stories: Other People We Married by Emma Straub. I picked this up after I read her latest novel The Vacationers and was pleased to discover that several of that novel’s characters actually originally appeared in this short story collection!

9.16.14Set on a different continent: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters was set just outside of London. I adored this book!

Nonfiction: I’ve read a ton of nonfiction this year—but one of the most memorable was Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune  by Bill Dedman. Proof that truth is often much stranger than fiction!

tell the wolves i'm homeFirst book by an author: Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka. What a wonderful, thoughtful, moving book this is! I can’t wait to find out what Rifka writes next.

Book I heard about online: I probably heard about the majority of books I’m listing here from my blogging buddies! I can’t pick just one!

Best-seller: Chestnut Street by Maeve Binchy was on the NYT bestsellers list for awhile.

burgess boysBased on a true story: The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout is based on a hate crime.

Book from the bottom of my TBR pile: I finally got around to reading The Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. I liked it more than Landline, but not as much as Eleanor & Park and Fangirl.

Book your friend loves: I don’t get a lot of recommendations from friends—I’m usually the one who is recommending the books to them!

Book that scares you: I didn’t read anything that sticks out as being scary this year.

More than ten years old: I’ve hardly read any backlist this year (I’m actually working on a future post on this!) so I’ve got to leave this one blank.

Second book in a series: I used to read a lot of series books but I haven’t done so in ages.

vacationersBlue cover: The Vacationers by Emma Straub. I love this cover, and I loved the book!

So–my score is 19 out of 24 squares filled in–not too bad!

How about you? How much of the card could you fill in? Have you read any of my fill-ins? Please share!


12 Comments

WWW Wednesday–10/15/14

Click to play along!

To join this meme hosted by MizB, simply answer these three questions:

WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

some luckI haven’t read anything by Jane Smiley in ages, but I do remember enjoying her novel A Thousand Acres many years ago. I was offered an ARC of her latest novel, Some Luck, which was just released on October 7, and the premise was really intriguing to me—it’s the first book in what will be a trilogy spanning 100 years in the life of an Iowa farm family. This first book takes place from 1920-1953, and each chapter covers one year. Every chapter also contains the points of view from several members of the family–the husband and wife, their children (from birth into adulthood), and a few members of their extended family. As the chapters—and the years—progress, we experience the ebb and flow of their everyday lives, including births, deaths, marriages, the Depression, WWII, and many other events. I highlighted a quote that I feel sums up the prevailing attitude of the members of this  family perfectly: “On a farm, you knew that you could die from anything, or you could survive anything.”

I loved this book and thought it was a wonderful “slice of life” novel. I also really enjoyed the “one chapter for every year” technique because not everything that was happening to the characters was fully revealed–sometimes I had to “connect the dots” between chapters to figure out what had happened since a particular character was featured.

If you’re into stories that include big cliffhangers and huge, dramatic plot points, this may not be to your taste—but if you like a book that puts you right there beside the characters, I highly recommend it. I don’t know how long it’s going to take Jane Smiley to complete the remaining two volumes of this trilogy, but I’ll be anxiously waiting on both of them!

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

florence gordonFlorence Gordon by Brian Morton is a novel that seems to have slipped under the radar a bit. I’m not really hearing too much about it, and I can’t understand why—I’m about half-way through this book and am fully invested in the characters—and I’m especially intrigued by the main character who provides this book with its title.

Florence Gordon is 75 years old and living in present-day NYC. She’s an author and a feminist icon, she’s brutally blunt with family, friends, and strangers alike, and she’s contemplating writing her memoirs. The book begins when her adult son,  his wife,  andhis  college-age daughter return to New York after several years away—and Florence finds that as much as she wants to live in solitude with her work, she becomes involved in the activities and issues surrounding her family.

Florence is such an interesting character to me! During the first ten pages of the book she abruptly walks out of a surprise party thrown in her honor, saying she’d much rather be home at her desk. I ask you—don’t you just need to know what kind of person can pull off that kind of behavior? And what a talented author Brian Morton is to be able to completely capture the personality of his main character is such a few number of pages! If you’re looking for a novel featuring a strong, unique, not always likeable but always interesting character, do yourself a favor and find a copy of this new novel.

WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

As usual, I have absolutely no idea, but I know I’ll find something!

How about you? Have you read either of these? What are you reading this week? Please share!


11 Comments

WWW Wednesday–10/8/14

Click to play along!

To participate in this meme hosted by MizB, simply answer the following three questions:

WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

9.16.14I’ve never read anything by Sarah Waters before—she wasn’t even on my radar until I started hearing about her latest, The Paying Guests. Nearly everything I heard about this novel said it was best to go into it with no preconceived notions, so I avoided reading any complete reviews that might contain specific information on the plot—and that’s definitely the way to go with this book!

This is an incredible novel. I found myself hiding away during my lunch hours at work to get in another chapter or two, and I even found myself reading at stoplights on a few occasions (I am NOT KIDDING!). I was completely immersed in the plot and the characters, and I found myself wondering over and over how Waters was going to resolve everything that was happening.

I completely agree that it’s best not to share too much of the plot, so I’ll just say that this psychological thriller takes place in post WWI London. A young women and her widowed mother are forced to take in boarders (“paying guests”) for financial reasons, so they rent the upstairs of their home to a newly married couple . . . and drama and passion of all kinds ensues.

This novel weighs in at over 500 pages, but it seemed like a pretty quick read to me. I never felt bogged down with the plot or the characters, and the Waters did an excellent job of making me feel as though I was living the day-to-day life of a young women in early 1920s London.

Don’t let the size of this book scare you away—if you’re looking for a gripping book that will keep you riveted from beginning to end, please find a copy of The Paying Guests. I’m quite sure that this novel will end up on my Top 10 list of favorite books of 2014.

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

some luckI haven’t read anything by Jane Smiley in ages, but I do remember enjoying her novel A Thousand Acres many years ago. I was offered an ARC of her latest novel, Some Luck, which was just released on October 7, and the premise was intriguing to me—it’s the first book in what will be a trilogy spanning 100 years in the life of an Iowa farm family. This first book takes place from 1920-1953, and each chapter covers one year. Every chapter also contains the points of view from several members of the family, including the husband and wife, their children, and a few members of their extended family. As the chapters—and the years—progress, we experience the ebb and flow of their everyday lives, including births, deaths, marriages, the Depression, WWII, and many other events.

I’m about ¾ of the way through this novel and I’m loving it! I’d consider this to be a “slice of life” book–if you’re into stories that include big cliffhangers and huge, dramatic plot points, this may not be to your taste—but if you like a book that puts you right there beside the characters, I highly recommend it. I don’t know how long it’s going to take Smiley to complete the remaining two volumes of this trilogy, but I’ll be anxiously waiting on both of them!

WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

As usual, I have absolutely no idea, but I’m sure I’ll find something!

How about you? What have you been reading lately? Please share!

 


14 Comments

Musing Monday–Twenty Bookish Questions!

Click here to play along!

Click here to play along!

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB that asks you to muse about one of several “bookish” questions… or, you can just ramble on about anything you like that pertains to books! You can join in by clicking the graphic above. Go ahead–it’s fun!

Here’s my musing for this week–

I’ve seen different versions of these questions floating around on various blogs over the past few months–and I picked 20 of them to answer today! Ready? Let’s go!

credit David Hettinger

1. What are you reading right now?   Some Luck by Jane Smiley—I haven’t read anything by Smiley in ages, but I did enjoy A Thousand Acres. I’ve got an ARC of her latest and am really enjoying it! It’s the first of a trilogy covering 100 years in the life of an Iowa farm family—each chapter deals with one year. This first book begins in 1922 and ends in the mid-1950s.

2. What books do you have on request at the library? Right now I’m on the list for 25 library titles. The first thing I do when I hear about a new book is check to see if my library has it. If they do–I put myself on the list.

3. Do you have an e-reader? Yes—I got a Kindle about four years ago and I just pre-ordered the new Kindle Voyager. My first choice is always “real” books, but I do love my kindle for traveling and for borrowing ebooks from the library.

credit Michele Del Campo

4. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once? I’m usually reading more than one book at a time—right now I have one nonfiction and one novel going. I’m often also listening to an audiobook as well, but I don’t have one of those going right now.

5. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog? YES! I am reading so many more new titles because I keep hearing about them from all my blogging buddies! I have tons of backlisted titles on my TBR list, but this year I’ve mainly been focusing on newly published books. I’m still trying to find a balance between reading new and backlist books.

6. Least favorite book you read this year (so far)? OK—I know I’m in the minority here, but I really couldn’t stand We Were Liars. I listened to the audio book on my drive to and from work and when it was over I felt like throwing something through the windshield.

credit Monica Castanys

7. Favorite book you’ve read this year? Tough question—I think I’m going to save this answer for my Top 10 Books Of The Year list in December. It may take me that long to narrow it down—I’ve read a lot of wonderful books this year, and there’s still almost three months to go!

8. The most money you’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time? I don’t know the answer to this—but I do remember that I received a $100 gift certificate to Borders from my parents when I finished my Masters degree—I hadn’t read anything for fun in so long and being able to go in there and get anything I wanted without even looking at prices was wonderful! That was about 20 years ago ( so $100 REALLY went a long way!) and I still remember how great it felt!

9. What is your policy on book lending? I only lend out books if asked—I don’t offer to lend because I think it puts the lendee in an awkward position if they really don’t want to read the book. I haven’t had any bad experiences (books being damaged, etc) with lending books in a really long time.

credit Andre Kohn

10. Favorite genre? I prefer contemporary, realistic fiction to any other genre, but I do read outside this favorite area—more often now that I’ve been book-blogging.

11. Favorite biography? I LOVE Robert Caro’s multi-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson—the fifth and final volume should be out in the next 2-3 years. The first four volumes are in a place of honor in a special spot on one of my bookcases. When the latest volume came out about a year ago I left work on my lunch break to go buy the hardcover the day it was released, because yes, I am that geeky!

12. Favorite reading snack Anything chocolate that can be eaten with one hand (leaving the other hand free for page-turning!).

13. Favorite Poet? Unfortunately I don’t read enough poetry to have a favorite poet.

credit Karin Jurick

credit Karin Jurick

14. How often have you returned books to the library unread? Often. I don’t view checking out books as any kind of contract. If I get to them, great—if I don’t, I can always check them out again at another time.

15. Favorite film adaptation of a novel? I LOVED the movie adaptation of Ordinary People by Judith Guest—it’s one of my favorite films. I’ve probably watched it at least ten times and there are certain scenes that make me cry every single time.

16. Most disappointing film adaptation? I remember going to see the cartoon version of Charlotte’s Web when I was a kid and being really angry about it—there were scenes added that weren’t in the book and none of the characters voices matched with what was in my head. Plus—Charlotte sang in the movie and the “real Charlotte” would NEVER sing!

17. Name a book that made you angry. I remember being very angry when I read Randy Shilts’ And The Band Played On about the early years of the AIDS crisis. So much got in the way of containing, preventing, and educating in those days. It’s one of my favorite narrative nonfiction books, but I still remember how sad and furious I felt when I read it for the first time.

credit John Lidzey

credit John Lidzey

18. A book that you expected to like but didn’t? I REALLY wanted to like Landline by Rainbow Rowell (I adored Eleanor & Park, really, really liked Fangirl, and enjoyed Attachments) but I just couldn’t get past the gimmick that she used in the plot. As I was reading it I kept thinking, “Rainbow, you are too freaking talented to have to resort to stuff like this!” I finished it, but I just didn’t care for it.

19. Do you like to keep your books organized? YES! I don’t alphabetize, but I do shelve my books by theme/subject matter. Plus I have one bookcase devoted to books I haven’t read yet. I would NEVER come home from the bookstore and just put all the books in one spot—they need to be shelved with the rest of their “family”.

20. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them? I’m a keeper! I love being able to see the books that I’ve read and remember where I was when I read them, or recall what I enjoyed. I guess that’s why I have to keep buying bookcases . . .

How about you? Do we have any answers in common? Feel free to answer any of these questions in the comments below–or borrow the whole thing and write your own post! If you do, leave a link in the comments so I can visit and read your answers!


13 Comments

WWW Wednesday–10/1/14

Click to play along!

Click to play along!

To participate in this meme hosted by MizB, simply answer the following three questions:

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

9.16.14Sarah Waters has never been on my radar before, but her latest, The Paying Guests, is one of the hot titles this season. I finally got to the top of the library list and picked it up late last week—I had no idea that it was nearly 600 pages! I started reading it on Sunday morning and I’ve hardly put it down since. I’d heard that this is one of those books that’s best read with no preconceived notions, so I purposefully didn’t read any lengthy reviews beforehand—and I’m so glad that I stayed away from anything that hinted about the plot! All I’ll say here is that it’s a psychological drama taking place in early post-WWI London, and it focuses on a young women and her mother who are forced by lack of finances to take a boarding couple (“paying guests”) into their home. I’m about half-way through and had to stop reading at a pretty pivotal plot-point, so as soon as I’m done writing this post I’ll be digging into it again!

WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

17830123We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas has been described as a family saga, and when I hear that term I usually think of plots spanning multiple generations and packed with lots of family members. That’s not the case with this novel—it mainly focuses on one woman, her husband, their son, and the changes each goes through over the course of a lifetime. That’s not to say it’s not a good book—it just wasn’t what I was expecting. This novel is getting a lot of buzz this fall and I can see why. The writing is masterful and although the characters are not necessarily likeable all the time, their actions and feelings rang true to me. Parts of this book were almost unbearably sad and I cried more than once while reading it. It’s hard for me to say that I enjoyed this book—in fact, I felt rather depressed when I finished it—but it takes a powerful, talented writer to bring out those feelings. If you’re looking for a light, breezy novel—this isn’t it! But if you’re looking for a good character study with lots to think about—this would be a great book club selection—consider giving this title a try.

9.30.14 BI’ve always been interested in behind-the-scenes books and I’m also interested in journalism, so when I was offered an ARC of The News Sorority (published on 9/30/14) by Sheila Weller I jumped at the chance. It’s a nonfiction account of the careers of three female television journalists—Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, and Christine Amanpour—and it was a fascinating story of how the roles of females in hard television news have changed over the years. Although the author didn’t interview any of her three subjects for this book, she did talk with dozens of others and the result seems to be a pretty well-rounded view of their careers. Yes, there’s some gossip, but not so much that it felt tabloid-ish. I particularly thought that the accounts of how each woman dealt with reporting the events of 9/11 was interesting. If you’re a news junkie (like I am!) and/or enjoy reading about how news is reported, I’d recommend this book.

WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

As usual, I have absolutely no idea—it’ll all depend on what I’m in the mood for at the time!

How about you? Have you read any of these? What are you reading this week? Please share!


15 Comments

Friday Finds–9/26/14

FRIDAY FINDS is a weekly meme hosted by MizB for sharing the books you ‘found’ and added to your TBR list this week (they don’t necessarily need to be books you purchased)…whether you found them online,  in a bookstore,  in the library — wherever! Click the icon above to join in!

I’m limiting myself to the new books that have actually entered my home this week–-bought new, bought used, and/or borrowed from the library. I’m not listing books that I simply added to by TBR list–that could take days! This week it’s 4 books from the library and 4 used book purchases. Ready? Here they are:

ff 9.26

The Moment Of Everything by Shelly King     I love a good “book about books” and this novel is billed as a book for book lovers. It’s about a woman who starts working at a used bookstore after she loses her job at a software company. She finds an old copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover with notes in the margins between two people, and she goes on a search to find out who they were.

Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay     There’s been a lot of buzz about this book—it’s a collection of the author’s thoughts about race, politics, pop culture, gender, sex, and other topics. I recently heard a radio interview with Roxane Gay and while I didn’t agree with everything she said,  I was certainly intrigued enough to want to learn more about her opinions.

The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths Are Solving America’s Coldest Cases by Deborah Halber       I used to read a lot of true crime, so I was really interested to hear about this nonfiction account of everyday people who are obsessed with helping to solve missing persons cases.

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters     I’ve never read anything by Sarah Waters before, but it seems like everyone is talking about her latest novel! Just about everything I’ve read about this book says that it’s best to go into it without any preconceived notions—so all I really know about the plot is that it takes place in London in the early 1920s, and that it’s a combination of a love story and a psychological thriller. It’s also 500+ pages! This is the kind of book that makes me want to call in sick to work and just stay home and read until my eyes hurt. Unfortunately, that’s just not going to fly with my boss right now, so I’ll need to come up with another plan.

Chop Chop by Simon Wroe     I love to cook, and I love to read about food and cooking, so I’m looking forward to this novel set in a London restaurant.

Fever by Mary Beth Keane     This is historical fiction about the Irish immigrant known as Typhoid Mary.

Acceptance by Susan Coll    I always enjoy fiction taking place in academic settings, so I’m eager to read this novel about high school students trying to get accepted into the Ivy League.

River Of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Candice Millard     I LOVED Millard’s Destiny Of A Republic about President Garfield’s assassination, and I’ve been meaning to read this backlist title for ages. I was able to watch most of Ken Burns’ recent documentary about Theodore, Franklin, and Eleanor Roosevelt and it reminded me of how little I know about the first President Roosevelt. I’m hoping this book will change that!

How about you? Have you read any of these? Which books made it onto your radar this week? Please share!


23 Comments

Top Ten Tuesday–The Top Ten Books On My TBR List This Fall

 

Click here to play along!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted over at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week a new question or theme is presented. This week’s prompt is:

The Top Ten Books On My TBR List This Fall

Like all of you, I’m looking forward to A LOT of books this fall, but I narrowed my list to ten–five fiction and five nonfiction–and I limited myself to new books that are being released from September-October. Ready? Here we go!

FICTION

  9.16.14 9.30.14 9.30.14 C  10.7.14  10.14.14

Sept. 16The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters     I’ve never read anything by Sarah Waters before but this new title is getting a ton of buzz. Most of the reviews I’ve read say that it’s best to go into this one without any preconceived  notions about the plot, so all I really know is that it takes place in London in the early 1920s and it’s a psychological drama.

Sept. 30Us by David Nicholls     I liked One Day by Nicholls, so I’m hoping I’ll enjoy his new novel as well. It’s about a man whose wife decides to leave him after their son goes away to college, and his attempts to save their relationship.

Sept. 30Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley     This YA novel takes place in Virginia in 1959 and deals with integration as well as LGBT issues. I don’t think this will be an easy read, but I’ve read many reviews that indicate that it will be one of the important YA books this year.

Oct. 7Some Luck by Jane Smiley    Jane Smiley’s latest is the first book in a trilogy covering several decades in the life of an American farming family.

Oct. 14Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult     I LOVE Jodi Picoult’s early novels, but her last few have been a bit hit-and-miss for me. I am really hoping that I love this book about a daughter searching for her missing mother.

NONFICTION

   9.22.14  9.30.14 B  10.2.14 10.13.14  10.28.14

Sept. 22An Age of License: A Travelogue by Luch Knisley     I adored Knisley’s food memoir Relish, so I’m excited to read her latest book written in graphic format about her travels to Europe during a  recent book tour.

Sept. 30The News Sorority by Sheila Weller     I enjoy reading “behind the scenes” nonfiction, and I’m also interested in journalism, so this biography of three noted TV journalists (Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer and Christiane Amanpour) is right up my alley.

Oct. 2Hand To Mouth: Living In Bootstrap America by Linda Tirado     This is a memoir of a woman’s experience with going from middle-class America to poverty. I’ve heard this book compared to Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed and to me, that’s a big plus.

Oct. 13The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution by Jonathan Eig     On the surface this book covers how the Pill was developed, but it also deals with feminism, medicine, politics, and changing social attitudes. I’ve heard that this nonfiction book reads more like a novel, and that’s my favorite type of nonfiction!

Oct. 28Yes Please by Amy Poehler    Amy Poehler is one of my favorite comedic actresses—right up there with Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling. I really liked both of their memoirs, so I’m hoping to enjoy Poehler’s just as much.

How about you? Are any of these on your TBR list? Which books are you anxiously waiting to get your hands on this season? Please share!


18 Comments

Musing Monday–Banned Books Week 2014

Click here to play along!

Click here to play along!

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB that asks you to muse about one of several “bookish” questions… or, you can just ramble on about anything you like that pertains to books! You can join in by clicking the graphic above. Go ahead–it’s fun!

Here’s my musing for this week–

2014 banned books posterBanned Books Week is Sept. 21-27 this year, and banning/challenging books is a hot-button issue for many people. Here’s a brief description of the purpose of Banned Books Week from the ALA website:

“Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community –- librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types –- in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular. By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship. While books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, these books have remained available. This happens only thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, students, and community members who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read.”

So that’s the background. You can find lists of frequently challenged books here–as well as the reasons for the challenges.

Here’s my take:

I believe that parents ABSOLUTELY have the right–and the responsibility–to monitor and guide their children’s reading. This means different things to different people.

mom daughter readingSome parents raise their kids to be “free range readers”—kids who are encouraged to read anything and everything they can get their hands on. Other parents set limits on the materials and subject matter that their kids are allowed to read—because of their child’s age/maturity, for philosophical, educational, religious, or moral reasons, or other factors.  And lots and lots of parents fall somewhere in between.

Part of parenting is knowing what your kids are doing–and to me, that includes being aware of the books they’re reading and putting limits and consequences in place that make sense for your family. And along with that, in my opinion, is helping your kids become responsible citizens by helping them learn to make smart reading choices. That’s about teaching kids to acknowledge new ideas that they encounter in books. It’s about helping kids evaluate what they read and understand that they may not always agree with it or believe that it’s true. And it’s about helping children learn to accept the existence of differing opinions and choices they read about without necessarily taking them on as their own.

Easy? Not by a long shot. But part of the responsibility of every parent is taking charge of raising their children in the manner that they see fit–whether or not they agree with or incorporate ideas such as the ones I’ve listed above.

The key words here are THEIR CHILDREN.

When parents try to control the books that can–and can’t–be found in public community libraries, public school libraries, and in public book stores, they’re trying to control the reading behaviors of ALL CHILDREN. By removing a book from public bookshelves, they’re taking away choices for all.  They are essentially trying to parent other parents’ children. And that, to me, is not OK.

To parents who have different ideas than my own about what THEIR KIDS can and can’t read, I say more power to you. Your house, your children—your rules.  I may not agree with you, but I will tirelessly defend your right to parent your kids in the way that’s right for you and your family. However–we should all expect that same respect in return. To the parents who want to enforce their own limits on the reading habits of children who are not members of their own family, I say hands off. End of story.

How about you? What are your thoughts? I’m interested in your feelings about this issue. Have you or your kids had any experiences with banned or challenged books? Please share!


5 Comments

Friday Finds–9/19/14

FRIDAY FINDS is a weekly meme hosted by MizB for sharing the books you ‘found’ and added to your TBR list this week (they don’t necessarily need to be books you purchased)…whether you found them online,  in a bookstore,  in the library — wherever! Click the icon above to join in!

I’m limiting myself to the new books that have actually entered my home this week–-bought new, bought used, and/or borrowed from the library. I’m not listing books that I simply added to by TBR list–that could take days! This week it’s just two books from the library–no book purchases this week. Ready? Here they are:

ff 9.19.14

I love novels made up of letters, and I love novels that take place in academic settings—so when I heard about Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher, I knew this was a book that had ME written all over it! This novel was just released earlier this month and consists of a series of letters of recommendation written by a (fictional) professor of creative writing and literature at a small college in the Midwestern US. I picked this book up from the library earlier this week and when I peeked at the first few pages I could immediately tell that the author and I share the same dry, understated sense of humor. I think I’m going to love this book!

I work in educational publishing, so I’m always interested in books that provide behind-the-scenes information about writing, publishing, and the book business. Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature by Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson, and Peter Sieruta is a nonfiction book about the “untold stories” behind many well-known children’s books and authors, as well as touching on censorship, GLBT literature, celebrity authors, and ghostwriting. This is a book that I’ll probably buy after I have to return it to the library—I’m already pretty sure that I’ll want to add it to my collection of “books about books”.

How about you? Have you read either of these? What books did you discover this week? Please share!


23 Comments

Musing Monday–A Week Away From Reading

Click here to play along!

Click here to play along!

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB that asks you to muse about one of several “bookish” questions… or, you can just ramble on about anything you like that pertains to books! You can join in by clicking the graphic above. Go ahead–it’s fun!

Here’s my musing for this week–

I spent the past week out of town on a trip for work—it involved a fair amount of time in airports and on planes, plus a week’s stay at a very nice hotel. My days were filled with meetings and other obligations, and when I got back to my room each night my brain felt stuffed–all I wanted to do was veg out in front of the TV until I fell asleep.

I’d spent a pretty good chunk of time deciding on which books to take with me on this trip, and in the end I took one hefty library book that I’d just started (We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas—more about this book in my WWW post later this week!) plus my kindle (loaded with dozens of books for every occasion!). However, to my surprise, I did absolutely no pleasure reading on my trip until I was on my way home.

This trip was really tiring–both mentally and physically—for a lot of reasons. I knew this would be a demanding trip, but I’d fully expected that I’d be able to escape, at least for a little while each day, by reading something for fun. I was surprised to find that this wasn’t the case–I didn’t crack open any “free reading” books until the last day of my trip when my meetings were over and I was waiting to go to the airport. At that point I parked myself in the hotel lobby and read until I caught the airport shuttle—then I read at the airport waiting for my flight, and then I read for about three of the four hours that I was on the plane going home. I felt as if I’d been going through “reading withdrawal”—and I guess I was. Until I knew that my responsibilities for the week were over, I just didn’t have the energy to immerse myself in any fictional reading, but once the week was over I just couldn’t get enough!

I think this is the longest I’ve ever gone without reading anything for pleasure since I was in graduate school (MANY years ago!). I think that somehow I just knew that my brain couldn’t handle any additional information of any kind last week—but now that I’m back home I think I’ll be doing a lot of reading to make up for that lost week!

How about you? What’s the longest you’ve ever gone without reading anything for fun? Why weren’t you reading during that time, and how did you feel about it? Please share!


13 Comments

Friday Finds–9/5/14

FRIDAY FINDS is a weekly meme hosted by MizB for sharing the books you ‘found’ and added to your TBR list this week (they don’t necessarily need to be books you purchased)…whether you found them online,  in a bookstore,  in the library — wherever! Click the icon above to join in!

I’m limiting myself to the new books that have actually entered my home this week–-bought new, bought used, and/or borrowed from the library. I’m not listing books that I simply added to by TBR list–that could take days! This week it’s seven books–three from the library and four used book purchases. Ready? Here they are:

9.5.14

Blackboard: A Personal History of the Classroom by Lewis Buzbee     As a former teacher I love reading both fiction and nonfiction about education. This new book by the author of The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop is a memoir/history lesson about educational practices and ideas as well as the expectations placed on today’s students. The geek in me cannot wait to read this book!

The Saucier’s Apprentice: One Long Strange Trip Through the Great Cooking Schools of Europe by Bob Spitz     Books about food and cooking are another favorite genre of mine, so I was excited to find this memoir of one man’s journey through Europe’s cooking school circuit. This author has previously written several books about the entertainment industry, so I’m curious to find out how he tackles a completely new subject.

Reading Like A Writer: A Guide For People Who Love Books And For Those Who Want To Write Them by Francine Post     I’m also a big fan of books about books! In this one, the author helps us understand why it’s important to slow down when reading in order to notice, appreciate, and learn from examples of wonderful writing.

The Twelve Tribes Of Hattie by Ayana Mathis     This novel got a lot of press when it came out in 2012 but for some reason I never picked it up. It’s the story of a young girl who leaves Georgia for Philadelphia during the Great Migration in the early 1920s—her story is told through chapters devoted to each of her nine children. I’m interested in this novel because I LOVED the book The Warmth Of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson which was a nonfiction account of the Great Migration, and I’m thinking that this book will be an interesting fictional pairing.

Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz     This is a backlist novel about a college admissions officer. As I mentioned above, I enjoy reading both fiction and nonfiction about education—so I’m looking forward to this novel about the Ivy League admissions process.

We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas     This is a 600+ page Irish-American family saga—I’m only a few dozen pages in (If you look closely at the picture above you can see my bookmark!) but I’m already pretty invested in the characters. This is one of the hot books of the year and I’m hoping it lives up to all the hype!

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty     I really enjoyed The Husband’s Secret and I’ve been anxiously waiting to get to the top of the library hold list for Moriarty’s latest. I just picked it up yesterday and I’m hoping to start reading it later today. Everyone is talking about this book so I’m eager to join the conversation!

How about you? Have you read any of these? What are you reading these days? Please share!

A side note–I’m getting ready to leave town for a business trip. I’ll still be visiting blogs, but my comments will be limited and I won’t be writing any new posts while I’m away. I’ll see you back here in about a week! (What books to take with me? Real books or kindle books or both? So many decisions!)


17 Comments

WWW Wednesday–9/3/14

Click to play along!

To participate in this weekly meme hosted by MizB, simply answer the following questions:

WHAT HAVE YOU RECENTLY FINISHED READING?

21481542I’m always ready for another book about US Presidents and their families, so I was glad to finally get my hands on The First Family Detail by Ronald Kessler.  It’s about the Secret Service—mainly during the last fifty years or so—and how they go about protecting the Presidents, First Ladies, and their children. I’ve read some previous books by Kessler and they tend to be a bit “gossipy”—and this book was no exception. However, I will say that the author is an equal-opportunity teller of tales—he had as many stories to tell about Republican Presidents as he did about the Democrats! And I did learn some things about the training that Secret Service agents go through and how the personalities and preferences of the various presidents affect their protection. All in all, this was a pretty quick, entertaining, and informative read.

17571291I was initially interested in the novel What We’ve Lost Is Nothing by Rachel Louise Snyder because the setting is local to me—it takes place in the very real Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Illinois. The entire plot unfolds over just 48 hours on a single street where a series of burglaries takes place. As the people affected by these crimes try to come to grips with what has happened to them, they also must confront their own hidden prejudices and assumptions about their neighbors. Although I thought that the author got borderline “preachy” at times in trying to make her points about diversity and race relations, on the whole I thought this was a very good novel—and I think it would make an excellent book club selection.

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

17830123It seems as though everybody is talking about Matthew Thomas’ new novel We Are Not Ourselves, so I was excited to pick it up from the library this weekend. It’s a 600+ page Irish-American family saga taking place over several decades–beginning with post-WWII New York City. I’m only a few dozen pages in, but I’m pretty invested in the characters already. I’m hoping to be able to spend some quality time with this book over the next few days!

WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

As usual, I have absolutely no idea—but I’m sure I’ll find something!

How about you? Have you read any of these? What are you reading this week? Please share!