Saturday, December 31, 2016

Choose Your Own Comment Adventure! (5)

Well, this year turned into a blogging/reading funk of epic proportions.  I've read fewer books this year than I have in a long time.  My enthusiasm for buying books hasn't waned, but I've been unsettled for months now in my life on the whole and when I'm feeling unsettled and restless, booking and blogging both turn into a struggle.

As always, however, I miss the creative outlet and keeping up with the latest and greatest of books, so I woke up yesterday thinking I should rejuvenate the best thing that happened to this blog in 2016 before 2016 got away - a Choose Your Own Comment Adventure.  Instead I sat down and unexpectedly churned out two decent quality book reviews and then wandered off to stream Mighty Ducks movies.  Thankfully, 2016 still has a few hours ago, and a few hours is more than enough for me to visit some blogs and share my adventure!  I'll keep those reviews in reserve for next year with the hope that they will help spur this blog on to activity and me into continued reading.

Anyhow, enough talk, it's adventure time!  Today, I'm starting with Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea because hers was the blog awaiting at the top of my feed when I had the idea to do this.  Also because I find Diane's taste in books is almost always a good match for mine.  Really, if she posted that the Greater Philadelphia phonebook was the best read of the year, I'd probably dash off to find a copy.  Lucky for me, her most recent post contains her top 10 favorite reads of the year.  I am duly gleeful that some of them are already on my (physical) TBR pile since the time of year where I put  my wallet on lockdown after the holidays is nigh upon us.  Can't wait to read Under the Influence by Joyce Maynard and All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood - and so many more!

(OK, this could take a while if I keep pausing to add a million books to my wishlist)

Next up it's a December Monthly Round-Up with Sarah's Book Shelves.  Sarah's post is full of links to her 2016 favorites and links to interesting posts from other bloggers that I'll certainly have to come back.  For now though, I spot a 2017 debut that Sarah loved that I'll undoubtedly have to get my hands on We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter.  I'll definitely be stopping back at Sarah's to help my wish list get even more out of control.

And on the third link of my adventure, I've found a blog that's new to me and from the looks of it, a blog that I want to be reading on a more regular basis.  "Toady" at B.B. Toady's most recent post is a review of the January release Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, which sounds sooo good.  The titular character is an octogenarian taking a walk around mid 1980s Manhattan, and this sounds like just the sort of reflective book that I have the potential to love. 

Off I glacier to my next destination after pausing to peruse and add yet more books to my wishlist.  Next up is another new to me blog - Novel Visits.  I admit, I may have slinked (slunk) around a bit collecting more Best of 2016s for my wish list before settling in to read Susie's most recent post a review of Leave Me by Gayle Forman.  Susie had some mixed feelings about this story where a mother leaves her family after having unexpected open heart surgery but ultimately enjoyed it.  Another book for my wish list?  Don't mind if I do. 

Sue at Crushing Cinders is taking part in Sheila's First Read of the Year event by planning to read Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.  It sounds like she's anticipating and dreading it in equal measure.  Anticipating because of all the hype and dreading because what if it doesn't live up to the lofty expectations?  There's a problem I'm sure we all recognize!   

Two on a theme - would you believe that the next stop on my journey is a review of Illuminae at Rebel Mommy Book Blog?  Grace thinks she may be the last to read Illumine, but turns out Sue and I have rescued her from this certainly dubious honor.  ;-)  Anyhow, this book sounds like it's filled with futuristic apocalyptic goodness that I ought to enjoy in hard copy and now it's doubly on my radar. 

Next stop is at Greg's Book Haven where Greg is taking part Kimba's Sunday Post.  I shake off my confusion about what the heck day it is in time to peruse the miscellany of Greg's post and take in the preview for movie incarnation of The Lost City of Z which looks worth a watch.

Onward and forward to A Magical World of Words where Amy has modified The Perpetual Page Turner's end of year reading survey to accommodate her movie watching, too.  This reminds me that I always wish I had tracked my movie watching at the end of the year.  Maybe 2017 will be the year I track my watching alongside my reading!

My last visit is to Laura at Beautiful Books who is reviewing her reading year.  She has failed her yearly reading challenge despite reading, er, more than double the amount of books I read this year. I huddle beneath my desk in shame for a moment before emerging to add more books to my wish list from Laura's favorites.  This is the first post I've come across where I've actually read a favorite (!!) - Like Water for Chocolate, a book I read and loved long times ago. 

That's all for today.  Hopefully I'll get back to making this a regular thing in 2017. 

Here's wishing you a safe New Year's Eve and a very Happy New Year filled with good times and great books!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones

What to say about Mongrels?   It was the perfect book for the Halloween season, that I happened to be reading during the Halloween season by sheer happenstance (which is to say  Before it, I had spent more than a month plodding through a collection of short stories that I actually liked, but was so simultaneously busy and reading enfunked that I could hardly be bothered to read, even given long stretches of plane rides - though that is when I probably did the most reading of said collection.

Mongrels is many things: a werewolf story, a horror story, a coming of age story, even a story about the truth in stories.  The narrator, a kid whose mother died in childbirth tells the story of his remaining family, his grandfather who likes to terrify and enthrall him with his tales of being a werewolf, his loose cannon Uncle Darren, and his fiercely protective Aunt Libby.  The kid grows up in frightened anticipation of the wolf that may or may not lurk in his blood, always fleeing the trouble that follows when his aunt or uncle has "wolfed out."

Forced to the fringe of society, never staying in one place too long, the kid only has his family to lean on, and he is forced to both love them and fear the unpredictable life they lead as werewolves.  Alternating between past and present, Jones creates a absorbing modern mythology for werewolves that has nothing to do with a full moon.  Instead of embracing the mystery that comes with these creatures, Jones offers up a fascinating take on what it might look like to only semi-predictably change to a wolf in the midst of everyday life and what it looks like to love a wolf like family. 

The unnamed kid at the center of the story is the perfect narrator, giving an inside perspective on living with werewolves - werewolves who are also normal people who he loves. As the story goes on, he's trying to carve out an identity for himself whether werewolf is in his blood or not.  As he grows he comes to know that he can't take his grandfather's stories that he grew up on quite at face value because there's a deeper meaning to be found in them, an illumination of past tragedy wrapped up in a garden-variety fireside scary story.

I was so captivated by these characters that after I'd turned the last page, I spent the following days depressed that I couldn't read more about them when I got home from work.  Mongrels is a unique easy to read horror story that succeeds in both being a horror story and transcending the genre classification.  The boy's coming of age journey creates the perfect tension as you wait to see if he comes of age as merely a man or as a werewolf, and down to the bitter end, I couldn't decide which would be best. 

(Disclaimer: I received an advance copy of Mongrels from the publisher in exchange for review consideration.)

Monday, September 12, 2016

Don't Tell Me You're Afraid by Giuseppe Catozzella

Greetings from the occasional book reviewer!  I have been MIA for quite some time now.  My August reading (and blogging!) was pretty slumpy all around.  I blame myself and the many distractions life has to offer more than the books (or the blogs) themselves.  Nonetheless, I'm trying to shake off the cobwebs and get back down to reading (and blogging!).  I kicked off my September reading with Don't Tell Me You're Afraid by Giuseppe Catozzella, a book translated to English written by a white Italian guy from the novelized autobiographical perspective of a black, young, female would-be refugee from Somalia.  Somehow this seems both terribly diverse and also a bit wide of the mark as far as reading diversely goes.  Nonetheless, I enjoyed the book, found it simultaneously sad and enlightening, and learned a valuable lesson about not Googling the real-life subject of the book you're reading.

Samia Yusuf Omar knows she's an athlete from a young age.  Already at ten, she dreams of being the fastest and trains with a single-minded dedication on the streets of war-torn Mogadishu, Somalia despite the many dangers. In Mogadishu, a simple trip to the market can be a death sentence.  Not wearing the proper veils, stepping onto the city's beaches, or even being seen with her best friend and "coach," Ali, stand to put Samia in terrible danger. Samia finds refuge and support with her family in the relative safety of their home. Soon, Samia begins to win races, but as conditions in Mogadishu decline under the power of militant radical Islamist group, Al-Shabaab, the deadly risks of Samia and her sister Hodan's dreams strike too close to home. As tragedy strikes her family and the women of Mogadishu are forced to conform to the vigorous restrictions of Islamic law, Samia dreams not only of being the fastest but of making her family proud and being a beacon of hope for the subjugated women of her war-torn homeland.

The world saw Samia's potential at the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics where she represented her country in the 200m sprint.  While she may have lost the race, she won the support of an international audience.  Unfortunately, conditions are even more dangerous for her in the wake of her Olympic competition.  Being a picture of possibility for Muslim women makes her a target in her hometown. It's virtually impossible for her to train, and she cannot gain strength with the meager food her family can provide.  When her sister Hodan successfully makes the Journey, being smuggled across the Sahara and over the sea into Europe, Samia is heartbroken, but as conditions decline, Samia has to admit that the Journey is the only way she will ever realize her dream of being a champion.

Don't Tell Me You're Afraid is a compelling novelization of the true story of Samia Yusuf Omar's childhood, rise to running excellence, and eventual desperate journey to escape the war and poverty afflicting Somalia.  Told in an extremely readable first person, the novel immerses readers in the life of a young girl who dreams of being the fastest and dreams of being a symbol of what her country had been and could be.  I was, at the start of the book, very ignorant of the conflict in Somalia.  While I had been aware of the growing amount of refugees, this novel puts a human face on the horrible conditions facing those whose desperation to escape would have them put their lives in the hands of deplorable smugglers who transport refugees in the worst possible circumstances and use every opportunity to extort every last resource from the desperate. 

With Samia as the narrator, the ongoing tragedy of refugees is set in even more stark relief, knowing that this girl Somalia had paraded on an international stage was no better off than the least of these seeking asylum.  Don't Tell Me You're Afraid is a heartbreaking story that needs to be read.  While there are certainly some departures from the true to life sequence of events and a tendency of the author to wander into a sporadic second person narration that might bother the more discerning reader, Catozzella and translator Anne Milano Appel do a great job of bringing the heart of Samia's story to the page and making a hard to read account of  hardship and hope virtually unputdownable.

Thanks to Penguin Press for providing a copy for review. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Eighty-Dollar Champion by Elizabeth Letts

This July, not unlike last July, was a bit of a weird reading streak for me.  I don't read a whole lot of short stories, and I don't read a whole lot of non-fiction, but this July featured a little of both.  The randomizer (Because who makes decisions when computers can do it for you? Er, please contact me for use of that unique tag line when you're coming out with your next "robots take over the world" comedy) helpfully chose for me a book that, if I chose my own books, would probably not have made it off the shelf anytime soon but was well worth reading.


The Eighty-Dollar Champion is one of those horse stories that should unquestionably become a Disney movie.  When Dutch immigrant Harry de Leyer arrives at a horse auction in Amish Country Pennsylvania on a cold February day, the best horses have already been sold to the highest bidders and the bidding is over.  No horses are around except for the ones that didn't sell that are being loaded up and sent away to be killed.  Not wanting to return to Long Island, where he teaches schoolgirls to ride at The Knox School, empty handed, Harry spots a plow horse with a certain look in his eye that he's sure will make a good teaching horse.  Eighty dollars later he's bound for home with a worse for the wear horse that is about to become a part of his growing family. 

Snowman turned out to be just the calm, patient mount Harry had hoped for, quietly teaching new riders the skill.  But when Harry tries to sell him to a local farmer to free up room in his stable during the off season, Snowman proves himself to be much more.  Little did de Leyer know that his affable plow horse had a penchant for jumping and the heart of a champion that would lead the pair to fame and fortune in the dangerous sport of show jumping.  

Elizabeth Letts didn't necessarily do Snowman's story many favors.  Bulked up with unnecessary historical background (this just in, horses falling out of popular use for transportation by the 1950s) and a grating amount of repetition, likely in the name of creating some dramatic effect, fall flat.  A little dramatic tension, a little reminder here and there of the significance of Snowman's success is understandable, but Harry de Leyer and Snowman's story is so inherently heart-warming and triumphant, there's really no need for Letts to go the extra mile to point out its significance.  She goes many extra miles, however, to the point of her cumbersome sentimentality becoming downright patronizing. 

Were in not for the inherent attractiveness of the story of a horse bound for death who defeats the odds to become a great show jumper, I might have laid this book aside unfinished.  Happily, the meat of Letts' account of Harry's determination and skill as a horseman and Snowman's joy in jumping and eagerness to please the man who rescued him from an early death was enough to keep me hanging on.  There's no doubt that Snowman's story might be a little lesser known, but it is easily as inspirational as any horse story going.  By the end, I was happy to have "met" the irrepressible Snowman and the man who saw Snowman's worth long before he urged the horse to show jumping greatness. 

Tomorrow, he would hitch her up to the wagon to lug corn to the silo, and he knew the horse would plod along, as quietly as before.  But just because you are hitched to a burden does not mean that you do not sometimes want to fly.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Reader, I Married Him: Stories Inspired by Jane Eyre

I am on a book reviewing tear.  I know, it doesn't look like it.  Probably because I haven't exactly been on a book reading tear.  The upshot of that unfortunate fact, however, is that it makes it easier to boost my book reviewing ego when I am essentially keeping up with reviews of the books that I am reading instead of 10 books behind. 

Lately, I have made another attempt at short stories.  Short stories and I have a checkered past.  I don't really like them on the whole, but occasionally I come across one or two that I really like.  Reader, I Married Him seemed like a natural choice since I once had Jane Eyre as required reading and actually liked it (When does that happen?), so stories inspired by that famous novel seemed an obvious place to look for a short story hit.

Reader, I Married Him is a collection of short stories by female writers inspired by the famous line from Jane Eyre.  The collection brims over with works by numerous well-known authors of literary fiction including Jane Gardam, Emma Donoghue, Salley Vickers, Lionel Shriver, and a good many more authors that you've undoubtedly heard of.  Some stories share a direct and obvious connection to Jane Eyre while others simply use marriage as a jumping off point to head in a different direction.  Like many short story collections, this one is a bit uneven, but definitely worth a read for some of the highlights.

My reaction to Reader, I Married Him covered the usual bases of my reaction to short story collections.  A little, "What was the point of that?" with a side of, "I don't get it..."  Some, "This is good, but I wish it was a whole book." And, of course, even a bit of "This is really good/clever.  Why have I never heard of this author?"  Oddly enough, yet somehow par for the course (I am going to mostly unwittingly get *all* the sports analogies into this review, just you watch.), despite this collection running over with big name female authors, the stories I found myself the most taken with were by authors that were unfamiliar to me. 

In Kirsty Gunn's selection, "Dangerous Dog," a chance encounter with a few boys and a dog whose bark is much worse than his bite changes the life of a fitness trainer taking a writing class.  In it, Gunn cleverly re-imagines Mr. Rochester as a dog, and somehow manages to weave together what seem like three stories in just over ten pages.  The other story that really captured me was "The China from Buenos Aires" by Patricia Park, about a Korean girl who leaves her Buenos Aires home to go to college in New York City,  There she feels homesick and isolated until she happens upon a boy she knew from home, but is ordinary Juan enough to bind her to a place where she never felt at home?  (Both of these stories were slam dunks.  Please, somebody stop me.)

All in all, I found this to be an enjoyable collection.  While I may not have been satisfied by each story, since I often find myself unsatisfied by the medium, I was impressed with each author's ability to evoke places and characters so fully in only a few pages.  A word to the wise, many of the stories in the collection have, at best, the faintest of connections to Jane Eyre, so if you're seeking mostly obvious parallels, I would advise adjusting your expectations before picking up Reader, I Married Him.  However, if you're looking for a solid collection by some well known female authors that is admirably diverse, definitely give this one a try!

(Thanks to William Morrow Paperbacks for providing a copy in exchange for review consideration.)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Choose Your Own Comment Adventure! (4)

This month has been a struggle between me and my computer.  I started the month on call for work, and it didn't go particularly well.  I logged a lot of screen time trying to fix one problem or another and after that sitting at the computer just didn't seem too alluring.  I actually started a few comment adventures, wandered off and never finished them.  So commenting has been happening (free comments for all the strangers!), posting not so much.  Anyhow, I made up for my lack of adventuring this weekend, at last.  Here's my latest jaunt around the book blogosphere, now with Linky so if you're keen to play along, you can now do so officially!

Today's adventure begins with Sue at Book by Book who has the magical power of making me want to read more middle grade fiction. She reviewed Pax by Sara Pennypacker, the story of a boy and the fox he saves who are separated by war. Both boy's and fox's point of view are written. Sounds great!

My next stop is with Vicki at I'd Rather Be at the Beach who is participating in the Cook the Books book club, where they apparently read the book for the month and cook something mentioned in its pages. This month's selection is Scarlet Feather by Maeve Binchy which Vicki liked well enough, but not probably not as much as the paella it inspired, which sounds delish!

It doesn't surprise me much when I end up on familiar ground at BermudaOnion's blog when I'm on my commenting adventures, what with Kathy being a famously prolific commenter. Middle grade fiction seems to be the special of day. Kathy reviewed When Friendship Followed Me Home by Paul Griffin, the story of a boy who's spent too much time in the foster care system but has finally found a friend. Maybe I *should* be reading more middle grade...

Mystica has been reading The Provincial Lady Collection by E.M. Delafield which while humorous and providing social commentary, also seems like great comfort reading!

Cleo at Cleopatra Loves Books has signed up for a challenge to read 20 books this summer and shares the rest of her selections for the challenge. I haven't read any of her choices, but they sound good!

Jacqui at JacquWine's Journal penned a tantalizing review of a book by an author who is by no means new, but is certainly new to me. This is my first time hearing of Mary Hocking, but Jacqui's review of The Very Dead of Winter, a book about a dysfunctional family spending Christmas together that's not short on black humor, sounds like something I might like!

Marina Sofia at Finding Time to Write usually shares a "Fun Friday" post, but this past Friday's post was replaced with a photographic moment of silence in mourning for the tragedy that took place in Nice. 

The next stop on my adventure is at A Haven for Book Lovers. Diana posted a review of The Step Mother by Claire Seeber, a mystery/thriller that while not totally satisfying, did keep Diana guessing throughout. I do love a good mystery where I can't figure out the twist...

I found another book to add to my wish list at A House of Books, The Museum of You by Carys Bray. This story of a father and a daughter grieving their lost wife/mother sounds very poignant.

Eloise at Eloise in Wanderlust is moving out of a house where she technically doesn't live anymore anyway. Her books are dreading the "getting rid of books" moment before the moving. (Mine dreaded the same last year, but have happily sunk back into a sense of security since I've been stationary for a year now.). Certainly her future roommate can't object to another bookshelf!

I had to backtrack a touch to get my comment adventure back on track, and I landed at Art and Soul where I may have unintentionally uttered a breathless "Oh my God" at the topic of Claire's most recent post - a recipe for caramel Rolo fudge. After a few moments of gathering myself and mopping the drool off my keyboard, I manage to leave a comment about mopping the drool off my keyboard.

Pssst, don't tell, but I did 11 instead of 10 this time.  Because I can't count.

Here are the very loose "Rules" for Serendipitous Comment Adventuring:
  1. Start with a book blog, any book blog (I usually pick the most recent post in my feed reader).
  2. Leave a comment.
  3. Visit the first commenter on that post.
  4. Leave a comment on their most recent post.
  5. And so on, until you've adventured through 10 blogs (or however many seems good to you).  Adjust as needed to stay on the trail of book blogs (if you so choose) or find commenters that are different from ones you already visited.  You get the idea. 
  6. Write up a post about your adventure and link it up below!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Dreamland by Kevin Baker

Today, I will attempt a rare but not impossible feat.  I will review an e-book.  I know, some people review e-books all the time, like good e-book reading citizens.  As for me, my best motivator for reviewing a book, you know, aside from actually liking it, is to, uh, get rid of the book and make space for more, um, other books.  Understandably, that makes the payout for reviewing e-books somewhat less awesome because, obviously, I think I'll probably hang on to my Kindle and all its hundreds of unread cheap e-book deals for as long as it will have me.

Nonetheless, I read this chunkster of a book by Kevin Baker, Dreamland.  Happily, since I read it on the Kindle, its 657 or so pages didn't intimidate me into reading something shorter.  I'm glad its largesse didn't scare me away due to its e-book format, because I highly enjoyed this story of early 20th century New York.

Dreamland, titled after the Coney Island amusement park of the same name that was in its heyday at the time, starts with a tale from Trick the Dwarf about a bizarre twist of fate and the love story that resulted.  The story then mushrooms out to take in the points of view of a couple notorious New York City gangsters, a factory girl involved in early union activity, a prostitute, a Tammany Hall politician, and, oddly enough, Dr. Sigmund Freud.  With these characters, Kevin Baker vividly brings to life the downtown New York of the early 1900s, plagued by crime and poverty but also somehow larger than life and full of possibility.

He was astonished, for the first time, to see how many people there were and how fast they were moving.  Straddling each avenue were high steel girders, pylons holding up the trains that raced madly through the night, sometimes two at a time, in opposite directions, until they made the whole street shake.  It was a frantic, crowded, nightmare world that he could not wait to join.

Baker's gangsters are based on real historical gang members, with their stories tweaked and their lives and motives re-humanized.  These gangsters disappoint their parents, immigrate from Eastern Europe in search of a better life that never seems to materialize.  They care for their sisters and their lovers, all in between killing and maiming.  Naturally, there is a love story, and a good one at that, between an exiled gangster and the girl he meets on Coney Island.  There is no small amount of crooked politicking.  There is disturbing violence, both random, provoked, and shocking, in the case of the early labor movement. 

With Dreamland, Baker paints a picture of a city struggling through its many growing pains and trying to come of age.  While there were definitely some storylines I could have easily done without (adios doctors Freud and Jung - what are you guys doing here anyway?), I was, for the most part, totally taken in by Dreamland and its gritty, larger than life portrait of New York City at a pivotal point in historyBaker ably breathes life into each of his many characters and marches them steadily toward an explosive conclusion that expertly weaves many narrative strands into one pivotal day on Coney Island. 

"A magnified Prater," he sniffed to Ferenczi and Brill, referring to the cheesy midway in the Vienna park - but the Prater was like a summer garden party compared to this.  Everything louder, bigger, more hysterical - more American.

I'll definitely be picking up Kevin Baker's other fiction about this time period since he made reading 657 pages seem like a pleasant walk in the park instead of the slog I'm used to expecting out of long books (when I'm such a very slow reader).

No disclaimer - I bought this for my Kindle at a price not exceeding $2.99, if I know me at all.

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

Once upon a time I requested some book that I now forget the title of from William Morrow Paperbacks blogger blast.  Ok, two books, I requested two books.  There was some sort of mix-up at the book publishing factory or shipping center or whoever shuffles off the finished copies when they run out of ARCs, and I ended up with one of the books I requested and one shiny new copy of The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West instead of the other book I requested.  Happily, I've been known to enjoy some YA contemporary romance on occasion, so I didn't miss that other book for long and ended up with some top-notch summer reading to enjoy.

Gia Montgomery is obsessed with what people think of her and her perfect image, and she doesn't even realize it.  That is, she doesn't begin to realize it until her boyfriend Bradley breaks up with her just before they were to enter the prom and prove to Gia's friends that Bradley isn't a figment of her imagination.  As senior year draws to a close, the thought of having to face her friends, including frenemy Jules who seems to determined to dislodge Gia from their group, dateless at the prom is beyond the pale. Desperate to avoid looking like a liar in front of her friends, Gia enlists the help of a guy dropping his sister off for the night to pose as Bradley.  With one fake date, Gia starts to get tangled up in a web of lies that pave the way for her to learn the truth about herself.

The Fill-In Boyfriend is perfect summer reading, easy to read with a main character who becomes more and more sympathetic as the book wears on and, naturally, a love interest that readers won't find it hard to fall for.  Gia, at the start, is benignly reprehensible, choosing to be a liar in order to not look like a liar, obsessed with her image and portraying a perfect, put-together version of herself even when she's starting to come apart at the seams.  Happily, her nemesis in the book, Jules, is just enough worse that even Gia at her least lovable looks better.  The benefit from starting out so bad is that Gia has plenty of room to grow, and grow she does, discovering that she hardly knows herself beneath the perfect exterior she presents.

There's something Sarah Dessen-esque about The Fill-In Boyfriend, a sort of formula that pairs up a perfect always-fine girl with a guy who is unexpectedly dashing and self-aware, who helps peel back the layers of artifice to reveal the decent human being inside all that fakey perfection.  As we've probably established a few times already as I've fallen hard for a few Sarah Dessen books, that formula is one of my most beloved "guilty pleasures."  The Fill-In Boyfriend is fast read that brings back all those high school feelings, good and bad. It's definitely a great entry into the YA contemporary romance genre that satisfies without wrapping things up too easily, making it that much more enjoyable for its authenticity.

(Thanks to the publisher, for, uh, accidentally shipping me the wrong book?  In exchange for review consideration?  Or something?)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Choose Your Own Comment Adventure! (3)

It's been a little longer than I planned since my last one, but it's time for yet another Choose Your Own Comment Adventure where I let the comments lead me on a little book blogosphere adventure and write it up for you to follow my wanderings.  You can read more about my "rules" for adventuring in this post, if you so desire.

My latest comment adventure starts with Ti at Book Chatter, who claims that her life is slowing down for the summer but still has a busy day planned that includes seeing Darryl Strawberry at church and going out to an Automotive Museum. Ti is also plugging and participating in a readalong of Joe Hill's The Fireman, which I really should take part in. Decisions, decisions.

The comments lead me to JoAnn at Lakeside Musing who has been celebrating Father's Day all weekend long. In an ironic twist, I add a book to my wishlist that she DNFed, Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler. I might just have to try out the recipe for the delicious turkey burgers she's been cooking, too.

Audrey at Books as Food is jumping the gun to celebrate Margaret Kennedy Day a day early with an excerpt from Lucy Carmichael that made me chuckle. I'm not familiar with the author, but it seems like I ought to be!

Next up is Lisa at TBR 313 who gives a glimpse into what she's a reading, Harriet Tubman by Catherine Clinton. I'll admit I have a 5th grader's level of education when it comes to Harriet Tubman, so it should come as no surprise that I learned a few things just from what Lisa shared!

Onward to Lark Writes. Lark has gamely re-read Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome despite not liking it very much the first time, a courageous feat that I would never attempt, preferring generally to avoid classics, most especially ones I didn't enjoy on the first go. Happily Lark emerged with a greater appreciation of the book!

Jenclair's at A Garden Carried in the Pocket is reviewing something a little newer, Age of Myth by Michael Sullivan. I think I'll keep this one on file for those times when I need a little high fantasy in my life. They exist! I swear!

Ooo, up next is Kelly whose Instagram I heartily enjoy but whose blog, The Written World, I don't pay near enough attention. Unfortunately, she's struggling with post broken ankle depression that's taking a toll on her reading, something I can easily relate to, having an almost year old repaired ankle of my own. Stupid things take a second to break and forever to get better. I distract myself from the slippery slope of rejoining the broken ankle depressed by once again ogling the cool pics of colorful cement houses I recognized from Instagram!

Katherine at I Wish I Lived in a Library made me laugh out loud with her post about some home improvements that may involve taming some of the bedroom "book creep." You know how unread books tend to just fill up empty spaces, right?

My next stop is with Laura at fuonlyknew who is contemplating how her pets have changed with age which leads her to reflect on how *she* has changed with age.

Last but not least is Deborah at who has a most fantastic header image for her blog. This week she finished Wuthering Heights on audio and had less than glowing things to say about it, like me. She's also got a book review published in the newspaper. Fun branching out!

As always, I invite you to take your own comment adventure.  You'll be surprised, like I always am, but the amount and diversity of book blogs out there for the viewing.  I'm debating throwing  a linky on these posts for people to officially join in, but if you do before then, please leave your link in the comments!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Loose Leafing: Currently

It's been forever since I've just written a nice little (little, bwahaha! Yeah, I'm so concise) personal post about what's happening in my life, the universe, and everything.  Usually because nothing much is happening.  Nothing much is happening this week either.  I just, uh, bought more stuff than usual and feel compelled to tell people about it.  But let's pretend that not what it's all about and start out with what I'm...

Reading:  Just finished Kevin Baker's 650-some page historical Dreamland, the longest book I've read since....wait for it.....2012.  I know I tend to shy away from really large books on occasion because I am the slowest reader, but I still can't believe it's been that long since I read a really long book.  Thanks go to Kindle for making it seem much more approachable than, say, an epically large hardback.  I enjoyed the book, though I did think there were a few storylines that could have been dispensed with.  Review to come.  Also, I'm accepting pats on the back for having actually read a few e-books this year thus far instead of just buying cheap ones by the dozen. 

Anyhow, I've decided to take a break from the overlong and the very literary with Kasie West's The Fill-In Boyfriend, which is proving enjoyable, and just the YA romance-y thing I need right now.

Watching: Baseball!  I'm so excited to have just subscribed to MLB.TV at a steeply discounted Father's Day discount (Happy Father's Day  I used to watch a ton of baseball when I was younger (I was a crazed Yankees fan - still a fan, just less crazed now), but I didn't get to watch too much when I was living with my parents. Then when I moved I cut the cord and went to all streaming TV which is great but not so friendly to the sports lover.  So now, I will stream all the baseball. 

Hating:  Social media in the wake of any national tragedy.  Or even less, say, "widespread" tragedy.  I hate how being so easily in communication with each other seems to encourage more division instead of less.  I hate that we skip right over grief and sympathy to get to fear, anger, judging, arguing, and self-righteous, often uninformed, political rhetoric.  I can't help feeling like this immediate, often insensitive reaction to everything that ever happens plays as big a role in our extremely disturbing political climate right now as anything else. 

On a lesser scale, I am hating screen fatigue.  I have a computery job, and I'm starting to realize that my lack of blogging has less to do with lack of time then it has to do with lack of interest in gazing at a computer screen for a couple more hours after doing it all day.  Most weekdays, I'm actively repulsed by the idea of computers by the time I get home, and I'm not sure what to do about it.

Loving:  Summer.  I am, on the whole, so much more ambitious and social and active in the summer, and with the ankle breaking incident, it's been even longer than usual since I've been ambitious and active.  It's been great hanging out with friends and family and having leftover ambition to read and blog with more regularity.  Also, I love that the hanging plant that I bought 5 weeks ago is still alive.  Unprecedented!  His name is Robert.  (Robert Plant?  Get it?  I'm sorry, my whole life is pretty much just a really long dad joke).

Traveling: Speaking of life in the post-ankle break world, I was stoked to discover that my recently unbusted ankle, though not completely back to its former self, will now tolerate some light vacationing, something I've been worried about for a while.  My dad and I took a short vacationlette to Baltimore and rode the Water Taxi and shopped/ate our way around Fells Point and shopped at the awesome Inner Harbor Barnes and Noble (okay, so we shop a little much when we're together) and took in a baseball game - Yankees vs. Orioles.  It was good to get away for the first time in a long time, and I'm duly encouraged that I'll be able to do a little more of that again!

Buying:  All the things!  I went to a book sale and bought some books this week (though, admittedly fewer than usual).  I bought a mystery box of lovely fake flowers made from recycled materials from  Eco Flowers after being mercilessly prodded by a friend.  Glad she's a good "salesgirl."  I love my flowers!  The OrganATTACK card game from Awkward Yeti, the only comic I've ever been known to fangirl over.  So hilarious and on point.  This t-shirt from Montgomery Biscuits because, come on, that mascot is adorable regardless of whether I've ever been to Alabama or like the Tampa Bay Rays or whatever.  Cute mascot and their team store is called the Biscuit Basket!  And, oh, somebody stop me.  Really. 

Pondering: Having an actual schedule and a linky for the Choose Your Own Comment Adventures.  Okay, I pondered having a schedule for about a minute before I decided that would probably wreck at least half the fun for me.  You know, obligations and me being kind of contrarian and the screen fatigue and everything.  But a linky, maybe?  I dunno, would any of y'all play along with me and link up even if I wasn't on a specific schedule?  Maybe I just post one, say, once a week (any day!) and if anybody happens to have an adventure that week, they can link up?   

That's all for me this week.  Hope you're having a lovely Sunday!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated

I love these Top Ten Tuesdays that are all about getting excited about the books slated for release this year.  I don't think I did one for the first six months of the year, but after reading a lot of BEA recap posts and realizing how many authors I like who have new books coming out in the latter part of this year, this list practically wrote itself.  So in conjunction with The Broke and the Bookish, I give you my top ten most anticipated releases for the rest of 2016.

1. Darktown by Thomas Mullen (Atria 9/13/2016) - You may have heard me go on (and on and on) about Mullen's book The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers, so there's no doubt that I'll need to track down his next round of historical fiction which features Atlanta's first black police officers.

2. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (Viking 9/6/2016) - Speaking of historical fiction, I can't wait to get my paws on the sophomore work by the author of Rules of Civility, which I lovedGentleman is about an unrepentant aristocrat sentenced by Bolshevik tribunal to live out his life under house arrest in a Moscow hotel.  Sounds very different but equally enticing!

3. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett (Harper 9/13/2016) - Ann Patchett is another author I've been loving for a while between Bel Canto and The Magician's Assistant and Truth & Beauty.  Her latest sounds like a true family saga that follows the reverberations from one misplaced kiss.

4. This Must Be the Place by Maggie O'Farrell (Knopf 7/19/2016) - I loved O'Farrell's style in The Hand That First Held Mine and After You'd Gone (the book that contributed my header quote!), so a new book by her is always cause for celebration. I don't have too awful long to wait for this one about an American professor who falls in love with a world famous actress while on holiday in Ireland. 

5. The Motion of Puppets by Keith Donohue (Picador 10/4/2016) - Donohue's The Stolen Child is another book I rave about, and this one sounds like it has a bit in common with it, except creepier and with puppets.

6. Nobody's Son by Mark Slouka (W.W. Norton 10/18/2016) - I was totally captivated by Slouka's writing in his last novel, Brewster, so I'm hoping the same magic carries over to this memoir that centers on his parents, Czechoslovakian refugees.

7. I Will Send Rain by Rae Meadows (Henry Holt 8/9/2016) - This one keeps landing on my radar, historical fiction about a woman trying to keep her family together in 1930s Oklahoma, where drought and dust storms threaten.  I love the cover, and the story sounds compelling, too.

At this point in my list, I became uncertain of which book to feature as number eight, so naturally I got sucked into a Goodreads vortex of "Omigosh this one sounds good!  And this one sounds good!  And this one sounds good, too!" until I had to take a break to tremble in a corner for a while and cry out to all my friends that it's not fair that there are so many books to read and so much time that I spend not reading them.  Hold on, let me gather myself here.

But this one...  And that one...  And...and...uh, one more minute.  Okay.

8. Mischling by Affinity Konar (Little Brown/Lee Boudreaux 9/6/2016) - I am a sucker, a total and complete sucker, for Holocaust related historical fiction.  I have been since I was but a young reader. There are twins and Auschwitz and Mengele and liberation...and I must have it. 

9. The Wonder by Emma Donaghue (Little, Brown 9/20/2016) - In the authors I don't read so much as I collect, is Emma Donaghue with a new book that sounds every interesting.  A girl in Ireland is fasting and surviving only on "manna from heaven."  Is it a miracle or a murder?

10. The Infinite by Nicholas Mainieri (Harper 11/15/2016) - And then, out of left field comes this debut I heard about during Harper's fall books preview webinar-y thing that I totally left work early to attend before BEA.  It's a post-Katrina love story of sorts.  There are undocumented immigrants and babies and violence, and I am enticed all over again.

I could go on and on and on.  I mean, I didn't even hazard a glance at the YA side of things lest be reduced to a quivering mass of to-be-readness.  I trust that there will be a boat load of YA focused Top Ten posts that will reduce me thus, anyhow.  What's one (ha, one!) book you're looking forward to that's coming out later this year?

Monday, June 6, 2016

Bright Lines by Tanwi Nandini Islam

Bright Lines is the story of the Brooklyn-dwelling Saleem family that has immigrated from Bangladesh to enjoy the American dream.  However, behind the perfect facade of their restored Brooklyn home, Anwar and Hashi are struggling with secrets from the past and discontent with the present.  Their two college age daughters are stumbling their way into their futures. Much to her mother's dismay, Hashi and Anwar's biological daughter Charu seems in no hurry to make something of herself, instead choosing to wile away her time with boys and attempting to design clothes for the fashion label she dreams of.  Adopted daughter Ella is quiet and awkward but has an unparalleled way with plants.  In one transformative year, the family will have to face up to their secrets and the country of their past to learn to live again in the country of their future.

To be quite honest, I struggled with Bright Lines at the outset.  It's slow to get started, and while the characters sprang to life, occasionally the dialogue was awkward and wooden.  Anwar's dialogue in particular is sprinkled with pedantic tangents that allowed my attention to wander.

That said, Bright Lines really grew on me.  Islam has that rare talent that can render New York City into something that seems somehow magical.  The Saleems' Brooklyn house with its carefully tended oasis of a garden springs off the page.  Maya, Charu, and Ella's adventures to parties and to the beach have the New York City grit stripped away to reveal a new place with undercurrents of possibility.

Islam's characters are undeniably unique and all are fully realized.  Anwar, haunted by the war in his home country and the loss of his best friend, has become an herbal pharmacist and a shameless good-natured pothead.  Hashi, more educated by far than your average salon worker, uses her understanding of psychology to transform people's outsides to mirror their true selves when she isn't busy coiffing bridesmaids for weddings.  Charu is the pampered princess receiving all the benefits her immigrant parents have striven to give her and squandering them on boys and temper tantrums.  Ella, uncomfortable in her own skin and plagued by vivid hallucinations since the death of her parents, is still struggling to find her own identity. 

Islam renders Bangladesh with the same artful hand she uses to bring NYC to life, contrasting beautiful beaches with wretched slums.  She sets present day Bangladesh in stark contrast to the war torn state of Anwar and Hashi's youth.  In a country that endured a painful transformation, Islam expertly guides the Saleem family through a terrible transformation of their own until the scars and the rebirth of both are gently intertwined. 

Bright Lines, while not perfect, is an extremely promising debut for Tanwi Nandini Islam.  I'll be looking forward to the next novel from this author who easily draws the magical out of the ordinary.

(Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy in exchange for review consideration.)

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Choose Your Own Comment Adventure! (2)

I had so much fun the first time around, and had so much glorious free time during this past long holiday weekend that I gleefully embraced the opportunity to go on another spontaneous commenting adventure.  If you haven't been watching, this is part of my plan to plug myself back into the book blogosphere, visit some old friends, and maybe even make some new ones.  The premise is, I start with the first blog in my feed reader that has a post with a comment, and then follow the comments on subsequent posts on an unpredictable journey around the book blogosphere, with only minimal cheating to avoid duplicates and/or wandering too far afield from bookish blogs.  Then I post my journey here so you can see who I discovered and what they're up to!

My first stop (look, if you pay attention you'll see who I've been neglecting on Feedly all this time!) on this week's adventure was It's All About Books where Suey is playing along with Jenni's Thirty Days of Books, but she's getting more bang for her buck by doing a few prompts at a time. Suey unexpectedly loved a book by one of my favorite authors - Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. My Internet Explorer is inexplicably not displaying the blogger comment box, but I will not be foiled. Happily it shows up in Firefox!

Next up is Jenni Elyse herself who is, unsurprisingly, playing along with her own Thirty Days of Books. Today's prompt is "a book you hated." Jenni hates the final book in the Chronicles of Narnia Series - The Last Battle. I didn't...hate it, that is, but Jenni's got some solid reasoning behind this choice, nonetheless.

Onward to more 30 Days of Books with Laura at Blue Eye Books who is sharing her favorite classic, The Great Gatsby, which is one of those classics I should really read again now that I'm not being required to read it for 9th grade English.

Guess what's next? More Thirty Days of Books with Jenny at Alternate Readality! Jenny's packing multiple prompts into one post like Suey. Jenny chose Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge for her "book you thought you wouldn't like but ended up loving." Cruel Beauty is a Beauty and the Beast retelling that is languishing on my Kindle, where cheap e-book deals go to die. Sounds like I'd better get to reading it!

My streak of Thirty Days of Books ends at Bookmark Dragon. The first thing I notice is Melissa's awesome header graphic, but once I get done with being distracted by shiny things, I'm wooed into putting both The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty and Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff onto my wish list.

I may or may not have paused my journey for the night before continuing on to Literary Exploration where Anna is spotlighting YA novel Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee which happens to have a beautiful cover. I think I'll enter her giveaway for a signed copy.  Wish me luck!

Renee at Two Peas in a Pod is Waiting on Wednesday. She's looking forward to The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa coming out in October, and now I am too!

Leeanna at is reviewing If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo, a book about a trans teen trying to fit in at a new high school. The author is also trans which makes this book that much more attractive for its authenticity. Wish list! In other news, I'm the first comment on the post (I kind of love being the first comment), so I'm bouncing to an older post to pick up the next link in my comment adventure...

Things are a little less than lighthearted over at Happy Indulgence where Aila is imploring people to pause before they rashly ruin friendships with something so trivial as a difference of opinion about a book on social media. While I may not know the whole story from just one post, I know that posting a thoughtful, respectful negative review should never be grounds for personal backlash.  Again I find myself glad to not be involved Twitter drama.  Yuck.

And last on today's journey is In Love with Handmade where Pili is sharing her unboxing of May's Illumicrate, a UK based quarterly bookish subscription box. Looks like the box contains one book and lots of other bookish goodies. Fun!

Thanks all for your support of my venture, and as ever, I invite you to join in the game for a good commenting time.  Graphic is free for the borrowing, and I'd love to hear about it if you go on a comment adventure of your own!

What's one great blog post you read today?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Series Worth Reading: Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne

I made a choice not too long ago to only read series when they were completed, and I had all the books in my possession.  What a good choice.  Instead of reading one book and then forgetting it and trying to get back into the series a year later, I can read them all within weeks of each other.  I usually intersperse standalones between books but not so many that I lose track of the series.  This has turned series reading into a welcome event instead of an exercise in frustration.  Happily, there are oodles and tons of complete YA series that are out there ripe for the reading (and reviewing...with only light spoilers!).

Monument 14 is one such series.  I'm an easy target for a good post-apocalyptic/dystopian series, and this one was great.

Book one wastes no time getting right into the nitty gritty of the apocalypse.  Dean and his brother Alex are running to catch their school buses little knowing that their lives as they knew them are about to be over.  Between home and school the buses are caught in a treacherous hail storm.  Dean's bus wrecks, but, quick thinker Mrs. Wooly, the elementary school bus driver plows her bus into a Greenway super store.  Unfortunately, the hail storm is only the beginning, and soon the group of unsupervised kids has taken more permanent shelter inside the store while the world outside endures catastrophe after catastrophe.

Monument 14 is cleverly conceived as both a post-apocalyptic thriller and a sort of social experiment that brings together average, slightly nerdy Dean with Jake the jock and Niko, a boy scout always prepared type, and a herd of scared and/or bratty elementary school kids.  While the world outside is crumbling under freak weather events and the release of a military grade toxin that interacts with certain blood types to produce dangerous effects, a motley assortment of grade schoolers is learning to rely on each other to survive.  It's interesting to see how long the normal high school social construct holds up before it becomes apparent that it's becoming a thing of the past.

The three books follow the group of kids from their safe haven in the super store out into the destroyed world, starting with Dean as the narrator and branching out to other points of view as circumstances change.  The post-apocalyptic world Laybourne presents is terrifying, filled with people desperate to get by and people who are wreaking havoc unaware thanks to the chemical weapon leak.  The pace is quick, with the kids dodging near disasters of all kinds as they seek a more permanent kind of safety than the Greenway has to offer.  Despite the abundance of characters presented, Laybourne doesn't scrimp on the character development, and each kid young and old(er) has a personality all their own.

The Monument 14 books are can't-put-them-down thrillers that read fast and have you longing for a happy ending for the "family" of kids who were unexpectedly thrown together in the Greenway on one fateful day.  

Monday, May 23, 2016

Choose Your Own Comment Adventure! (1)

Today's the day that I bring my comment crusade to life.  If you were reading yesterday, you'll know I've decided to make a feature out of my going on commenting escapades wherein I follow the comments from blog to blog, meet some new folks, pop in on old friends, you get the idea.  Basically, I started with the first post in my feed reader that had comment, left a comment there, then visited the first commenter leaving a comment on their most recent post, and onward like so for 10 blogs, with a minimum of backtracking and cheating to avoid duplicates and/or leaving the book blogosphere completely.      

In honor of the event, I made the above wretched graphic.  It just felt like it needed a picture to be a real feature.  Unfortunately, I have no real photo editing skills, in case you didn't take note of that already.  Oh well, bear with me anyway.  Here's where I went on my commenting adventure! (Full disclosure: I actually went on my "adventure" on Saturday morning, so these aren't the most recent posts anymore!)

I started off at Beth Fish Reads' Weekend Cooking post, all about cookbooks and foodie non-fiction she discovered on her trip to BEA.  I duly added one of the spotlighted books to my wishlist - Pancakes in Paris by Craig Carlson (coming in September).

It didn't take me long to discover a new (to me) blog with another Weekend Cooking post.  Tina at Novel Meals reviewed the 14th Inspector Banks novel from Peter Robinson, Close To Home.  In the process, she spotlighted a few delicious food references from the book that made me hungry!  Series mystery/thrillers aren't usually for me, but drawing the inner foodie out of a not food related book totally is!

Uh oh, I fell out of the book blogosphere.  Jackie's blog, Junkboat Travels, is a lovely travel blog with a beautiful cover image that makes this a detour well worth taking. However, I think I'll step back to the next comment on the last blog to stay on a book bloggerly track...

Joy at Joy's Book Blog is also linked up to Weekend Cooking, but just my luck, she's also got some Saturday Snapshot action going.  Joy's post features some beautiful shots from her trip to Cuba and a bowl of tasty looking squash soup.

The next post I visited was from Christine at The Book Trunk Blog whose post is also linked up to Saturday Snapshot.  Christine shared some lovely photos of resurgent wildflowers called snake's head fritallaries.  Along with the pictures, Christine summarizes some really interesting background on these unique looking flowers.

I'm starting to get off the bookish track again (because memes), so I backtrack a little and end up in a familiar place.  Kathy at BermudaOnion's Weblog reviewed one of my favorite books from recent years - The Book Thief.  Good news, she loved it as much as I did!

Elizabeth at Silver's Reviews is celebrating her niece Elizabeth's (who is named after her!) graduation today.  Congrats, other Elizabeth!

Maria at A Night's Dream of Books responded to the Book Blogger Hop prompt, "Do you keep a blog roll list?" Spoiler alert: she gave up on hers because of the overwhelming amount of blogs she was following.  I can relate!

Kim at Bookworm Book Reviews featured a pair of Friday memes.  She shared the beginning and a blurb from My Sister's Grave by Robert Dugoni, which sounds like a very interesting mystery/thriller.

Lauren at Always Me loves time travel books and shared a tempting teaser excerpt from her current (much anticipated!) read, Future Shock by Elizabeth Briggs.

There you have it - my maiden voyage in serendipitous blog commenting.  If you need more commenting (and serendipity) in your life, give it a try yourself!  There are no rules except the ones you make.  Of course, I'm more than happy to lend you my delightful graphic...if anybody else would dare to besmirch their blog with that poor thing.  ;-)

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Cure for What Ails the Disconnected Book Blogger

Greetings all and welcome to my fair and neglected blog!

I've been having blogger guilt lately, but not the usual blogger guilt. You know, the guilt that says, "You should write more book reviews! You should have clever features and pretty pictures and stop planning to do bloggy community things and then failing to follow through!" I know if I applied myself, and sacrificed some Netflix time, I could fill this blog with lovely content. What's been bothering me lately isn't that I'm not really doing a stellar job of blogging but more that I'm doing an even worse job of commenting. I might be able to fire a post or two off into the void every now and then, but I've been dreadful about commenting back, meeting new people, everything except fulfilling the bare obligation to breathe life into my languishing blog once in a while.  Happily I have a few stalwart commenters that despite my considerable lack as a blogger, don't leave me alone to shout about books into nothingness. (Thanks, guys!!)

Anyhow, I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one in this boat.  It seems like half the blogs I visit have so few comments these days. I sometimes feel like we (er...I?) traded in book blogging community for shouting into the emptiness in the name of getting a few new books. That or we're so overwhelmed by the wealth of social media that we've traded in trying to have meaningful blog exchanges with each other for 140 character chatter or that perfectly posed coffee and a book picture on Instagram.

This was nowhere more apparent to me than when the decision was made to no longer cheerlead on blogs for the 24 Hour Readathon and only do the cheering on Twitter.  There's nothing wrong with Twitter cheerleading (I've done it, it's fun, especially late in the evening when everybody's getting punchy), and I mean no offense to the organizers who do such a great job of wrangling such a large event into submission. Alas, when I saw that, a part of me felt like a little bit of the heart fell out of the Readathon.  It was too time consuming, too difficult for us to engage one another on the very social media that spawned the Dewey's Readathon to begin with....blogs.  Book blogs. 

I wish I could say I handled myself maturely, but the most maturity I could muster was to not sign up to cheer and if I couldn't say something nice, I decided I would say nothing at all.  Today I was all ready to whip up some primo content (read: a few clumsily worded book reviews), and I said to myself as I too often do these days..."Self, what's the point of writing these reviews if you're going to carry on being such a half-assed member of the book blogging community?" 

At that point, instead of dejectedly going to clean the bathroom or some other only marginally rewarding domestic chore that I claim takes up so much of my time that I can hardly spare the time to write blog posts....instead of that, I had an idea.  I daresay it may even be a good idea.  In fact, this post was supposed to actually embody the fruit of that idea, but it's already grown too long under the weight of my musings, so you may have to wait a day or two to see....Choose Your Own (Commenting) Adventure!  A way for me to plug myself back into the book blogosphere, put a fire under my butt to comment more, and have content for my blog!

Instead of being constrained by the dutiful emptying of my Feedly, another place where blogging fun becomes a joyless obligation, I decided to leave a comment on the first post in my reader this morning that had a comment, then visit the first commenter on that post and so on until I had visited 10 blogs linked by their commenters.  Admittedly, I cheated a bit to keep my journey in the book blogosphere and out of niches where I genuinely didn't have much to say. 

Tomorrow or the next day, I plan to write up my short adventure around the blogosphere in that old "blog carnival" style.  Just a little link and a blurb for everyone I visited (in addition to my comments on their actual blogs).  It was great fun - I really read people's posts instead of just skimming them on my phone.  I thought of something at least semi-worthwhile to say to each.  I found a bunch of new to me blogs and stopped by a few old friends.  With any luck, it's something I'll start doing and writing about on a regular basis.  With any luck, maybe a few folks will join me in choosing their own commenting adventure.

What do you think?  Is commenting and feeling like a part of the larger book blogging community something you struggle with?