Friday, May 30, 2014

Armchair BEA: YA and I

YA is Armchair BEA's prompt of the day.

I almost missed YA.  Seriously, when I was in high school the first couple Harry Potter books were taking the world by storm, but I was beyond this young witches and wizards stuff by then.  I had started to trod the hallowed halls of high school (Ha!), and with those days came carte blanche to finally read whatever I wanted.  I considered myself a Reader with a capital "R," and I was ready to eschew all this "stupid kid stuff" to spend my long, hot summer days with frightfests by Stephen King and Dean Koontz.  Digging into John Grisham's legal thrillers and the freshly minted Oprah's Book Club titles was way more enticing to me than reading about high school horrors and romances among kids that reminded me of the annoying teenagers I walked the halls with every day.  I couldn't wait to be out of high school, and I certainly didn't want to spend my free time reading about it.

Luckily, my life and times on the interwebz wouldn't let me put this whole wealth of YA in the rearview.  Rather, day by day friendly Bookcrossers and then bloggers convinced me of the merit of this body of work I was so eager to leave behind.  By the time I was in college, I was already backing away from Dean Koontz's laughable metaphors (sorry Dean, but I think even you make fun of your metaphors now) and James Patterson's two page chapters (and I thought YA might talk down to me??) in favor of the very Harry Potter books I was "too good for" in high school.  I loved them so much that they may have, on occasion, actually made me late for work at my summer job slinging dishes in a nursing home dietary department (no great loss there).

Since then, I've lost myself in numerous YA books of the highest quality like...

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Did I even need to say it?)
Sparrow Road by Sheila O'Connor
Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger
Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
Open Wounds by Joseph Lunievicz
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

....and so very many more excellent reads. 

Truly, truly I owe Bookcrossers and bloggers a great debt of gratitude for bringing me back to what has become one of my favorite categories of books.  A category that can hardly be called a genre because it seems to cover all genres.  Now I read YA when I'm looking for a break from the occasional slog of interpreting literary/contemporary fiction because I know I can count on YA for solid reads that dabble in any of a few genres with relate-able characters that won't ask me to leave my brain at the cover to enjoy them.  Great YA authors today are writing books that ask important questions that will give young adults (and the crusty old grown-ups who read their books) food for thought all delivered with quick pacing and fantastic characters that render those books completely unputdownable. 

My bookshelves and my Kindle are both loaded down with YA, and I couldn't be happier to be young again, if only in the books that I read.  How about you?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Armchair BEA: Introductions

Good morning, all!  I thought a little bit about the week that starts today and reconsidered my verdict that I'd be too busy to participate in Armchair BEA.  I probably won't have a post for every day or anything, but I'm excited to use the time that I do have to meet some new bloggers and reconnect with some old ones, especially since I've been so lax in my blogging for quite a while up until recently.  I'd sure like to make a go of this (more serious) blogging thing again, but it gets to be awful boring if you're not hanging out with the best part of book blogging - book bloggers.  Anyway, today is for introductions, so without further ado...

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

Hi, I'm Megan, and I've been blogging here at Leafing Through Life for almost seven years now.  I got into blogging because, in the fall of 2007, I'd just returned home to Pennsylvania from Boston where the best-paying steady job I could get was at a Borders bookstore (RIP).  When I got back, I had no job, and I missed spending my days in the company of books and bookish people.  I wondered if I could review every book I read just for kicks, and I saw a handful (back in the very olden days of book blogging - LOL!) of bloggers were doing just that.  So, here I still am, except now I have a decent job in healthcare that monopolizes more of my time than I'd like, but I'm still blogging it out here in Bloomsburg, PA.

2. Describe your blog in just one sentence. Then, list your social details -- Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. -- so we can connect more online. 

Leafing Though Life is a collection of the honest book reviews and laughable life-related ramblings of a busy thirty-something who buys many more books than she reads.

Now, for shameless social media self-promotion, here's my...


I'm always look for new friends.  LT is the more comprehensive listing of my library.  I'm a late-comer to Goodreads, but I'm trying to be more social.  And I just luff Instagram, even though I forget and neglect it too often.

4. What was your favorite book read last year? What’s your favorite book so far this year?

This is the hardest question, I read so many great books last year.  In adult fiction?  Brewster by Mark Slouka or Molly Fox's Birthday by Deirdre Madden.  In YA?  I finally read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green last year and loved them as much as the hype would suggest.  This year? Honors go to Whistling in the Dark by Lesley Kagen. 

8. Share your favorite book or reading related quote.

Well, I really love the one that's in my blog header:

"She has spent most of the day reading and is feeling rather out of touch with reality, as if her own life has become insubstantial in the face of the fiction she's been absorbed in."

After You'd Gone - Maggie O'Farrell

Have you ever felt that way?

9. If you were stranded on a deserted island, what 3 books would you bring? Why? What 3 non-book items would you bring? Why? 


War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, because then I'd finally have to buckle down and read it, right? 
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, because I've been meaning to read it for sooo long.
The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers by Thomas Mullen, because I'm not a re-reader, but I'd like to revisit this one.

On the practical side:

Food and water, for obvious reasons.  And a gigantic vat of sunblock to protect my pale Irish skin from that big desert island sun.

(P.S. Yes, I'm a "word person," but really, I can count.  I was supposed to pick 5 out of 10 questions, and I used ArmchairBEA's numbers, of course!)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Loose Leafing: The Week That Sucked and Other Low Grade Horrors

Fair warning, this isn't going to be one of those warm, fuzzy gratitude posts.  You may have guessed this from the title.  Now, it's not a eulogy for a pet or a loved one or even my car, happily.  I mean, for sure, this week sucked, but it's sucking in a "you'll laugh about this later after you get a few good nights sleep and the extensive dental work you've been avoiding for years" kind of way.  It's sucking in such a way that may even be able to get you to laugh at me now despite my more less or less continuing low grade wretchedness.  So, here's the story of the week that was.  I mean, the week that sucked.  

 You look friendly enough, but I'm onto your game, Mr. Blood Drop

I let you drain my lifeblood, and all I got was this stupid t-shirt?   Okay, so.  I got this new job, and it so happens that one of my new co-workers is a somewhat crazed lunatic about getting people to donate their blood.  Working in a hospital, opportunities to be abducted by said co-worker and coerced into forfeiting my more valuable bodily fluids are numerous and unavoidable.  It seemed like a worthy, if vaguely terrifying thing to do, so I failed to "just say no" to this particular peer pressure.  Also, I'm thirty years old and have no idea what my blood type is, so what sane person wouldn't give up a pint of it to find out that little tidbit of information?  (I'm A+ if you were wondering.  Put that under your hat in case you might want to give me a kidney some day or something.  I'm kidding.  Or am I?) 

Anyhow, as was my great fear, I suck at giving blood.  All these fine folks dashing in on their lunch break, casting off a pint of blood, downing a cookie, and then off on their merry way just as right as rain?  I am not like those people.  I'm the sad sack that makes a scene by almost getting sick and almost passing out.  Sure everybody was really nice and nobody let me bonk my head on a sharp object and my co-worker, the closet "Donate life!" recruiter girl, kept me company for the overlong time I was there basking in my lightheadedness and vague sense of humiliation, but the experience was none too pleasant.  I hope those three people that can apparently benefit from my blood are enjoying it, because I'm kind of missing it, and the free t-shirt, comfy and oversized as it may be, is no pint of blood.

So, that Tuesday night I retired to my bed exhausted from the work of regenerating my lost pint of blood when along came my next adventure...

Close encounters of the bat kind.  Because who, when busy regenerating their lost vital bodily fluids, doesn't love to wake up at 2:30 AM to find a bat (!!) flying around their bedroom?  Okay, I'm generally not among the super easily frightened, but if the prospect of having a bat bodily collide with you while it's swooping unpredictably around your bedroom in the middle of the night doesn't drive you to scream and scramble into the bathroom where you slam the door and exhale as if you've just escaped being tortured by one of the sicker serial killers to grace Criminal Minds, what will?  (Actually escaping a sick serial killer, you say?  Oh pshaw).  So, here it is 2:30 in the morning...3:30 in the morning...bat has disappeared...but to where?  Three hours of sleep, combing every inch of my bedroom in search of the bat with the amount of tension usually reserved for turning the crank on one of those infernal jack-in-the-boxes, and no bat to be found = not a great way to recover from being a sucky blood donor.

Next night, repeat, only at 1:30 AM, and this time I figure I've discovered batty's entrance and exit point.  I jam the hole temporarily with old socks.  I take to Twitter at 2 AM to congratulate myself on a battle won and use up my stock of creative hash tags.  I am the winner!

 Don't look so smug, Twitter chump.

Next night.  Nope, I'm a big loser.  Discover the bat fluttering around my window before going to bed.  Feel bad about possibly killing him when he's probably really great at eating stupid bugs.  Pin him between inside window and outside screen, and talk my dad into pulling the screen up an inch so the bat can escape and do his batty thing in nature.  He does.  I find a creative use for rolls of pennies, which are decidedly more sturdy than old socks.  I may have won the bat battle, but I've lost the bat war.  Everything that moves startles me.  Awesome.

And in the meantime...

Oh HAAAIIILL no!   That's right, big freak hail storm decimates the expansive parking lots of my workplace.  This is even scarier when your employer ran out of real office space a few departments ago and you're gawking out the window of your office trailer during a tornado warning.  Golf ball to baseball sized hail fell from the sky for a frighteningly long time making my car look like this...

 When hailstones attack....

Thankfully, it didn't look like this (which a lot of people's did):

 ...they can be really big meanies.

But that doesn't mean I'll be spending any less time on the phone dealing with insurance claims.

In the mean meantime.   I have too many teeth.  And it's starting to become really, very unpleasant. The writing on the wall says, "Megan, you are about to become likethis with your dentist," and that is a prospect that frightens me (and my bank account) to no end. 

All that, and I just last evening finally committed the "meh" book I was reading to the DNF pile, and discovered (much too late) an e-mail about a giveaway win in my spam folder, so even books have not been able to suitably lift my spirits this week.

Anyhow, that's my week from hell.  How was your week?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood

It's time to retrieve an oldie but a goodie from the vault of books that I should have read and reviewed a long time ago but didn't.  Today's selection is The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood.  Back in high school when I was making the transition from kids' books to "grown-up" books, I was way into crime fiction.  As I got a little older, I switched over to being more of a "literary" fiction fan, but there are parts of me that remember that craving for a good crime thriller, and when an offer of The Wicked Girls came across my radar, I was excited to read a good crime story that had been "literaturized" a little.  The more literary aspects of this book definitely gave me what I came for, but, much to my surprise, the mystery itself kind of disappointed.  This review is pretty much impossible to write without a light spoiler or two (that the jacket copy spoils anyway), so tread carefully, spoiler haters. ;-)

The action of The Wicked Girls starts in the seaside town of Whitmouth where Amber Gordon works as the supervisor of the third shift cleaning crew at Funnland, a beachfront amusement park.  Amber is trying to be the kind of supportive supervisor people like, helping them out when she can and turning a blind eye to their minor infractions.  Her life is pretty no frills, but her luck; finding a home with a good boyfriend, her two sweet dogs, and steady work; never ceases to surprise her.  That is, until the night when she reports to her normal cleaning duties at Innfinityland, the hall of mirrors, and discovers the body of a strangled young girl in its passages.  All the sudden, her criminal past, carefully buried and obscured by a new name and a quiet life, comes perilously close to the surface. 

As the killings continue, and the Seaside Strangler begins to make a name for himself, the press descends upon the lower-end holiday town. With it comes Kirsty Lindsay,  mother of two, hack journalist, and the incognito other half of a "criminal" duo.  Kirsty and Amber were never meant to see each other again, but the coincidence of the Whitmouth crimes drags them into each other's orbit for the first time since the fateful day when their childhoods came to an abrupt end. As the saga of the Seaside Strangler continues, the back story of the "Wicked Girls" also slowly unspools.

I actually quite enjoyed The Wicked Girls, but it wasn't quite what I was expecting.  For starters, it was set on the English seaside, which for some reason, despite having read the spoilery jacket copy and whatever the publicist sent me when pitching the book to me for review, I failed to realize.  As for me, the British slang and atmosphere set this book a little apart for me and made me like it more.  Second, I was expecting more of a nailbiter when it came to identifying the Seaside Strangler. However, for anybody who has ever caught an episode of a show like Criminal Minds in their lives, spotting the Strangler was no difficult task, and I think I'd managed it before the book was half over.  Rather than giving a lot of attention to the immediate crimes at hand, the book uses them to embrace its more literary side and delve into the psyches of the now adult perpetrators of a childhood crime. 

As a character study, The Wicked Girls soars.  It asks difficult questions about what constitutes a murder, whether a killer can ever outrun the effects of their crime, and how well another person and their motives can ever truly be known.  More suspenseful than the Strangler mystery by far is the collection of flashbacks that recalls the details of the first and last day the Wicked Girls spent together and the crime, if you can call it that, that derails their futures.  Marwood does a stellar job with her two main characters.  They are are never quite positioned as wholly loveable women, but Marwood easily draws your sympathy toward them as she lays out the paths that each took to live a good life in the wake of crime and punishment, whether it was by being a devoted wife and mother or by always offering a helping hand to a friend or a co-worker in need.  When it becomes clear that what's past is never truly past, Marwood evokes a sad situation and asks her readers to consider what really makes a person wicked and whether someone with blood on their hands can ever find redemption.    

(Review copy received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Books About Friendship

I actually had a lot of fun assembling my list for this week's Top Ten Tuesday because the topic is "Books About Friendship."  While I was perusing potential candidates for this list, I found a lot of great books that are so very different from each other, but all of which hinge on one type of friendship or another.  It's amazing to think about all the sorts of friendships that exist, and I think my list this week has a pretty interesting cross-section of them, and I'd be lying if I said that I designed it that way. 

1. Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett - Ann Patchett is one of my favorite authors, and I always surprise myself when I think about her work and come up with this memoir of her friendship with Lucy Grealy as one of my very favorites.  I think this book appeals to me so much because Patchett is the steady, dependable friend in the relationship, and that's me in most of my relationships.  It's obvious she loved her friend, but she doesn't skirt around the more difficult aspects of their time together.

2. Brewster by Mark Slouka - Possibly the most powerful portrait of a friendship I've ever read.  It's a great coming of age story, too.  The two main characters in Brewster step up to be each other's family when real family fails them.  It's a powerful picture of what it is to read between the lines to figure out what a friend really needs and stopping at nothing to protect them.

3. Molly Fox's Birthday by Deirdre Madden - This is one of those day in the life sort of books, and Madden's narrator spends a midsummer day staying at a friend's house in her friend's absence and ruminating about the impacts her two best friends have had on her life and each other's.  And it's a much, much more interesting read than I just made it sound like...

4. Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going - Troy, the fat kid in question, is contemplating suicide when he makes friends with a budding rock star who's got some problems of his own.   Curt's a little bit larger than life, and drumming for Curt's band gives Troy a reason to be, but, turns out, Troy's not the only one who needs a little help.  Fat Kid Rules the World is a great story about two unlikely friends who turn out to be made for each other.

5. Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger - Told completely in letters, Last Days of Summer is a mostly hilarious and briefly heartbreaking story of a mouthy kid who starts writing letters to the hot-headed up-and-coming star of the New York Giants.  What starts as mail harassment soon turns into a memorable friendship.  I love this book.  Just thinking about it makes me want to read it again. 

6. Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty - The main character in this one is missing her flaky friend who fled normal life to join the circus.  This is the sort of friendship where you understand why your friend is doing the crazy things they're doing, but you're also kind of bummed that they're always leaving you in the lurch.

7. Gossip by Beth Gutcheon - This book hinges on a narrator whose two best friends became each other's sworn enemies over some long past trivial slight.  The ripples of their mutual loathing are far-reaching, and it's an interesting look into the delicate balancing act that ensues when the people you love best in the world don't even like each other.

8. The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton - Then there are the "group of friends" books. I kind of expected this story about a group of women who bond when they form a writing group during the 1960s to be kind of fluffy.  Instead, it's a an intriguing story about women "coming of age" all over again, in a decade when the world is opening up for them in ways never before experienced.

9. Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister - Another great book with a group of friends.  One friend is facing a fight with cancer and inspires her group of friends to dare each other to do one fearless thing that will open up their lives to new possibilities.  What's great is following each friend through her assigned task, which may at first seem pretty innocuous, but turns out revealing each character's struggles and also the depth of their relationships with each other.

10. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson - Bridge to Terabithia is practically a classic.  You pretty much haven't lived until you've explored Jess and Leslie's imaginary kingdom and cried bucketloads of tears over a kid losing a best friend.

Turns out I really love lots of books that explore friendships.  What's your favorite?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Bout of Books Update #1

Bout of Books

It feel like I've been reading for a long time, so it must be time to finally post a Bout of Books update.  Honestly, I'm pretty happy with my progress.  I'm sure my reading totals will pale in comparison to most people's, but in comparison to my average week, this week has been a big win so far.

Books Read:

Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink (finished off the last 45 pages)
The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sis (56 pages of graphic novel, which really is  good for a readathon morale boost)
Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern (342 pages)

Reading Now:

Out of the Blue by S.L. Rottman (70 pages down)

All told (in case you didn't just whip out your calculator), that's about 513 pages, which isn't too shabby considering I work full time and haven't been able to get much reading time in there, spent most of Tuesday night celebrating my grandmother's birthday, and, also, I am that person who needs close to eight hours of sleep at night in order to successfully mingle with the rest of the human race.

More importantly, I'm pretty happy with how well I've been doing at keeping to my modest time management goals.  I started early (the Bout of Books is not just one week, it's a way of life, amIright?), abandoned stupid computer games/social networks I don't even like, sacrificed the overage of naps in favor of reading on the front porch, and have generally made reading more of habit instead of squeezing in a few pages before bed.  And, that, my friends, is just what I was going for.  Here's hoping I can keep it up, but even if I can't, I still count this week a success already.

What have you been reading this week?

Asunder by Chloe Aridjis

They call us guards, warders, invigilators, room keepers, gallery assistants.  We are watchmen, sentinels, but we don't polish guns, shoes or egos.  We are custodians of a national treasure, a treasure beyond value stored behind eight Corinthian columns of a neoclassical facade, the dreams of the ancients stuccoed to our building.  And our title should honor that.
Asunder is a short book, but it demands a lot of its reader.  Its main character, Marie, is a guard at the National Gallery in London where she has worked for nine years becoming intimately acquainted with the museum's many works of art and sinking into a life of days marked by routine and lack of ambition.    There is little plot to speak of, just Marie's slow dawning realization that she's allowed her life to become like one of the paintings she guards: ripe for contemplation but requiring her to maintain a safe distance.  Marie's life within Aridjis' pages is austere, marked by long days at the museum, evenings crafting delicate dioramas from egg shells, and a bizarre friendship with fellow museum-guard and poet, Daniel, a relationship that demands the following of a certain set of rules to "thrive,"  and a relationship that each fails to push beyond the realm of awkward friendship despite numerous opportunities.

I struggled with very mixed feelings about Asunder.  On one hand, Aridjis's writing is compelling.  She can turn a phrase, and the way she describes the strung together episodes of Marie's life draws out the mundane life she leads as well as a few surreal, bizarre occurrences that finally set up Marie's life for a change.   On the other hand, Asunder is a very short book that took me so long to read because I ended up pausing numerous times to stare into the middle distance trying to piece together what seemed to be a collection of unrelated events into some sort of cohesively themed whole.  I always felt like I was on the verge of understanding the larger scheme of what Aridjis was trying to say but never quite getting there.  In the end, without a little more help understanding the nature of Marie's transformation, Asunder failed to make the jump from a compelling piece of artful writing to an engaging story, and I was left with the distinct impression that I was missing something, rather than the closure I was looking for in Asunder.

(Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for my honest review.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Almost Put Down but Didn't

It's been forever since I've done one of these great Top Ten Tuesdays hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  Okay, it's been forever since I've done any serious blogging at all, but this week's topic captured my interest.  It's all about those books you almost put down but didn't.  Obviously, there are books that you didn't give up on that turned into major reading winners.  On the other hand, there are the books that you definitely wish you would have gone with your gut and given up on.  I've divided my list between the two.

Books I'm Glad I Didn't Put Down

1. The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson - I'm totally into the whole family saga thing, so this one reeled me right in.  Then I realized it was a bunch of interconnected short stories, which is often a dealbreaker for me since I don't find that short stories really connect into much of anything for me.  This one was different, and really worked for me - an excellent picture of a family weathering the changes of the late 20th century with an ending that's like one of those songs that starts in a minor key and then suddenly transforms to a major one in the final note.  Hopefully you're musically "educated" enough to know what I mean by that...but even if you aren't you know it when you hear it.  And read it.

2. Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh - Between the rough subject matter and the written Scottish accent/dialect, Trainspotting is nothing if not challenging.  I had to read it out loud until I got the hang of it (thank goodness no one was around), but once I got it down, I could hear it in my head and surprised myself by really liking this one.

3. Here Comes Mrs. Kugelman by Minka Pradelski - The narrator of this one, and the premise of a stranger coming to the weird narrator's door to tell her stories all about her Jewish town in the run-up to World War II, is all a bit too much on the weird side, but then Mrs. Kugelman started bringing her town to life in a way that seemed to mix the mundane with legend and myth, and I was sold.  Sure, it was weird and outside the box, but it also happened to be really good.

4. We Sinners by Hanna Pylvainen - Here are those interconnected short stories again, which is apparently something I expect to hate, but don't always.  The stories from the perspectives of the many members of a large fundamentalist Christian family combine to create a picture of all the pleasure and pain of living life or leaving life steeped in religion.  I didn't realize until I wrote the review how much I admired the well-balanced, loving perspective Pylvainen brought to her story.

5. In the Beauty of the Lilies by John Updike - I read this book for a book group meeting, and I'll admit it was occasionally kind of a slog, not to mention that the first segment is about a minister losing his faith, which is kind of too depressing, even for me.  The book has 4 huge chapters that take on one character's life journey each, and I struggled to understand it at times.  But it was great for discussion, and I found that having discussed it and thought it over that the story and ideas Updike brought together in this book really stuck with me.

Books I Finished and Sorta Wished I'd Put Down

6. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen - In hindsight, with all the scandal and everything, I wish I had put it down.  Mortensen's was an interesting story so drawn out and dryly told that I could have put it down a dozen times. 

7. Crossing the Heart of Africa by Julian Smith - This book has a cool premise bringing together the stories of Ewart Grogan who made the first crossing of the African continent in the late 19th century, braving innumerable hazards to earn the uncle's blessing that would allow him to win the hand of his true love alongside Smith's own story of traversing the continent before marrying his wife-to-be.  Grogan's story is pretty cool.  Smith's side of the story is more about escaping marriage than embracing it, and his weird commitment-phobia and over-sharing about his own relationship look that much shallower when set against Grogan's impressive feat.

8. Enjoy Every Sandwich by Lee Lipsenthal - Interesting memoir about a doctor facing death with dignity takes a bizarre turn for the metaphysical and self-helpy. 

9. From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant by Alex Gilvarry -  Bizarre satire features an impossibly naive high fashion designer turned accessory to terrorism.  And, yes, it was as weird as it sounds.  And also unexpectedly...boring?

10. The Very Thought of You by Rosie Allison - I pressed on with this one because it got an Orange Prize list nod, but I wish I hadn't.  The novel is about the dissolution of a marriage during World War II while the couple hosts numerous evacuee children on their country estate.  Therefore, impressionable young Anna is on hand to witness marital drama far beyond her years.  Kind of creepy, really.

What books did you almost put down but turned out to be good?  Or do you usually wish you would have gone with your first instinct when you finish a book you thought you should've put down?

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Bout of Books 10

Bout of Books

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 12th and runs through Sunday, May 18th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 10 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team.

Bout of Books is one of these book blogosphere events that I always see happening, and think "I should do that next time," and then subsequently miss the next event.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  This time, with the next week not looking as terribly busy as most weeks tend to be, and next weekend still being fairly open to book-reading activities, I'm not going to miss it.

I didn't sign up as a reader for this spring's Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon, but I, without a doubt, sorely need to get more reading done.  I've arrived at one of those moments, while I'm trudging toward the finish line of Five Days at Memorial, where I feel like there are just too many good books - in my house, in the world, coming out this summer, this fall, next year - and how will I ever read them?  Rather than causing me to focus and, you know, read more books, this kind of just makes me flutter around in a low-grade state of overwhelmed panic.

Enter Bout of Books, from what I gather, a more relaxed week-long Readathon that will (ideally) help me to put more priority on reading in the day to day when I am most prone to distraction.  The reality of the thing is, even if I read more than usual, I'm probably not going to put away more than one or two books this week, because I am, indeed, the world's slowest reader, but I will be satisfied with moving in the right direction in terms of getting a little more reading into every day.   As such, I don't have a specific number of books or pages I'm planning to read - these types of goals always lead me into disappointment.  Rather, I have a collection of reading time management goals that I hope will serve me this week and into the indeterminate future beyond this lovely event.

  • I will turn the time that I usually spend distracted by the more pointless diversions of all my electronic gadgetry and the wonders of the internet into reading time.  Here's a fond "See ya later!" to Facebook (which I don't even like but *still* sucks up my time), Words With Friends, and the Microsoft Solitaire collection.
  • I will curtail unnecessary naps in favor of reading.  I am a great lover of naps both needed and not.  A good nap is a great thing when taken sparingly.  The napping has been less sparing lately.  And yes, I realize how pathetic this sounds.  I'm admitting I have a problem, people.  I'm told that's the first step. 
  • I will redirect the freakish amount of energy I put into acquiring books into reading them.
  • If I'm stuck in a waiting room, it will be with the written word, not my iPhone.
  • I will take back some of my lunch time at work for reading.  Sorry, fitness and working when I don't really need to be - this is not your week!
  • I will start early.  Like today.  Sure, that's kind of cheating, but I'm a slow reader, I need every advantage I can get.  Plus, what's better than an excuse to read more for one week than an excuse to read more for one week plus one weekend?  ;-)
Will you be participating in the Bout of Books?  And, even if you aren't, do you have any tried and true suggestions for cramming more reading into the nooks and crannies of your week that I should know about? 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Where've You Been?: The April Edition

Some people post reading recaps every month.   Mine would be awful short, so I've decided to replace my reading recaps with excuses for why I haven't been blogging or reading enough, with verbs!

Adjusting - To this new job.  I used to have a job where I spent a lot of the day walking.  Now I have a computery desk job.  This makes me unlikely to want to spend my evenings with another computer.  Also, it makes me fat from sitting at a desk all day.  With that in mind, it's not surprising that I've joined my new co-workers on their daily lunch walks that get me up and moving away from my desk and burning off a few calories.  The bad news is, when you spend your lunch breaks walking, a good half hour of reading time disappears from your day.

Reading - Occasionally.  LOL.  No, seriously, though.  April wasn't a total wash of a reading month for me.  I did finish The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood  and Ender's Game for the book club that I very occasionally join.  The Wicked Girls was good, and so was Ender's Game.  I'd been meaning to read Ender for quite a while, so it was good to get that final push to pick it up.  I also read a big chunk of Five Days at Memorial which I have been anticipating and avoiding in equal measure.  Finally, this time when I chose it at random, I didn't say, "Argh, non-fiction, I don't think I can!"  I actually picked it up and gave it a shot.  It's compelling but also jaw-droppingly depressing.

Spending - A great day in NYC with a bunch of friends!

Freezing -  Seriously, the cold weather just won't quit.  My dad got us 5 game "season" tickets for a minor league baseball team in our area, but you have to use one set of tickets each month of the season.  We had fun eating overpriced ballpark food and clowning around with the mascot, but let me tell you something is really lost in watching baseball when it's like 45 degrees and windy out.  Brrrrrr.

Cheering -  For the 24 Hour Readathon.  I totally missed the under-publicized deadline for signing up to cheer, but that didn't stop me, I went "rogue" instead and had a great time cheering for the ridiculous amount of people that were signed up this time around.  However, having missed the official deadline, it kind of sucked because I had to go back to using the sign-up linky to find blogs to cheer for, and lots of people signed up and didn't participate or participated by Tumblr.  Is there a way to cheer for Tumblr users?  I mean, I'm pretty clueless about Tumblr, so maybe there is a simple way, but I couldn't find it and, unfortunately, couldn't cheer for those folks.  However, I did make up a great rhyme or two to cheer Readathonners on Twitter, and seriously, I had a ton of fun.  Thanks to Andi and Heather for not just keeping the event going but working to make it even better every time!

Crying -  Over Patchy.  One of our "stray" cat colony that is never quite stray enough.  Almost exactly a year after his brother went missing, Patchy got hit by a car.  You never quite feel like you did enough to help the cats you didn't mean to pseudo-own, but you can't figure out how you could have done more under the circumstances and the whole thing ends up in a morass of a sadness and mostly undeserved guilt.  The moral of the story?  Save another animal lover some heartbreak.  Adopt a cat, and get it fixed so it won't make lots of other (homeless) cats that some poor sucker won't want to watch starve and will feed and love and be heartbroken over when they can't take it in because they already have a zillion cats and the inevitable occurs.  :'-(

Celebrating -  It's birthday season for my family.  April is littered with birthdays here on the ranch.  My mom, dad, and two aunts all celebrate this month.  It's a month full of cake and cards stuffed with cash which is fun but hard on the ever-fattening recent desk job convert and those with ailing bank accounts. 

Planning -  To start blogging again.  For real.  But here's the thing, I've decided not to let myself start until I have a good stockpile of posts to schedule out.  I'm shooting for eight.  Counting this one, I have about three whole and four halves done.  Wish me luck - I do miss this blogging thing!

That's what I've been doing.  What have you been up to?