Musings From A Bookmammal


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Stacking the Shelves–5/9/15

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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!


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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!


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Friday Finds–5/1/15

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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!


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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!


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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!


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

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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!

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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.

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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!


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WWW Wednesday–10/29/14

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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!


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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!


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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

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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

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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!


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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!


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

 

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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!


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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!


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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!


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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!


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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!)


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WWW Wednesday–9/3/14

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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!


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Musing Monday–A Very Bookish Saturday

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–

credit Karin Jurick

credit Karin Jurick

One of the local used bookstores in my area is having a Labor Day Sale this holiday weekend—20% off everything in the store! On Saturday I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to finally take in the books I’d culled during my last book weeding session a couple of months ago, so  I loaded up the backseat of my car in the morning and took them in. I dropped off 5 bags of books and showed a great deal of restraint by only purchasing five, so I viewed the trip as a complete success!

To make the morning even more bookish, I stopped off at the library on the way home to return some books and to pick up several more that were waiting for me on the hold shelf. (Bonus bookish experience–story time was ending just as I entered the library. I was surrounded by a flood of tiny readers who couldn’t wait to show their parents the bookish craft they’d just made. There just isn’t much that can make me happier than seeing children who are excited to be at the library!) When I got back home I had a full armload of books plus a few more, and to me that’s always such a great feeling—so many possibilities!

I spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon doing chores as quickly as possible—and then spent the late afternoon and evening reading. All in all, a wonderful bookish day!

How about you? Have you enjoyed a bookish day—or afternoon—or morning—recently? Please share!

 


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Friday Finds–8/29/14

fridayfinds5

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–both bought used and both nonfiction. Here they are:

FFSouthern Sin: True Stories of the Sultry South & Women Behaving Badly edited by Lee Gutkind and Beth Ann Fennelly      I  thought this was a book of short stories at first, but it’s actually an anthology of nonfiction. I’m intrigued by the premise!

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession by Allison Hoover Bartlett     I do love a good book about books . . . and I found a “like new” hardcover copy of this one at Goodwill for only $1.79! How on earth could I possibly resist? It’s the true story of a man who travels around the US stealing rare books, but he doesn’t do it for the money—he does it because he loves books. It’s also the story of the book dealer/amateur detective who will go to any lengths to stop him. I ask you–what’s not to like about this?!?

How about you? Have you read either of these? What did you add to your TBR list this week? Please share!


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Top Ten Tuesday–Take A Peek At My TBR List!

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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 I Really Want To Read But Don’t Own Yet

To answer this prompt I went through my TBR list on Goodreads and pulled ten titles that have already been released this year, but that I either haven’t purchased yet or that I’m still waiting on at the library. Ready? Here we go–in no particular order:

178301231. We Are Not Ourselves by Mathew Thomas     This is a 600+ page multi-generational Irish-American  family saga that I can’t wait to dive into!

 

 

194864122. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty     I just finished Moriarty’s The Husband’s Secret a few days ago and really liked it, so I’m anxious to get my hands on her latest. The setting is an elementary school, and I usually enjoy reading novels taking place in any kind of academic setting, so I’m looking forward to getting my hands on this one.

 

 

192882593. Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher        This is another novel set in academia—this time a university. Plus, the narrative is told through letters which is a technique that I usually love!

 

 

214815424. The First Family Detail by Ronald Kessler     I love reading about American presidents and their families, so I’ve really been looking forward to this book about the Secret Service. I’ve read some of Kessler’s previous books and they do tend to be on the “gossipy” side, so I’m not expecting anything especially hard-hitting here, but I think this will at least be an entertaining read.

 

 

180599805. What Follows After by Dan Walsh   This is a novel about a fractured family, the steps taken by the children to mend their parents’ marriage, and the aftermath of their actions.

 

 

180797606. Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis     I read a lot of narrative nonfiction, and I especially enjoy medical and popular science topics. This book tells the story of how the cause of TB was discovered and the controversy surrounding this discovery. Call me a geek, but this sounds intriguing to me!

 

 

186562237. Home Leave by Brittani Sonnenberg    This novel is about a modern American family that is constantly on the move—both across the US and also across other continents. The plot explores how different people in the same family deal with loss, and what we mean when we talk about “home”.

 

 

187754428. The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths Are Solving America’s Coldest Cases by Deborah Halber     I used to read a lot of true crime, and I’m not quite sure why I stopped—but this book about “regular people” who help detectives solve missing person cases caught my interest.

 

 

186937529. Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir of Food and Love From an American Midwest Family by Kathleen Flinn     This is a food/family memoir by the author of The Sharper The Knife, The Less You Cry—a cooking memoir that I liked a lot.

 

 

1757129110. What We’ve Lost Is Nothing by Rachel Louise Snyder     I’m especially interested in this novel because the setting is local for me–it takes place in Oak Park, a Chicago suburb. It’s about a series of home invasions that test the trust of the people within the community and bring hidden prejudices to the surface.

 

How about you? Have you read any of these? What are some titles that you want to read, but still haven’t bought or borrowed yet? Please share!


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Musing Mondays–A Reading Streak!

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–

Everyone goes through the dreaded “reading slump” once in awhile—when you just can’t seem to find a book that catches your interest. But I’ve found that over the last couple of weeks I’ve been experiencing the direct  opposite—a wonderful “reading streak”!

I’ve been really fortunate to read a string of truly amazing books lately—the kind of books that you can’t wait to pick up and hate to put down. The kind of books that you think about even when you’re not reading them. The kind of books that remind you of why you’d rather spend your free time reading than doing almost anything else.

         

All of these books are contemporary fiction (four novels, one short story collection), which kind of surprises me. I read—and enjoy—A LOT of nonfiction. But for some reason I’ve been in a fiction mood lately, and reading these books has only encouraged me to seek out even more novels. The common link between all five of these books is the strong, relatable characters–most of them female. I still find myself thinking about them at odd times during the day, and to me that’s one of the signs of a powerful writer.

I haven’t had a reading streak like this in quite awhile, and I know that eventually it’ll end when I read a few “good but not great” books, or even one or two “why did I even bother” books. But for right now, I’m just enjoying sinking into one great book after another!

How about you? Have you experienced a reading streak—or a dreaded reading slump—lately? Have you read any of the books on my “streak list”? Please share!


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WWW Wednesday–8/20/14

Click to play along!

Click to play along!

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

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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Musing Mondays–A New Favorite Novel

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–

still life with breadcrumbsI think I’ve found a new favorite novel.

For some reason I kept putting off reading Still Life With Breadcrumbs, and I’m not sure why. Anna 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. But when Still Life came out this past January, I kept moving it to the bottom of the TBR pile. I even had checked it out from the library once before, but had to return it unread. So many books, so little time . . . you know the deal.

For whatever reason, I decided to check it out from the library again. I had the day off from work on Friday and decided to give it a try–and from the very first chapter I was sucked in. I was only about 50 pages in when I knew I was going to love this book.

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. But very briefly, it tells the story of Rebecca Winter, a sixty-year-old photographer who experienced huge artistic success years before. 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!”

I think this is a very understated book—if you’re looking for a novel with huge cliffhangers,  dramatic reveals, or big action scenes, this isn’t going to fill that need. I guess it could be called a slice-of-life novel—and that’s one of the reasons that I found the story to be so believable. Some reviewers have criticized the book for that very reason, but to me it’s what made the plot and characters so relatable. Isn’t that what real life is like for us most of the time?

I’m going to be thinking about the characters in this book for quite awhile, I’ll be buying my own copy to add to my Quindlen collection, and I predict that it will end up on my Top 10 list at the end of the year. I’m so glad that I finally made time for this novel! If you’re in the mood for a realistic, contemporary book featuring a strong, flawed, relatable female character, I suggest that you give Still Life With Breadcrumbs a try.

How about you? Have you read this book? What was the last book you read that you knew would become a favorite? Please share!

 

 

 

 


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WWW Wednesday–8/13/14

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?

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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Musing Mondays–Ten Bookish Questions (and answers!)

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 found this ten-question bookish quiz quite awhile ago and thought I’d save it for a rainy day. Well, today it is literally raining in my part of the world–so here are my answers to ten bookish questions:

1. Do you read during breakfast? I usually eat breakfast at my desk when I get to work (lately I’ve been making oatmeal in the microwave) and I’m often reading work-related things such as emails while I eat. I don’t usually eat breakfast on weekends, but if I did I’m sure that I’d be reading a book while doing so.

2. How many hours a day would you say you read? Weekdays—at least an hour a day. Weekends—maybe 3-4 hours a day, sometimes more depending on what else is going on. Reading is definitely the non-work-related activity that I spend the most time doing.

3. Do you read more or less now than you did, say, 10 years ago? That’s a hard one. I didn’t keep track in any way of how much I was reading back then, but I’ve always read a lot. I think I’m probably reading about the same amount. However, I know I’m using the library more often instead of buying new books—my budget just can’t keep up with my TBR list!

4. Do you consider yourself a speed reader? I think I read pretty quickly compared to many people. Sometimes I need to remind myself to slow down and appreciate what I’m reading.

5. Do you carry a book with you everywhere you go? YES! I always have a book or magazine in my car, and I usually have my kindle in my purse. You just never know when you’re going to be stuck in traffic, in a waiting room, etc!

6. How old were you when you got your first library card? I don’t remember the specific age, but I can’t remember NOT having a library card. I assume I got it when I started school—so probably age 5-6. Before I had my own card my parents took me to the library regularly and checked out books for me on their cards.

7. What’s the oldest book you have in your collection? (Oldest physical copy? Longest in the collection? Oldest copyright?) I have an ABC book that was my dad’s–the copyright date is 1937!

8. Do you read in bed? Yes—nearly every day! If I wake up early on the weekend I’ll stay in bed and read for awhile. I always try to read at least a couple of pages right before I go to sleep at night. I used to be able to stay up really late to read, but not anymore!

9. Do you write in your books? Yes—I don’t have any issues with writing in books that I own. I’ll often write page numbers on the inside front cover if I don’t want to underline in the text for some reason.

10. If you had one piece of advice to a new reader, what would it be? Read as many different kinds of books as you can as often as you can! Don’t let others tell you what you should or shouldn’t be reading—if it’s of interest to you, that’s reason enough!

How about you? Do we have any answers in common? Please feel free to share your own answers to one of more of these questions in the comment section!