August Reading Wrap Up

August started strong, but then I stumbled for a couple weeks in terms of reading. I just wasn’t motivated to dive into (or finish) anything.  Distressingly, I set two titles aside for later — not quite giving up, but waiting for a better time. In better news, I did complete by Dusting Off The Bookshelf challenge — more to come on that this week.

By the numbers: 8 books, 8 reviews on Goodreads, 3 reviews on alenaslife, 1 oldie from my shelf – #dustingoffmybookshelf, 1 from my 2014 personal challenge (non-fiction), 2 audio, 2 set-aside

August 2014 books

From most to least favorite: (Overall, I really ended up liking everything I read this month)
Shotgun Lovesongs, Nikolas Butler, already reviewed

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, Susannah Cahalan, already reviewed

The Flying Troutmans, Miriam Toews #DustingofftheBookshelf

So wonderful and quirky and unexpected. Black comedy at its best. I am ashamed that I have not gotten around to writing the review this book deserves.

“It’s impossible to move through the stages of grief when a person is both dead and alive, the way Min is. It’s like she’s living permanently in an airport terminal, moving from one departure lounge to another but never getting on a plane. Sometimes I tell myself that I’d do anything for Min. That I’d do whatever was necessary for her to be happy. Except that I’m not entirely sure what that would be.”

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches: A Flavia de Luce Novel, Alan Bradley (audio book)

I am very sad to have completed this book, as it is the last in Bradley’s 6-book Flavia de Luce series. I have truly adored each and every installment in the series and The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches is no exception. This is the only one, however, that I don’t think would stand alone without reading the preceeding novels. This finale ties together many outstanding questions left from the 5 murders Flavia has “solved” in her 11th year. I listed the audio versions of all these books except the first. Jayne Entwistle does a magnificent job bringing these books to life.

“Why is it that the facts closest to our noses are the ones that are hardest to see?”

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened, Allie Brosch 

Not my typical read at all — a collection of comedic illustrated essays — but I had heard really great reviews from readers I trust. And I’m glad I snapped my mini-reading funk with this book. I read this in one sitting with no problem. Fast-paced, acerbic humor (as in I was laughing out loud at the pool) balanced with heartbreaking honesty. I recognized myself several times throughout. It’s really good read.

“But trying to use willpower to overcome the apathetic sort of sadness that accompanies depression is like a person with no arms trying to punch themselves until their hands grow back.”

Fourth of July Creek, Smith Henderson, already reviewed

We Were Liars, E. Lockhart

Despite my “advanced age,” I love that the YA fiction genre really coming into its own, filled with great characters, sharp writing and high emotion. We Were Liars has all of these qualities, plus some additional twists and turns. It just didn’t quite reach the level of an overall great read for me. Wounded and vulnerable and misunderstood teenagers make for great books. I just never quite fell in love with this set the way I think I was supposed to. The other problem here is that I predicted the central plot twist very early on in this novel.

“Silence is a protective coating over pain.”

Still Life with Bread Crumbs, Anna Quindlen (audio book)

Perfectly pleasant, very readable, likable characters, good story, interesting setting. Nothing earth shattering here but I can never go wrong reading Anna Quindlen.

“Then when she really thought about it she realized she’d been becoming different people for as long as she could remember but had never really noticed, or had put it down to moods, or marriage, or motherhood. The problem was that she’d thought that at a certain point she would be a finished product.”

What I set aside this month…

The Rise & Fall of Great Powers: Good book, bad narrator. Set aside the audio 25% in. Must get print version.

A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It or Not!” Ripley. Lost momentum 2/3 the way through. Will finish this month (?)

 

My August Photo Collage is comprised of book covers uploaded from Goodreads.

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W…W…W…Wednesday: Books read, reading and to read

Hooray, it’s Wednesday — one of my favorite blogging days of the week as I get to share what everyone’s reading. I’m pretty pleased with my list this week.

Thanks to Miz B at Should Be Reading for inspiring so many of us to get involved in WWW Wednesdays. It’s always a great way to connect.

www_wednesdays44

I’d love to know what everyone is reading.  To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…(or post a link to your blog.)

• What are you currently reading? • What did you recently finish reading? • What do you think you’ll read next?

 

Brain on FireWhat are you currently reading?  I’m almost finished with my book club title, Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness. This is an incredibly disturbing and captivating read. I haven’t wanted to set the book down for the past couple days, even though I’m alternatingly fascinated and terrified by this young woman’s true story. Highly recommend. On audio, I’m starting The Rise & Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman. I was a big fan of The Imperfectionists and I’m already finding some of that same dark humor in disk 1; however, I’m not a huge fan of the narrator’s voice and I’m wondering if I need to switch to the print edition.

The Dead in their Vaulted ArchesWhat did you recently finish reading? I am very sad to have completed the audio version of The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, as it is the last in Bradley’s 6-book Flavia de Luce series. Rumor (aka the internet) has it that he’s writing a new Flavia series, but it won’t necessarily contain all the places and characters I’ve come to love from Buckshaw and Bishop’s Lacey. I have adored each  installment in the series. This is the only one, however, that I don’t think would stand alone without reading the preceeding novels. This finale ties together many outstanding questions left from the 5 murders Flavia has “solved” in her 11th year. Also finished Shotgun Lovesongs (reviewed here) and We Were Liars, which definitely deserves a review that I have not yet written.

Fourth of July CreekWhat do you think you’ll read next?  I was surprised and thrilled to find a copy of Fourth of July Creek on the New Release shelf at the library. I’ve heard such great things about it. Even though it’s almost 500 pages, I’m going to sneak it in before my next non-fiction, A Curious Man, and my classic, 1984 (which my 13 year-old is HATING by the way). No shortage of books to read this month.

Happy reading everyone!

 

*All book covers are images saved from Goodreads

How about you?

What are your W…W…W… titles? Please feel free to share a link to your own W…W…W…Wednesday posts or share your reading plans in the comments.

 

W…W…W…Wednesday: Books read, reading and to read

I missed all of my fellow WWW-ers last week, but I decided I would not spend a day of my family vacation glued to WordPress. Instead, I was reading!!!! More books than I’ll even mention in this post, but reviews and wrap-up are rolling out on the blog this week.

Thanks to Miz B at Should Be Reading for inspiring so many of us to get involved in WWW Wednesdays. It’s always so great to see what everyone is reading.

www_wednesdays44

I’d love to know what everyone is reading.  To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…(or post a link to your blog.)

• What are you currently reading? • What did you recently finish reading? • What do you think you’ll read next?

 

cover image from Goodreads

cover image from Goodreads

What are you currently reading?  Just starting a short story collection, Birds of a Lesser Paradise that has been on my shelf for a couple years. I needed something completely different in style to sort of clear my mind and this does the trick. Really strong writing and interesting characters, which are key to successful short stories. On audio, I’m back into The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, the 6th installment in the Flavia de Luce mysteries. I just adore Flavia and I appreciate how Bradley is bringing together the previous stories and mysteries in this one (which I hope is not his last).

 

 

cover image from Goodreads

cover image from Goodreads

What did you recently finish reading? So many books! Most recently I read a classic (another of my personal 2014 goals). Their Eyes Were Watching God was a very difficult read for me for two reasons. 1) All of the dialog is in heavy dialect so I had to pick apart the language, especially in the first half. 2) I have a hard time not applying my modern values/standards to what I read — which is really unfair given the early 20th century, black community setting of this book. I sometimes wanted to shake the main character Janie, but ultimately, I’m really glad I read this book. It will stick with me.

 

 

cover image from Goodreads

cover image from Goodreads

What do you think you’ll read next?  I have a lot of reading goals for August, including two non-fiction books, Brain on Fire and A Curious Man, and another classic, 1984, but first up a fiction book recommended by a friend, Shotgun Lovesongs. I love a good small town drama.

Happy reading everyone!

How about you?

What are your W…W…W… titles? Please feel free to share a link to your own W…W…W…Wednesday posts or share your reading plans in the comments.

 

W…W…W…Wednesday: Books read, reading and to read

I am back with another solid week of books read and reviewed and heading into 10 days offs when I hope to really make a dent in my TBR.

Thanks to Miz B at Should Be Reading for hosting. I have discovered so many other wonderful blogs through this book-loving meme.

www_wednesdays44

I’d love to know what everyone is reading.  To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…(or post a link to your blog.)

• What are you currently reading? • What did you recently finish reading? • What do you think you’ll read next?

 

cover image via Goodreads

cover image via Goodreads

What are you currently reading?  I wish I could remember* which terrific blog peaked my interest in Bellweather Rhapsody because I’m really enjoying this mystery (maybe ghost story?) set amid a high school arts conference at a crumbling grand hotel. After feeling burned by The Interestings (which I did not love), I was nervous about delving into another group of teenage prodigies, but this one grabbed me right away. On audio, I’m loving The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, the 6th installment in the Flavia de Luce mysteries.

 

 

cover image via Goodreads

cover image via Goodreads

What did you recently finish reading? I read and reviewed Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian. I definitely recommend it to fans of YA and strong smart writing. Also finished The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes, which was my first Diane Chamberlain novel. It was completely engaging while I read it, but more made-for-tv-movie than my typical reading choices. It turned out to be a good choice for a summer, poolside read as the story was engaging but the language was simple and straightforward.

 

 

cover image via Goodreads

cover image via Goodreads

What do you think you’ll read next?  I had a great visit to the library this week as I prepare for vacation and a solid week of nothing but time on my hands. I chose 7 books, all different genre, mostly older releases. I’ll be starting with The Painter because I’ve heard nothing but outstanding raves and I’ve never read Peter Heller.

Happy reading everyone!

How about you?

What are your W…W…W… titles? Please feel free to share a link to your own W…W…W…Wednesday posts or share your reading plans in the comments.

*EDIT: Many, many thanks to Rosemary at Rosemary and Reading Glasses as she is the blogger who introduced me to this book and author. Thanks for the reminder Rosemary.

W…W…W…Wednesday: Books past, present & future

I offer a heartfelt thank you to the members of the blogging community who offered words of encouragement and support last week when I was feeling stuck in the reading mud. You inspired me to push through (and made it OK if I had decided to give up.) I did finish Americanah, and I’m glad I didn’t give up. Now on to more books, more plans and more reviews.

Thanks to Miz B at Should Be Reading for hosting. I have discovered so many other wonderful blogs through this book-loving meme.

www_wednesdays44

I’d love to know what everyone is reading.  To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…(or post a link to your blog.)

• What are you currently reading? • What did you recently finish reading? • What do you think you’ll read next?

the secret life of ceecee wilkesWhat are you currently reading?  The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes has been sitting on my to-be-read shelf for a couple of years. I finally chose it because one of my Goodreads reading groups is doing a Diane Chamberlain author challenge. Right away I know that it’s not a typical Alena read, but it feels good to read something easier to digest after some of the heavy reads lately. I’m not sure I’m buying the premise behind this story, but I’m curious to see where it goes.

 

What did you recently finish reading? I read Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (another title that had been languishing on my TBR) for my in-person Book Club and I’m so glad I did. Dan Brown meets Harry Potter meets book nerds all set against a computer geek backdrop. A really enjoyable read. I also finished the above-mentioned Americanah, The Invention of Wings (reviewed yesterday) and the audio version of The Wife, The Maid and The Mistress, which moved a little slowly for my taste.

What do you think you’ll read next?  I’m beyond excited to dive into Close Your Eyes Hold Hands, Chris Bohjalian’s first foray into YA fiction, which is getting incredible reviews. I’ve been slowly making my way through this author’s enormous body of work while still keeping up with his new releases. He’s a solid writer who tells really interesting stories. Hope to start that this weekend. Also beginning a new audio today. The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches is the 6th installment in the Flavia de Luce mysteries, which have charmed me each time. Outstanding narration of really great books. Looking forward to getting in the car each day.

All in all, I got a lot of reading done this week.

How about you?

What are your W…W…W… titles?

Why I Love Flavia de Luce

(If you’ve visited alenaslife looking for my usual Monday Quote, I’m taking this Columbus Day off. Monday Quote will return next week. In its place, I offer a short review of my most recent audio read, The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag.)

“You are unreliable, Flavia,’ he said. ‘Utterly unreliable.’
Of course I was! It was one of the things I loved most about myself.”

I just love Flavia de Luce, the precocious 11 year-old narrator of Alan Bradley’s entertaining mystery series. I read The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie a couple of years ago, based on its title alone. I never thought I’d be so engaged by a British mystery, but Bradley has a way of making me almost forget that there’s a murder to be solved. Instead, I’m swept into the mind of Flavia, the incredibly bright motherless chemist and amateur detective.

I am often thought of as being remarkably bright, and yet my brains, more often than not, are busily devising new and interesting ways of bringing my enemies to sudden, gagging, writhing, agonizing death.”

Indeed, Flavia spends many remarkable paragraphs cooking up concoctions in her laboratory, located in one of the wings of her family’s troubled estate, Buckshaw. Never one for chemistry formulas myself, I am still engaged by how her knowledge (obsession really) with organic principles, poisons and death, always seem to embroil her in Bishop Lacy’s latest drama. The trouble in these books just seems to find Flavia.

Flavia takes me back to my love of Trixie Belden as a young girl. The difference is that, unlike Trixie’s loving family and band of best friends, Flavia seems quite alone. Her sisters are “horrid;” her father is aloof at best; and there are seemingly no other children in the vividly imagined Bishop Lacy. When Bradley does introduce a heartfelt moment, as he does with Flavia’s aunt in this book, those scenes resonate even more for their rarity.

“There’s a lot to be said for being alone. But you and I know, don’t we, Flavia, that being alone and being lonely are not at all the same thing?”

This storyline revolves around the sudden appearance of a puppeteer and his female assistant. There is, of course, a dead body (more than one actually), and a cast of extremely complex supporting characters, most of whom are suspect.

It’s remarkable that over the week I listened to this book in my car, I was often reluctant to turn off the CD, and always eager to return to driving alone. The narration was charmingly British. I never guessed the mystery, which is an added treat, but not what makes me love this series. Flavia de Luce has joined Scout Finch and Trixie Belden as among my favorite young heroines, wise beyond their years and beautifully innocent at once.

I can’t wait to find out what awaits her next.

W…W…W…Wednesday

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve done this particular style post, but upon special request, I return with a book-themed play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading? • What did you recently finish reading? • What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?We Need to Talk About Kevin” by Lionel Shriver. My Goodreads book club does an “Off the Shelf” challenge each month and this one has been on my to-read list for a long time. If it weren’t for the challenge I’m positive I would have stopped reading 50 pages in. This book is DARK, horrifying and speaks to all of my worst fears about motherhood. I am taking it very slowly. On a brighter note, I’m also listening to “The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag” by Alan Bradley. This is the second book in the Flavia de Luce series and it’s a book that makes me smile, charming protagonist and engaging narrator.

What did you recently finish reading? “One Amazing Thing” by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Another book club selection. It was fine, not great, but fine. Finished listening to “Songs Without Words” by Ann Packer, which was painful, overwritten and over-acted in the audio version. I’m still surprised I stuck through with this one until the end.

What do you think you’ll read next? I have a whole stack of titles just staring at me waiting to be opened and read. I’m leaning toward, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” based on the strong reviews from people I know.

What are your W…W…W… titles?