22 October 2014

TLC BOOK TOUR: David Nicholls, Us

Welcome to the TLC BOOK TOUR for David Nicholls' Us!

Click on the image to purchase the book through my Powell's partner account
I wanted to be on the tour for David Nicholls' new book, because his last book (the bittersweet page turner One Day) made me feel like this:

This new book is also about relationships, this time about a couple whose son is leaving for college and whose marriage is falling apart. The book's narrator, Douglas, learns in the first pages of the book that his wife is planning to leave him, but first, they must go together on a grand European tour that they have planned for their son Albie's graduation.  On this vacation, Douglas hopes to win Connie back, but finds himself instead blundering through so many of the situations that they find themselves in.  The story is told mainly in the present, but also with flashbacks to the exciting beginnings of Connie and Douglas.  The book is structured in short snippets of chapters and sections for each of the European countries the family visits on their tour.  This format made the book really readable, and like, One Day, difficult to put down.

I didn't relate to the characters in Us like I did to those in One Day, although I still found them likeable and was rooting for them, all of them.  The idea of setting the book on a grand European tour is right in my wheelhouse, and I loved seeing Paris, Amsterdam, Venice and Madrid through the eyes of the characters.  Because I loved One Day so much, I think that it may have been a little difficult for this book to live up to my expectations, but this book does capture the same sad, but hopeful, tone and offers a similar picture of a relationship through many stages.  I recommend it to fans of Nicholls and to fans of insightful writing about relationships.

Please be sure to check out other bloggers on the tour!

Monday, October 6th: The Daily Dosage
Tuesday, October 7th: nomadreader
Wednesday, October 8th: From L.A. to LA
Thursday, October 9th: Spiced Latte Reads
Monday, October 13th: BookNAround
Tuesday, October 14th: Bibliosue
Friday, October 17th: 5 Minutes For Books
Monday, October 20th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Tuesday, October 21st:  A Bookish Way of Life
Wednesday, October 22nd: Vox Libris
Thursday, October 23rd: The Scarlet letter
Friday, October 24th: Giraffe Days
Monday October 27th: Read. Write. Repeat.
Tuesday, October 28th: Lavish Bookshelf
Wednesday, October 29th: nightlyreading
Thursday, October 30th: Always With a Book
Friday, October 31st: Alison’s Book Marks
Monday, November 3rd: Drey’s Library
Tuesday, November 4th: …the bookworm…
Wednesday, November 5th: More Than Just Magic
Thursday, November 6th: Walking With Nora
Friday, November 7th: Bookshelf Fantasies
Monday, November 10th: Booksie’s Blog
Tuesday, November 11th: BoundbyWords
Wednesday, November 12th: Literary Lindsey
Thursday, November 13th: Books and Bindings
Friday, November 14th: Every Free Chance Book Reviews
Monday, November 17th: Doing Dewey
Tuesday, November 18th: Bibliotica
Wednesday, November 19th: Books in the Burbs
Thursday, November 20th: The Book Binder’s Daughter
Friday, November 21st: Book Loving Hippo
Monday, November 24th: I’d Rather Be At The Beach
Tuesday, November 25th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Wednesday, November 26th: missris
TBD: Reading in Black & White

Title: Us
Author: David Nicholls
Publisher: Harper Collins
Date: 2014
Genre: Fiction

392 pages.
Where I got it: From the publisher and TLC Book Tours

18 October 2014

READATHON! Master Post

Well, it is here.  Today is Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon, and I woke up in Hour #3.

1)Where are you reading from today?

Prescott, Arizona

2)Three random facts about me…

My favorite food is macaroni and cheese.
I'm an only child.
My favorite children's book  is Where the Wild Things Are.

3)How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?

4)Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?

I'd like to read for at least four hours, and fulfill my cheerleading duties.

5)If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, any advice for people doing this for the first time?

Have fun!


I finally finished a book!!!!  Woohoo! I'm not doing much blogging though, so follow my #readathon updates on Twitter!


30 September 2014

TLC Book Tour: Caitlin Moran, How to Build a Girl

Click on the image to by the book through my Powell's partner account.

I am currently writing a book, in the endless, empty hours of the day. It's about a very fat girl who rides a dragon around the world and through time, doing good deeds. The first chapter is about her going back to 1939 and making Hitler see the error of his ways, via a very impassioned speech and cry. There's also a huge bit about the Black Death, which I prevent by introducing stringent quarantine conditions on merchant ships sailing into major British ports. I'm very into the idea of sorting things out through superior paperwork. This is my favorite transformatory power.
Reading Caitlin Moran is like meeting a soulmate.  Although I didn't grow up poor in Wolverhampton -- like the main character of How to Build a Girl,  Johanna Morrigan -- I was always the chubby kid with the big dreams of becoming a writer.  In fact, sometimes, I think that if I could go back and do my teenage years again, I would become a music journalist, which is just what Johanna wants to be.  The difference is that Johanna finds her passion for writing about music when she decides that she needs to save her family from abject poverty after accidentally revealing to her elderly neighbor that her alcoholic, failed-musician father is receiving disability benefits.  In her imagination, she has ruined her family, and so she must fix it by building a life for herself that is bigger than the one she is living. 

I've read Moran's collection of essays, Moranthology, so I know that she is a great music journalist.  Her writing there, just as in this book, is lively and quirky.  She has a fantastic, conversational voice, although it is definitely raw (just in case that isn't your thing).  Quite a few times while reading the book, my husband had to ask what I was snickering about.  I highly recommend her writing to all once-lonely teenage girls, Anglophiles, and music journalists at heart.

For other reviews, follow the link for TLC BOOK TOURS!!!

Title: How to Build a Girl
Author: Caitlin Moran
Publisher: Harper Collins
Date: 2014
Genre: Fiction

316 pages.
Where I got it: From the publisher and TLC Book Tours

18 September 2014

TLC Book Tour: Justin Taylor, Flings

Click on the image to buy the book from my Powell's
Justin Taylor's Flings is a collection of short stories about relationships of all sorts: friendships, marriages, relationships with oneself, and, of course, flings.  The format of each story is similar, each feels like a small slice of life, and they are all told in the same casual tone, as if the author is a friend with whom the reader is chatting over coffee.  The beginning of each story sounds like any recounting of an event that you would hear from a friend- first this happened, then that, oh, and then that happened.  Then, as the reader nears the end of the story, the storyteller runs out of breath, and moves towards a moment of stillness.  These are quiet stories; there are no twists at the end.  Just people. living lives, and have moments, both big and small.

I haven't read a collection like this in a while, and I liked hearing the stories of these character's lives.  They felt real to me on the page, like people who I have met and known.  They were funny and sad.  They were like life.

For other reviews, please see the TLC BOOK TOURS page. 

Title: Flings
Author: Justin Taylor
Publisher: Harper Collins
Date: 2014
Genre: Short Stories

219 pages.
Where I got it: From the publisher and TLC Book Tours

10 September 2014

TLC Book Tour: Early Decision by Lacy Crawford

Welcome to the TLC Book Tour stop for Early Decision by Lacy Crawford!

Click on the image to purchase the book from my Powell's partner account
Early Decision tells the story of an independent college counselor, Anne, as she advises her group of students through the most difficult time of year for college admissions, and also the most difficult period of her life so far.  Not only does she have to help her wealthy students and their entitled parents navigate the obstacle course of college application season, she also has to deal with her flaky actor boyfriend, her dissatisfied parents, and her own decisions about her future.  Anne's students are vibrant characters: Sadie, the daughter of a guru and a high-powered lawyer, Hunter, the good-natured, but mediocre-student suburban son, and William, the son of a staunch conservative set on preventing him from living his dream of studying theater at Vassar. 

There was a lot about Anne that I could relate to, since I also work with students learning to express themselves in writing.  I found Crawford's portrayal of the world of academia to be incredibly bleak in places, but the heart of the book is really in the obvious care that Anne (and I assume, by proxy, Crawford) has for young people.  And young people, no matter their background, who are just learning to find their voice and their place in the world, are an exciting bunch.  I felt, as a reader of this book, invested in the future of each of the characters.  I was exhausted and angered by the way the adults in these young people's lives, including Anne's, try to control their paths and live their lives for them.  Reading the interview at the end of the book with the author, I realized just how sharp and articulate Lacy Crawford is, and how insightful she is about the often difficult world of college admissions.  Although I wasn't sure about the book at the beginning, thinking it may be overly sensationalist and unconscious of the privilege inherent in the world it presents, by the end I was won over and ripping through the final pages.  This a fun read, but one with both head and heart.

Title:Early Decision
Author: Lacy Crawford
Publisher: William Morrow
Date: 2013
Genre:General Fiction

294 pages.
Where I got it: From the publisher and TLC Book Tours

08 September 2014

August in Review

Oh, August!  What a sad reading month you were!

*These images link to my Powell's partner account.  Click them to purchase books and support this blog.
See, I only read/listened to two books this month. There were a lot of other stops and starts, but these are the only two I came through on.

1. Laline Paull, The Bees: This was a "buzzy" book (ha, see what I did there?), which I kept reading about around the interwebs.  I got it from the library and gobbled it up.  It has a lesser- Handmaid's Tale vibe, but with bees.  It was a great late summer read, but wasn't memorable.  When I was getting ready to write this post, I couldn't remember what the one book that I read this month even was.  Take it to the beach, but don't expect it to come with you into back home.

 2014/ Ecco/ 352 pages/ Public Library

2. Jesse Bering, Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us (audiobook): This is exactly the kind of audiobook I love to listen to: full of fun factoids with a sense of humor and some decent socio/psychological investigation.  Bering investigates societal attitudes to a variety of so-called sexual perversions and their historical contexts.  This is a great listen for fans of Mary Roach.

2013/ Macmillan Audio/ 6 hours 56 minutes/ Audible

So, that's it for this month.  Here's to a better September.

05 August 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: YA/Middle Grade Recommendations

The topic this week for Top Ten Tuesday is Top Ten Books you would recommend to readers who haven't tried __________.  I chose YA/Middle Grade (I don't read enough of either one individually to make the whole list), not because I am an expert, but because I am a novice.  And, if you are also a novice, you might  like these books as well.  And if you are a YA aficionado and would like to make some more recommendations for me in the comments, I can't wait to read them!

10. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins *:  My YA gateway drug.  I mean, I'm pretty sure that everyone has read it, but maybe not?
9. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys:  This is not to be confused with 50 Shades of Grey... a Lithuanian teenager is sent with her family to Siberian work campus during WWII.
8. When You Reach Me by Rebeccca Stead:  Lovely middle grade about time travel and other awesomeness.
7. Girl Goddess #9  by Francesca Lia Block:  I actually can't vouch at all for how this holds up, but I can tell you that when I was an actual teenager, I had a big, fat girl crush on FLB.

6. Butter by Erin Jade Lange: A unique bullying story.  Well-written and unexpected.
5.  Ask the Passengers by A.S. King:  A novel about sexuality that doesn't resort to stereotypes.  A.S. King is a little bit magical.
4. Eleanor and Park  by Rainbow Rowell:  RR rocks.  I have a big, fat girl crush on her now.

3. Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol: Because there are great YA graphic novels, too.
2. Wonder  by R. J. Palacio:  I'm happy that people are writing books like this, and even happier that people are reading them.
1. Will Grayson Will Graysoby John Green and David Levithan:  This is the ultimate YA book for me.  I really love it.  The characters' quirky personalities continue to stick with me.  It rocks.

Writing this list put me in the mood to read some YA or middle grade.  What should I pick up next?

*The links are to my reviews when available.
** The images in this post link to my Powell's partner account.  Click on them to purchase the books and support my blog. 

03 August 2014

July in Review

 *The images in this post link to my Powell's Partner account. If you purchase books through these links, I receive a small percentage of the proceeds to help support my reading habit.

I read/listened to four books this month.  One, This is the Water, I reviewed in a separate post, so check it out here

1. Saga: Volume One by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples: This is a compilation of the first five issues of Saga, a comic about a couple from two different factions in an interplanetary war, who have a child, and must run to keep their family intact.  It is told from the future point of view of their daughter as they travel across planets and meet many different types of creatures, friends and foes.  I don't usually get into fantasy, but something about the grittiness and humor of this comic really appealed to me.  I buzzed right through the first volume, and was definitely disappointed to find that my library didn't have volume two.  I guess I'll have to buy it.

2012/ Image Comics/160 pages/Public Library

2. The Fever by Megan Abbott: I started this one on my phone as a galley, and it expired before I finished.  So, since it is a mystery, and I was about 40 pages from the end, I had to go to my local book store and read the end.  I mean, I couldn't wait to get it from the library.  And that is a testament to the story, since I really didn't know - at least not 100% - what was going to happen.  The book is based on a true story of a group of high school girls who broke out in a bout of hysterical illness, and the parents who attributed the illness to all sorts of environmental factors (dirty water, vaccines- the usual suspects). The girls in this book are a group of friends, one of whom is the narrator of the story, and the other two who are the first to break out in some sort of illness that causes a series of frightening seizures and tics, and which soon spreads across the female population at the school.  However, unlike the real story on which the incident is based, at least one of these girls' sickness is caused by something outside her own mind.  Abbott is a master of writing about the dark side of teenage girls in a way that feels genuine and not based on stereotype (well, not entirely).  I always enjoy her style of noir.

2014/Little, Brown/ 320 pages/ eGalley via the publisher and NetGalley

3. Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris (audiobook):  This is the audiobook that I listened to while watering our huge yard each day before the start of the monsoon rains.  This is a task that I hate, so I was happy to have David Sedaris' familiar voice there to make me laugh.  I don't even like to read Sedaris books, because they are so much better read by the author on audio.  If you haven't tried many audiobooks, this would be a great place to start.  I love the essays in the collection about travel and family, and I don't so much love the fictional pieces at the end.  Sedaris is really at his best when he writes from experience.  I can't wait for the next collection.

2013/Hachette Audio/ 6 hours 25 minutes/ Audible subscription

So, that's it for me.  What books kept you company through the hot summer days?

29 July 2014

TLC Book Tour: Yannick Murphy, This is the Water

Click on the image to purchase the book from my Powell's partner account
This is the book.  This is the book that you will read about swim moms, and small towns, and secrets.  This is the book with the mystery killer.  This killer will kill one of the girls on the swim team.  You will wonder through the book who is next.  This isn't the only mystery in the book.  This isn't the only mystery, because there are relationships in this book.  These relationships are complicated and sometimes scandalous, and these relationships will keep you turning the pages.

This is the style of the book.  This is an approximation of the style of the book in this review. *  At first, this style may drive you crazy.  This style may drive you crazy especially if you are an English teacher who is, perhaps unfairly, predisposed to dislike "you" and sentences that begin with "this is."  You may think that you don't like the book, because this style is driving you crazy.  But then, this style just might begin to grow on you.  And you might realize, this style is propulsive, and it is clever.  This style is clever because it mimics the strokes of a swimmer, and it works because it keeps pace perfectly.  This is a book whose story doesn't work without the style.

In the end, this is a book worth reading.  This is a book unlike other books.  This is the end of the review.  This is a TLC Book Tour, and this is a link to see other reviews.

Title:This is the Water
Author: Yannick Murphy
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Date: 2014
 Genre:Literary Mystery/Fiction

380 pages.
Where I got it: From the publisher and TLC Book Tours

*I say this humbly.  The style of the book is much more effective and sophisticated than the style of this review. 

06 July 2014

June in Review

 * The images above link to my Powell's partner account.  Purchase books here to support my blog.

I read/listened to three books in June.  Here are my thoughts:

1.  MFA Vs. NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction edited by Chad Harbach: I have been toying with the idea of getting an MFA for years.  I have an MA in Literature, and once upon a time had planned on a PhD, but then found full time employment, which is awesome, so now continuing my education is something that is still on the table but without a direct path.  I've also always wanted to be a writer.  Back to the book....I really enjoyed it.  Chad Harbach, editor of n + 1 magazine, has collected essay by young writers and critics discussing the (invented) dichotomy for writers of pursuing an MFA vs. moving to NY to work on their art.  There is a section on the MFA and another on NYC, but also one on teaching and some more theoretical viewpoints on the topic.  I really enjoyed the breadth of the essays, but my favorites were the more personal, and I especially enjoyed Alexander Chee's essay in the MFA section and Emily Gould's in the NYC section.  I think that I will soon be picking up their books, so this collection served as a good introduction to some new writers as well as a primer on America's writing culture.

2014/ n+1/Faber and Faber/ 308 pages/ Bought

2. Jennifer, Gwenyth and Me: The Pursuit of Happiness, One Celebrity at a Time by Rachel Bertsche: After reading Bertshe's first book (MWF Seeking BFF), I felt like I had found a kindred writer-spirit.  Reading this book made me feel the same way.  Rachel's first book was about the difficulty of making new friends, in a new place, in your late 20s, as a married person.  When I read it, I was recently married, living in a new place, having difficulty making friends.  This book is ostensibly about the writer trying to feel better in her skin (and her marriage, and her home) by trying to emulate the best parts of various celebrity lives.  However, it is also about her journey starting her family, a journey with many bumps.  Reading Bertsche feels like hanging out with a smart, down-to-earth friend who knows exactly what I am going through.  So, whatever she writes next, I will be reading.

2014/ Ballantine Books/ 258/ eGalley from the publisher and Edelweiss

3. Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss (audiobook):  I don't have a ton to say about this.  I prefer another food writer named Michael (Pollan).  There was a lot of food history in this book, which might really appeal to some readers, just not this one.  I enjoyed the beginning chapter in each section which discussed the appeal of salt, sugar and fat to the human palate.  Those chapters had more of a Mary Roach vibe.  But then, Moss discusses the detailed history of how three major food giants precipitated our addictions to salt, sugar and fat, which are interesting stories, but were rendered in just a little too much detail. I also have done a bit of reading in this area, so I wasn't surprised by the manipulative tactics of the food industry in pursuit of a bigger paycheck.  One fact that did stand out was that very few of the CEOs or COOs from these companies ate the food that they produced, and they weren't afraid to admit it.  Pick this up if you are new to the genre of food expose. 

2013/ Random House Audio/ 14 hours and 34 minutes/ Audible Subscription

I also read the May 2014 issue of Poetry magazine this month.  I really enjoyed the work of Jessica Greenbaum and Bob Hicok, among others.

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