Musings From A Bookmammal


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WWW Wednesday–10/29/14

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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!


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WWW Wednesday–10/22/14

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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!


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WWW Wednesday–10/15/14

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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!


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WWW Wednesday–10/8/14

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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!

 


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WWW Wednesday–10/1/14

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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!


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WWW Wednesday–9/3/14

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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!


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WWW Wednesday–8/20/14

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WHAT HAVE YOU RECENTLY FINISHED READING?

still life with breadcrumbsEarlier this week I posted about how much I loved Still Life With Breadcrumbs by Anna Quindlen—in fact, I’m pretty sure it’ll end up on my Top 10 list at the end of the year. If you’d like to know why I enjoyed this novel so much, you can find my post here.

 

 

other people we marriedOther People We Married is a backlist short story collection by Emma Straub, the author of The Vacationers—one of this summer’s hot reads. I liked The Vacationers a lot, so I was excited to sample her writing in the short story genre, and she didn’t disappoint me! The twelve stories in this book were all very engaging and I enjoyed “meeting” each of the characters. (Bonus surprise–the characters from The Vacationers make appearances in a few of these previously written stories!) Straub does have a habit of ending her stories rather abruptly, but this wasn’t off-putting to me at all—in fact, it caused me to think about the characters and try to figure out for myself what would happen next. I’m really glad that I discovered Emma Straub and I’m anxious to find out what else she has in store for her readers!

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

husband's secretI’ve been reading about Liane Moriarty on lots of blogs but I’ve never read any of her books—until now. I finally made it to the top of the library list for The Husband’s Secret and I’ve hardly been able to put it down. It’s a novel about three women whose lives intersect when a long-buried secret is discovered, and the underlying theme is how well we really know the ones we love, and what we’re willing to do to protect them. I’m about two-thirds of the way through this book and I really have no idea how any of this is going to be resolved! I think I’m going to be sorry when I do finally get to the end. (I’m also on the hold list for Moriarty’s latest novel Big Little Lies which was just released last month, and I can’t wait to dig into that one!)

WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

 As usual, I don’t have a clue! It’ll all depend on what I’m in the mood for, but I’m sure I’ll be able to find something!

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

 


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WWW Wednesday–8/13/14

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WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

one on oneI’m probably the most un-athletic person you could ever meet, but I love reading about sports! I’ve read just about every sports book that John Feinstein has ever written, but I recently discovered that I’d missed reading One On One: Behind The Scenes With The Greats In The Game—his book about how he came to write some of his most popular behind-the-scenes nonfiction about basketball, golf, baseball, and tennis. If you’re not into sports there probably isn’t a whole lot in this book that would appeal to you–but if you’ve read any of Feinstein’s many previous books I think you’d enjoy this! I especially liked his accounts of his relationship with Indiana’s Bob Knight, as well as how he went about “pitching” his book ideas.  If you’re a Feinstein fan, be sure to pick up this book!

poking dead frogI always enjoy reading about the craft of writing–and Poking A Dead Frog: Conversations With Today’s Top Comedy Writers by Mike Sacks is a different take on this subject. Sacks interviewed 40+ writers on the craft of creating comedy–via writing for magazines, movies, TV, or radio. The result is a very interesting look at not only the creative side of comedy writing, but advice on the practical side as well. The common thread of nearly all the writers interviewed can be boiled down to “Don’t do it for the money” and “The only way to get successful is to write, write, write. . . and then keep on writing.” Even if you have absolutely no aspirations to write or perform comedy for a living (I sure don’t!) this is a great addition to any collection of books on the writing process.

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

three story houseI received an ARC of Three Story House by Courtney Miller Santo in advance of it’s 8/19/14 publication date. It’s the story of three female cousins  in their thirties who come together to renovate the family home. In the process they learn things about each other, their family, and themselves. The story is told in three parts–one section from the point of view of each of the main characters–which is a narrative technique that I enjoy when it’s done well. So far I’m still in the first section, so I can’t tell yet if the author will be able to effectively pull this off, but I have high hopes! I’m enjoying the story so far and am hoping to finish the book this weekend.

    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 next.

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


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WWW Wednesday–8/6/14

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WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

everything i never told youEverything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng is on a lot of lists this summer—and it should be. I really liked this novel—it 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 finished this book several days ago and I’m still thinking about the characters–which I think is always a sign of powerful writing.

landlineI’ve written several times about my complete love for Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park, and I enjoyed Fangirl and Attachments nearly as much—so I was anxiously waiting to get to the top of the library hold list for Landline. I’d been reading reviews that said it was much different from Rowell’s previous books, so I tried to go into it without any preconceived notions. I finished it a few days ago and (I know I’m going to be in the minority on this one) I thought it was. . . fine.  I didn’t hate it, I didn’t love it. I thought that most of the characters had potential, but I just didn’t get that invested in any of them. Most of all, I thought that the plot point involving the main character talking via a landline phone to the younger version of her present-day husband was rather contrived—and I think that Rowell is much too talented of a writer to need to use that kind of gimmick. Again, I know that I am completely in the minority here—Landline has been getting great reviews all over the place—but it just wasn’t to my taste.

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

deliciousI’m listening to Delicious! by Ruth Reichl on my daily commute and it’s a nice, light read. I’m a big fan of “foodie” fiction and nonfiction, and I’ve been looking forward to listening to additional chapters each day as I drive to and from work.

 

 

one on oneI’m probably the most unathletic person you could ever meet, but I love reading about sports! I’ve read just about every sports book that John Feinstein has written, but I recently discovered that I’d missed reading One On One—his book about how he came to write some of his most popular behind-the-scenes nonfiction  about basketball, golf, baseball, and tennis. If you’re not into sports there probably isn’t much in this book that would appeal to you–but if you’re a sports fan, give it a try!

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 next.

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


23 Comments

WWW Wednesday–7/30/14

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WHAT DID YOU JUST FINISH READING?

love ninaThanks to my bogging buddy Cleo for reviewing this book several months ago—I’m quite sure I never would have discovered it otherwise! Love, Nina: A Nanny Writes Home by Nina Stibbe is a memoir in the form of letters. Each letter is written by Nina, a young woman living in London during the 1980s and working as a nanny for a single mother and her two very intelligent and entertaining sons. Nina shares short, slice-of-life vignettes and snatches of dialogue in the letters that she writes to her sister back home.  I enjoyed this book a lot (I’m always a fan of books made up of correspondence!) but it definitely wasn’t a quick read for me. There were so many  British terms and slang that weren’t familiar to me at all, and I found that this really slowed me down. Aside from that, though, the many short samples of dialogue throughout the book were WONDERFUL! Dialogue is often a big deal-breaker for me—if it doesn’t ring true, I’m probably not going to be a fan of the book. In this case, Stibbe totally captures the different people in her day to day life—especially the two young boys she’s caring for. Much of their dialogue was laugh-out-loud funny—even with the unfamiliar slang!

appetites of girlsHave you ever really, really wanted to just love a book? That’s the way I felt about The Appetites Of Girls by Pamela Moses. It seemed like it had lots of characteristics that I usually enjoy—narrative told through multiple viewpoints, college friends, strong female characters—these are all usually real winners for me! But in this case, the lack of characterization really killed the book. This novel was told through the first-person voices of the four main characters, and I honestly could hardly tell the difference between any of them. Each chapter read almost exactly like the one before, and I felt that this was quite unbelievable as the four young women all came from very different backgrounds. Even the dialogue that was included seemed the same, no matter who was talking. I wanted to like this book so much, but unfortunately it really fell flat for me.

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

landlineI’ve been anxiously waiting for Rainbow Rowell’s Landline to be released here in the US, and I finally made it to the top of the library hold list! I’m only about 70 pages in (it’s been a busy time at work!), but I’m enjoying it so far—even though it’s quite different from Rowell’s other books. I have a three-day weekend coming up, and I’m hoping to be able to spend some quality time with these characters soon!

WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

As usual, I don’t have a clue! I’ll have to see what I’m in the mood for when I’m ready to start something new.

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


16 Comments

WWW Wednesday–7/23/14

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To participate in this weekly meme hosted by Miz B, simply answer these three questions:

WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

vacationersThe Vacationers by Emma Straub is definitely one of this summer’s hot beach reads. It seems as though it’s on everybody’s TBR list–and I’m so glad that I added it to mine! 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’ve read a review or two that indicated there were some factual errors in this book, but I didn’t notice any (possibly because I’m not at all familiar with the foreign setting). I found this novel to be a relatively quick read, but also completely absorbing–if you like reading about contemporary families, be sure to add this book to your beach bag! (Plus–I just love the cover!)

all i loveI was fortunate to receive an ARC of All I Love And Know by Judith Frank—it was published on July 15. It’s a novel about the members of a modern American family who are confronting many issues—death and grief, adoption, gay marriage, religion, honesty, and unconditional love.

The two main characters, Matthew and Daniel, have settled into domestic life together in Massachusetts—but when they learn that Daniel’s twin brother and sister-in-law have been killed in a bombing in Jerusalem, their lives are suddenly thrown into crisis. All of this intensifies when they—and the rest of their families—learn that the deceased parents wanted Matthew and Daniel to raise their two young children. The impact this instant new family has on Matthew, Daniel, their relatives, the children, and their relationship makes up the crux of the book.

I really enjoyed this novel. For the most part I found the characters believable and their reactions authentic. There were parts that were heartbreakingly sad, and a few parts involving the children that were quite funny. I have to admit that I  don’t know as much as I should about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and while this was a large plot point–and, unfortunately a very timely one due to the latest upsetting events in that area–I never felt overwhelmed by the information that was provided within the storyline. My only reservation about the book was the characterization of the six year old daughter—at times I felt that her comments and actions were more typical of a child several years older—but this is really a minor criticism when compared to the book as a whole. When I finished the it, my immediate thought was that I wanted to know what was going to happen next–and that’s the mark of a good writer! Again, if you enjoy novels about contemporary–and somewhat unconventional–families, I’d give this new novel a try.

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

love ninaLove, Nina: A Nanny Writes Home by Nina Stibbe is a memoir in the form of letters from a young woman living in London and working as a nanny for a single mother and her two sons. She shares short, slice-of-life vignettes and snatches of dialogue with her sister in letters written home during the mid-1980s. I’m enjoying this book a lot but it’s not a quick read for me, a reader from the US—there are heavy uses of British terms and slang that aren’t familiar to me at all, and I’m finding that I really need to take my time. Aside from that, parts of this book are very laugh-out-loud funny—in particular, the dialogue between the two young boys seems VERY realistic and true to life. I’m about half-way through this book and am looking forward to finding out more about these real-life characters!

WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

As usual, I have absolutely no clue! I’ve got my trusty TBR stack sitting here, plus I’ll be picking up some holds from the library in the next day or two. I’m sure something will jump out at me, clamoring to be read!

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


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WWW Wednesday–7/9/14

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WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

i work in libraryI Work In A Public Library: A Collection Of Crazy Stories From The Stacks by Gina Sheridan      I love books about books and I love libraries, so I jumped at the chance to receive an ARC of this title. Comprised of several hundred short, humorous anecdotes collected by the author—a librarian from St. Louis—this books proves the point that librarians do not simply spend their days reading! Instead, they’re fielding questions such as “Where are the autobiographies of dragons ?” Due to be published on 7/31/14, this book is a nice, light read that can definitely be completed in one sitting and would make a great present for the booklover—or librarian!—on your gift list.

salinger yearMy Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff     I loved this book! It’s a memoir by a young woman who gets a job with a literary agency in NYC in the mid-1990s—and finds herself working closely with the woman who represents J.D. Salinger. Yes,  it’s about the publishing industry, but it’s also about figuring out who you are and where you belong when you’re in your twenties and your whole life is in front of you. This is a great book for booklovers—and if you’re a Catcher In The Rye fan, even better!

 

 

Hidden HistoryThe Hidden White House: Harry Truman and the Reconstruction of America’s Most Famous Residence by Robert Klara       I’m a big fan of American history in general, and the presidency in particular. This fascinating book combines both! I already knew that the White House had been renovated during Truman’s presidency, but I had no idea how extensive this project was (the entire inside of the White House was gutted and rebuilt, with only the original outer shell left standing) and I definitely had no idea how hazardous the original building had become before the renovation. If you’re into nonfiction, history, and/or architecture, consider picking up this book!

 

 

hold fast to dreamsHold Fast To Dreams: A College Guidance Counselor, His Students, and the Vision of a Life Beyond Poverty by Beth Zasloff and Joshua Steckel     As  a former teacher, I always enjoy reading books about education, and I especially like reading behind-the-scenes or slice-of-life accounts of teachers and students. This book fits those categories perfectly. It’s about a NYC high school counselor, ten of the students he helped get accepted into college, and how those students progressed over the next four years. Some students had success, some took steps backwards, all faced challenges. I enjoyed this book a lot, but my only complaint is that the tone seemed rather detached—which was odd to me because the counselor featured in the book was one of the coauthors. I don’t doubt the counselor’s passion for education or for his students—but the narrative seemed very  impersonal to me. Still—this was a good account of the struggles that urban youth face in getting into—and making it through—the university system.

 

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READONG?

all i love and knowAll I Love And Know by Judith Frank     After all of that nonfiction, I’m in the mood for a good novel! I received an ARC of this title due to be published on 7/15/14,and I just started it last night. It’s about family, gay marriage, adoption, acceptance, unconditional love, grief . . . I’ve only read a couple of chapters so far, but the author drew me in from the first few pages. I’m looking forward to digging into this book over the next few days.

WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

As usual, I have absolutely no idea! But, like everyone else, I’ve got a big stack of TBRs sitting here, so I’m sure I’ll come up with something!

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


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WWW Wednesday–7/2/14

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WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

Maeve's TImesI’ve mentioned in several previous posts about how much I love Maeve Binchy’s novels, and how sad I was when she passed away a few years ago. Imagine my delight when I learned that a new Binchy book will be published in October 2014—and I was even more excited when I received an ARC! Maeve’s Times: In Her Own Words is a collection of nearly 100 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 at all, and I devoured this book over a couple of marathon reading sessions last 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 am so glad that her fans will soon have the chance to experience a new side of this beloved author!

 

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

Hidden HistoryI’m a huge American history fan—especially books about the Presidents and their families. The Hidden White House: Harry Truman and the Reconstruction of America’s Most Famous Residence by Robert Klara covers a period of presidential history that’s pretty much unknown. In 1948 it was discovered that the White House was in dire need of repair—in fact, most of the architects called in to assess the situation were surprised that the building hadn’t already collapsed. As a result, the White House was essentially gutted and completely rebuilt over the next several years—with only the outer shell remaining. This book tells the story of how it happened. The history geek in me is really enjoying this book so far!

 WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

 As usual, I have absolutely no idea!

How about you? What are you reading these days? Please share!


14 Comments

WWW Wednesday–6/25/14

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WHAT HAVE YOU RECENTLY FINISHED READING?

18594633Just about every review I’ve seen about Summer House With Swimming Pool by Herman Koch says that the best way to read it is to have little to no knowledge about the plot—and I completely agree! Koch is a master of creating thoroughly dislikeable and immoral characters and combining them with a riveting plot that makes you want to keep reading—against your better instincts. I read this book in about a day and a half, and it reminded me of a train wreck—I wanted to put the book down and get away from the characters, yet I just had to know what would happen next. It’s tough to say that I enjoyed this book, but it definitely held my interest and made me think. I’d rank this book right up there with The Dinner, which was Koch’s last (and somewhat similar) novel.

 

18144099I’m a big fan of books about food and cooking, and I really enjoyed Delancey: A Man, A Woman, A Restaurant, A Marriage by Molly Wizenberg. It’s a memoir about the author’s experience of starting a restaurant with her husband—and every time I read a book like this one I’m reminded once again that even though I love to cook, I would NEVER want to own my own restaurant!

 

8909152I’m so glad that I finally got around to reading Attachments by Rainbow Rowell! I adored Eleanor & Park, I loved Fangirl almost as much, and I’d put Attachments right between them.This is a great summer read—lots of humor, characters that you care about, and an engrossing plot involving two women who work for a newspaper and the man in the IT department who gets to know them by monitoring their email exchanges. I’m ready for more Rainbow Rowell, and am anxiously awaiting her new novel Landline which will be out next month.

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

maeveI just received an ARC of Maeve’s Times: In Her Own Words by Maeve Binchy and so far I’m loving it. It’s a collection of columns that the late, beloved author wrote for The Irish Times from the 1960s through the 2000s, and her wonderful writing voice comes through in each one I’ve read so far. Many people compare reading Binchy’s books with sitting down and chatting with an old friend over tea, and that’s just what this book feels like! The only thing that is somewhat tripping me up a bit is the frequent use of unfamiliar Irish terms and phrases, but I’m getting used to it. This book is due to be published in October, and although it’s nonfiction, I hope it finds a wide audience among Binchy’s fans!

WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

As usual, I have absolutely no idea! My TBR stack is huge (like everyone else’s!) and I have no idea what I’ll be in the mood to read next.

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

 


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WWW Wednesday–6/18/14

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WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

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. This novel was just published on June 3, and I’m not sure why it isn’t getting more press—but this is one of those books that I want to hand out to total strangers on street corners. I’m pretty sure that this book will end up on my Top 10 list at the end of the year.

sous chefNonfiction featuring food and cooking is one of my favorite genres, and I’m so glad I discovered the newly released Sous Chef by Michael Gibney! Based on the author’s experiences, this book covers 24 hours in the life of a New York City sous chef, and it’s made all the more real through the use of the second person narration throughout the book. I really enjoyed this book and I learned a lot about what really goes into running a restaurant kitchen-enough to know that although I love to cook, I’d never want to do it for a living! (Bonus story—I bought a brand new, pristine condition, hardcover copy of this book at my local Goodwill store for $1.89—I went in looking for some kitchen stoneware, and left with two books and a blouse. Go figure!)

we were liarsOK—I’m pretty sure I’m going to be in the minority on this one. I didn’t like We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. I didn’t like it at all. I finished listening to it on my daily commute yesterday, and I wanted to throw something through my windshield when I got to the end. I don’t feel that I can say too much about why I disliked it so much, as it’s hard to do without including spoilers—but I just do not get all the hype that’s happening around this book. Maybe that was part of the problem for me–too much hype, too many expectations. So far this is the only book I’ve given a single-star rating to on Goodreads this year—and I hope it’s the last!

 

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

18404251I’m just about finished with Cutting Teeth, the debut novel by Julia Fierro—and I’ll be glad when I finish it. It’s about several New York City parents and their young children who go away together for a long weekend at a family beach house. I had really high hopes for this book, but unfortunately I’m finding all of the characters to be very unlikeable, and I really don’t care about what happens to any of them. I only have about 100 pages left so I’m going to finish it, but this book has been a disappointment to me.

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

As usual, I have absolutely no idea! I have a huge stack of TBRs on the floor of my bedroom, and I’ll be picking up some library holds later this week. I just hope that the next book I choose turns out to be something I really enjoy!

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


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WWW Wednesday–6/4/14

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WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

18453249If you like novels featuring contemporary families,  alternating viewpoints,  family secrets, and multiple generations, this may be the book you’re looking for! The Blessings by Elise Juska is one of the best books I’ve read this year. Taking place over the span of about twenty years, the book covers the lives of a large, extended family living near Philadelphia. Each chapter focuses on a different family member, so as you read you’re getting numerous viewpoints about pivotal events. I was hooked on this novel from the very first chapter, and I’m anxious to read more by the author.

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

art of fieldingThere was a lot of buzz about The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach when it came out a couple of years ago, but I have the feeling that a lot of people didn’t pick it up because they thought it was a  novel about baseball. Yes, baseball does play a  role in this book, but it’s actually just a backdrop for a great story about five people affiliated with the fictional Westish College. It’s hard to summarize the plot of this book because there’s a lot going on, and at a bit over 500 pages it’s definitely not a quick read–but I’m about halfway through and am really enjoying it so far. If you like novels set in schools–especially colleges–I’d suggest giving this book a try even if you’re not a big baseball fan!

 

Storied LifeI’ve been hearing about The Storied Life Of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin for months—it’s billed as a book for book lovers, and I’ve read a lot of great reviews about it on many blogs. I just started it a couple of days ago and I’m only a couple of chapters in so far, but I can already tell that I’m going to love it. And really, what’s not to like here? There’s a bookseller with tragedy in his past, a missing book, a mysterious package, an abandoned child, a somewhat eccentric publisher’s sales rep, “insider” talk about books and the book business— if you like books and reading (and of course you do!) I think you owe it to yourself to pick up this book!

WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

As usual, I have absolutely no idea! I’ve got a stack of recently purchased used books sitting on the floor by my bed and I’ve got several holds waiting for me at the library. The only thing I’m sure of is that whatever mood I’m in, I’ve got a book here somewhere that I’ll want to dive into!

How about you? Have you read any of these? What have you been reading lately? Please share!

 

 

 


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WWW Wednesday–5/14/14

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WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

chestnut streetChestnut Street, published after Maeve Binchy’s recent death, is actually a collection of short vignettes and character studies—the common link is that each character either lives on Chestnut Street or is somehow connected to a person living in that neighborhood. I enjoyed this book a lot—the only disappointment was that many of the chapters seemed to end rather abruptly, which makes sense since a lot of these selections were probably not originally meant to be published as complete pieces. I also felt that several of the characters in the chapters could have definitely been developed into books of their own! I really liked this book and am sorry that it will likely be the last published work that we’ll see from Maeve Binchy.

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

burgess boysKwizgiver, one of my blogging buddies, wrote about The Burgess Boys  in one of her posts last week. Reading her thoughts about it reminded me that it was on my TBR list—and I was able to find the audio version through my local library. I started listening to it this week on my daily commute to and from work, and so far I’m really enjoying it. Partially based on a real crime that took place in Maine about ten years ago, the novel focuses on three adult siblings, their own families, and their complicated relationships with each other and with other members of their communities. I’m not very far into this book yet, but I’m intrigued by the characters and I’m interested to find out where the author is going to take us.

 

reading in wildI’m sort of reading Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer’s Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits by Donalyn Miller for my job (I work in marketing for an educational publisher), but I’d probably be reading it for pleasure and curiosity anyway. I’ve always been interested in why some people love to read and why others don’t. This professional resource is written by a Language Arts teacher who excels in helping her students become book lovers—both in and, more importantly, out of the classroom. I’m loving this book so far!

WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

As usual, I have absolutely no idea! I have a pile of library books and a stack of used book purchases sitting by my bed, so I have lots of possibilities! It all depends on my mood when it’s time to choose another book.

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


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WWW Wednesday–5/7/14

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WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

hiddenI love books written from alternating points of view, and I admire authors who are able to pull off this technique in a believable way. “Hidden” by Catherine McKenzie fits this description well—it’s told through the viewpoints of three people—a husband who is killed in the first chapter, his wife, and another woman who may or may not have been his lover. The story brings up questions of trust, betrayal, how well we really know the ones we love, and whether telling the truth is always the best policy. I think this would be a great book club selection!

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

chestnut streetI miss Maeve Binchy. “Scarlet Feather” is one of my all-time favorite novels, and I’ve enjoyed many of her other books as well. ”Chestnut Street”, published after her recent death, is actually a collection of short vignettes and character studies—the common link is that each character either lives on Chestnut Street or is somehow connected to a person living in that neighborhood. I’m about half-way through and I’m enjoying each chapter more than the last! So far none of the characters have met each other, but I won’t be surprised if that happens eventually. If you’ve been a fan of Binchy in the past, pick this one up!

WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

As usual, I have no idea! I have a big stack of library books, plus I’ve bought a lot of used books recently. I’ll just have to see what I’m in the mood to dig into when the time comes.

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


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WWW Wednesday–3/26/14

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WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

relishI don’t think I’ve ever read any books written in the graphic format before–but I LOVED reading Relish: My Life In The Kitchen by Lucy Knisley! I really like to cook, and I adore reading about food and cooking, so this book is right up my alley! It contains the author’s memories of growing up as the daughter of a chef and gourmet, as well as thoughts about how our experiences with food help make us who we are. Plus—there are recipes! (I’m definitely going to try her recipe for carbonara!) I thought the format of the book might be distracting, but Knisley’s charming drawings PERFECTLY complement her text, and I simply love her writing voice! I borrowed this book from my local library, but I know I’ll be buying my own copy soon to add to my collection of food writings. I’ll say it one more time—I LOVED THIS BOOK!

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

no one could have guessedNo One Could Have Guessed The Weather by Anne-Marie Casey is a novel about Lucy, a native Londoner who relocates with her husband and two young sons  to New York City after they suffer a financial crisis. The story covers her friendship with three NYC women and her growing love for her new home city. I’m in the mood for a good friendship novel, and so far I’m enjoying this one.

WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

As usual, I have absolutely no idea what I’ll be in the mood for when it’s time to pick another book!

How about you? Have you read either of these? What did you think about them? What have you been reading lately? Please share!


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WWW Wednesday–2/12/14

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WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

sisterlandI really liked Sisterland–in fact, I liked it a lot more than I thought I would. I’d put off reading this novel 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 a skeptic at heart!) so I wasn’t in any rush to read this book. However, I was looking for a new audiobook to listen to on my daily commute, and this one was available from my local library. I decided to give it a try–and I’m so glad I did! 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. The only downside for me was that I didn’t like the audiobook narrator  at all–I found her voice monotonous, and very irritating when she was  reading dialogue spoken by any of the male characters. Luckily, the plot was riveting enough to keep me listening!

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

worst hard timeI’m in a bit of a nonfiction mood at the moment, so the two books I’m currently reading are both in that genre. The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan is a National Book Award winner, and it’s about the disastrous dust storms in the US during the height of the Depression–and the people who remained in their homes and survived, rather than migrating west to California. I’ve heard so many good things about this book. I know it won’t be a light read, but I’m really looking forward to learning more about this event. I’ll be listening to this book on my daily commute to and from work.

play their hearts outI love reading about sports, and Play Their Hearts Out by George Dohrmann seems like it’s going to be a great read. It’s an investigative account (eight years in the making) about youth amateur basketball–the leagues that are basically training grounds for kids as young as eight or nine years old who hope to play basketball in big-time college programs and later, in the pro leagues. I have some pretty strong feelings about kids, sports, pressure, and the adults who are involved, and I have a feeling that this book is going to make me angry. I just started reading it yesterday, but I’m already hooked.

WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

As usual, I have absolutely no idea what I’ll be in the mood for when it’s time to pick another book!

How about you? Have you read any of these? What did you think about them? What have you been reading lately? Please share!


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WWW Wednesday–1/22/14

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WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

burning airIf you enjoy psychological thrillers, deep, dark family secrets, tales of obsession, and plots with lots of twists and turns, you should give The Burning Air by Erin Kelly a try! It’s the story of a family that comes together after the death of the matriarch. They gather to scatter the ashes of their mother, but instead are forced to confront the dire consequences of long-ago actions. Told in narrative that switches back and forth between the past and present day, this story is deliciously creepy with  lots of unpredictable plot twists. My only issue with the book is that I felt the ending got wrapped up a little too quickly for my taste–but I enjoyed the book and will probably read more by this author.

roomiesOne of my informal reading goals this year–inspired by my love last year for Eleanor & Park–is to read more Young Adult novels. To balance out the suspense and intense plot of the book described above, this week I also read the YA novel Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando. It’s the story of two recent high school graduates–one from New Jersey, the other from California–who learn that they’ve been assigned to be roommates for their first year of college. Through a series of emails over the summer, the two girls get to know each other and also learn a lot about themselves. There’s also the challenges of beginning to let go of family ties as well as the changing relationships with longtime friends and new boyfriends. This was a nice, easy read that also had some meat to it–I’d recommend this to anyone facing the challenges of leaving home to start their journey through college.

WHAT ARE YOU READING NOW?

woman upstairsI’ve been listening to The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud on my way to and from work for the last several days, and have really been enjoying it. That being said, the main character in this novel is one of the ANGRIEST characters I’ve read  in ages. There is so much simmering rage and resentment hiding under the surface (written in a very understated, effective way) that it’s almost overwhelming at times. I’m almost finished with this book and I’m very curious to see how the author is going to end it–I really have no idea how the story is going to wrap up.

boys in the boatI was feeling a bit of nonfiction withdrawal, so I also started reading The Boys In The Boat by Daniel James Brown over the weekend. This is the story of the 1936 US rowing team who won the Gold medal at that year’s Summer Olympic Games in Hitler’s Berlin. I love reading about sports–as long as I don’t actually have to participate in them–and I kept hearing about how wonderful this book was. So far, it’s  definitely living up to the hype! I knew virtually nothing about the sport of rowing before I started this book, and I’m now pretty fascinated by it. 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 no idea! There’s also a lot of anecdotal information about the Depression era that’s very interesting. I’m loving this book so far.

WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

As usual, I have absolutely no idea! I know that I’ll be borrowing another audiobook from the library in the next day or two–but who knows what I’ll be in the mood to read then.

How about you? Have you read any of these? If so, what did you think? What are you reading this week? Please share!


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WWW Wednesday

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WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

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

Tell The Wolves I’m Home is a novel 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.

The only thing that stops me from giving this book the highest possible recommendation is that there are a few scenes that struck me as a bit implausible—but I’m willing to forgive those because the rest of the book is so wonderful. I’m so glad that I gave this novel one more try!

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

burning airI started reading The Burning Air by Erin Kelly a couple of days ago and am really enjoying it so far. It’s a psychological thriller about three grown children, their families, and their father–all reuniting after the death of their mother. When a stranger enters the mix, secrets are revealed, revenge is plotted, and I don’t know what horrible thing is going to happen, but I know something’s coming. I’m only about ¼ of the way through, but so far it’s a well-written, very compelling  thriller.

WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

As usual, I have absolutely no idea! I don’t know what I’ll be in the mood for, but I’m picking up a pile of books from the library tomorrow, so I’m sure that something will catch my interest.

What about you? Have you read either of these books? If so, what did you think? What are you reading this week? Please share!


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WWW Wednesdays

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WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

Although these two books couldn’t be more different, I was reading both at the same time and finished them within a day of each other.

happy marriageThis Is The Story Of A Happy Marriage is a book of essays by Ann Patchett, author of several best-selling novels, bookstore co-owner, and also the author of Truth and Beauty, her memoir of her friendship with the late Lucy Grealy. Patchett’s novels are often kind of hit-and-miss for me, but I loved Truth and Beauty and was anxious to get my hands on her latest collection of nonfiction. Happily, it didn’t disappoint! I loved every essay included in this book, but my favorites were her accounts of going on book tours, her experiences with helping an elderly nun make her way to independence outside of the convent walls, her description of going through the testing procedure to become a member of the LAPD, her account of how and why she became a co-owner of a bookstore in Tennessee, and her essay about her beloved dog, Rose. That last one had me literally crying while trying to read and hug my cats at the same time. I borrowed this book from the library, but will be buying my own copy at some point because I know I’ll want to re-read several of these essays again and again.

silent wifeThe Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison is a psychological thriller that has been compared to Gone Girl, which I also enjoyed. It’s told from alternating viewpoints (a technique I love when it’s done well), it deals with a relationship gone horribly wrong, and it contains several plot twists that I thought were wonderful. This is an example of a book where the characters were not particularly likeable (especially the husband—I haven’t read a character that I disliked so much in quite awhile) yet the writing kept propelling me along, and I find myself continuing to think about the characters several days after finishing the book—and that’s the sign of a good writer.

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

lost girlsI just started Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker and am only a few dozen pages into it. It’s in the true crime genre, which I enjoy but haven’t read much of lately. It’s the story of the search for a Long Island serial killer who  targeted prostitutes/escorts who found their customers on Craigslist. So far the writing is quite compelling and, although it sure isn’t typical holiday reading, I’m looking forward to getting back into this book later today.

WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

As usual, I have absolutely no idea! I just picked up seven books from the library yesterday (don’t you HATE it when all the books you’ve reserved come in at once?) and I don’t have a clue about what I’ll be in the mood to read next–possibly something a bit lighter after all the murder and mayhem.

How about you? Have you read any of these? If so, what did you think? Please share!


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WWW Wednesdays

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

WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

The Little Bookstore of Big Stone GapI just finished The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap: A Memoir of Friendship, Community, and the Uncommon Pleasure of a Good Book by Wendy Welch, It’s a very “cozy” book about a couple who start a used bookstore from scratch–and in their actual home!– in the small Appalachian town of Big Stone Gap, Virginia. The author and her husband started their book store with virtually nothing but a love of books and a desire to be a part of their new community, and the book tells the story of their successes, setbacks, challenges, and the many folks they meet along the way. Woven into all of that is information about how used books are valued, how store events affect the success of a bookstore, and the ongoing issue of how eReaders will affect bookstores as we know them today. If you’re a cat lover, the chapter on the couple’s resident bookstore cats is well worth reading the price of the book! If you’re looking for a comforting, relaxing read to get through these cold winter days, give this book a try!

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

noraI’m slowly making my way through The Most of Nora Ephron, a huge collection of essays, columns, blog entries, screenplays, and scripts. The book even includes the full text of her famous novel, Heartburn. I say “slowly” because I’m trying my best to truly savor these selections. I miss Nora Ephron’s voice tremendously since her death last year, and this collection reminds me why I appreciated her writing and her humor so much. I’m especially enjoying her longer pieces–her take on figures past and present in the women’s movement, her essays on restaurants, food, and famous chefs, and her moving memories of her rather turbulent family life. Her honest pieces about body image deserve mention as well. I’ll be sorry when I get to the end of this book.

WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

I have absolutely no idea! I’ve got a pile of contenders, but who knows what I’ll be in the mood for next?

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


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WWW Wednesday

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WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

Q's LegacySome of you know that I am “slightly” obsessed with Helene Hanff, the author of one of my very favorite “books about books,” 84, Charing Cross Road. A few months ago I belatedly realized that she had written several other books, and since then I’ve been on a quest to purchase and read them. I finished Q’s Legacy a few days ago–and if you’re a fan of 84, you simply must read this book as well! It’s the story of how Hanff began corresponding with the booksellers working at 84, Charing Cross Road, how and why the original book was written,  her subsequent involvement with creating the stage version, the TV version, and the movie, and, finally, her long awaited trip to England. This is, quite simply, a wonderful companion to my old favorite, and I’m so glad that I found it! Side note–I just ordered a copy of Hanff’s biography and I can’t wait until it arrives!

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

Little Bookstore BIg Stone GapI’m about 1/3 of the way through The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap: A Memoir of Friendship, Community, and the Uncommon Pleasure of a Good Book by Wendy Welch, and so far I’m enjoying it. It’s a very “homey” book about a couple who start a used bookstore from scratch in the small Appalachian town of Big Stone Gap, Virginia. The author and her husband started their book store with virtually nothing but a love of books and a desire to be a part of their new community, and the book tells the story of their successes, setbacks, challenges, and the many folks they meet along the way. If you’re looking for a comforting, relaxing read, give this book a try!

WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

I have absolutely no idea! I have some books on hold at the library that I need to pick up, I still have a stack of magazines I’m trying to make my way through, and who knows what books will make their way onto my TBR list in the next few days! My next book will be a surprise–even to me!

Have you read either of these books? If so, what did you think about them? What are you reading these days? Please share!


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WWW Wednesday

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To join this weekly meme, just answer these three questions:

WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

furious loveI read portions of Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century a couple of years ago when an excerpt of the book was in Vanity Fair magazine–and I was reminded of it in a recent WWW post. This was a great read because it was pure escapism–it had absolutely nothing to do with my life! I don’t drink to excess on a daily basis, I don’t give or receive enormous jewels, and I don’t hop from country to country to avoid paying taxes. I also think that I’m happier than these stars were on most days–if there’s anything that proves that money and fame can’t buy happiness, it’s the story told in this book.

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

outtakesI decided to stick with the marriage theme, so I picked up a backlisted novel from several years ago. Outtakes From a Marriage by Ann Leary is the story of an ordinary couple who marry young–and then several years later the husband  becomes a famous actor, while the wife remains a stay-at-home mom to their two children. The book begins when the wife accidently hears a suspicious voicemail message meant for her husband. So far it’s a really good read — I care about the characters and the dialogue is believable. I’m about half-way through and am hoping to finish it in the next day or so.

WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

This is always subject to change, but right now I’m thinking that, instead of digging into another book right away, I’m going to tackle the stack of Smithsonian magazines that are living in a stack by my bed. I love Smithsonian–mostly because the articles are always relevant and they never seem dated, and there are ALWAYS several long articles in each issue that catch my interest. I have several months worth of these to catch up on–sounds like a perfect way to spend a lazy weekend afternoon!

What about you? Have you read any of these books? What are you reading, or planning to read? Please share!


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WWW Wednesday

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WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

double downI was literally counting down the days until “Double Down” by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann came out last week. I was raised in a family where politics was regularly discussed at the dinner table, so this book about the inside story of the 2012 presidential campaign season is right up my alley. I loved “Game Change”, which was their account of the 2008 campaign, and I enjoyed this book almost as much. I was surprised at how much I’d forgotten about the 2012 campaign, but this book brought it all back. Two things I found especially interesting—debate prep adventures with President Obama, and the inside story of how Clint Eastwood was basically given free reign to do whatever he wished on the key evening of the Republican convention. I also found the portions about New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie to be interesting, as I think he’s a pretty fascinating character. All in all—not quite as much drama as “Game Change”, but still an entertaining read if you’re a political junkie like I am.

What are you currently reading?

book whispererI’m reading “The Book Whisperer: Awakening The Inner Reader In Every Child” by Donalyn Miller for work—it’s the book chosen for our current professional book study. The author is a 6th grade language arts teacher, and she writes about her journey to turn her classroom into an environment that encourages each of her students to discover the books that will hopefully turn them into lifelong readers. One thing I love about this book is that Miller doesn’t pretend to have all the answers—she readily shares the mistakes she’s made and the steps she’s taken to develop her philosophy and classroom routines. She also places a huge emphasis on student choice rather than strict required reading lists. We’re only read a few chapters, but so far I think it would be a great addition to any teacher’s reading list—as well as parents who want to encourage their kids to love books.

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Little Bookstore of Big Stone GapAfter “Double Down,” I need to read something light and fun! I think that book will be “The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap” by Wendy Welch. It’s the memoir of a couple who open a used bookstore in a small town in Appalachia. I love books about books, and this looks like a good one.

What about you? Have you read any of these books? What are you reading, or planning to read? Please share!


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WWW Wednesday

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WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

fangirl

I’ve written about “Fangirl”–and Rowell’s previous “Eleanor & Park”– a couple of times already on this blog, so I won’t go on and on. I’ll just say that even though I’m not technically in the target audience for this Young Adult novel, I enjoyed it immensely and I read most of it in two marathon reading sessions.

I always think that one of the measures of a really talented writer is the ability to write authentic sounding dialogue–and Rainbow Rowell is a master at capturing the sound of high school and college age characters. The dialogue consistently rings true, to the point where after just a few chapters I could hear the main character’s voices in my head. Another thing I like about Rowell’s writing is her ability to surprise–there were times when I thought the plot was going to go in a predictable, safe direction–and I was always pleasantly surprised when it didn’t. I did think that the last fifth of the book slowed down quite a bit–I think it could have ended a  little sooner–but all in all, I rank this book just a bit under “Eleanor & Park”–which is one of the best books I read all year.

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

double downSome people count down the days to album releases. . . Some people mark the day that a movie will open in the theater. .  . I’ve had November 5 circled on my calendar for ages as the day when “Double Down” by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann would be in the bookstores! What can I say? I’m an unapologetic book geek and political junkie–so much so that I went over to the nearby Barnes & Noble on my lunch hour yesterday to splurge on a hardcover copy because I just HAD to start reading it the day it was released.

This book covers the inside story of the 2012 presidential campaign. The authors also wrote “Game Change”–their bestselling book about the 2008 campaign–which I devoured four years ago. I was pretty much glued to the TV during the last presidential election season–which keeps getting longer every four years– so I’m not expecting any big surprises here, but I can’t tell you how excited I am to dig into this one!

WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

I really have no idea! “Double Down” is going to take me awhile as it’s over 400 pages and I just started it last night. I don’t know what I’ll be in the mood for when I finish it. Stay tuned . . .

What about you? Have you read either of these books? What are you reading, or planning to read? Please share!


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WWW Wednesday

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WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

I missed joining in on this meme last week, so I’ve got some catching up to do! Here’s a sample of what I’ve finished in the past two weeks:

apple of my eyeApple Of My Eye by Helene Hanff

Written by the author of 84, Charring Cross Road, one of my favorite “books about books”, this nonfiction book was written in 1977 and is a guidebook of sorts to New York City–but it’s so much more than that! The premise is that the author was asked to write copy for a photography book about NYC, and even though she was a longtime New Yorker, she realized she’d never been to most of the top tourist attractions such as the Statue of Liberty, Radio City Music Hall, etc. She and a friend go on a  tour of popular tourist stops over the course of several months and they learn a lot about the city they love. I really liked this book–although I’m not sure I’d want to travel with her (she comes off as a little bossy at times!), I love Hanff’s writing voice and the sense of humor she brings to her experiences. Her account of visiting the World Trade Center and the Windows On The World restaurant is quite funny (her friend is horribly afraid of heights) but also very poignant to read–as, of course, we all know how that part of the story will end.

The BookstoreThe Bookstore by Deborah Meyler

For a booklover, what could be better than reading a book about a character who works in a bookstore? This debut novel focuses on a young graduate student from England who lives in New York City. She begins working at a neighborhood bookstore populated with caring, yet eccentric characters as she tries to come to terms with a breakup and an unexpected pregnancy. I enjoyed this book–there were times when I thought the author was going to resort to predictability, but she kept surprising me by taking the plot in a different direction. I found the main character likeable, even though I wanted to shake her at times! If you’re looking for a good “book about books”, give this one a try!

Picture1Drama High by Michael Sokolove

I’m always interested in books that take me “behind the scenes” and, as a former teacher, I also like reading books about the lives of teachers and students. This book has all of that–it’s the true story of a year in the life of a high school drama teacher and the students that are cast in the play and the musical that are produced that year. I’ve never been involved in drama myself, but I found the descriptions of what goes into putting together a school production very interesting–and much more demanding than I’d imagined. The story of the teacher was also fascinating because he had absolutely no experience in drama before becoming a drama teacher–yet he helped to develop a number of student actors who went on to great success professionally.

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

king-on-writingOn Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft by Stephen King

I’ve already read this book, but I found a used copy last week and just had to buy it. I’m not a fan of King’s novels–I just don’t care for that genre–but I loved this book when I read it a couple of years ago. Part memoir and part writing manual, it takes you on a great journey of how King has grown personally and professionally–and it includes wonderful, practical advice for writers at all levels. I’m re-reading it because I’m in the mood to read something predictable, and something that I know I’ll enjoy.

WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

Me-Before-You-book-cover-Jan-12-p122Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

This is one of those novels that I feel as though everyone has read but me! I’ve got a copy from the library and I think I’ll give it a try. However, as always, my reading plans are subject to change without notice!

What about you? Have you read any of these books? What are you reading, or planning to read? Please share!


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WWW Wednesday

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What are you currently reading?

The School of Essential IngredientsI’m about 3/4 of the way through with The School of Essential Ingredients, which is the debut novel by Erica Bauermeister. It’s the story of a woman who runs a weekly cooking school out of her restaurant, and the individual stories of the people in her class. I love novels that feature cooking, and I wanted to love this book–instead, I’m loving the language, but I think the plot is a little thin. Her writing style is lovely, though–

“She shook the last of the water from the potatoes. The skins came off easily, like a shawl sliding off a woman’s shoulders.”

“She stood with her husband and children in the doorway, her three-year-old daughter gripping her leg like an octopus with bones.”

“In the chair beside her, almost hidden in the corner of the room, sat a man whose sadness seemed to have been pressed into his shirt.”

Doesn’t she paint a picture in your mind? I just wish the plot of the book did her beautiful language justice. Maybe I’m just not in the right mood for it right now. I’ll be checking to see if she’s written anything else–this novel came out in 2009.

What did you recently finish reading?

from scratchI obviously have a cooking theme going on! I really liked From Scratch. I loved all the behind-the-scenes stories, and I also had no idea how much of a bare-bones start-up this network was at the beginning. If you’re a Food Network fan, or if you view cooking as entertainment, give this book a try! You’d probably also like this book if you’re interested in the very early days of cable, if you like reading about media in general, or if (like me) you enjoy backstage stories and behind the scenes drama.

What do you think you’ll read next?

apple of my eyeI discovered about a month ago that the author of 84, Charring Cross Road (one of my very favorite “books about books”!) had written an additional FOUR books! Apple Of My Eye was written in 1976 and is a guidebook of sorts to New York City–written with Helene Hanff’s trademark dry, humorous style. I’ve been saving this book for a day when I can truly savor it–and since I have the day off from work on Friday, I’m planning on settling in and emersing myself in pre-21st century New York City. I can’t wait!

What about you? Have you read any of these books? What are you reading, or planning to read? Please share!