27 October 2013

42: The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe and Everything

So...about 15 minutes ago I finished my 43rd book for the year. 

Now what? 

I've been sitting at the computer, staring at the blank screen wondering, "Well. So that's done. I don't know what to do next." 

Let me tell you, there were times this year that I thought I wouldn't finish the challenge at all, let alone finish on time. And while I'm at it, I didn't think I would finish with two full months left in the year!

Sometimes, the more I read, especially reading amazing well written books, the more I want to read. Sometimes the exact and perfect opposite happens. But even when I'm reading a badly written book, I want to read more. 

And so, even though my challenge is officially over, I'll keep reading. Part of me wants to be able to add them on to next year's challenge...but I won't. Promise. 

Know what else I'm going to promise you? I'm going to catch up on my reviews from this year. And maybe make a reading plan for next year that I will actually stick to. That would be a miracle, wouldn't it? 

(And now since I've officially finished my reading goal, I have less guilt about NOT finishing Daughter of Fortune. Which is really good because it has been staring at me from my bookshelf at home, begging me to pick it up again. I had to turn it upside down to make it stop. Ugh.)

Currently reading: A Treacherous Paradise

26 October 2013

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

Inkheart has been on my reading list since November 2011. Now that I am once again working in a library, I have the magic of InterLibrary Loan at my disposal to use and abuse to no end. (Since, ya know, I don't quite have enough books in my own library that I want to read...)

I will perfectly honest with you: I almost didn't finish this book. I even received permission from Rachel to not finish this book. I had only gotten about 60 pages into this 500 odd page book and I didn't care. I didn't care about 12 year old Meggie and her father, Mortimer. Actually, I was more interested in Mortimer's day job: repairing and binding books. I wish we could have seen him work a little more. 
The story is about Meggie and Mortimer (or Mo as he is affectionately known by, well, just about everyone. Except Capricorn and his men.) and their special relationship with books. We learn that they both love to read and read a lot. Mo had been known to spend more money on books than food or clothes and to buy more books than he really had room for. So far, I am feeling right at home with this guy.
One night, Mo receives a visitor. Dustfinger. It is all hush hush and hid from Meggie; however, as any good precocious 12 year old protagonist, she makes sure that the secret doesn't stay secret for long. And the real secret is this: Mo can read characters out of their books. Nine years before our story takes place, we learn that while Mo was reading to his wife and young daughter, he read Capricorn and his villainous men right into their living room. After a terrifying sword fight that left Mo with scars, he discovered a bigger problem. Not only had he read characters out of the book (this book is also called Inkheart), but in the process, he accidentally read his wife into the book. 
Well okay. Maybe he didn't exactly read her into the book. It turns out that when Mo reads out loud and things from the book start to come out, things in Mo's world sometimes go missing. 

It was a translation from the German, and as Rachel was also quick to point out, it could have been a bad translation. I'm glad she reminded me of this. I got lucky with the last two books I read that were translated (Love Virtually & Every Seventh Wave) and I think I just assumed everything would be perfect in this one. Well. You know what they say about assuming. 

Just because I didn't like this book, doesn't mean you won't like it. But if you would like a book that covers fantasy, magical folk and magical lands I strongly recommend Stardust by Neil Gaiman. I love Stardust and how effortlessly Gaiman weaves the fantasy of the magical world of Stormhold into the every day lives of the citizens of Wall. 
I love all of Gaiman's work and recommend it without reserve. Well, most of it. Except that one...but that must have been a fluke thing. I try not to think about it. 

02 September 2013


The other night, I purposefully started three new books. I think I might have a problem. (This puts my "actively reading" list at 6. I think. Unless you count the books I have on my iPod. Well, I suppose that just puts the list to 7.) 
I suppose I should back up and say I've been struggling with some of the books I've been picking up to read. I'm currently/actively reading Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende. I know it has an Oprah book club sticker on it, but the summary on the back sounded really good! Don't judge me! 
But the more I read, the less I care. Parts of the story are beautifully done and are interesting. Other parts...just feel like filler. Possibly because they are. I'm not a writer, but I think even if things are filler, they shouldn't feel like it to the reader. 
Take Tolkien. (Or honestly, almost any author you love. Or pick a story you love. Or a movie you love. I think this works on anything story-like.) In Lord of the Rings, you have 23407 story line happening at any given time, but the BIG story is this: Frodo has the ring and it needs to get to Mount Doom. Does Tolkien plop Frodo, Sam & the Fellowship by the Gates of Mordor and say, "Good luck!"? Does he make it an easy journey? No. No he doesn't. He gives them trials and troubles, but good times too. And stuff you think might be filler (possibly for instance, Faramir) actually has a purpose in the BIG STORY. 
Daughter of Fortune is not full of Tolkien's kind of "filler"; it is full of the bad kind of filler. The kind that maybe sorta tells you something about the character, and maybe if/when I finish, I will find that it was important to the BIG STORY. But right now, it feels tedious and a little bit boring. I'm not sure I'll finish this book honestly. I have invested a lot of time in it and I'm not even half way through. 

"But wait," you say. "Didn't you just start three more books? What are they? What else have you been reading?" 

You didn't ask those things? Too bad. 
I'm pulling out my Jane Austen again. I am tired of reading/trying to read Persuasion. I don't like the story. I don't like the characters. I understand that it is probably a commentary on letting people make their own decisions when it comes to love and relationships, but I just can't do it right now. I will say that I do like Wentworth's letter at the end. That didn't quite make the book worth it, but it was a huge asset to the bool. Rachel started reading Northanger Abbey so I decided to read it too. So far, so good. I will say it is much different from Persuasion. I wonder if the fact that Persuasion was Jane's last book makes a difference in the writing. (I believe she died shortly after finishing it so maybe she didn't get to edit it the same way she edited her other novels? Whatever.)

I picked up The Man Who Loved Books Too Much completely by accident. I was shelf-reading at work. I saw the long title squished on the spine and thought, "Hmm...this sounds like JUST the kind of book I would like." And that is how it found its way home with me. Totally by accident. It has a kind of Mr. Penumbra's 24hour Bookstore feel to it, so I'm pretty excited about this one. 

I know absolutely nothing about A Treacherous Paradise except that the cover is cool and the story sounds like it should end poorly. Except. See, the story goes to a lot of dark places so the ending has to be good, right? The whole thing about the good ending happily and the bad ending unhappily. Right? Ha. Right. I'll keep you posted. 

And if you are following me on GoodReads you will see I read The Fault in Our Stars  in a single day. There was much crying but let me tell you. Such. A. Good. Read. I have said it already, but that John Green fellow has a gift. He can put human emotions into readable words that don't feel fake or put on. Bonus? He's funny. I want to write like him when I grow up. If that never happens, I still wanna keep reading his books. Even if they make me cry like a baby. 

That has been my reading life over the last few weeks. I think because I'm having such a hard time with Daughter of Fortune, I have become a little wary of other books. Because of that, I have been slowing down on my reading. TFioS has kind of jump started my love of reading again so prepare for the last leg of the book challenge race for 2013! 

26 July 2013

Guest Post: Casual Vacancy

I mentioned a little while ago that I finally got to read The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling. Hurray! My friend Zach and I were very excited when it was announced (we are both Harry Potter nerds) and we both downloaded the preview chapters that were released a little before the book hit shelves. Zach bought it and, after a few false starts, finished the book during Christmas break. After having it checked out from the library for almost seven months, I finally buckled down and had it finished in a week. As the title says, this is a guest post by my friend Zach! I figured ya'll are probably tired of hearing me talk about my point of view, so I asked Zach to share his thoughts on the book. 

When I heard J. K. Rowling was going to be releasing something entirely new, entirely not Harry Potter, I was ecstatic. Don't misread that; I love Harry Potter. But something brand new? I was excited. From the beginning, the level of detail presented in introducing the characters and simply telling the story was incredibly meticulous. However, painting mental pictures of the book was never difficult to say the least. And, just to get it out of my system, if you pick this book up thinking that you’ll be reminded in some way of Harry Potter, forget it. (But don’t let that stop you from reading it!!) Rowling has crafted a completely new tale that is not for the faint of heart, but is definitely one with much to say.

Upon entering into this novel we find ourselves in the small English parish of Pagford, which is not too far away from the hustle and bustle of the local city of Yarvil. Barry Fairbrother, who serves on the Pagford Parish Council, suddenly dies due to an aneurysm upon arriving at a restaurant to enjoy a would-be anniversary dinner with his wife. Nothing too crazy, right? Wrong. Fairbrother’s sudden death was like removing a keystone from the parish itself. Slowly but surely, Pagford began to societally cave in upon itself.

Fairbrother’s death tipped the balance of a heated battle within the Parish Council over whether or not to disassociate Pagford from its financial responsibilities to the Fields and hand it over to Yarvil. The Fields was a cheaply built public housing estate that was built to resolve post-WWII housing needs. Many in Pagford wanted nothing to do with the Fields because it brought the likes of the city too close to rural Pagford and was inhabited by many drug-ridden residents and terribly misbehaved children. It was a taint of sorts on the well-being of Pagford.

Having been born in the Fields, Fairbrother advocated strongly for keeping it within Pagford’s jurisdiction because of the great opportunities and support that Pagford could provide which Yarvil could not necessarily provide, such as a great education (from which he himself benefited). With Fairbrother’s death, his voice on the council was gone and the vacancy allowed for the anti-Fielders to more easily purge Pagford of their menace once and for all.

Fairbrother’s vacancy did more than just escalate the argument, however. The argument brought out the worst in people, tearing apart families that were just barely holding together previously. Simply put, one man’s death caused all hell to break loose.

In reading The Casual Vacancy, I found an appallingly realistic representation of the messed-up lives of many everyday people. I say ‘appallingly’ because I honestly had no idea just how bad some people can have it. The poverty, the drugs, the misery some children face because they fail their parents’ expectations, self-inflicted cruelty to numb life’s pains...it’s all here. If you think you know what’s going on in someone else’s life, guess again. Hiding behind a mask is all too easy, and Rowling exhibited that rather well.

One major issue that was really brought to my attention spawned from the whole debate over the Fields: how do we appropriately accommodate the poor, drug-ridden, misbehaved people of this world who live barbarically? I definitely do not believe that ignoring the problem is the correct solution, even though it is definitely the easy one. Why would I help someone who is purposefully ruining his or her life? Because every life on this earth matters. It would not be right to hand these people free solutions, but I believe that those who are in a much better position are meant to help out those who are not as fortunate, even if they choose to live like pigs. Someone needs to shine the light into these people’s lives to let them know there is more to life than shooting up or living wildly in squalor. I’m not completely sure what the solution looks like, but the answer is definitely not ignorance. 

Sometimes I struggled to grasp the overall plot in this novel, as it was a little circuitous and seemingly non-existent at times. Sometimes the incredible detail took away from the overall conflict. However, The Casual Vacancy cleverly inserts you into a community whose social fabric collapses as the result of one man’s death and allows you to witness many different troubled lives, how they all seem to mysteriously interconnect, and the slow-in-coming realization that the social dilapidation of the community cannot continue.

If you pick up The Casual Vacancy, prepare to keep track of many characters and their various experiences. You may even have to take notes just to keep up (my mom is currently doing just that). I am not sure that I would hastily recommend this book to many people; however, I feel that if you are ready to be faced with a rather raw picture of life, can survive without too much obvious forward-moving action for a fair chunk of the book, and are willing to learn many new words (unless you are a walking dictionary), give Rowling’s latest work a try. While a little slow-paced, I can honestly say that I enjoyed this book. It was quite the eye-opener, but on the whole it was a well-crafted tale of a small town’s miseries with many lessons to be learned, all brought to you by good ol’ J.K.

Zach is a music and tech loving guy, majoring in Business Information Systems. He plays drums Sunday morning (one of four instruments he knows well), when home from school. While preferring to read sci-fi or fantasy fiction, he is also reading a lot of theology stuff right now. (This interest probably stems from a  C. S. Lewis course from last semester, but this has not been confirmed). To complete the nerd image, Zach is a HUGE Doctor Who fan and is super psyched for the 50th Anniversary Episode this fall. You can follow Zach on Twitter (@zkantner) and check out his blog, Cacophonous Thought

08 June 2013

Observations from The Last Station

I started reading The Last Station by Jay Parini the other week. I've since finished two three other books. This is no reflection on The Last Station; actually, I picked it up as my in between book. See, I'm always reading at least three books at a time. Sometimes more, sometimes less and some I read more actively than others. But through all of that, I always have an in between book. It might be a fluff novel that I read before bed or read over breakfast. It stays the in between book until I've finished with my main book...unless the in between book proves more interesting than the main book. Then I switch off until I've finished the one and switch back to the other.

I promise it isn't as confusing in real life as I've just made it sound.

Anyway, I've just finished a book last night (I finally got around to reading & finishing Casual Vacancy!) so I've picked up The Last Station as my main book. I am only about 20 or 30 pages in, not far at all, but I ran across this quote this morning and it made me pause: Fiction is for people who have not yet properly begun their search for God.

The character speaking, Chertkov, is a character you despise from the moment he opens his mouth. Everything about him reeks of disdain and superiority. (Though I'm not sure that is entirely a bad thing. To fully dislike a character, before he is fully known, based only on a few pages says more about the talent of the author than the preference of the reader, I think.) When he shares this gem, he says it with the utmost conviction and disdain for those who haven't come to as an enlightened place as he has. But all of that aside, I whole heartedly disagree with his statement.

Chertkov talks about authenticity and dedication to Tolstoy's views on life and God. In a letter in the book (fiction or real? could be a bit of both really, which is almost more dangerous than one or the other.) he talks about the Gospels being important, more important than whatever we think we understand about God.

To generalize fiction as a path separate from God or even a search from God is ridiculous. Taking Tolstoy's views into consideration, or at least his fictionalized views, the Gospels are held in high regard. The Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, chronicle the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. In it, there are countless examples of Jesus saying, "The kingdom of God is like..." and telling a story to describe and illustrate a kingdom message. In helping people on their way to understanding who God is and what kingdom living looks like, fiction is used. 

The people that Jesus told those stories to had the Old Testament, too. It is full of factual events, all pointing toward a coming Messiah. With the facts staring them in the face, they still didn't understand what Jesus was about. That, I believe, is one of the reasons Jesus uses stories. Stories make us see sense and reason when we don't want to see it in the stark reality of our own lives.
We can easily say, "Oh, you ought to say this" or "I can't believe that person treated her like that! How horrible!" to characters in a story but fail to realize that we've just been rude to that single mom in line at Target or completely failed to treat our families (they are people too, ya know) with kindness.

C. S. Lewis would have something to say to Chertkov about his views on fiction, too, I believe. His Narnia stories are full of allegory, pointing us to Christ and His story of our redemption. And though his friend, J. R. R. Tolkien hated allegory, he also saw the importance of myth and stories. 

I've spent more than a week trying to wrap up this post and currently have three different ways of ending it. I won't use them though. I'll use this one. There is something in Chertkov's view that rubs me the wrong way. I think it is because I have read so many books that not only help me on my path to God but also encourage me onward through the hard parts of life. I've had books reduce me to tears when a biblical truth is translated to modernity. 

Perhaps I'm way off here. Maybe I'm over-reacting. Truth is, The Last Station really isn't about whether fiction has importance or not. For me, though, it's made me really look at fiction and why I read it. 

Why do we read? Is it to escape? Is it just for fun? A love of words? What draws us to fiction? I don't think it really matters. I think the great thing about fiction is that five different people can read the same book and see five different things. Every book we read, I think, teaches us something about ourselves that we otherwise wouldn't know. And as a lover of learning, I don't think that is such a bad thing. 

17 May 2013

The Last Bookshop

In the small amount of time when I'm not reading, watching TV, sleeping or working, I'm reading through a bunch of the blogs I follow. I've just switched my reader to feedly (thanks a lot, Google Reader...) and I have a lot of catching up to do.
I stumbled upon this gem tonight (found originally at The Last Bookshop blog) and there is something about it that just makes me smile:

08 May 2013

Simple reading & Slowing down

According to Goodreads, I am 10 books ahead of my reading schedule and 55% done with my challenge. I'm really excited about making progress with this years challenge, but right now, I'm going to take a bit of a break.

I still have at least 5 books I need to review to be totally caught up, but I'm not going to do that right now. Right now I'm going to tell you a little bit about my relationship with books.
I already told you a little about how I fell in love with books last year. How that one book and the simple act of rereading it brought me into this crazy world. When I was in sixth grade, I read Gone with the Wind. I was inappropriately proud of this accomplishment because it was HUGE. I mean, seriously. This book is like 800 pages. And I read and understood it, mostly. I think that is when I fell in love with BOOKS. Not just books "oh how I love to read" but "it's huge and I'm gonna read it all and I'M BETTER THAN YOU because I can."
So, okay, a bit of an attitude problem there. I think I'm over that now, but I still get an insane sense of accomplishment when I finish a book over 400 pages. I love detailed stories that NEED that many pages to tell a story. 

Stephen Lawhead wrote a series called The Pendragon Cycle. It is five books long and even though each book is only about 450 pages (as a comparison, books 3-7 of the Harry Potter series are anywhere from 400-700 odd pages), it takes FOREVER to get through. In fact, I still haven't finished. I think I just got my hands on Pendragon (the fourth book in the cycle) around senior semester and didn't get very far.
I hear you saying, "Well okay, Harry Potter is seven books and by your own admission the last few books are huge. How does it take you forever to read a cycle of five books that have fewer pages?"
And this is when I tell you about the brilliance of Stephen Lawhead. He takes the story of Arthur and Camelot and pulls it back at least three generations. Before Arthur, before Merlin--long before any of them. He writes with such attention to detail and story. When I describe his writing, I usually liken it to Old English tales, like Beowulf. Sometimes it is hard to get through, but when you do, it is worth it.

And yet, sometimes, that is not what I need to read. I love ... and the only word I can think of here is "trudging" through a long series. The word choice alone shows that at times it is a bit of a chore. And that is part of the reason why I think I love young adult literature. The writing style is at times simple, (not stupid) but the content is not. Plus, as a rule, I can blaze through them in no time at all. Enter John Green novels. 
But unlike some adult series, young adult novels (especially John Green) speak to the reader in a very real way. The Pendragon Cycle is a good story; An Abundance of Katherines speaks to me about love and loss. I think that by nature, no matter how story driven Young Adult novels are, they always tell us something about ourselves. See also, Harry Potter. I think that is something you tend to lose in adult fiction. 
I almost went this entire post without owning up to my Nicholas Sparks weakness. Oops. There it is. 

At the end of the day, I love reading books that make me think. Books that make me USE the very expensive four year degree I earned. But sometimes, I need a break. And sometimes, that looks like young adult books, Nicholas Sparks books, and lots and lots of TV. 

PS I've finally finished Eureka. If you haven't seen the show, please. Do yourself a favor. Go watch it. It is hilarious. 

19 April 2013

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

I had seen The Paris Wife advertised all over the place last month and after a year of saying, "I really want to read that!" I decided to give it a go. 
Now I'm not going to say it was as bad a Juliette, but I will not be recommending this book to anyone. Ever. 
I was excited to read this book because it is about the first wife of Ernest Hemingway. Even if most of the story is fiction, I like reading about the lives of writers. No matter how much you read in biographies, or even autobiographies, there is something really fascinating in seeing another writer put the famous person in question into real life situations. I am a huge C. S. Lewis fan and have read his autobiography many times. There is still something, possibly magical, about seeing Anthony Hopkins portray Jack on screen that makes me all giddy inside.

I am not huge into  Hemingway history. I've read a bit of his work for school and after watching In Love and War, I read A Farewell to Arms. Well, I started reading A Farewell to Arms. (Though after Pat's reaction to the book in Silver Linings Playbook, maybe it's good that I didn't finish it.) I can't say that I'm an expert on his life. Maybe if I was more of one, I would have found this book more interesting. 
I found it intriguing at all because it's about the woman behind the man. Well, the first woman behind the man. Also, it's Paris in the 20s.Talk abut the golden age of writing! (And as another side note, I watched Midnight in Paris shortly after finishing this book. So good! I loved it! Part of it really resonated because of what I had read about other writers of the time. Also, Tom Hiddleston was F.Scott Fitzgerald. So. Yeah...)
Hadley Richardson is twenty eight and practically an old spinster by the time she meets Ernest Hemingway. They fall deeply in love and are married less than a year after they meet. Their relationship is tempestuous; Hemingway is a man who is first married to his work and married to Hadley second. Or, as time goes by, maybe not even to her. 

Like I said, it was interesting. But...it was a difficult read. It wasn't really about Hemingway; it was about Hadley. It was how she dealt with things, her emotions and her interpretation of their relationship. And as silly as this is, it was hard to follow because they used so many nicknames. Nicknames for Ernest and Hadley changed all the time and at one point they use the same nickname for each other! It is really difficult for me to keep track of the characters. There wasn't a whole lot of dialogue in this book. It was an interesting concept, but not a terribly compelling read. 

My go to book about authors & romance is, you guessed it, Possession by A. S. Byatt. I'll keep my eye out for other fictionalized accounts of real life authors, though. Do you have a favorite almost-true novel?

17 April 2013

Seating Arrangments by Maggie Shipstead

I know I know. I read this book in January and I STILL haven't got a review up for it!
This was another Goodreads find and honestly, I wasn't thrilled with it. Not everyone on Goodreads is thrilled with it either. One commenter recommend picking up The Paris Wife instead, which I would not recommend, however. 
It is called a satire in the publisher's description, but I'm not sure that is a good enough excuse for how vapid and selfish the characters in this story behaved. The story is about a family, led by the tiresome Winn Van Mete (who seems to care more about his own social standing than supporting and loving his family.) on the verge of a wedding. Winn's eldest and very pregnant daughter is marrying up in the world (much to the joy of her father) and their socialite wedding is take place at the family's vacation home on a pristine island in New England. Being surrounded by his daughter's beautiful friends, Winn can't seem to keep it in his pants, but discovers his self control at a very odd moment. While the wedding planning is wrapping up, his youngest daughter is making some rash and unwise choices to make her recent break up (she is a bit of a social climber too) not hurt so badly.
What some people praised as detailed and rich descriptions, in my mind were tiresome and stiff sentences. Like the author was trying to hard to be "great."
I know this is a bit of an odd review for me, but I just didn't like the book. I finished it. That is probably the best thing I can say about the book. 

Have you read it? Am I way off here? 

15 April 2013

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

This book has been on my reading list for over a year. Well, for at least a year. I even started it last year but had to take it back to the library before I got overdue fines for it. Coincidentally, almost the same thing happened this year. Probably almost to the day. 

I was able to renew it and started into as soon as I finished The Paris Wife. The same night in fact. 

I don't know if it was because I had seen the movie (and cried gross ugly tears) and knew what was going to happen right at the start or if it was just the way Jonathan Safran Foer captures emotion. Whatever the reason, I got about 16 pages in and found myself crying. 

Maybe it is the subject matter. It isn't a secret. It is in every summary of the book out there and every review of the movie. It is the story of Oskar Schell and his life after his father died on September 11, 2001. 
Maybe that was the reason I just couldn't read it. I don't like watching fictionalized accounts of that day. I watched the movie World Trade Center with my freshman college class. I cried in front of a bunch of strangers (who thankfully became my friends). The images are still too real, too ingrained in my head. I can still see it replayed on the old TV set in my music teacher's basement. 

I realize that much fiction has been written about it, and will continue to be written about it. More films will probably be made about it in an attempt to memorialize the lives of those who were lost. I have no personal story to tell. No one from my family or distant relations was there. I know one family that lost someone from their family. You could say that I was pretty far removed, personally, from the horrors of that day. But it happened in my lifetime. It is very much a part of my story. 

Oskar Schell's story isn't just about loss. It is about the intense forever very Christ-like love his mother displays for him. The kind that you can't always see, but once you know it is there you realize it was keeping you safe the whole time you thought you were unloved and ignored. It is about discovering loss around you; even in your deepest, darkest, most sad day, others are existing in their own hell on earth. It is about the spirit of adventure and being constantly ready to learn, even if you make mistakes. You aren't failing; you are leaning 100 wrong ways to do something.  It is also about finding things: bits of history in Central Park, how things are connected in the world around us, and relatives you didn't you about.

If you can read fictional accounts about that day, please read this book. Tell me that was just like the movie, that they were able to capture the same emotions and story line. Tell me you cried at the movie and that the book made you a little misty eyed. Tell me the book spoke to your emotions and made you think. But, most of all, tell me the truth. 

12 April 2013

An Abundance of Katherines by that John Green fellow

So...after the whole "John Green, you make me cry ugly tears! Why would you do that! AND thank you!" thing, I decided to keep reading John Green books. I'm a glutton for punishment. I emailed a friend after I checked An Abundance of Katherines out of the library: I am nervous/excited that it will be the same amount of pain as Looking for Alaska. I press on timidly. But with great hope.
Because when you read John Green, it's not if there will be tears, but when. 

Colin Singleton has dated 19 Katherines...and has been dumped 19 times. Colin, a child prodigy, feels he's peaked too soon and is looking for meaning to his life. And if he could just figure out why he keeps getting dumped...well, that would help a lot. He takes his best friend, his beat up car and all the money he has and goes on a road trip to find himself...whatever that actually means. 

I'm not an expert on John Green books, but so far they are coming of age stories. Figuring out who you are as a person, what you like, what you don't like, how you handle intense emotional situations, how you grow. I hesitate on this next sentence...but it's very Holden Caulfield. Except, if you know me, I hate Holden Caulfield. What I love about John Green is his characters feel more real. To me, Holden was an angry, spoiled dude who swore too much and didn't take time to understand other people. But Colin...Colin is different. He is the nerdy geek in all of us who, no matter how hard he tries, just can't fit in. He understands that he is different and fine with it, but at times, life is just too confusing. Is he a washed up, has been child prodigy? 

Maybe instead of bringing up Holden Caulfield and one of my second most hated book of young adult literature (the prize belongs to Lord of the Flies. Or maybe it's actually a tie for first place...) I should have just called this book a coming of age story. Or to let you all know that I really did pay attention in my critical literature & young adult literature classes, it is a bilsdungroman. That's right, I'm breaking out the German vocab! It's a coming of age story, simply put, and it's beautiful. It's a story about love and loss, heartbreak and healing and trying to make sense of the ever changing world around you. Well, as best you can when you are a washed up child prodigy, newly graduated from high school, who has just been dumped by your nineteenth Katherine.  

PS If you haven't figured out that I think John Green is pretty cool, well, just stay tuned. I just got two more of his books from the library: Paper Towns & Will Grayson, Will Grayson. So either get ready to tune the next few posts out, or get on the bandwagon! 

05 April 2013

Looking for Alaska

Somewhere between my sobs over the Lizzie Bennet Diaries ending and tumblr exploding with feels, I found John Green. 

That isn't entirely true, but it's true enough for this story. 

His newest book, The Fault in our Stars, had just come out and the interwebs were full of everything tfios, LBD and John Green. 

Fine I said. Fine. Let me find out for myself what this John Green fellow is all about. I took home Looking for Alaska and my life changed. 

I hate you, John Green. But. Of course when I say "I hate you" what I really mean is "thank you." Thank you for putting love, hate, pain, forgiveness, hilarity, the good, the bad and the horribly ugly, and gut wrenching grief into understandable words. Sometimes those emotions (love, hate, grief, etc) can only be expressed with smiles that break your face, clenched fists or silent tears down your face. Somehow (I think magic was involved, you Hufflepuff) you were able to translate the truth of messy emotion.

I read Looking for Alaska like I would any other young adult novel. Just picked it up and dove in. I loved it. Loved it. The characters, the antics, the school, the pranks. Miles Halter doesn't fit in. Anywhere. He has zero friends at his school and he finally decided to do something about it. He decides to enroll in the boarding school his father went to and sets off to search for the Great Perhaps. Even if he's not so sure what that entails, it is what he has decided to do. Shortly after arriving at Culver Creek Boarding School, he meets his roommate, gets a nickname and falls in love. Hard. Her name is Alaska Young and she is a force to be reckoned with. 

I loved it so much that I paid no attention to the days that were passing or the pages that brought me closer to "After." When I finally came to "After" my days caught up with me. And I cried. I cried so hard I had to close the book and just exist with my tears. I couldn't read it for days after that. I was too afraid that the words would pick at the scar my pain had left, reopening something I was trying to let heal. Maybe not quite a week later I thought it would be okay to pick it up again. It wasn't. But even through the pain and the tears I was reminded why it was all okay.Because, as C. S. Lewis said, we read to know we are not alone. Someone else understood the pain of loss. Someone else knew what it was like to realize your memory of a person was fading, and that that realization brought a completely different wave of grief. 

Sorry for the overly emotional response to this book. Even if I hadn't been dealing with something personal, this book still would have struck a chord with my emotions. It's not just the content; it's the style. John Green has an incredible storytelling gift. He has a certain way of drawing you in through fiction, connecting with you on a real level and then releases you with words of wisdom that you realize aren't just for the story; they are for you, the reader, to take home with you and think about. Find truth in and incorporate into the way you view life. Just like the gem he left at the end of Looking for Alaska: The only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive.

03 April 2013

You've got red on you...

I was an intern at Mussleman Library at Gettysburg College for a year. I read a lot. I walked a lot. I watched a lot of DVDs. A lot. Their collection was better than my local public libraries and my university library combined. Black and white, award winners, British, American, French, TV series (all of Buffy, ftw!)-- you name it, they had it. It was awesome!
As you do, I got to talking with some of my co-workers about movies and what we liked to watch. Someone said to me, "Have you seen Hot Fuzz? You need to see it!" 
I said I would...and promptly fell in love with Firefly and Serenity. Oops. Not exactly the same thing...
Some time later, this co-worker again asked me if I had seen Hot Fuzz. Fine fine. 
I checked it out that night and watched it that night. 

 I loved it. It was hilarious and full of explosions! Full of the British wit that I have come to love...perfection. The image of Simon Pegg's character jumping over back yard fences (What's the matter, Danny? Never taken a shortcut before?) still makes me laugh.

Everyone I talked to had seen Shaun of the Dead but not Hot Fuzz; I had seen Hot Fuzz but not Shaun of the Dead. I'm not too big into zombies...well...I didn't used to be. Guess what ya'll?  Shaun of the Dead is HILARIOUS!

My friend Rachel insisted I needed to see it and so one Sunday night we Skyped  and watched Shaun of the Dead together. Best decision ever. She lives a few states away and I haven't seen her in...oh my gosh...like, five years. (Less than three, dude.) Anyway, Skyping to watch this movie was the next best thing to actually being in the room with her. 

I had just finished reading Nerd Do Well by the brilliant Simon Pegg, so some of the story line had been a bit spoiled for me. Did it ruin the film for me? Oh. No way. Not even possible. In his book, Simon Pegg talks about what got him into the "nerd world," what it was like for him growing up and about his film/acting/writing career. I might have thought it would have been more biographical, but he really just skirted around personal stories. Which, on the one hand, I commend him for. I think too much of the world is interested in the behind the doors life of the actors they love. And I think, sometimes, the actors of this world are all to happy to oblige. Keeping that door closed, the way I see it, humanizes them MORE than seeing all their dirty laundry. Just like you or like me, they keep things private. I think I respect Simon Pegg more for keeping that door closed than if he had opened it. Plus, when I see him act or read his book, I don't see his personal life; I see a good hilarious actor who makes zombies funny. 

Sorry. Rant over.

Anyway...Shaun of the Dead. Rom-Zom-Com. Romantic Zombie Comedy.  Zombies slowly invade Shaun's neighborhood right around the time he realizes he needs to reorganize and get his life together. Talk about the fates conspiring against you. Don't worry though, Shaun has a plan: Take car. Go to Mum's. Kill Phil (his step-father who is in the process of becoming a zombie. Sorry Phil.) Grab Liz (the girl who recently dumped him for, you guessed it, not having his life together). Go to the Winchester, have a nice cold pint, and wait for all of this to blow over.
Sounds simple. But when does life ever go according to plan? I highly recommend this film. It is hilarious, there are zombies, a brief appearance by Martin Freeman, and the great comedic timing of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. What more could you want? 

04 March 2013

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

Last month on A CUP OF JO, a blog I read almost every day, Joanna mentioned she wanted to reread Persepolis after seeing Argo. I haven't seen Argo  (so sue me) but the cover of Persepolis looked familiar to me. So I ordered it through inter library loan (thank goodness I don't have time to go the public library any more...) and finished it in about three days. Max. 

Persepolis is a graphic novel about the Islamic Revolution. It follows the story of the author, Marjane Satrapi, from ages 6 - 14 in Iran. I think what struck me most about the story is it is such an adult story. Revolutions, protests, dictators, corrupt religious leaders, new strange laws-- it is far too much for a young girl to process and yet, in this book, young Marjane does. To hear a revolution explained as adult is one thing. You can talk about reason, about the way things should be, risks and costs of the cause. But a child only sees new rules that don't make sense, the absurdity of class structure and confusion as bombs drop in the safety of your neighborhood. And of course, in the end, it is a coming of age story. Not just a girl growing up in the midst of life, parents and boys, but a girl growing up in a society where the rules are always changing and wearing nail polish could get you thrown in prison.

I will admit, I didn't know much about the Islamic Revolution. I'm sure I still don't know much. It was before my time, which isn't too much of an excuse, but still it is the one I will use. Reading Persepolis opened my eyes to the way other people live. And even if the telling was fictionalized to a certain degree or if it was skewed...well, what story isn't? 
It also reminded me how blessed I am to have been born where I was born. And on the flip side, made me wonder what kind of life I would have had if I had been born somewhere else. 

If graphic novels are your thing, be sure to check out Maus by Art Spiegelman. Art interviews his father about what it was like to be a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor. In the story, Art uses different animals to portray the different races of humans: Jews are portrayed as mice and the Germans are portrayed as cats. 

Do you have a favorite historical memoir? I'd love to hear about it! 

01 March 2013

Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Ever since I started my account with Goodreads, I find most of my new books from their monthly newsletter. Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore was one of those books that kept popping up on all of my friend's "to read" lists and when I saw it just sitting there on the new book display at my library, I knew I had to pick it up. 

Clay Jannon (referred to primarily by his last name through the book) spends his days looking for work. Well, mostly. It's part job searching on the internet, part making coffee, part getting distracted by the internet, part getting depressed by lack of job and part just giving up and taking a nap. If you've looked for work recently, you'll understand completely. He happened upon a bookstore, Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore to be precise, looking for a night shift clerk. Even after one of the oddest interviews Jannon had every experienced, he is hired almost on the spot. 

The bookstore is, as Jannon quickly finds out, part bookstore part book club. The members come in at all hours of the day and night, ask for the oddest titled books with confidence, and then leave, sometimes, never to be seen by Jannon again. It is a rare day when a non-member stumbles in to buy a bestseller in the small front section of the store. 

But you are asking the question: members? Members of what? 
That's just it. Jannon isn't quite sure. He is responsible of keeping track of who comes in, their mannerisms, the way they are dressed, the words they use and what they had eaten before coming in. Your question becomes Jannon's question too and he sets off to figure out what is really going on in Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore.

The way I see this book, it's part DaVinci Code/Digital Fortress (yes, a combo of two Dan Brown books. Sue me.): old school and new tech. It is part something else but I can't quite put my finger on it. The story was interesting but the motivation was a bit on the lacking side. I liked the book, but will probably think twice about reading anything else by Robin Sloan.  

27 February 2013

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman

I don't know when I first became aware of Neil Gaiman and his work. I want to hazard a guess and say it was around the time the film Stardust was released. I loved the film so much I talked to my friend about it. I don't know if I was aware that it was a book then but I know shortly after that I read the book and it is currently sitting on my shelf.
Fast forward to 2009. A trip to England has just been made and I am doing my first bit of big traveling in the states to Minneapolis for my English Honors convention. After blogging for my study abroad trip, I find myself volunteering to blog for convention. I didn't do it well or very often, but I did blog about one guest. That guest, you've guessed it: Neil Gaiman.

I think I was surprised by his celebrity. There were guards at the doors of the hotel, keeping the great unwashed non-convention members at bay so that college and grad students from around the world could sit and listen to him read in that gorgeous British accent of his. I don't even remember what he read, but I fell in love. He also talked about what it is like to be a writer and where he got his ideas. I believe he said that his favorite literary period was "Normally after lunch" and all those ideas? From his daughter's imagination. Which I love. He also said that the most important question a writer could ask is, "What if?" 

What if...you found yourself around a campfire telling stories with the months of the year personified? What would that look like? 
What if...we knew Susan's side of the story? Would our opinion of her change?
What if...hell was worse than anything we could possibly imagine...and then some? 

Fragile Things covers all of these "what if" questions, and how. Some of his stories are incredibly moving, some are thought provoking. Some, I will admit, were scary. All were well crafted and beautiful and I absolutely recommend this book to everyone. You might not like all the stories in the book. I'm not sure I liked all of them. But I did read all of them and can appreciate the immense talent that Neil Gaiman has. 
(As a side note, you should also check out his book Neverwhere. It sits next to my copy of Stardust and I love it dearly. If you read Coraline, do so with the light on. Trust me. That is one creepy kid's book...)

22 February 2013

Possession by A. S. Byatt

I interrupt the new book reviews to bring you an old review. Well, an old one for me. I found Possession when I was a student worker at my university's library. I saw it get shelved a few times before I actually had time to read it. Now it is not only a favorite movie but probably one of the books I recommend the most. 

Roland Michell and Maud Bailey are scholars of two Victorian era poets, Randolph H. Ash and Christabel LaMotte, respectively. Roland is an under appreciated researcher, toiling away in the bowels of the British Museum. One day, he is researching one of Ash's books in the British Library and comes upon two copies of an unfinished letter to an unnamed woman. It was a very well documented fact that Ash was married happily. Who was this mysterious woman? If a finished copy of the letter was sent, it would change the face of Ash scholarship! 

Roland tracks down a few facts that lead him to visit Maud Bailey. Together they embark on an adventure to find out who the mysterious woman is, if there is any chance it could be Christabel, what happened to the letters and how the long dead poets lives turned out. Of course, when you research an old love story there are usually present day repercussions...

I love this book. Two poets in love? Excellent. I will confess, however, that the first time I read this, I struggled. Part of the beauty of the book is in the story, while part is in the poetry. Poetry from Ash and LaMotte are woven through the book in such a beautiful, but sometimes overwhelming way. There is a large section of poetry in the middle of one of the most important parts in the book! The first time through I am pretty sure I skipped it all just so I could find out what happened! 
I hear you saying, "Now wait a second. This book is fiction. What poetry could there be?" And I will tell you: that is the beauty of this book. It is not only an excellent story, but so much work has been put into the character's history and back story that is almost hard to remember that the book is, in fact, not true. Byatt not only created the story of two poets who fall in love, but wrote poetry in two very distinct styles for her poets in love. Sometimes it is hard to switch gears from reading prose to reading poetry. I think probably every other time I read this book, I'll just breeze over the poems. Not because they are boring; I'm just in the prose mode. 

Honestly, I have no reservations about recommending this book. I suggest it to the reader, the poet, the lover, and the writer in you and your friends. 

If you decide to give this one a try (and I really think you should!), please let me know what you think of it! 

P.S. The movie adaptation of this is BRILLIANT! I love it. Check out the trailer!

19 February 2013

A bit of housekeeping...

I noticed a bit of a mistake after updating my Goodreads the other week. As you might remember, I read City of Bones last year and then again this year. When I went to update this years reading challenge list, it took it OUT of my stats for last year! Yikes! I really have no idea how to fix this...and I'm sure it doesn't really matter. I just didn't want it to look like I didn't finish the reading challenge from last year! (If I go over this year, I'll put it back into last years stats...if I remember...)

And since we all need a good laugh after last nights Debbie Downer episode of Downton Abbey, take a look at this video. It's ok to laugh, really...

17 February 2013

A Virtual Love Story in Two Parts

On one of the British news type blogs I follow, I saw that David Tennant would be lending his voice to a radio drama based on the books by Daniel Glattauer. (Okay so fine, it was probably that David Tennant fan site www.david-tennant.com. Whatever. Judge all you want.) I'll take a book recommendation anywhere, man. 
I did some research and bribed the interlibrary loan library assistant to get me both Love Virtually and its sequel Every Seventh Wave by German author Daniel Glattauer.

One day in January,Emmi Rothner attempts to email a magazine to cancel her subscription. After she doesn't receive a reply, she sends another email. And after that, another. Finally, Leo Leike responds informing her that she has emailed a personal address and not the magazine, but wishes her all the best in cancelling the subscription. Some slight embarrassment ensues and the matter is dropped. Emmi sends a mass-email to her contacts list...which somehow now includes Leo Leike. And so, their email relationship begins. 
They start with just exchanging niceties, and then that slowly progresses to personal things: life, love and everything in between.

I had a bit of trouble with the format at first. The emails (in the book at least) are not dated, and sometimes they don't sign their names. Once the characters got to know each other a bit more, the emails became easier to read. 
I really thought that the book(s) would be a bit tiresome. To the reader, it is all taking place in front of a computer screen. It would be like You've Got Mail, except it would be filmed in split screen: Tom on one side, Brinkley at his feet, Meg on the other, as Frank roams around the apartment. And that is all the action. However, it wasn't as boring as all that. In fact, it was very interesting to see how a story can evolve with so little location change and physical action. All of the action that happens is emotional. An email is either ignored or answered. One character sends multiple emails without reply until finally the shortest answer comes through. There are weeks in between emails; passive aggressive behavior at its best. 

But of course, my thought at the end of all of this was, "Gee, two people met online, hardly ever saw each other and yet...they seem perfect together. How does that even happen?" 
What is love? How do we find it? How do we know it when we find it? What is the main factor in deciding love? In these books, it most certainly isn't looks but intellect and words. Words can hurt, but certain words, put together with the utmost of care can...I don't know. I wanted to say "create" but now I'm wondering if that is what I mean or if I'm just being pretentious about the whole thing. I think when it all comes down, Emmi and Leo's relationship is almost 100% about communication. They email all the time. No phone. No "let's grab coffee." No running into each other at the grocery, church or mall. Just email. And though some relationships can be online or through letters and phone calls, we often omit things. Heck, we often omit things when we are sitting across from the person we are talking with! In these books, Glauttauer doesn't let his characters get away with that. There is a lot of "if you don't mind me saying, I think you are going about this the wrong way" and "what were you thinking? That probably wasn't the best choice, was it?". They call each other out on attitudes, choices, and just life in general. That alone makes this book different, at least in my book it makes it different. 

I have been doing this "thing" where I'll read book one in a series but promise myself that I don't have to finish the series if I don't want to. This was the first book I broke that resolve for. Granted, there are only two books, but I had to find out what happened. For that reason alone, I would recommend these books. Also, reading Leo's emails in David's voice? A total win. 

03 February 2013

Januray: Success!

You wouldn't know it from all of the non-posting I've been doing, but I am reading a TON this month! 
I just finished my 9th book (This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz) this morning! 

(And I think yes, I'll count it towards January's books!)

This next week is going to be pretty busy for me, so even though I probably won't be reading as much, I probably won't have time to post either. 

I am re-reading The Mortal Instrument Series by Cassandra Clare in preparation for the movie that is coming out this August! Check out the trailer: 
Crazy, right?! 
I think I'll have a better opinion of this when I finally see the movie. Not sure if I'm sold yet. Promise to let you know when I finally decide! 

This month I've read some old books and some new books. I'll try to get reviews up before too long. Let me leave you with the list for January: 

The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe
Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour bookstore by Robin Sloan
Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead
Possession by A. S. Byatt
Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman
City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
Love Virtually by Daniel Glattauer
This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

Hope your reading challenge for 2013 is going as well as mine is! 

P.S. Everything on that list gets a thumbs up from me...except maybe Seating Arrangements. Skip that one. I hope I remember why when I write the review! 
(Just kidding. I'm sure I will...)

13 January 2013

The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe

You see them every morning at a quarter to nine, rushing out of the maw of the subway tunnel, filing out of Grand Central Station, crossing Lexington and Park and Madison and Fifth avenues, the hundreds and hundreds of girls...They carry the morning newspapers and overstuffed handbags. Some of them are wearing pink or chartreuse fuzzy overcoats and five-year old angle strap shoes and have their hair up in pin curls underneath their kerchiefs. Some of them are wearing chic black suits (maybe last year's but who can tell?) and kid gloves and are carrying their lunches in violet-sprigged Bonwit Teller paper bags.

None of them has enough money.

 New York. January 1952. Caroline Bender is heading uptown to Fabian Publications for the first day of her very first job. If things had gone according to her plan, Caroline would be home now, instead of just getting off the subway, cleaning up the breakfast dishes after kissing her husband on the cheek and sending him off to work. However, things had not gone according to plan and so she finds herself in the city, painfully single and heading for a job that is now "more than an economic convenience." She is to be a secretary in a typing pool at Fabian Publications but she really just wants to forget the pain of losing her fiancĂ© to another girl. 

As you guys know, last year I got sucked into AMC's Mad Men. I love it. I love the characters, the costumes, the ad business, Donald Draper... One thing that just fascinates me about the show is the business and gender politics of the 1960s office. I have 3 or 4 books in my desk at my office about advertising, sex, and the office. It is interesting to watch a group of creatives (all men, of course) sit around a table and try to figure out how they are going to market panty hose. Hilarity ensues and of course, an office girl or two is pulled into a focus group to help the fellas out.
In season one, Don Draper is reading a book about office politics and women in the workplace called The Best of Everything. Once I learned that this wasn't just a prop book, I knew I needed to get my hands on it immediately. On the first page you meet Caroline, the heart broken graduate who needs the job as a distraction. You meet four other girls throughout the story, each of them running from something, finding an odd solace in work. The story is good and still, to a point, relevant. It includes everything that modern books have - work, books, magazines, boyfriends, lovers, husbands, nights out, nights in, weddings, divorce - just written in much different way. It kind of changed the way I thought about the 1950s & 1960s. It was a time where public image was everything, even if it wasn't the truth. People made poor choices then, just like they do now. Choices are made sober, drunk, or on impulse. Good, bad or otherwise, this is life. 
I think what I loved best about this book is how genuine Rona Jaffe makes her characters. You understand Caroline's need to forget that her fiancĂ© left her. You understand April's (a girl with a "one and a half" apartment and a desire to never go back home) desire to be loved and needed by people of means. And poor Brenda, a mother and divorcee just wants someone to spend her life with...and would love it if her mother moved out of her apartment...

Girls, we have complicated minds. As the Dowager Countess of Grantham says, "I'm a woman...I can be as contrary as I choose." Well said, Lady Grantham. Well said. It might not be true all of the time, but there it is. We over think and over analyze to the point of completely missing the point of things...

That is, I think, vital to understanding the beauty of Rona Jaffe's novel. It is about work, yes. What does it take for a woman to succeed in a male's world? What injustices do they have to suffer, do they think they have to suffer, in order to keep their jobs or get promoted to jobs they want? 
But at the end of the day, the story is about women. What they want, what they need, what they think they need, and how they plan the achieve the success they dream about. 

As an interesting note, there are a few reviews from the original publication (1958) that made me pause and thank God that I am not living in the 1950s. Or 1960s, for that matter.

“Rona Jaffe will have you believing that very shocking things do happen in New York bars and apartments. This is a story that should be read by girls with dramatic ideas about New York, parents with qualms about their daughters’ ideas, and men with baffling questions about girls’ minds.” --The Cleveland Press

And to that I say, "What?!" Oh, Cleveland Press. 

"An exuberant and readable book. Miss Jaffe is an artful and persuasive storyteller. It almost will certainly ruffle many a male ego.”  --The Spokane Chronicle

Because nothing ruffles a man's ego like a beautiful woman turning him down, I suppose...

“Any employer reading these pages will make a mental note to check up on what the girls in his office do after lunch, and with whom.” --The New York Post 

I know this might not be my best review of a book. The year is young so there is a chance I'll have a lot more that are way worse than this one. If we would meet up for coffee to talk about this book I would probably say something to you about how strong the characters are, even in the weak moments. That sometimes I wish I could be more like them, adventurous even if it meant some heart break. Because, even though these stories of women are fiction, they are and have great stories, heartbreak and all. 

"Such is the author's skill that this story of five girls is unmistakably the story of someone you know." --The Boston Globe 

07 January 2013

New year, New challenge

Happy new year, everybody! 

While I didn't finish my original list from last year, I did complete the challenge and come January 1, I was itching to start my challenge for 2013. 

Rachel and I are doing the challenge together (again!) and this year we upped the ante: 42 books for 2013. And yes, we know. We picked it on purpose. 

Before I even get to reviews I feel I have to put a bit of a disclaimer about my January reads. If you are following me on Goodreads (and with the help of a friend [thanks man!] was finally able to put a widget on my blog so you CAN follow my progress!) you will note that I already have 3 books read in January. A single week into the new year? How is that even possible?? As my dad likes to quote from Despicable Me, here's the deal-yo. 

After finishing my challenge in December, I had about 2.5 weeks left to the year...and a whole stack of books that needed to be read by January 4th. You would have thought that by now I would have learned my lesson about borrowing books from the public library. I have not. It is on my list of things to do. I couldn't just leave them til January 1st...so I started reading. Before the new year started I was a couple hundred pages into three books and had just started a fourth. I did wait until 2013 to actually finish the books, so in my warped mind that still counts for 2013. And that's my story and I'm sticking to it! 

Rachel thinks I've cheated. Sorry if you feel I cheated. Please accept the confession...and let's get on with the reading!

Here are the three books I've read so far: 

  • Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
  • Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead
  • The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe
Currently, I am having trouble picking my next book, but it's not for lack of options. I'll keep you posted and hope to have the reviews up soon. 

What are you reading this year? Did you challenge yourself to read more than last year?