Currently Reading: March Madness

I’ve gotten into the rotten habit of reading multiple books at one time. On one hand, it helps me keep reading on a daily basis because I can better choose a book to fit my particular mood. On the other hand, I never feel like I’m making any kind of adequate progress and then I get into a funk because it takes me too long to finish an entire book. And yet, I can’t stop.

I started Pachinko by Min Jin Lee roughly two weeks ago. Everyone has heard of this multi generational family drama following a Korean family in Japan during the 20th Century. Deep down I know that I’m not in the right head space for a chunkster. About a week ago I tried to set it aside but couldn’t leave the characters behind. They called to me from my bookshelf desperate to return to my reading life. Sunja threatened to knife me in my sleep. So one chapter a day it is.

On the nonfiction front, I’m dipping in and out of Boy Erased by Garrard Conley. Again, I don’t know if it’s the right time for this book despite how much I’m liking it. Conley is recounting his time in a infamous gay conversion therapy organization that he voluntarily joined in 2004 at 19 years old. I randomly pulled this off my unread nonfiction shelf instead of choosing what I was specifically in the mood for. Never do that, future self. You know better.

Another problematic selection is Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb which I started a month ago on audio. I’m a rotten audio listener. It takes me forever AND EVER AND EVER to finish listening to a book. Because podcasts call to me more so than books on tape. But 4.5 hours in I’m enjoying the hell out of this story which makes me so happy because I wasn’t the biggest fan of The Farseer Trilogy. THERE ARE PIRATES.

Speaking of pirates, why am I also reading Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown? Another book about pirates which is going to get confused with Ship of Magic at some point. I’ve broken the cardinal rule of multiple book reading. DON’T READ BOOKS THAT ARE TOO SIMILAR. But here I am in read-a-like hell. Mad Hannah Abbott will not let me go, though. So I’m stuck. Rad BAMF lady pirates who kill people with customized duel jade handled pistols is a perfectly acceptable place to be stuck so I’m okay with this development. Plus, FOOD PORN.

Do y’all do this? Does it drive you batty like it does me? Do you feel guilty and shameful? Do you decide to ignore this guilt and shame and persevere into this literary madness? Please tell me I am not alone.

Next up: I discuss my Three Dark Crowns feelings.

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Top 10 Books of 2013

Even though I ended the year without a bang, I still had a pretty spectacular year in books. I recently sat down and stared at my Goodreads 2013 shelf  thinking this list would be hard to compile, but not so much. Ten books immediately jumped out at me, and now I get to share them with y’all! They are also in completely random order and quotes are from my own reviews.

Without further ado:

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#1 – Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

A BOOK FILLED WITH AWESOME. Richly layered, such amazing attention to detail, great sense of place. I want to read everything about geisha history and culture.

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#2 – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Francie is my new favorite heroine of all time. Her sad moments are filled with joy, her happy moments sobered by sorrow. She’s independent, smart, and dreamily lonely. Her story is both tragic and uplifting. I wanted to crawl inside this novel and live there forever.

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#3 – Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

I like to think of Walter as a storytelling magician.

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#4 – Heft by Liz Moore

She writes people filled with a gritty humanity that makes you yearn for a happy ending. Kel and Arthur go through so many trials and push through so many obstacles that you barely understand how they are still surviving. But they are surviving and it is spectacular.

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#5 – Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

So many tears – an ugly cry that I haven’t cried in a long time. Her ending is difficult, layered, and will leave at least a tiny hole in your heart, but I never really yearned for a different conclusion.

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#6 – Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Hartman has built a world that was an absolute pleasure to visit. I wanted souvenirs!

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#7 – The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

I sat down the next evening and read it in one sitting. Four hours that ran the emotional gamut. READ. THIS. BOOK.

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#8 – The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy

The man can destroy you in six words and rebuild whole worlds in just six more. Talent oozes from every single sentence.

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#9 – The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

So many of The Goldfinch’scharacters are a slave to their own artistic endeavors – Hobie and his restoration, Pippa and her music – and arguably, Donna Tartt and her writing. Familiar books such as Oliver Twist and Great Expectations were woven throughout The Goldfinch and gave life to each character. It would be ridiculous to think Tartt didn’t do this on purpose and for a very specific reason. I believe it’s her way of showing how she’s chained to past literary giants.

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#10 – Sea Creatures by Susanna Daniel

I was sucked in from the first page and didn’t let go until the last word. Sitting here writing this review, my heart continues to break for these characters. Daniel’s writing feels almost like coming home amid one of the worst familial disasters ever.

 

Time to Chat

You guys! You must go and join A More Diverse Universe. MUST. Basically, you vow to read one book by an author of color in the sci-fi/fantasy genre. Due date: November 15. Diversity is so important and often so overlooked by all of us. ALL OF US. Visit Aarti’s page for signups and more information.

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As for me, I’m choosing Dawn by Octavia Butler. I just read a list where it was listed as one of the scariest books of all time. SOLD. I have a couple of flights scheduled for early November and this should be excellent for such an occasion.

I’m eagerly anticipating Saturday’s festivities. I love Dewey’s something fierce. My TBR is locked and loaded. I’ve got beef stew on the brain and hopefully in the crock pot by tomorrow morning. Now all I need is some munchies, a little bit of a sleeping backlog, and an absentee husband this weekend. Not that I love Jimmy abandoning me for friends and a mountainside cabin, but this weekend that just fits perfectly into my schedule.

My goal is to finish some books this weekend so I actually have something to bloggy blog about. Books have alluded me these past few weeks, but I’m hoping to get my mojo back soon.

Also, I’ve won THREE books on Twitter this week. THREE.

A to Z: A Bookish Survey

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This looked like so much fun when I saw it popping up on my favorite blogs. Started by Jamie over at The Perpetual Page-Turner!

Author you’ve read the most books from: Laurell K. Hamiliton, Charlaine Harris, Janet Evanovich, Ray Bradbury (Once upon a time, I loved urban fantasty.)

Best Sequel Ever: Technically, I’m not sure this is considered a sequel, but A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin was superb and proved that books later in a series can be just as compelling, if not more so, than the first book.

Currently Reading: Jane Eyre, The Silent Wife, and Maus.

Drink of Choice While Reading: Water or hot chocolate.

E-reader or Physical Book? Physical Book – I just haven’t latched on to the ebook craze yet.

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated In High School: Gale from The Hunger Games – I was obsessed with best friends turning into more. Plus, brooding.

Glad You Gave This Book A Chance: Eleanor and Park, I really did not want to read this one.

Hidden Gem Book: All of Ray Bradbury’s work outside of Fahrenheit 451. I love his short stories. Dandelion Wine and Something Wicked This Way Comes are also stellar.

Important Moment in your Reading Life: Junior year English in high school. Especially The Scarlet Letter. I finally learned how important and layered literature could be.

Just Finished: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon – meh.

Kinds of Books You Won’t Read: Self-help. Not a fan.

Longest Book You’ve Read: Not sure – some contenders: The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George, Gone With the Wind, and the Song of Ice and Fire series.

Major book hangover because of: Big Brother by Lionel Shriver…that ending, jeez.

Number of Bookcases You Own: Five, but looking for a sixth!

One Book You Have Read Multiple Times: Pride and Prejudice – way more than any other book.

Preferred Place To Read: These days I do a whole lotta reading curled up in bed.

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read: 

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
― Neil GaimanCoraline

Reading Regret: That I’ll never be able to read ALL THE BOOKS that I want to in my lifetime.

Series You Started And Need To Finish (all books are out in series): These techincally aren’t completed series but I am way behind: Thursday Next and Flavia de Luce.

Three of your All-Time Favorite Books: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.

Unapologetic Fangirl For: Jane Austen…obviously. And Donna Tartt.

Very Excited For This Release More Than All The Others: The Goldfinch!!!!!!!!

Worst Bookish Habit: Buying way more books than I can possibly read.

X Marks The Spot: Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Your latest book purchase: Night Film, Dracula, and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late): The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – read in one sitting.

Dog Days of Summer Wrap-Up! (#ddsummer)

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Best. Readathon. Ever.

Thanks so much to Heather and Andi for all their work in organizing this event. Check out the official event wrap-up post over at The Estella Society.

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I decided to concentrate my reading around books and authors that got me super excited to read in the 4th and 5th grades. First up, I had to grab something by Christopher PIke. The book I most remembered was The Midnight Club which is about a bunch of kids with cancer who are in a hospice and meet at midnight to tell stories. What struck me most about my adult re-read was how poignant this story was, how well written, and how un-scandalous. I seemed to remember loving Pike because he felt naughty – sex, drugs, and other provocative things forbidden to pre-teens.

My second choice was Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar. I read a lot of Sachar as a child, but these little stories in particular really stood out. Reading them now was still an absolute pleasure. They were so clever and completely enjoyable as an older person.

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Next up, I grabbed the first Fear Street novel, The New Girl, by R.L. Stine. Yet again, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the writing and story held up after all these years. The book was genuinely creepy, much more so than most YA I read now. What did bug me was that the book had been edited and updated for the 21st century. Current musicians and iPods where mentioned throughout. I wanted my dated Walkman and music, dammit.

Today I focused on two final books. No nostalgic readathon would have felt right without some Judy Blume. I went with Blubber as my selection and adored it. Blume does not sugarcoat people or social issues. Bullying is handled rather well here and every single event just felt so realistic even in its ugliness.

Finally, I just wrapped up Kristy’s Great Idea by Ann M. Martin, the first book in the baby-sitters club series. This book more than the rest really worried me. I for sure thought I would be annoyed by how juvenile the whole thing might be, but not at all!! Loved this book and felt a great urge to continue reading the series. The only thing it lacked was the original cover.

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So glad I participated and can’t wait for another weekend of nostalgia reading. I actually almost entirely ignored all social media because I was so absorbed. What a great way to spend a couple of days.

Atlanta’s Book Shops

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Sunday afternoon I got a hankering to do some book shopping. Not necessarily buying the books but just the act of browsing the shelves of local indie stores. I’m not someone who hates Barnes and Noble or Amazon, but from time to time I do enjoy patronizing neighborhood establishments. And I got to drag Jimmy along with me and watch his eyes glaze over. Good times.

We started our adventure at Atlanta Vintage Books right near PDK airport. It’s shameful that I live about 5 miles away and had never visited. The store is run by an older couple who had a dream of owning a book shop. The store is filled with shelves and shelves of books everywhere – in every nook and cranny. Also, cats. Lots of cats. (See above – lovingly borrowed from AVB’s website.) Nothing is new – not the books, furniture, or shelving. It smells wonderful, intoxicating. You could spend hours in this store perusing the thousands of deliciously aged pages. Some fantastic first editions – signed Ian Flemings, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Gone With the Wind – are also available.

Downstairs they have cheap paperbacks. And loads more books. I will continue to frequent the store looking for hardback copies of some of my favorite novels of years gone by. The only downside I really found was that the prices were a bit high. The same collection of John Steinbeck shorts that I recently bought at Goodwill for $2.50 was $18. I think a book that is 60 years old should be less than $18. But maybe that’s just me.

Our second stop I consider a favorite – Eagle Eye Books in Decatur. They host amazing authors all year long (Neil Gaiman!). Eagle Eye is mostly used books with a front corner dedicated to new releases. Their used collection is huge, but sometimes I find the selection limited. Like yesterday. Nothing really jumped out at me which was a shame because they were having their red dot sale. Every book with a red dot was an additional 50% off. Normal used paperbacks are about $5-6. They are also in very good condition. The store has a great rewards program, plus you can sell your books to them for store credit.

Amazingly, this little adventure only led to new-ish book purchases. I bought two first edition hardcover Harry Potters (books 3 & 4) since I’ve been meaning to collect them for some time. My paperbacks are falling apart. At $7 a book, I couldn’t resist. It made me wonder who doesn’t keep such beautiful HPs? Weird.

How about you? What are your favorite bookstores where you live?

Literary Blog Hop Giveaway!

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Hi everyone! Guess what? As a part of the Literary Giveaway Blog Hop hosted by Judith, I’m giving away one of the five books listed below – your choice! Just fill out the form linked below the list of books eligible to win and you’ll be entered to win. Anyone can enter as long as The Book Depository ships to your address. The giveaway closes end of day February 13 and I’ll announce the winner (provided by the ever helpful random.org) on February 14. The lucky winner will be emailed and given 48 hours to respond before another winner is selected.

So which fine books are up for grabs? Five of my all-time favs that I’d love to share with fellow readers. I’ve linked to each book below via The Book Depository. That copy linked will be the exact copy won.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

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Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and for ever.

I loved this book so much. It’s one of the most well-loved books on my shelves currently – think beaten and battered spine, water stained, and filled with just the right mix of perfect book smell. Books with university settings can do no wrong!

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

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Wow…so the book description totally gave away the twist ending! How rude! Basically, Ender lives in a future world where Earth is at war with an alien race and special children are selected to attend battle school in hopes that they will one day lead the Earth to victory. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read this books since I was 14. A great option to share with the children in your life.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

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An expansive, warmhearted novel about ambition and its limits, about family and friendship and love, and about commitment–to oneself and to others in a baseball story that goes beyond the sport and into hearts and minds

This books comes highly recommended not just from myself, but from my entire bookclub who enjoyed this collegiate coming-of-age story so very much. See how every book includes school in some way? I swear I didn’t plan that. Will the trend continue?

Emma by Jane Austen

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Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage. Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others.

My favorite Austen! Emma is a very flawed heroine, but one of the most delightfully human. She has so much to learn and makes so many mistakes along the way. I think this is Austen’s masterpiece.

The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Containing obvious parallels with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald’s own lives, The Beautiful and Damned is a tragic examination of the pitfalls of greed and materialism and the transience of youth and beauty.

Some of the best literary symbolism of all time and by far my favorite Fitzgerald. The two main characters are impossible to like, but are a train wreck you can’t take your eyes off of. I think I need a reread!

Like something you saw and now want to enter? Just fill out this FORM!! (GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED. WINNER HAS BEEN SELECTED.)

Linky List:

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