Posts Tagged ‘Books’

Book Reviews: The MeetCutest, A Book NOT about Wolves, and Black Hair Love.

June 15, 2017

Morning, all! Just a few books to talk about this week, because I had some re-reads not worth re-hashing am thiiiiis close to finishing my daytime book and my nighttime book. (You know I have my reading groove back when I’m making excuses for a low number!)

So what do we got? Let’s look!

DimpleWhen Dimple Met Rishi, by Sandhya Menon (2017, Simon Pulse, 380 pages, ebook). This book is the book to read this summer and believe me when I say Sandhya Menon is the new John Green – YA Whisperer Extraordinaire! I hope she’s half as prolific because I can’t wait to get my hands on her next story…and I just finished her first! The story is about two American teens whose (uh, somewhat) traditionalist Indian parents have arranged for them to be married – if all goes well when they meet. Dimple kicked herself for not realizing why her parents suddenly caved and allowed her to go to computer programming camp, and Rishi just about wants to kill himself for blurting out his intentions to spend the rest of his life with Dimple the second he meets her. Turns out Dimple wasn’t aware of the deal-io. And on it goes. It’s the meet-cutest, even if it does feel annoyingly teenagery at times, and a little heavy-handed on the foreshadowing. It all balances out, though, because Dimple and Rishi click from (almost) the first moment, and its in the funny, laugh-out-loud moments that Menon’s writing really shines. That, and she really knows how to write secondary characters – not a skill you really hear talked about, partly because not a lot of people really know how to excel at it. All in all, it’s wonderful debut novel and I will definitely be following Menon’s career with interest. 3 1/2 of 5 stars. (That cover, though! 5 of 5 stars for cover art!)

HistoryOfWolvesHistory of Wolves, by Emily Fridlund (2017, Grove Atlantic, 288 pages, used hardcover). Trigger warning for sketchy-as-hell student/teacher relationships, and child abuse. In small town Minnesota (the book flap describes it further as being part of the lakes region of Minnesota, but is there part of Minnesota that isn’t the lakes region? Seriously?), Linda/Maddie lives with questionable parents in a hut that is part of a counter-culture left over from her maybe-parents commune days. History was so hard to read because relationships were never clearly defined – between characters, places, causes, nothing! It wasn’t even clear whether this was by design. So I wasn’t sure if Linda’s blurry AF relationship with her parents and miserable home life was responsible for why she kissed her teacher, or was jealous when a fellow student started rumors that she had gone all the way with their history teacher – an awkward man who later fled because they found out he was fired from his last job in California for pedophilia. As that story line was falling apart, Linda is hired by the weirdo neighbors across the lake to babysit for their toddler, Paul. You know from the beginning that something horrible is going to happen to Paulie – and I thought from the teacher story line that it was going to be sexual abuse – but it wasn’t, and the No Good, Terrible, Horrible Thing was a bit of a let down when I finally found out what happened. I mean, it was awful, sure; it just wasn’t the shock it was built up to be. Yeah, this novel was a hot mess, through and through, in need of a much stronger editor. Solid ideas, they just all fell to the earth and fizzled. 2 of 5 stars.

YouCantTouchMyHairYou Can’t Touch my Hair, by Phoebe Robinson (2016, Plume Books, 285 pages, library paperback). This was nominated as a Goodreads Choice for Humor last year, and YOU GUYS! I am both bummed it didn’t win, and horrified it had to go up as humor! Yes, Robinson is a comedian, and yes, she glossed all her essays with humor, but I think that’s all mostly because there isn’t anything close to “I’m Laughing Because It’s All Funny Because It’s So True It Hurts” – in either an awards category or life profession. There were essays about hair and beauty as the title suggests, but also how Robinson is too black to be white, and too white to be black. She’s the post-Soul aesthetic defined, and I LOVE it. I love her! I can’t believe I hadn’t run across so much as her name before. Bottom line: you should all read her book, see her in person if you can, and help me track down any- every- thing else she has done. 4 of 5 stars.

InvisibleLifeOfIvanIsaenkoThe Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko, by Scott Stambach (2016, St. Martin’s Press, 326 pages). Lauded as the next coming of The Fault in Our Stars, I was so excited to sit down and read Ivan! I knew it was going to be sad, but Holy Moses. Ivan is beset by every mean trick the universe could bestow. He was born without both legs, without his right arm, and with only a thumb and the first two fingers on his left hand. He has a connective tissue disorder, making it hard to talk, and leaving his features flat, making him not only hard to look at, but like he’s even more handicapped than he is. Oh, and when another person at Mazyr’s Hospital for Gravely Ill Children (in the Ukraine that cares for 30 children crippled by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster) dares to fall in love with Ivan, SHE DIES TOO. We know this from the first page – a choice that rankled with me every step of the way. I wanted to hold out hope, no matter how foolish. I needed to believe. Without that bit, even with Nurse Natalya who is the only friggin ray of sunshine in a thousand mile radius, everything was so. unflinchingly. bleak. I’ve read a lot of bleak stories, you guys. I can handle a lot. If I have hope. This…it was interesting. I wanted to change the outcome. So even though it was bleak, there was an undeniable intrigue and sneakery and brilliance that crackled throughout and drew me to the story. I couldn’t put it down because of it, and, honestly, it’s what kept me turning page after page. Without it, I’d have ditched. So…I guess brilliance trumps hope. Who knew? 3 of 5 stars.

There you go! What are YOU reading this week? What do I need to add to my shelves this summer?

#Riotgram, Day 7: Most Loved.

June 7, 2017

Today’s #Riotgram challenge, hosted by the ever-fabulous Book Riot, focuses on most loved books. But what exactly does that mean?! Should I focus on the books I love best (and show it in the wear and tear)? Talk about my Stephen King obsession? The series I re-read every year? My favorite books shelf?

My favorite books shelf – let’s start there.

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My favorites shelf is missing quite a few of my favorite books. My favorite series – Stephen King’s Dark Tower; Cynthia Voigt’s Tillerman family saga; Harry Potter; The Eyre Affair series by Jeffrey Fforde; Anne. There simply isn’t room and it would hurt my heart (and the books)(shoosh) for the series to be broken up over multiple shelves. Also, this way I can fit most of my absolute favorites on one shelf.

The Christmas book is there because it’s one of those Hallmark books that let you record your voice, and my mom’s voice is in there. And that’s all I’m going to say about that, or else I’ll need a tissue or forty.

Oh! I lied – a collector’s edition of Anne is on the shelf! I’d forgotten about that! I’ll try to grab a better picture of that and post it later. It’s gorgeous!

Then there are a favorite from high school – The Great Gatsby. My girlfriends and I (who ruled AP English) fell madly in love with it, and that love was cemented in college when we discussed symbolism and motifs and, dear god, all the irony. The same with what I think of as my college favorites – Their Eyes Were Watching God; The Portrait of a Lady; The Chaneysville Incident; and The White Boy Shuffle. 

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood might be part of a trilogy, but I pretend it isn’t because of…things…that complicate favorite characters beyond the pale.

Pride and Prejudice I didn’t read until the year after Gracie was born and I was mind-boggled over how it was such a fan favorite until I got to the botched proposal…and then I couldn’t put it down.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert might be a bit hokey, but it got me through my divorce. And that’s a good enough reason for me!

The Anne Fadiman collections of personal essays were divine! I couldn’t read them for want of writing, and I couldn’t write because I wanted to keep hoovering up more of her writing! It’s my favorite dilemma, really. There are readers, though, who really aren’t all about writing, and I wonder – honestly – how well Fadiman holds up for those sorts of people.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver is a great family drama, one where you can’t tell where the function of family ends and the dysfunction takes over. Perhaps because the dysfunction of my family is so readily apparent, it fascinates me that for some families, the dynamic hasn’t always been that way, with one or two or three functional souls in the middle of the chaos.

White Oleander is the opposite – dysfunctional family drama at its best. You can also find perhaps the Cruella deVillest character this side of Disney. (Yes, yes – Dodie Smith, I know.)

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is – just go read it. This novel embodies the group of characters I’m most upset I can’t meet in real life. Which maybe doesn’t make sense because they’re located on a tiny island in the middle of the English Channel. Doesn’t matter; still holds true.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern wasn’t a hit the first half of the book. I trudged through to make my sister happy. The moment the love story became more than apparent, I fell for it. Which now seems silly – the reason I really love it is because it’s hands down the most imaginative book I’ve ever read. If Guernsey contains the characters I most want to meet, Night Circus is the book I most want to be real.

The White Mary by Kira Salak and State of Wonder by Ann Patchett are two stories on the same theme. Wild adventures in the remotest of remote places; feminist lenses; love vs. career vs. self…so many shared themes, but with different characters and different ways of carrying it off.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is perhaps the most adventurific character study I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading, especially given that it breaks down stereotypes left and right. Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by John Green and David Levithan is the least likely John Green novel you’ll ever read. It, too, plays into stereotypes so hard in its identity-heavy examinations that it often shoots right past them. Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork is similar, but throws in some ableism into the mix. They’re three on a theme.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home is like a throwback to the 80s all the way around. It’s set during the decade, it tweaks the heart like a break-up power ballad, and it’ll make you relive all the best and worst bits of growing up.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra is kind of like Elegance of the Hedgehog, but if it took place in the middle of the Serbian War. Or, wait, is that quite right? I can never quite categorize this one. Except it’s lovely.

Harriet the Spy is everything about who I wanted to be when I was a little kid. And still.

The Martian is everything about my voice as a grown-up. Except you’d never get me into outer-space.

Tiny, Beautiful Things is the best advice book I could ever recommend to anyone going through a tough time, about to go through a tough time, or who wants to be a writer when they “grow up.”

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry is variant on a Ya-Ya theme. If you like one…

And the Daughters of Smoke and Bone trilogy. I’m so glad I ignored all of the praise for it when it first came out, because if I couldn’t read it all in one go, I don’t know what I would have done. I’m selective about my fantasy, and this still passed the test.

Sometimes I can’t believe I can fit all of those stories on just one shelf! What about your shelf – what favorite books do you have on yours?

#Riotgram, Day 5: Something Magic.

June 5, 2017

I was going to use my silly string picture for “Something Magic”, but then I needed to use it for “How You Read” instead. So I went looking in my older pictures for a particular shot of toddler Gracie pulling every. single. book. off the bookcase…and peering over her shoulder to see if she’d get caught. (She totally missed the camera, for the win!)

Instead, I found this:

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One of my favorite aunties [Hi, Auntie Cheryl!] reading to Baby Bee, back home in Massachusetts at my mom’s house. You want to talk about magic? I think there’s plenty stuffed into this moment. Family who loves me? Check. Reading to your babies even at this age, so they grow up to be readers? Check. Being back home in New England? Check. I happen to know that there’s snow outside. Check! And that pic was taken Thanksgiving night, so there is lots of pie about to happen. Check! [Except for Rhi. Don’t think about that particular night of pie, Rhi!]

There is so much magic happening in and around that picture of Auntie Cheryl reading to Bee, I just can’t stand it. Reading is awesome. And magic ain’t too bad, either.

#Riotgram Challenge, Day 4: Notebooks & Journals.

June 4, 2017

Sometimes, dear reader, I can be very naive. I’ve kept a reading journal since I was in high school, but I never once realized such journals were a thing! And quite a big thing, indeed.

I started my reading journal at first because I couldn’t keep straight which Agatha Christie novels I had read, and since my goal was to read them all, keeping track was somewhat important. So I started writing down every book I read in the back of my diary. It was simple: title, author, month/year I’d read it.

I wish I’d kept up with the habit, but for some reason, at some point – I stopped. I picked up the habit again after the divorce. That one I didn’t even need my therapist’s help to understand: I needed a little more order and control in my life, and this was one easy way to obtain it. So I splurged on a black leather notebook. My real Little Black Book!

The format is still simple. I write down the title, author, and month/year read. I star in the left margin if the book was one of my absolute favorites. I make a small dot in the right-hand margin if the book was published in the same year I’d read it (reading fewer backlist books was a reading goal of mine a year or two ago). And next to the date I might make a few notations – YA (young adult), NF (non-fiction), R (re-read), POC (author or characters of color). I track soooo many more categories in my digital spreadsheet, but those are the ones I found myself looking for most frequently so I could make recommendations.

It’s just a small thing, my Little Black Book, but she’s my precious.

#Riotgram challenge, Day 3: Where You Read.

June 3, 2017

Morning, morning, morning. Except…well, it’s night. It’s been a busy weekend! We’ve had sleepovers and midnight doughnut parties and chicken soup snacks at midnight and tonight is another round of parties, and somewhere in there I fixed the sewing machine and taught Bee-girl how to sew. Oh! And then she and I ran out to the fabric store real quick (as you do) and made a bunch of purchases that were wants, not needs. Whoops.

What I should have been focusing on was today’s challenge: Where do you read?

I have a bunch of answers.

I wanted to find the picture of the new book nooks the girls built, after all of the pre-planned ones failed to come into being. What happened was that after we tilted out the chaise lounge so that Kim (er, or, um, anyone else sitting there) could see the television, there was an interesting space between the kitchen bar and the back of the chaise. That space has been used for forts, hide and seek, playing house – all sorts of things. But mostly, it’s been the book nook.

Of course I can’t find any of the pictures.

But because we are a house stuffed chock-a-block full of readers, I have other pictures at my disposal. Like this one:

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Sometimes I read on my patio. It’s one of my happy places, especially when it’s sunny. Especially when I have a new Stephen King. Especially when I need some quiet, happy time.

That, um, gets blown up when your favorite girls ambush you with some silly string.

I’d tell you I was mad at them and taught them about the value of expensive hardcovers and hair that had just been washed and styled. Except I was dying of laughter and could barely control myself for chasing them around the house with the string I picked up off the ground to fling at them.

We’re a house full of readers. We read all over the place. We just don’t expect any of those places to be sacred and off-guard to anyone. Or any thing.

#Riotgram: Day 2.

June 2, 2017

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Good morning, lovelies! Today is Day 2 of my #Riotgram challenge, as sponsored by BookRiot, which means today should feature books with yellow covers. I remembered to pull some down this morning and let me tell you – it was a pretty decent selection! Yellow is not my favorite color, so who would have thought that some really good books would be in that pile?

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Yes, some pretty good books, indeed! The Autobiography of my Mother is the oldest book in that stack (I had a wild love affair with Jamaica Kincaid in college), and I think The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven is the one I’ve read most recently. That or Authority. The Girl with All the Gifts has a sequel out now, and Kim said it’s worth keeping an eye out for. For those who haven’t read the Flavia de Luce mysteries by Alan Bradley, I fell madly in love with her. She’s like Harriet (the Spy) and Turtle from Westing Game combined. I told you – a good, good pile!

I showed you mine, now you show me yours! What yellow covers are lurking on your shelves?

A little #Riotgram fun for June.

June 1, 2017

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I thought I might make a little bit of fun for myself during June. And the best way to do that is to kick off summer with a fun bookish challenge, am I right? Of course I am!

So I’m picking up this #Riotgram that the ever-lovely Book Riot is sponsoring. We’ll see how often I remember to post. No matter how often or how little, when I do, it’s sure to bring a smile to my face. I hope to yours, too.

Today’s theme is a shelfie. Let’s see what we have!

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#Riotgram: Day 1. Shelfie.

Corrie was over Friday night, before Bee’s infamous birthday sleepover, and in the middle of dishing with me about who knows what all (we hadn’t seen each other in awhile), my bestie blurted out: “Did you color code your bookshelves?!” With some besties, you can tell you’re in when they know if you’ve cut your hair. With my circle, it’s knowing where my books go on my bookshelf.

Although, I have to say – I can’t find anything now. Even if I know, say, that Dicey’s Song is purple, I can’t seem to find it still. So my shelfie might look entirely different at the end of next week. Ask me again!

What about you guys? What’s the craziest thing you can boast of in your shelfies? Have you ever color-coded…and regretted it?

My Little Free Library: The before.

May 9, 2017

Waaaaay back at Christmas, my sister gifted me with a Little Free Library kit. Well, she gave the gift to me – the name of the gift – because they were slightly back-ordered. So my kit arrived sometime in March – still long enough ago that it should be up and operational by now.

The problem is, I was ignoring it for the longest time because I was going through the darkest depression this spring and it was all I could do to act “normal”, get through my day, go to work, take care of the family… you get the idea. So the Little Free Library sat in its box, waiting.

A few weeks, I started thinking about it. It came out of its box and I checked out all of the books (the kit Kim ordered came with a bunch of free books), and looked at the design. I started thinking about where I wanted to put it. I mean, I knew where I wanted to plant my LFL: at the entrance to our neighborhood park. It would get a lot of traffic as everyone walked by, plus it would be visible from the streets – the entrance is at the elbow of two roads, so twice the visibility. And it would motivate me to get back to running again – if I have to check it out regularly to make sure there are books there and everything is copacetic, it’s something I can do as I go for a run. (If I go the long way, it’ll be the one mile marker. How smart am I?!) The only problem was: How do we get permission to put a semi-permanent structure on public land?

I called 2342 different offices in my rather large city. I wasn’t sure who would be in charge of the project. I spoke to about a dozen people, some of them twice as I got re-routed, and they were all sympathetic and trying to be helpful, but no one seemed to be in charge of either selling me a permit or saying it was okay to just go do. I was relaying the story to a guy at work, someone who’s had about a gazillion jobs in the past few years. He’s wicked bright, like scary bright, and he mentioned that he used to be a contractor back in his youth. He asked if I got along with my neighbors, how many of them liked the park, if I thought the LFL would be vandalized or if they’d complain about it being there. No? My neighbors are awesome. And even if no one used it, or even particularly liked it, I can’t see them calling the city. So, this guy said, I should just do it. No one is going to know unless someone complains.

Huh.

It’s an idea. One I rather like. I tried to do it the proper way, but that didn’t seem to be going anywhere. Now I’ll do it this way. And so, with a plan in mind, now I have to execute. And that means prepping my LFL box.

I’m thinking of painting the LFL box as if it’s a Tardis. (And not just because I wish the dang thing were bigger on the inside to hold all the books at once!)(But maybe.) I can buy Tardis blue paint (everyone was kind enough to send me the Pantone number) and then created the details at the top and on the sides and back (which I should have taken a picture of). It will be spectacular!

As you can see, we have a number of books ready for deployment. The free books that came with the kit are mostly younger kids books, which is perfect! The girls get books for their ages that they won’t necessarily want to keep when they’re done, and I have lots of grown-up books that I can donate after reading, so younger kids is definitely the area we wouldn’t naturally be able to fill. There are board books about Mickey Mouse, younger readers about the Avengers, two boxed book sets that are Cars themed, two big Disney themed 5-minute stories type books, two activity books by Don’t Let the Pigeon, and a bunch of bunny-themed easy readers. A good haul, even if there are duplicates, that means there are more for everyone! The haul for the grown-ups includes Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society, You, Shatter, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood, Everybody Sees the Ants, Ella Minnow Pea, The Eyre Affair, Pride and Prejudice, The Kite Runner, The Girl on the Train, The Red Tent, The Girl at the Bottom of the Well, August Moon, Everything for a Dog, Swiss Family Robinson, Gutsy Girl, and Everlast. Not a bad start!

So! We’ll get to painting this weekend. Then we’ll figure out how to attach the kit to a post. Then we’ll get that sucker planted into the ground. I have some favors to call in because I’m sure not digging a post hole in this clay soil! Ha!

Stand by for the rest of the story! I’m sure it will be an adventure and a half!

Book reviews: The week with all the balance – two must-reads, two huge misses.

January 12, 2017

Rumor has it that The Morning News is releasing their Tournament of Books finalists this morning! I tried working my rooster tee into my work ensemble today, but since things are kinda shaky at ThePlaceThatShallNotBeDiscussed, I decided to go a safer route. Which is to say you can imagine both my excitement (PARRRTAY!!!) at the imminent prospect of having a shorter list of books to focus on, and saaaaadpanda that the list wasn’t out when I started drafting my post. Instead of geeking out, I’ll tell you about the books I read this week.

shrillShrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, by Lindy West (2016, Hachette, 272 pages, digital copy). I had been hearing good things about this book since long before it was published. Which is why I probably had such a hard time getting my hands on a copy. I jumped when I saw it come up as a deal of the day right around Christmas. (Merry Christmas to me! I got allll the digital books!) West has all the cultural criticism acumen of Roxane Gay and the creativity of Tina Fey, plus the whip smart advantage all my favorite people have of being able to call it like she sees it in such an undeniable way. For those who are seeking to empower their best selves, or maybe just looking for a little hope, a little cultural criticism right now, this is what you need to pick up. As in, I will be buying a full-price copy to loan out to everyone. THAT kind of No kidding, I mean it. 5 of 5 stars.

ihateinternetI Hate the Internet, by Jarett Kobek (2016, We Heard You Like Books, 288 pages, e-loan). I picked this up because it was on the TOB longlist. In many ways, it’s a novelization along the same lines of Shrill – speaking out against the needless hate and bigotry swamping our culture – but it focuses on the Internet as Vehicle Supreme, the inevitability that foiling it will fail, and, well, does it all in third person. I couldn’t find my footing. The entire thing felt hopeless. I have enough hopeless in Real Life right now, Kobek, I don’t need another heaping plateful. It felt gimmicky and cheap as opposed to a sardonic wake-up call that I think it was supposed to be. 1 of 5 stars.

abundanceThe Abundance: Narrative Essays, Old and New, by Annie Dillard (2016, Ecco, 304 pages, digital). This was another Deal of the Day grab, and I was so looking forward to it. Personal essays are some of my favorite indulgences; they can go in any direction and seem so much freer than any other writing – even fiction, at times. I’d read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and thought maybe I’d enjoy Dillard’s non-fiction more. So now I’m left hoping I like Dillard’s non-fiction about writing, specifically, because I still have one of those books on my TBR at home, and nothing else seems to be working for me. Her writing is sparse, and yes that’s a stylistic choice that can work…but not here, and not for me. When I read books about nature, I want to feel connected. It’s especially frustrating for me as a reader if I know the author was there, in that actual scene, and limited themselves to these few words. I feel everything and write so much of what first comes to mind; I have a hard time understanding why people won’t use 50 words instead of 10. Nature writing…that particularly seems to me like the point is immersion itself. How are we so understand the scene if what we get is “The hill was tall and bare.” So the subject matter was interesting, in a fashion, but Dillard’s writing style was rather frustrating for me. 1 of 5 stars.

uglywonderfulthingsAll the Ugly and Wonderful Things, by Bryn Greenwood (2016, Thomas Dunne Books, 346 pages, digital). YOU GUYS. THIS BOOK. So many feelings! It’s not going to be for everyone, I get that. (There’s a bit of a Lolita angle that could be read in places.) But for me it was one of those magical reads that I couldn’t suck down fast enough. Greenwood created characters so believable and real that I just couldn’t get enough. It read for me as less Lolita and more of a Bone Gap setting, meets Constellation of Vital Phenomena heartbreak and spectacular, detailed characterization, and the survivory feeling of Homecoming. All some of my favorite books, so you can see how this just blew my socks off. My one hang-up was the way the Wavy-and-Kellen drama stalled a bit three-quarters of the way in. There was a lot of the same-old going on, and I needed either a bit to be excised, or some movement added. Kind of like how The Office was at its best when it was a comedy that used all of its talent for a variety of sketches, before it turned into the Jim-and-Pam show, I liked the story so much better when it showed the resourcefulness of Wavy as she faced all of her challenges, before it settled into the Wavy-and-Kellen show. Not that that kept me from reading as fast as I could, delighting in the sense of foreboding that never once left. 5 of 5 stars.

Okay, have I stalled long enough? Will the TOB brackets be posted…? And whose job is it to keep me sane until they do? HALP!

In which I resolve, I geek out, and I confess.

January 1, 2017

2017. Finally. Because: Wow, was 2016 not my favorite year to date.

And so…I resolve to focus a little more on the good going on all around me. That might mean gratitude lists, or it might mean making good things happen. It’s going to mean different things at different times. For sure it means more adventuring! The only resolution I’ve stuck to so far is the one I’ve made about reading more, reading “better”, and reading more diversely. I’m going to see if I can make this my second resolution that does the distance.

 

I geek out about how Santa was very good to me. In addition to several very lovely gifts, I got an entire stack – stacks, evenof the best gift of all: books! It comes to no one’s surprise that my favorite part (other than reading the books) is organizing and listing them. Drip with jealousy, dear readers. Drip.

It shall also come with no surprise that I finished one already. The surprise, really, should be that I finished only one. To be fair, I also finished Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Pride and Prejudice, which I was re-reading simultaneously, depending on which I felt would tickle my fancy that evening. Well, that and my sister is visiting, and I never get to read as much when I’m entertaining. It’s a good change of pace for me.

But before I get carried away with a social life and not reading, let’s see what I get to choose from when I do get to dip my toes into the pool of titillating stories and torrid affairs!

Difficult Women, by Roxane Gay (2016, Grove Press, 260 pages, hardcover). Short stories usually aren’t my jam. If you tell me they’re linked – like these – you’ll get a much better chance of getting me to jump into the pool. Ms. Gay’s writing, as always, was impeccable. Voice might not be the most critical of the holy triangle [voice, characters, plot][which, uh, is there a MOST critical?], but if it was, you’d find me hard-pressed to find someone who could wield her instrument with as much precision and beauty as Gay. The stories center around women of difficult natures, nasty women if you will, and how they have earned their badges of honor. These women are survivors, all. Many of them have stories that will make you cry – one of them quite literally, and you figure out how to do that quietly at two in the morning. 2. a.m. So you should pick the book up, with a pack of tissues – and highlighters and pens and your most critical eye. Because stories like these are even more important right now. 5 of 5 stars.

Setting aside the rest of my reviews (aren’t you glad I’ve only read the one!), what else did I get?

  • The Dead Lands, by Benjamin Percy (which was referred to me by @writerrhiannon, and I am very excited to read!)
  • The Nix, by Nathan Hill
  • Various coloring books (which: books. Still count. Especially: Jane Austen, Anne of Green Gables, and others…)
  • Agent Bride, by Beverly Long (delightfully delicious romance that I can’t wait to Mystery Science Theater my way through!)
  • A historical publication of town hall meeting notes from my hometown
  • Afterwards, by Rosamund Lupton (I very much enjoyed Sisters)
  • Ella Minnow Pea, by Mark Dunn (because it’s been recommended by several book peeps, including one who says it’s one of her all-time faves)
  • The Writing Life, by Annie Dillard
  • Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey, by The Countess of Carnarvon
  • We Are Unprepared, by Meg Little Reilly (which Kim says is wickedly awful in a hispter-y survivalist sort of way)
  • Full of Grace, by Gina Ferris (oh my – I remember reading this romance series unironically, back in the day)
  • Highland Whispers, by Sharon Gillenwater
  • Shatter, by Michael Robotham (blurbed by Stephen King. Need I say more?)
  • My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, by Fredrik Backman (I’ve read, but didn’t own)
  • The Fighting Ghettos: First hand accounts of Jewish resistance to the Germans, by Merer Barkai
  • 50 Greatest Players in New England Patriots Football History, by Robert Cohen
  • Flatscreen, by Adam Wilson
  • Everybody Sees the Ants, by A.S. King (I LOVE King
  • The Sun Is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon
  • Seriously, I’m Kidding, by Ellen Degeneres
  • Stories I Only Tell My Friends, by Rob Lowe
  • The Royal We, by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (I devoured it this summer and will need a pick-me-up re-read in about 20 days, I’m strongly predicting)

 

And this is where I confess that I met one of my dearest friends over Christmas break – the fantastically sassy and wonderfully witty Andi – and she was even more !!!! than I dreamed. Meeting your friends – for me, at least – is always awkward. I the Queen of Awkward – don’t all be jealous, now. But Andi was gracious and hilarious and forgave me when I had to cut our day short because of a work crisis. Crisis aside, I got to explore the flagship store of my favorite “little” used bookstore . And, yes, a few more books fell into my cart. Whoops. (And everyone who believes that “whoops” – I laugh at you, sirs. LAUGH.)

For my Little Free Library (making its way to me, as soon as the backorder unclogs itself), needs some books. And so for it, I picked up:

  • Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
  • Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, by Rebecca Wells
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann
  • The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
  • Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

I am SO FLIPPIN’ EXCITED about my Little Free Library! But as much as I wanted to spend alllll my monies on that, I also splurged and got a few books for myself:

  • The Rotters’ Club, by Jonathan Coe (which looks a little like Trainspotting)
  • The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett (which Andi and I impulsively decided to read together. It’s true love, I’m tellin’ ya…)
  • Caleb’s Crossing, by Geraldine Brooks (because I adore the fair Geraldine)
  • In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, by Daniyal Mueenuddin
  • Freddie & Me, by Mike Dawson (A coming-of-age [Bohemian] Rhapsody graphic novel loosely [or not] based on Freddie Mercury)(Guess which book I’m most excited to read?!)

I also got a few little things to put aside for Gracie, either for her birthday or next Christmas. I a $2 book of home plans, Gracie’s newest love; a mud mask; magnets that say “I ❤ Geeks”, the deathly hallows, Snape’s face and ‘Always’, and the Hogwarts Express 9 3/4 motto; oh, and Harry Potter pins for her backpack.

If only I could take Andi home with me, it would have been the most successful trip ever!

Not a bad start to 2017. So here’s a raised glass to you, New year – let’s keep things moving in this very promising direction, shall we?