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.

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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?

January books — 2013 off to a strong start

Not only is my 2013 off to a very quick start (I’ll never be able to keep up the 10 book/month pace), it’s off to a good one. Of the 10 books I completed in January, most were well above average. A couple surprised me. A couple disappointed me. And all made me glad I love to read.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

4 stars

fun homeA very quick, if mildly disturbing, read. This is my first experience with a graphic-book and I found the illustrations sometimes really added to the limited text,but in some cases stole from the sharp, crisp writing. Bechdel does not shy away from the discomfort inherent in not only her own coming out story, but the complicated back-story of her father’s closeted homosexuality. The complex father-daughter relationship was fascinating to me and I would have liked that to be fleshed out even more (in terms of text). Overall, I was impressed by this memoir.

He used his skillful artifice not to make things, but to make things appear to be what they were not.”

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis

4 stars

Previously reviewed

The air would smell like taffy and drying seaweed, and they would wear white, and there would be still more happiness. So much happiness. It was almost as exhausting as this relentless February.”

With or Without You by Domenica Ruta

3.5 stars

Previously reviewed

Is it possible to have nostalgia for a time in which you never lived? I’m sure there is a word for this phenomenon in German — beautiful, absurd, and twenty letters long.”

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

3 stars

the chaperoneI really liked so much of this book (including Elizabeth McGovern’s excellent narration), but it just went on so long. I felt like it had several false endings, places where I was finished but then it kept going. Maybe the problem is just that I didn’t expect an epic when I began. The story covers almost 50 years of Cora’s life in a great deal of detail. And while I find the 20th century interesting background, I was frustrated at Moriarty’s need to touch on so many different “issues” — Prohibition, adoption, gay rights, reproductive rights, suffrage. Add to that, Cora happens to witness or read about dozens of historical events. I began to feel manipulated after a while. What a I loved was the relationship between Cora and Louise Brooks. I would have been much more satisfied had she ended the book after their summer together.

The young can cut you with their unrounded edges…but they can also push you right up to the window of the future and push you through.”

The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger

3.5 stars

Deceptively simple story about a Bengali woman, Amina, who meets her American husband on-line, moves to Rochester and struggles to bring her parents to America. Immigrations, marriage, family, desire, truth are the themes all tangled under the surface story.  I liked Amina a lot and thought the author brought up many interesting questions, but the other characters didn’t seem as truthful to me. I couldn’t understand their motivations or transitions,which is what prevents a higher rating. I would read more of this writer.

You thought you were a permanent part of your own experience, the net that held it all together — until you discovered that there were many selves, dissolving into one another so quickly over time that the buildings and trees and even the pavement turned out to have more substance than you did.”

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

4 stars

Reviewed previously

You must accept the reality of other people. You think that reality is up for negotiation, that we think it’s whatever you say it is. You must accept that we are as real as you are; you must accept that you are not God.”

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (audio)

4 stars

Another great installment of Harry Potter. I can see that the tone of these novels has really darkened considerably. There were moments when my youngest was truly afraid. It’s quite an accomplishment that, even knowing that Harry will survive, I feel the danger and fear he faces. The suspense and environment are so rich, that “spoilers” don’t even interfere with the drama. Can’t wait to start the next one.

If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”

The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison

2.5 stars

I really, really wanted to like this book but I couldn’t. In fact, I cared so little about it when it was over that I didn’t write any sort of review or notes and now I can only remember a disabled teenager, a grieving loser-ish thirty-something and a trip in a van where they pick up all sorts of oddballs. It sounds like a premise I’d love (kind of Little Miss Sunshine), but it never came together.

I know I’ve lost my mind. But I’m not concerned, because it’s the first thing I’ve lost in a long time that actually feels good.”

There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband, and He Hanged Himself: Love Stories byLudmila Petrushevskaya, Anna Summers (translation)

Dozens of short stories, most about people whose lives are not going to work out no matter what they do or hope for. I’m sure they are a reflection of the author’s Soviet reality, but, not only were they depressing, I never found any one or any moment to hold on to. Reading this was like skipping stones over a very flat, dark, lake. Ultimately unfulfilling. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Penguin Books in exchange for my honest review.

A Red Herring Without Mustard (A Flavia de Luce Mystery #3) by Alan Bradley

4 stars

A Red Herring without MustardWhile other books were failing me, Flavia was there to bring a smile to my face. As usual, this precocious 11 year-old amateur chemist/detective found herself embroiled in murder and mayhem. While there is a certain formula to all these books, Bradley wisely goes deeper into each character with the succession of novels. We learn more about Flavia each time and get to know more about her long-lost mother Harriet, who posthumously plays a huge role in the emotional undercurrent of this book. The “Buckshaw Chronicles” are a smart, entertaining, emotionally fulfilling series of mysteries. I’m so grateful their interesting titles drew my eye a couple of years ago.

Whenever I’m with other people, part of me shrinks a little.  Only when I am alone can I fully enjoy my own company.”

W…W…W…Wednesday

www_wednesdays44

Where do the weeks go? It’s Wednesday again Feel free to 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? The Casual Vacancy, which received a lot of flak for its bevy of unlikable characters, but I’m liking them so far. Not sure what it says about me, but I love the small-town politics and intrigue. Listening to the 3rd installment of the Flavia de Luce series, A Red Herring Without Mustard, and enjoying it immensely. Flavia always brings a smile to my face. Also from J.K. Rowling, my sons and I are on the last disc of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. We are definitely on the edge of our seats at the moment. These books are a real thrill.

What did you recently finish reading? Finished an advanced copy of a disturbing new memoir, With or Without You, by Dominca Ruta. Sometimes reading about another person’s crazy scary childhood makes me feel like my life has pretty much been a cakewalk. Also read The Newlyweds, which was a very interesting novel about a Bengali bride trying to make a marriage and life in America work, all the while missing her family in Bangladesh. (That is a really simple sentence about a really complex book.)

What do you think you’ll read next? Eager to start This is How You Lose Her on audio and The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving in hardback. I’ve been wanting to read both for a long time.

What are your W…W…W… titles?