Thursday, May 29, 2014

Armchair BEA - Beyond the Borders

Armchair BEA Headquarters
I am participating in Armchair BEA this year. Armchair BEA is a chance for book lovers' who cannot attend BookExpo America (BEA) to join in the fun from the comfort of their own homes.

Beyond the Borders 

From the Armchair BEA website: It’s time to step outside your comfort zone, outside your borders, or outside of your own country or culture. Tell us about the books that transported you to a different world, taught you about a different culture, and/or helped you step into the shoes of someone different from you. What impacted you the most about this book? What books would you recommend to others who are ready or not ready to step over the line? In essence, let’s start the conversation about diversity and keep it going!  

I thought this would be an easy post. After all, I love the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. I love books that are set in other cultures than my own. I read to expand my world. But...there are so many great books out there that can take you to another time or place. Every book will take you into someone else's life, and, even if that life mirrors your own, it will still be a different life. But that's not what #WeNeedDiverseBooks is about. So here is a sampling of some of the great books that I have read this year that I feel represent in some way the campaign for more diversity in books. Some of these books might not be obvious, so if you are curious why I included a book, please ask me, and I would be happy to discuss my choices. My favorites have asterisks after them.

The Round House by Louise Erdrich 
Hidden by Helen Frost 
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion 
Orange Is the New Black by Piper Kerman 
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie**
How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid
Legend & Prodigy by Marie Lu
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki**
The Good Lord Bird by James McBride
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
Radiance of Tomorrow by Ishmael Beah
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby**
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz**
Difficult Daughters by Manju Kapur

What are your favorites?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Armchair BEA - Short Stories/Novellas

Armchair BEA Headquarters
I am participating in Armchair BEA this year. Armchair BEA is a chance for book lovers' who cannot attend BookExpo America (BEA) to join in the fun from the comfort of their own homes.

Expanding Blogging Horizons

As a new blogger, I don't feel like I have a lot to contribute to this topic, but I have enjoyed looking at other people's responses and I like looking at other people's blogs to see what they are doing. Some people vlog or do BookTube, other people incorporate GIF, and I think both are fun. 

I have a couple things that I like to do that I think make my blog a little different. I try to recommend a readalike after every review. When people ask me for book recommendations, I always ask what books they like because there just aren't that many books out there that will appeal to everyone. The last book that I read that I think almost anyone could appreciate was The Book Thief. But books like The Fault in Our Stars or Gone Girl are just not going to appeal to everyone.

The other thing is my pet project: The First 50 Pages, where I try to read at least the first 50 pages of every book that I own. It's my own solution to buyers' guilt. 

Short Stories/Novellas

As an English major, I have read quite a few short stories, but for the most part they are not something I seek out. Here are a few of my favorites from school:
  • The Awakening by Kate Chopin 
  • The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  • Rape Fantasies by Margaret Atwood
  • Raymond Carver
  • A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Signs & Symbols by Vladimir Nabokov
  • The Pedestrian by Ray Bradbury
And of course
  • Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville

And more recently, I strongly recommend Jhumpa Lahiri's collection, The Interpreter of Maladies, George Saunders's collection, Tenth of December, and Tim O'Brien's, The Things They Carried.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Armchair BEA - Author Interaction/More Than Words

Armchair BEA Headquarters
I am participating in Armchair BEA this year. Armchair BEA is a chance for book lovers' who cannot attend BookExpo America (BEA) to join in the fun from the comfort of their own homes.

Author Interaction

I have limited experience with author interaction, although I did get a thrill from having Doug Dorst, the author of S., retweet my #ReadHachette tweet this weekend. (Although I haven't read it yet, I think S. is probably a great example for today's other discussion topic!)

I went to two readings last year: one by Jenny Lawson aka The Bloggess and one by M. L. Stedman who wrote The Light Between Oceans, and they were both fun. I think if I had a book signing buddy, I would be a more regular attendee. Both readings were sponsored by Rainy Day Books, a local independent bookseller. They are great people. 

I also had the opportunity to go to Teen Day at the RT Convention when it was held here in Kansas City last year, and that was a lot of fun. I went with my YA-obsessed friend. We went to a couple panels and bought books. There were quite a few authors there, and we talked to many of them, and we got free books! I strongly recommend attending a convention if you have an opportunity to do so. In fact the RT convention experience is what led to me to decide to go back to school to be a librarian. There were special panels just for librarians and booksellers.

I wish I had some great tips, but I am a novice as far as author interaction goes. I am also not the most personable person, so I guess if I had any advice, it would be to take an outgoing person with you. My friend is great at talking to people she doesn't know and asking good questions.

More Than Just Words

This year I have just started getting into audiobooks. I wish I had gotten started sooner because I have discovered that they are great way to make housework go faster! And errands. I love to put my headphones in while at the grocery store. My favorite audiobook so far has been Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver, narrated by the author herself. You can check out my review here if you are so inclined. 

Some other books that I have enjoyed that include more than just words are The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie and Night Film by Marisha Pessl. It seems like books that incorporate other materials are becoming more common. I remember years ago when I read Carol Shields's wonderful novel, The Stone Diaries, and reached the pictures. It was exhilarating. Another outstanding book that incorporated other materials is Ami McKay's The Birth House. I have a great appreciation for the playfulness that this represents on the part of the author and the way it challenges and enhances our definition of the novel.

I look forward to reading everyone else's thoughts on today's topics and welcome suggestions for my first foray into graphic fiction (or nonfiction) later this year.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Armchair BEA Introduction

I am participating in Armchair BEA this year. Armchair BEA is a chance for book lovers' who cannot attend BookExpo America to participate to participate in the fun from the comfort of their own homes. 


Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging? Where in the world are you blogging from? 

My name is Rachel, and I live in Kansas City, Missouri. I have been blogging since April of this year. Previously I blogged about books off and on at When I decided to try blogging again, I started a new blog instead of picking up the old one because I wanted a fresh start and I wanted the blog's name to reflect its purpose. I blog because I like talking about books and wanted to connect with other readers.

Describe your blog in just one sentence. Then, list your social details -- Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. -- so we can connect more online. 
My blog is a place for me to share my thoughts about the books I have read. I am on Twitter and Instagram as @R2RachelReads.

What genre do you read the most? I love to read because ___________________ . 
I primarily read literary fiction, although I hate that name! I also read YA, YF, and more. I love to read because I like experiencing other lives and places.

What was your favorite book read last year? What’s your favorite book so far this year? 
My favorite book from last year was either The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien or The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. My favorite book so far this year is The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. 

What is your favorite blogging resource?

My favorite blogging resource are other bloggers, of course! I looked at how other people did things and went from there. I am just getting started with using Twitter to connect with other bloggers and people from the book industry, and I use Goodreads to keep track of what I have read.

Share your favorite book or reading related quote. 

There are so many great quotes out there, but I will pick as my favorite a quote from Erasmus that I used on some homemade bookmarks once: "When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.” 


I will try to come back later and blog about literature, but my son has soccer practice this morning, we are going to 2 barbecues, and I am an Armchair BEA cheerleader, and I need to attend to my cheerleading duties! Looking forward to a great week! ~ Rachel

Friday, May 23, 2014

First 50 Friday - Netherland by Joseph O'Neill

The First 50 Project is something that I made for myself to help me get through my backlog of books. I own over 200 books that I have not read, not including ebooks, but my first love is new books. In order to help reconcile my warring book lust and guilt, I came up with the First 50 Project. My goal is to read at least the first 50 pages of all 200+ books. Here is my latest First 50 Book:


4. Netherland by Joseph O'Neill
256 pp.

First line: The afternoon before I left London for New York--Rachel had flown out six weeks previously--I was in my cubicle at work, boxing up my possessions, when a senior vice-president at the bank, an Englishman in his fifties, came to wish me well.

Summary of what I read:
Netherland is a post-9/11 novel. In it, Hans's wife and son have decamped for London following the 9/11 tragedy. A native Englishwoman, she tells Hans that she no longer feels safe in New York. Hans is left behind. In the absence of his family, he turns to his childhood sport of cricket to help fill his time. A friend named Chuck Ramkissoon is mentioned, but we do not meet him in the first 50 pages. Years later, Chuck has been found murdered and Hans is contacted by a reporter seeking information.

My thoughts:
In the first 50 pages, there is what feels like a lot about cricket and a little about Hans and his family. For most of it I was bored and not sure I could make it through even 50 pages, but I'm glad I persevered. Somewhere after page 24 it picked up for me. I'm still not sure if I will go back to it, but I'm glad I gave it a better chance than I was initially inclined to give.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Review: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Junot Diaz
Riverhead Books
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award

First line:
They say it came from Africa, carried in the screams of the enslaved; that it was the death bane of the Tainos, uttered just as one world perished and another began; that it was a demon drawn into Creation through the nightmare door that was cracked open in the Antilles.

Quick non-spoilery summary:
Oscar de Leon is a nerd, a sweet, overweight Dominican kid who likes sci-fi and fantasy and dreams of becoming the Dominican Tolkien. The book opens with a history of the fuku curse of the Caribbean and Oscar. Oscar, it would seem, was a victim of the fuku. Despite some early success with the ladies around the age of 7, things changed for Oscar, and the little Planet of the Apes lunchbox-toting boy lost his swagger. But Oscar never lost his love for the ladies. In fact his loves are what shape him. But it's not just the story of Oscar. The book also has sections on Lola, his sister, and a very long section on his mother, Belicia, and her life in the DR under Trujillo before she escaped to Nueva York.

My thoughts:
Wow. That was my first reaction when finishing this book. I'm having a hard time pinning my thoughts down, so I'm going to start with the recent controversy. A school district in New Jersey came under fire recently because The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao was included on the syllabus of a tenth grade English class and some people felt it was "pornographic". Clearly, these people have no idea what pornography is. There is some language, and it's about a teenage boy, who thinks and feels in a manner appropriate for a teenage boy (or girl for that matter). In terms of this kind of content it was similar to some YA titles that I have read recently, including the also challenged The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie and Winger by Andrew Smith. Oscar Wao does not describe sex acts. The idea that it is pornographic strikes me as ludicrous.
Anyway, it's great. It's sad;  it's funny. It has this great voice. The writing is vibrant and jumps off the page. The narrator is Lola's ex-boyfriend and Oscar's friend Yunior, and you can hear the text as you read. He sets the scene. You root for Oscar in his quest for love. He is like an epic hero of yore--only instead of dragons, there are dictators and high school and societal norms. Instead of a tall, swaggering hero, there is a fat Dominican boy with a heart and a dream.

Rating: Relish

If you like The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, try The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie or Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I personally look forward to reading Diaz's short story collection, This Is How You Lose Her, which also features Yunior.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Review: Difficult Daughters by Manju Kapur

Difficult Daughters: A Novel

Difficult Daughters
Manju Kapur
ebook edition
Open Road Media

First line: The one thing I had wanted was not to be like my mother.

Quick Non-Spoilery Summary: 
Ida's mother Virmati has just passed away. Though not close in life, Ida returns to the places where her mother lived to learn more about her history. The story is primarily that of Virmati and her childhood and early adulthood. Virmati was the oldest daughter of a well-off merchant family with 11 children, living in Amritsar in the 1930s. Her family were staunch supporters of education for girls, so Virmati was able to obtain a higher level of learning than many women of her time, but was still expected to take care of the household that her mother was unable to do due to her excessive pregnancies. Although her family is progressive in its stance on education, it is very traditional in other ways. The main events of the novel are set between the late 1930s and 1947 when India gained independence from Britain and the Partition occurred. It is set in Amritsar and Lahore, cities in the Punjab, one of which is in present day India and the other is in Pakistan.

My thoughts:
Originally published in 1998, Difficult Daughters was Manju Kapur's first novel, and it reads a bit roughly at times. It is not polished. The transition between points of view are often awkward, and the pacing sometimes seems off. The author also uses a lot of Indian words that can be confusing. 
However, most of that was forgotten as I was pulled into the story, and I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to read it in advance of the e-book's release. I am drawn to fiction set in foreign locales and stories that feature strong female characters and a sense of history in the making. 
I would have liked to see a bit more of the characters' inner lives. Ida in particular seems like a missed opportunity. We see very little of her relationship with her mother. I would have loved to see more of Shakuntala, Virmati's unmarried, educated cousin who was another "difficult daughter".

Rating: Read-

If you like Difficult Daughters, you might also like Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this e-book in exchange for an honest review.

First Chapter, First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

Every Tuesday Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros. Here is my intro for today.

The bridge

Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge. The bridge was being repaired: she went right through the Danger sign. The car fell a hundred feet into the ravine, smashing through the treetops feathery with new leaves, then burst into flames and rolled down into the shallow creek at the bottom. Chunks of the bridge fell on top of it. Nothing much was left of her but charred smithereens.


Tragedy seems to follow Iris Griffin in the opening pages of Atwood's novel. But then there is another story--a novel within the novel, written by Laura and published posthumously, about a man who seems to be wooing a woman in secret with a story. 

I will keep reading. This book is actually part of my First 50 Project to read at least the first 50 pages of every book that I own, but I have a feeling that I will have to finish it. I have enjoyed all of the other Atwood novels that I have read and some of her short stories.

Monday, May 19, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - 5/19/14

Well, it's Monday again. I am short of time this morning, so this will be brief. Last week, I participated in Bout of Books and finished 4 books and 3 reviews! This was huge for me. This week, it is back to hoping for 2 books and 2 reviews.

Here is what I am reading now:

The Dog Stars

I am listening to The Dog Stars, and I am really enjoying it. I hope to finish it this week.

Difficult Daughters: A Novel

On my e-reader, I am reading Difficult Daughters by Manju Kapur. My first e-galley from Net Galley! It is available for Kindle starting tomorrow.

The Blind Assassin

For my First 50 Project, I am reading The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood.

The GoldfinchThe Mark of the DragonflyThings Fall Apart (The African Trilogy, #1)

Just a handful of books that I have in the queue.

What are you reading this week?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Review: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
Gabrielle Zevin
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

First line:
On the ferry from Hyannis to Alice Island, Amelia Loman paints her nails yellow and, while waiting for them to dry, skims her predecessor's notes.

Quick non-spoilery summary:
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is a charming tale of a widowed middle-aged independent bookstore owner, A. J. Fikry, who one day finds something rather unexpected in his bookstore. The book is framed by a short story collection that A. J. is compiling, and each chapter opens with a different short story title and a brief description along with A. J.'s thoughts on the story. Surrounding A. J. are a fun cast of characters including his ex-sister-in-law, Ismay; Ismay's husband, Daniel; the publishing house representative, Amelia Loman; and the police chief, Lambiase.

My thoughts:
This is my first Gabrielle Zevin book. Although she is probably best known for her YA novels, Storied Life is an adult novel. It was an enjoyable read. I particularly liked the characterizations (Lambiase!) and the setting, a small independent bookstore on an island off the coast of Massachusetts that is only accessible by ferry. (I want to go there and sit on the beach and read all the books.)
I also liked the bookishness of it. It is set in a bookstore. The characters read books. There are also a couple writers. There is an author event. There are short stories. It oozes books. But most especially, it captures the way that books can bring people together.
I did have one small problem. I have a few bookish pet peeves, and well, this book contained one of them. And I sighed. And it was okay. But. So there's that. 
All in all a quaint and charming book.

Rating: Read

If you like The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, you might also like The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett or I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith or The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

Some quotes:

People tell boring lies about politics, God, and love. You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question, What is your favorite book? (p.87)

We read to know we're not alone. We read because we are alone. We read and we are not alone. We are not alone.
My life is in these books, he wants to tell her. Read these and know my heart.
We are not quite novels.
The analogy he is looking for is almost there.
We are not quite short stories. ...
In the end, we are collected works. (p.249) 

Sunday Salon - 5/18/14 - One Month Blogiversary!

Guess what? I made my return to book blogging one month ago today! I've tried to stage a comeback before, and it didn't take, but it looks like this time might be the one. I want to thank everyone who has visited. I think it is too early to have a giveaway, but maybe by next month I will have a consistent readership that I can reward with free books!

This week I participated in the Bout of Books readathon.

In conjunction with that I finished a whopping (for me) 4 books and made progress on several others.

MidwinterbloodThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Dept. of SpeculationAll the Truth That's in Me

I also reviewed two books.

The Diving Bell and the ButterflyFlight Behavior

All in all it was a good reading and blogging week for me.

Friday, May 16, 2014

First 50 Friday - Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris

The First 50 Project is something that I made for myself to help me get through my backlog of books. I own over 200 books that I have not read, not including ebooks, but my first love is new books. In order to help reconcile my warring book lust and guilt, I came up with the First 50 Project. My goal is to read at least the first 50 pages of all 200+ books. Here is my latest First 50 Book:

Then We Came to the End

3. Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris
Little, Brown and Company
387 pp.
Winner PEN/Hemingway Award for Best First Novel in 2008

First lines: We were fractious and overpaid. Our mornings lacked promise. At least those of us who smoked had something to look forward to at ten-fifteen. Most of liked most everyone, a few of us hated specific individuals, one or two people loved everyone and everything. Those who loved everyone were unanimously reviled.

Then We Came to the End is set in an advertising agency in Chicago, but it is a satire about the state of the American workplace in general. As the first lines show, it is written in the first person plural. It's hard to summarize because of the interesting viewpoint. 

In the first 50 pages, we are introduced to a few characters: Tom Mota and Chris Yop stand out. We all know the personalities, even if we've never really worked in an office environment. It reminded me a lot of the movie "Office Space" and a little of my current job, although we don't have any personalities quite like the ones depicted in the novel! The book is presented sort of as a string of anecdotes. It makes sense as I am reading it, but it is hard to describe. It has a flow, but it is not always linear, but somehow it works.

Reading the first 50 pages was a lot of fun. If I were a book blurber, I would describe it as a rollicking good ride. I didn't want to stop, and I hope I have time to get back to it soon.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Review: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death
Jean-Dominique Bauby

First line: Through the frayed curtain at my window, a wan glow announces the break of day. My heels hurt, my head weighs a ton, and something like a giant invisible diving bell holds my whole body prisoner. 

Quick summary: 
Jean-Dominique was the editor of French Elle. Then, when he was 43, he had a massive stroke that left him unable to move anything other than a few muscles in his face but with his mind intact, a condition known as Locked In Syndrome. Over the course of several months, by blinking just his left eyelid, he wrote this book. The book offers readers a rare glimpse into a mind that still works in a body that doesn't, a helpless bystander to his medical care, and a man who had lived fully who is now barely living. 

My thoughts:
Wow. This is really a slim volume. It took me a while to read, but I think that's more of a reflection of the fact that it begs not to be rushed. If you rush, you miss it. So much of the book is quiet moments, moments in which his mind takes flight in memory or imagination. 
I think one of the things that impressed me most, other than the sheer tediousness of his mode of communication and that he was able to communicate the book to someone, was how little time he spent dwelling on his condition. It is more lyrical flights of fancy. A painting that transports him to another place. A memory. He did not want to die. He wanted to heal and live.
I can't wait to watch the movie. I'm curious how they did it. 
It's interesting because I don't know that I would have liked Jean-Dominique Bauby had I met him pre-stroke, but I bet he was a great storyteller, the kind of person people gathered around at social gatherings, and he probably knew all the best restaurants and shops.

Rating: Relish

If you like this, you might also like 84, Charring Cross Road by Helene Hanff.

Some quotes: 

"Want to play hangman?" asks Theophile, and I ache to tell him that I have enough on my plate playing quadriplegic. But my communication system disqualifies repartee: the keenest rapier grows dull and falls flat when it takes several minutes to thrust it home. By the time you strike, even you no longer understand what had seemed so witty before you started to dictate it, letter by letter. So the rule is to avoid impulsive sallies. It deprives conversation of its sparkle, all those gems you bat back and forth like a ball--and I count this forced lack of humor one of the great drawbacks of my condition. (p.70-1)

Does the cosmos contain keys for opening my diving bell? A subway line with no terminus? A currency strong enough to buy my freedom back? We must keep looking. (p.131-2)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Review: Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

Flight Behavior

Flight Behavior
Barbara Kingsolver
Read by Barbara Kingsolver

First lines: 
A certain feeling comes from throwing your good life away, and it is one part rapture. Or so it seemed for now, to a woman with flame-colored hair who marched uphill to meet her demise.

Quick non-spoilery summary: 
Dellarobia Turnbow is unhappily married and looking to change her life when she walks up a mountain and finds a sea of moving orange. What is it? She doesn't know because she didn't bring her glasses. It is butterflies, and they are in the wrong place. Instead of overwintering in Mexico, millions of monarch butterflies have alighted on the Turnbow property in the Appalachian mountains. Why there? And will they survive?
Other characters include Dellarobia's husband Cub, her in-laws Hester and Bear Turnbow, her children Preston and Cordelia, and Dr. Ovid Byron, a monarch specialist who sets up camp in the Turnbows' yard.

My thoughts:
Flight Behavior is my third Kingsolver novel and fourth book overall. It is, however, my first time listening to one of her books, and I was thrilled when I discovered that she did the audio herself. She did a wonderful job. I love voice and her accent and the accents of the characters. It was just delightful. I liked the characters; I loved their names; I loved the setting. Really I'm starting to feel like a broken record.
Being a Kingsolver book, Flight Behavior of course deals with some real world issues, global warming and the environment. The scenario in the book is fictional. It hasn't happened, but the issues with which the book wrestles are real. For me, it didn't feel preachy, like Bean Trees did, and I wonder if that's because the narration made me feel like I was listening to a friend, and we are more forgiving of our friends when they become overbearing.
The only part that didn't quite work for me was the end. I think I was just disappointed. It was what had to happen, I guess, but I didn't like it. Kind of like life sometimes. I'd love to hear more about Dellarobia and Cub and Preston and Ovid and even Hester. And I think that's part of the book's success. It leaves you wanting to spend more time with its characters.

Rating: Read+ - The audiobook in particular was wonderful.

If you like Flight Behavior, you might also like other titles by Kingsolver or The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.

Some quotes:

Mistakes wreck your life. But they make what you have. It's kind of all one. You know what Hester told me when we were working the sheep one time? She said it's no good to complain about your flock, because it's the put-together of all your past choices.

“A journalist's job is to collect information," Ovid said to Pete.
"Nope," Pete said. "That's what we do. It's not what they do."
Dellarobia was unready to be pushed out of the conversation just like that. "Then what do you think the news people drive their Jeeps all the way out here for?"
"To shore up the prevailing view of their audience and sponsors."
"Pete takes a dim view of his fellow humans," Ovid said. "He prefers insects."
Dellarobia turned her chair halfway around to face Pete, scraping noisily against the cement floor. "You're saying people only tune in to news they know they're going to agree with?"
"Bingo," said Pete.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

First Chapter, First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

The Dog Stars


I keep the Beast running, I keep the 100 low lead on tap, I foresee attacks. I am young enough, I am old enough. I used to love to fish for trout more than almost anything.

My name is Hig, one name. Big Hig if you need another. 

If I ever woke up crying in the middle of a dream, and I'm not saying I did, it's because the trout are gone every one. Brookies, rainbows, brown, cutthroats, cutbows, every one.

The tiger left, the elephant, the apes, the baboon, the cheetah. The titmouse, the frigate bird, the pelican (gray), the whale (gray), the collared dove. Sad but. Didn't cry until the last trout swam upriver looking for maybe cooler water.


Hig is one of the last people left. There was a flu pandemic, then another illness, and now humanity is down to its last people, mostly not nice ones according to Hig. He lives in a community of two with just his dog and a not very nice man named Bangley. They need each other to survive. Hig flies patrols and goes up to the mountains to get food. Bangley has a small arsenal of military supplies and does the dirty work that Hig would prefer not to do (shooting people who approach). 

I have almost had my fill of post-apocalyptic novels. I have checked this book out from the library 4-5 times at this point and always left it unread, but with Heller's new novel out now I thought it was time to give it a chance.

Bout of Books Update - UPDATED

This post will be where I update my progress throughout the week. Here are my totals so far:

Weekly Totals

Pages Read: 331
E-Galley Progress: 53%
Time Listened: Approx 7 hours
Books Finished: 

  1. Midwinter Blood by Marcus Sedgwick
  2. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  3. Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
  4. All the Truth That's in Me by Julie Berry

I did not read or listen to a book on Sunday at all! Some days are like that. Overall, I am pleased with my progress and happy that I participated.


Pages Read: 274 paper pages, 14% of e-galley
Books Read: All the Truth That's in Me by Julie Berry, Difficult Daughters by Manju Kapur
Time Listened: 0 minutes


I read a whole book today! It was a pretty fast, engaging read, and now I am able to return my friend's book to her.


Pages Read: 153 paper pages, 11% of e-galley
Books Read: Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill, Difficult Daughters by Manju Kapur
Time Listened: 30 minutes
Books Heard: The Dog Stars by Peter Heller


I loved Dept. of Speculation! I am on a roll lately. Up next is a YA book that a friend loaned me: All the Truth That's in Me by Julie Berry. I also need to read a middle reader. I have not read anything that my son has read lately.


Pages Read: 53 paper pages, 12% of e-galley
Books Read: Netherland by Joseph O'Neill, Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill, Difficult Daughters by Manju Kapur
Time Listened: 40 minutes
Books Heard: The Dog Stars by Peter Heller


I made it to page 50 for Netherland, which was my goal, and started a new book yesterday. I am still working on Difficult Daughters and The Dog Stars. I might switch to the print of The Dog Stars soon. It is a good listen, but I tend to forget my audiobooks over the weekend, and I stopped in a terrible place!!


Pages Read: 88 paper pages, 16% of e-galley
Books Read: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, Difficult Daughters by Manju Kapur
Time Listened: 20 minutes 
Books Heard: The Dog Stars by Peter Heller


I didn't have as much reading time yesterday, but I did manage to sneak some reading in at work. I got to a pivotal moment in The Dog Stars and then forgot to go back to it! I finished Oscar Wao last night, and it was wonderful. I will definitely be reading more Junot Diaz.


Pages Read: 44
Books Read: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Time Listened: Approx 2 hours, 20 minutes - I forgot to mark where I started!
Books Heard: The Dog Stars by Peter Heller


I did not get in as much reading today, but it was a good blogging day, so I will take that as a success.


Pages Read: 146
Books Read: Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Hours Listened: 3 hours, 10 minutes
Books Heard: The Dog Stars by Peter Heller


I am very happy with my first day. Since I had already started Midwinterblood, I am not sure if it should count toward my total. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Bout of Books 10.0 Readathon

I have decided to participate in the Bout of Books readathon that is happening this week in the blogosphere and on Twitter. (I can't guarantee Twitter participation, but I will try to check in.)

Since I typically only finish about 2 books each week, my readathon goal is to finish 3 books and to complete two first 50s for my personal project.

To see what I am reading please visit my "It's Monday!" post.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - 5/12/14

Well, it's Monday again. Life has been busy. May is a hectic month as school wraps up. I hope all the mothers out there had a wonderful Mother's Day. I had a nice day with the family. I watched one son play soccer and win the championship, got a new phone, and went out to eat. Plus I got in some reading and a nap! 

Today is a new week. Last week I finished 2 books. I will post some quick thoughts later this week. Here is what I am reading now:


This is for my YA for Adults book club. It's fun because it exposes me to a lot of books that I wouldn't read otherwise, like this one. I am about half way done, and I can say that I don't love it so far.


This one is for the First 50 Project where I am trying to read at least the first 50 pages of every book I own. If the first 15 pages are any indication, I won't be going on past 50.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
I am currently listening to this on audio, but I find it hard to follow at times. I took 9 years of Spanish and think I would enjoy the print better, where I could more easily follow those parts of the book.

An Untamed State

After that, who knows? I am planning on purchasing An Untamed State by Roxane Gay. 

Dept. of SpeculationBoy, Snow, BirdThe Dog Stars

I also have a whole bunch of books from the library, including those pictured above, and of course the 200+ books that I own that I haven't read. Also my fifth grader has been complaining that I haven't read any of his books lately. I can't keep up with him, but I can sample his reading now and then.

I hope to participate in the Bout of Books reading challenge this week. My goal is 3 books since I seem to average 2. If they are short books, maybe I can even squeeze in 4! Look for my introductory post for that later today. I have to get ready for work now! I apologize for not putting links in for the books, but I am running late today!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Review: Radiance of Tomorrow by Ishmael Beah

Radiance of Tomorrow
Radiance of Tomorrow
Ishmael Beah

First lines: She was the first to arrive where it seemed the wind no longer exhaled.

Radiance of Tomorrow is set in Sierra Leone. The civil war has ended, and people are starting to return to their devastated hometowns.

The story centers on the families of two teachers, Bockarie, a native of the small town of Imperi and his wife, children, and father, and Benjamin, who has come to Imperi with his wife and children to teach in the secondary school. The two men become friends and allies in their struggles. But just as things seem to be going all right, a mining company comes, and everything changes.

My thoughts:
Radiance is a heart-breaking novel. It is written in such an interesting lyrical style--Beah explains in an author's note that he hoped to emulate the figurative language of his native tongue--but the story it tells is a hard one to hear. I do not know much about Africa, its many countries and peoples, and its political upheavals. It just seems unthinkable that all of this can be happening in our lifetimes, on our planet, and really we are a party to it without even knowing its happening. This is a slim novel, but it is not a quick or easy read.

Beah is a great writer. I look forward to reading more from him in the future.

Rating: Read+.

Some quotes:

"'We must live in the radiance of tomorrow, as our ancestors have suggested in their tales. For what is yet to come tomorrow has possibilities, and we must think of it, the simplest glimpse of that possibility of goodness. That will be our strength. That has always been our strength.'" (p.167)

"But who can even know what path to walk on when all of them are either crooked or broken? One just has to walk." (p.143)

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

First Chapter, First Paragraph Tuesday Intro - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death


Through the frayed curtain at my window, a wan glow announces the break of day. My heels hurt, my head weighs a ton, and something like a giant invisible diving bell holds my whole body prisoner. My room emerges slowly from the gloom. I linger over every item: photos of loved ones, my children's drawings, posters, the little tin cyclist send by a friend the day before the Paris-Roubaix bike race, and the IV pole hanging over the bed where I have been confined these past six months, like a hermit crab dug into his rock.


The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a memoir. The author had been the editor of the French edition of Elle magazine and was known for his vitality and wit. Then one day at the age of 44, he suffered a massive stroke, and when he regained consciousness in the hospital he found he could no longer move his body; he could only blink his left eye. He suffers from what is known as "locked-in syndrome". The book was dictated by a series of blinks. The letters of the alphabet would be read to him in order of frequency of use and he would blink when he heard the letter he wanted. Sadly Bauby passed away 2 days after the French publication of the book. There is also a movie adaptation of it that is available for free to Amazon Prime customers. I will have to watch it when I am done.

Monday, May 5, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - 5/5/14

It's Monday! I had a ridiculously busy weekend, so this is a little late getting up, but better late than never, right?

Last week, I didn't read as much as I would have liked, but I did manage to finish two books: Flight Behavior and Radiance of Tomorrow. I started two new books.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
I am listening to The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I like to listen to an audiobook on my way to and from work and while doing housework or running errands. I am only on the second or third chapter, so it is too soon for me to have an opinion. The whole opening about Dominican history and fuku was a little rough, but now that I am into the narrative I am liking it. I chose this book because it fits well with the We Need More Diverse Books campaign, which I fully support. I own it in paperback, so while I didn't buy it recently, I did buy it at some point.

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

I also should be finally starting The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry soon. I am trying to finish another book that I have had going for what seems like ages at this point first, but I doubt I will be able to hold off much longer.

I am still reading Prodigy by Marie Lu aloud to my son and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby to myself when I can find it. It's a small book, and I keep leaving it in random places.

I also have 2-3 books in various stages of completion, so if I finish everything else, I will go back to one of those. 

The VirginsThings Fall Apart (The African Trilogy, #1)Suite Fran├žaise