Saturday, October 22, 2016

it's Readathon Time!!

End of Event Survey

  1. Which hour was most daunting for you? I think I did ok this time around. I tried not to stress about missing some time during the day when my kids needed me, and I went to sleep around hour 18 (1 a.m. here) because I needed to get two kids and myself off to church in the morning. 
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? Comics are always a great choice. I read Fables this year and I've previously read Seconds, Saga, and some of Lucy Knisley's comic memoirs. 
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next season? Nope! Thanks for all of your hard work, ladies! 
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? Everything seemed to work well this time around (and really, every time). 
  5. How many books did you read? I finished two during readathon and a third  on Sunday afternoon.
  6. What were the names of the books you read? Public Library and Other Stories; Fables volume 1, and Let's Pretend This Never Happened
  7. Which book did you enjoy most? Let's Pretend This Never Happened 
  8. Which did you enjoy least? Public Library and Other Stories 
  9. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? It would take a lot to keep me from readathon! I will definitely be reading and I'm always happy to help out too!

Half-way Point!
Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now? Let's Pretend This Never Happened and Fables, volume 1
2. How many books have you read so far? One: Public Library and Other Stories
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? I'm excited to see what Fables is all about!
4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? I have two kids, so there was a fair amount of playing Clue and changing diapers. There may also be the allure of a week of television to catch up on...                                                                                                        5
. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? I haven't found a book I adore yet. I hope to find one before the night is over!

I know I'm late friends, but I have a really great excuse! This morning, my family and I disembarked from our cruise ship after a one week cruise to a private island in the Bahamas and Disney World. So we got everyone home, unpacked a few things, fed some kids, and now I am ready to read!

Opening Meme:
1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? I just arrived back in rainy New Jersey this morning. 
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? Um, I didn't really make a stack this year. I was sort of waiting to see which books would be unfinished from our trip. I do have Fables, volume 1 from the library and I may swing back to the library and pick up Parnassus on Wheels. 
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? You know when you get home from a trip and there is no food in your house? Yup. Probably takeout tonight. 
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! I am a a book-loving lady approaching the big 3-0. I have one husband, two kids, and no pets. If I'm not reading, you can probably find me editing, playing the piano, singing show tunes, or baking something delicious. 
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? This readathon is much more seat-of-my-pants than I usually do, but I'm excited for it anyway! 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Review: Vinegar Girl

Kate Battista certainly didn't expect to end up here. She spends her days as an assistant at a preschool and then comes home to care for her eccentric scientist father, younger sister Bunny, and her garden when she finds a spare moment. Dr. Battista has one more favor to ask his daughter in addition to her cooking dinner and doing the household taxes: he wants her to marry his brilliant lab assistant so he won't be deported. Kate is furious with this proposition, but she soon finds herself seeing the possibility for both a relationship and a different kind of future in the joyful and charming Pyotr.

Vinegar Girl is the third book in the Hogarth Shakespeare series and a new imagining of the play The Taming of the Shrew. I read the play before jumping into the novel and found it to be near the bottom of my preferred Shakespeare plays. The characters seem very much like archetypes, as we never really get insight into who they are or why they do what they do. According to Shakespeare, a woman can be shrewish for no specific reason and a man will embark on a crazy scheme to marry a woman he has seen once. In Tyler's hands, our characters get a bit more depth. Kate is a woman who has trouble staying quiet, which we know is dangerous for females. When she calls out a college professor, she finds herself out of her botany program and caring for her family instead. Kate is not shrewish just for the sake of it; she is angry about things and trying to figure out how to express that. Her potential husband Pyotr, on the other hand, seems to never get angry. Instead, he is eager and hopeful, even when Kate continually brushes him off.

While Tyler's novel is a short one, she is able to focus on a smaller number of characters than Shakespeare wrote into his play. The reader no longer has to remember who is disguised as whom or which sister this particular suitor is after. Tyler has publicly stated that she is not a big fan of Shakespeare, and she finds Taming of the Shrew particularly painful. Her novel never captures the great wit or sweeping language of Shakespeare, but it does give us a charming romantic comedy  with a happier ending as we see two people bend because they love themselves and another, as opposed to a man shaming and conquering a woman through marriage.

Vinegar Girl
By Anne Tyler
Hogarth June 2016
224 pages
Read via Netgalley

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

RIP Mini-reviews: Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd and The Fireman

In this eighth Flavia de Luce mystery, our heroine is growing up and learning some tough truths. She expects her return from school to be greeted with celebration from her family. Instead, her father is in the hospital, her sisters are preoccupied with their own problems, and even the family's beloved Dogger is hard to find. But some things never change in Bishop's Lacy, and it's not long before Flavia discovers a dead body and decides to take on the case.

This wasn't my favorite Flavia mystery so far - I had expected bigger things to happen as a result of the events in previous books. But I do adore the way Bradley uses his stories to tell readers about the details of life in 1950s era England. In this particular one, readers get some insight into publishing and medicine during this period. And of course, Flavia herself is a joy to accompany, especially now as she is grappling with some more adult responsibilities with her trademark spunk. Reading a Flavia de Luce mystery always feels like coming home to your slightly batty, but very beloved family. There just happens to be the small issue of a homicide to solve before the last page.

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd
By Alan Bradley
Delacorte Press September 2016
331 pages
Read via Netgalley

Harper Greyson is a nurse determined to help her patients, first at the elementary school where she works and then at the local hospital. But her skills and compassion are not enough to save all of her patients as a strange pandemic called Dragonscale strikes the world. This disease causes its victims to break out in shiny scales before they spontaneously combust. Harper soon discovers she is pregnant and she will do absolutely anything to save her child. When a mysterious man known only as The Fireman appears and offers to bring her to safety, she takes him up on it. But safety may be only a memory as Harper and The Fireman discover what people are capable of during their darkest moments.

The Fireman is a long book, but it's one that moves quickly. Harper starts out as a somewhat naive character, happy to let her husband take care of most things as she placates the students at her school with candy and tunes from Mary Poppins. The dragonscale and the panic that follows forces her to grow quickly without room for error. While dragonscale itself is presented as the horror here, the characters and readers quickly discover that the real terror is what frightened people will do. People with the disease are scorned if not killed and survivors become desperate as resources dwindle and infrastructure falls apart. Joe Hill gives readers a sprawling story, a big bunch of well-developed characters, and some serious questions about what it means to retain our humanity.

The Fireman
By Joe Hill
William Morrow May 2016
747 pages
From the library

I read both of these books as a part of Readers Imbibing Peril, an event for reading mystery, horror, suspense, and thrillers.


Monday, October 10, 2016

It's Monday and we went to the book sale!

Hi friends! What's happening in your corner of the world?

This was a sort of recovery week for us after a crazy fun weekend of flying cross-country and back in 4 days. Our house seems to be very grumpy we left it and is responding with fun things like electrical problems and a busted dishwasher. Sigh.

On the positive side, we did visit our town Harvest Fair this weekend and came home with some delicious bbq, a giant bag of fresh popped popcorn, and books from our local library book sale (of course).

This week, I read the really fascinating Patient H.M. Then I paired Anne Tyler's Vinegar Girl with The Taming of the Shrew, the Shakespeare play that the novel is based on.

                Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets    Vinegar Girl

Now I'm reading Commonwealth, which I picked up in an airport book store last weekend. Next up is Sing For Your Life.

                Commonwealth    Sing for Your Life: A Story of Race, Music, and Family

What are you reading this week?


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

September Wrap-Up and What I'm Into

September is done? Are you sure? Well, all right then. Fall is decidedly in the air. I am happy with my warm blankets, pumpkin coffee, and plans to use our backyard fire pit. We will, however, escape the cool temperatures for a few days with a cruise later this month. I think by that point we will be ready to break our bathing suits out again and spend some time on the beach!

But this month was certainly not boring. We had two weddings, traveled cross country and back within four days, and our son started third grade. I know, I now have a pretty big kid. I don't want to talk about it.

What? Is there a different way to wait for the bus? 

What I Read/Reviewed:
I reviewed nine books this month. Five were for review and four were from the library. I finally wrote about a nonfiction book in the midst of all my novels. I feel like I am not reading much nonfiction lately. However, the truth is just that it took me two months to wade through my Jonathan Edwards biography, which really checked off my nonfiction box for a while. My favorites this month were Marrow Island and Homegoing, with an honorable mention to Underground Airlines.

           Jane Steele    MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search For A New Best Friend     Underground Airlines

                                    The Dollhouse        Homegoing       Amy Snow
                             Smoke       MWF Seeking BFF              The Book of Esther
                               Jane Steele      Marrow Island       Underground Airlines 

Favorite posts:
It was fun combining a book review and writing about my own life experiences when I discussed MWF Seeking BFF. This month also featured the second edition of Readalongs, where I pick a children's book to accompany the novel you are currently reading.

What I've Been Watching:
Oh hello there, fall tv. We have eagerly been awaiting your return. In our house, we are remaining loyal to Once Upon A Time, Grey's Anatomy, and I am very impatient for Jane the Virgin to be on my tv again. New shows in our lineup are The Happy Place, Designated Survivor, and This Is Us. 

What I've Been Listening To: Podcasts, podcasts, podcasts. Overdue, What Should I Read Next, The Book Riot Podcast, Get Booked, The Liturgists, and The Mom Life Crisis Podcast are currently in rotation. I'm also trying out my first audiobook in a long time - Without You: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and the Musical Rent. There is still some music around the house, but it tends to be classical in the early morning to gently start our day or music for the kids in the car.

What were you into during September?

Grab button for What I'm Into

Monday, October 3, 2016

It's Monday and we are back from California!

Hey friends! After a few days in sunny California, I'm back in New Jersey and ready to do some blogging.

A friend of my sister's got married this weekend and asked my husband to officiate the wedding. We hopped on a plane very early Thursday morning. Friday was the rehearsal, Saturday was the wedding, and then we headed back home on Sunday evening. In between, we got to spend lots of time with my sister and her husband and explore some beautiful towns in California!

The good thing about traveling is that long plane rides are perfect for reading. I finished The Fireman before we left, but read Wearing God and The Girl With All the Gifts mostly on my flights or waiting in the airport. I also read most of Patient H.M. and started The Taming of the Shrew in preparation for reading Vinegar Girl

             The Fireman  Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God  The Girl with All the Gifts

           Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets   The Taming of the Shrew

Now it's time to do some laundry, snuggle up with my kids, and try to get used to East Coast time again. What are you reading this week?


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Review: The Dollhouse

In 1952, the Barbizon Hotel was home to the most beautiful and talented models, secretaries, and editors. Darby McLaughlin is determined to find her place in New York City, but she is mocked by the models and finds secretarial school boring. Instead of practicing typing, she finds herself spending evenings with a Barbizon maid and aspiring singer named Esme. Her new friend helps her find her voice as a singer and introduces her to a handsome young chef, but the jazz clubs of New York City have a darker side that threatens to ruin everything for Darby and Esme. Decades later, journalist Rose Lewin lives above Darby and other elderly women at the Barbizon. When she discovers that Darby was involved in a skirmish that left a young woman dead, she is determined to find out what really happened to Darby, Esme, and the women of the Barbizon.

It's impossible to read a story like this one set in the past and the present without thinking about how much has changed for women and how much has stayed the same. In the 1950s, propriety reigned and the women of the Barbizon lived under the rule of a housemother who ensured that they were properly dressed, properly employed, and interacted properly with the opposite sex. Rose's storyline is set in 2016 and she still deals with being seen as a pretty face instead of a serious journalist and her life being ordained by her boyfriend and her male boss.

The Dollhouse is one of those books you speed through, eager to discover the secrets that have been hidden for sixty years. Fiona Davis wonderfully captures the 1950s and the hope of young women eager to strike out on new paths and their heartbreak when doors are closed to them. While the characters never seem quite developed enough, this is a fun mystery to breeze through in a weekend.

The Dollhouse
By Fiona Davis
Dutton August 2016
304 pages
From the library