Tuesday, April 15, 2014

book review: Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today's Best Women Writers

The basics: Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today's Best Women Writers, edited by Eleanor Henderson and Anna Solomon, brings together an impressive group of contemporary female writers from a variety of genres to share their experiences giving birth. The essays are as varied as the women who write them.

My thoughts: Admittedly, before I got pregnant (and even early on in my pregnancy), I shied away from birth stories. Rarely do I favor ignorance, but in this case, I was scared of labor and childbirth, yet I knew I would be going through it, and I wasn't ready to deal with it. At some point in my pregnancy, I became eager for birth stories. I'm still frightened, of course, but I find comfort in imagining myself in a variety of different scenarios, both the positive and negative.

I'll be honest: this collection of essays often veers to the negative and sad. There are some heart-breaking stories told in these pages. I shed many, many tears as I read, yet even the most heart-breaking essays, I found a sense of comfort and kinship with the writers. These strong, beautiful voices moved me with their tales of the times before, during and after birth. To combine such intimate details about life, birth, and new motherhood with beautiful language is a true gift.

Favorite passage:  "I suppose we are always alone in our pain, but we are rarely positioned appropriately to view the isolation accurately. Most of the choices with which we are presented in childbirth are secondary to the one most important in practice we must be prepared to labor alone, even in the company of others, even with the brilliantly blinding help of loved ones. Perhaps the debates regarding child birth are so he did because in the end it’s one woman’s experience, not a shared cultural phenomenon. It’s you and your pain; it’s you and it’s your baby.” --Sarah A. Strickley

The verdict: This collection is superb. While some essays are objectively better than others, only one rang hollow for me. While I connected more deeply with some than others, I appreciated and gained something from each one. I'll be giving this book to many, many pregnant friends in the years to come.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 321 pages
Publication date: April 15, 2014
Source: publisher

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today's Best Women Writers from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle edition.)

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

book review: The Poet by Michael Connelly

The backstory: I've been racing through Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch novels and loving them. I decided to read all of his novels in the order in which they were published rather than just the Bosch novels. The Poet is the first non-Bosch mystery.

The basics: When Jack McEvoy, a Denver newspaper journalist, hears his twin brother, a police officer, committed suicide, he doesn't believe it and starts investigating his death as a possible murder.

My thoughts: The best stand-alone mysteries are the stories that couldn't be told the same way if the usual crime-solver caught the case, and The Poet is a stellar mystery. Admittedly, I'm a fan of journalist-fiction, and McEvoy is a smart, savvy journalist (and character) to root for. In many ways The Poet is the best of both worlds: solving mysteries inside and outside of law enforcement. McEvoy has access to some clues that may have been missed, while he also relies on law enforcement at other times. The result is a compelling, compulsively-readable mystery I'm still marveling about. Fans of Connelly will enjoy a few delightfully subtle Easter eggs that those who don't know Bosch wouldn't even notice.

The verdict: The Poet may be Michael Connelly's best mystery yet. This mystery is twisty even by his standards, and I hope McEvoy (and other characters from The Poet) pops up in another Connelly mystery down the road.

Rating: 5 out of 5
Length: 528 pages
Publication date: January 1996
Source: library

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Poet from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Want more? Visit Michael Connelly's websitelike him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

book review: Eleven Days by Lea Carpenter

The backstory: Eleven Days, the debut novel by Lea Carpenter, was longlisted for the 2014 Bailey's Prize and shortlisted for the 2013 Flaherty-Dunnan Prize.

The basics: Set in May 2011, Sara's son Jason, part of an elite military unit, has been missing for nine days. Jason and his disappearance are national news. Carpenter tells the story in alternating voices of Sara, in 2011, and Jason, from the past.

My thoughts: Carpenter immediately drew me into this novel and Sara's narrative. The writing is lush and emotional. When the narration shifts to Jason (and the past), I was intrigued. Soon, however, I found myself longing for more Sara and less Jason, or rather less Jason not seen through Sara's thoughts. Structurally, Jason's narration struck me as a functional and intellectual plot device. It lacked Sara's emotionally authentic, and thus more compelling, voice.

Admittedly, this novel is the first one with a strong mother-son connection I've read since I found out I'm pregnant with a son. How much this new knowledge impacted by connection to Sara is difficult to say, but the passages in which she ponders his childhood moved me move than they might have before this knowledge:
"Art and writing: these were his early passions. And that pleased her; it somehow reinforced her sense of herself. It reinforced that she had not ever been owned by anyone--not a government, not a military, not a man. It also reinforced her dreams for what she wanted her son to be. She wanted him to be free from the demons that had come with what his father did, or at least what she knew of what he did. She didn't want a son who grew up to be familiar with words like Kalashinikov, katusha, or jezail--unless he learned them from a Kipling poem."  
The passage is beautiful in its own right, and it exemplifies so much of Sara's character and internal thoughts, yet I felt more like a mother character than I often do, rather than simply coming to understand her better.

Favorite passage: "Part of the blissful ignorance of not yet having had a first child is the belief that you might just be able to influence the course of their lives. Influence them to greatness. And away from danger."

The verdict: Eleven Days is a beautifully written, contemplative war novel, but it's also a novel concerned with themes much deeper and broader than war. Carpenter is clearly a talent to watch.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: 289 pages
Publication date: June 18, 2013
Source: publisher

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Eleven Days from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle edition.)

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The 2014 Bailey's Prize Shortlist

The Bailey's Prize for Women's Fiction shortlist was announced yesterday afternoon. While I only managed to read five of the longlisted titles before the shortlist announcement, none of those five made the shortlist. I hope this means I'm in for many treats as I make my way through the shortlist:



Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Undertaking by Audrey Magee (U.S. publication September 2, 2014)
A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride (U.S. publication September 9, 2014)
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

I'm eager to read all six of these titles, and with the announcement of the winner two months away, I hope I'll have time to get to all six. I love the combination of three debut authors with three well-established authors, including one former winner. It's an intriguing shortlist, and I'm looking forward to digging in soon!

Now tell me: who is your pick to win this year's Bailey's Prize for Women's Fiction?

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

Monday, April 7, 2014

book review: Things I Should Have Told My Daughter: Lies, Lessons, and Love Affairs by Pearl Cleage

The backstory:  Longtime readers know Pearl Cleage is my absolute favorite author. See my raves about her novels: What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day, I Wish I Had a Red DressSome Things I Never Thought I'd DoBabylon SistersBaby Brother's Blues, Seen It All and Done the Restand Til You Hear From Me. Any new writing from Pearl is a cause for celebration.

The basics: Things I Should Have Told My Daughter is a curated collection of diary entries from the 1970's and 1980's Cleage includes an introduction and a brief final commentary, but this memoir is essentially twenty years of diary entries.

My thoughts: It's incredibly intimate to read diary entries, particularly from someone I have admired for nearly twenty years. At times, reading these entries broke my heart. While Cleage is now incredibly successful, these entries go back before she was famous, and reading her self-doubt was haunting. I couldn't help but wonder how hindering my own moments of self-doubt are--and where will I find myself in twenty years?

One of the delight of this book was getting to know more about Pearl. One of my favorite anecdotes was her short-lived time in library school. I've long felt Pearl was a soul sister, and knowing she once thought seriously enough about being a librarian delighted me.

I think I enjoyed this book more than the average person because of my familiarity with Atlanta and its progressive activists from the last forty years. There's a special delight at hearing stories about the parents of my classmates from before we were born. Those not familiar with Atlanta power players may find themselves looking up unfamiliar names that are presented without context, but it's worth the extra time to marvel at Cleage's rich history.

Favorite passage: "I told Michael in Martinique that sometimes it doesn't matter if you're telling the same stories over and over. Most people don't have many to tell. Talking is just a way of having pleasant social intercourse with people and of establishing contact; and concern; and love."

The verdict: Things I Should Have Told My Daughter is a mesmerizing glimpse into a fascinating woman and her intriguing life. Atlantans, feminists, writers, and social activists will delight in the familiar names, locations, and emotions. I consider myself at least part of all four, and perhaps that makes me the target audience.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 320 pages
Publication date: April 8, 2014
Source: publisher

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Things I Should Have Told My Daughter from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Want more? Visit Pearl Cleage's website and like her on Facebook.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sunday Salon: Oh, Maisie!

Note: this post contains some spoilers about the plot events in Leaving Everything Most Loved, the tenth Maisie Dobbs mystery.

There is good news and bad news in the Maisie Dobbs world. The good news: Jacqueline Winspear's next novel comes out July 1st. The bad news: it's not a Maisie Dobbs novel. It is a historical novel about World War I, and I'm very much looking forward to reading it. Buried in the announcement about the paperback release of the last Maisie Dobbs novel, Leaving Everything Most Loved, and the new novel, The Care and Management of Lies, was a note that "Maisie Dobbs returns in a new series featuring the psychologist-investigator" in Spring 2015. What does that mean?

I've been pondering this revelation for several weeks now. In my review of Leaving Everything Most Loved last March, I said " it represents a dynamic turning point for the series, and I can't wait to see what Winspear cooks up for Maisie next." A new series is not what I expected, and I have some questions. What makes it a new series? If it's still about Maisie Dobbs, then why are there two series? What will we call the second Maisie Dobbs series? Will readers even realize it's a new series? Spring 2015 is a long time from now. I know more details will start to emerge before then, but in the meantime, I'm perplexed.

In the absence of real news, I've started creating Maisie Dobbs conspiracy theories. Some are realistic. Others are not. The first: a time jump. The Maisie Dobbs novels have been moving toward World War II for several books. With so many storylines of secondary characters tied up in Leaving Everything Most Loved, will Maisie come back from India in the 1940's or even the 1950's? Will she have met Bess Crawford there through a marvel in historical mystery time travel and open the doors for crossover novels? Will she come back with a baby? Will she come back with a husband? Will she come back a lesbian? Will she come back even farther in the future, perhaps the 1960's or 1970's?

If I were playing the odds (are there odds for such things?), I'd bet on a time jump and mostly new secondary characters. In many ways, it makes sense. It would give Maisie (and Winspear) the freedom to explore new things. Our old favorites could still pop up on occasion, but a time jump (plus the trip to India) would allow Maisie to have already developed new relationships. I would fully support this decision creatively, even as I would miss the characters I've come to know (and love) over so many books. What I'm having trouble fully supporting is the mystery behind what makes the series new. When can you tell me more, Jacqueline Winspear?

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

book review: The Last Coyote by Michael Connelly

The backstory: The Last Coyote is the fourth Harry Bosch mystery by Michael Connelly. Read my reviews of the first three: The Black Echo, The Black Ice, and The Concrete Blonde.

The basics: When LAPD detective Harry Bosch is placed on leave for hitting his lieutenant, he takes the time off work as his opportunity to try to solve the murder of his mother, which happened when he was eleven.

My thoughts: It's no secret I've been loving (and quickly devouring) Michael Connelly's mysteries the past few months. After The Concrete Blonde revisited the most infamous case of Bosch's career, The Lost Coyote tackles the most infamous case of Bosch's life: the murder of his prostitute mother. Taken together, these two novels could easily serve as an ending of sorts for this series; instead, Connelly uses them as a end and a beginning.

It's not an uncommon trope to have an unsolved case in a detective's personal life (in any media.) It was a pleasant surprise to see this case be the focus of an entire novel, and Connelly masterfully uses it to dig even deeper into Bosch.

The verdict: In many ways, this novel could almost serve as the end of a series, as Bosch digs deep into his history and his mother's secrets. It's both a gripping mystery and an incredibly satisfying conclusion to a mystery that began with this series. Even more than usual, I can't wait to see what Connelly does with Bosch next.

Rating: 5 out of 5
Length: 383 pages
Publication date: June 1, 1995 
Source: purchased

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Last Coyote from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Want more? Visit Michael Connelly's websitelike him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

Friday, April 4, 2014

book review: Dept of Speculation by Jenny Offill

The basics:  "Dept. of Speculation is a portrait of a marriage. It is also a beguiling rumination on the mysteries of intimacy, trust, faith, knowledge, and the condition of universal shipwreck that unites us all." (via publisher)

My thoughts: I've spent a lot of time thinking about Dept. of Speculation since I finished it in January. Typically, I like to write reviews soon after finishing novels, but I wanted to ponder this one. And even as I still am, I'm ready to start talking about this remarkable book.

First, I am officially a huge fan of Offill's writing. She's hilarious: "That night on TV, I saw the tattoo I wished my life had warranted. If you have not known suffering, love me. A Russian murderer beat me to it." She's wise: "For most married people, the standard pattern is a decrease of passionate love, but an increase in deep attachment." I read for the joy of her sentences as much as anything else. When I started this novel, I was enraptured and awed with her writing and unconventional structure (the chapters are vignettes of sort, and it takes some time for the plot to emerge.) I didn't particularly care where it was going, or even how it would get there; I knew I needed to be along for the ride. In a pinch, I suppose I would call this novel experimental, but it's also far more accessible than most experimental novels. Narrative structure aside, there is so much familiar material in the vignettes to enjoy. At times it read almost like a stand-up routine that ends up coming together.

While I loved the experience of reading this novel (and truly savored it), I was somewhat underwhelmed with it as a whole. I loved each of the parts, but I expected the sum to add up to something quite different. Perhaps because I called this novel experimental as I read (and spent so much time thinking about its structure), that I lost sight of trusting Offill and enjoying the journey on which she took me.

Favorite passage: "Three things no one has ever said about me:
You are very mysterious.
You make it look so easy.
You need to take yourself more seriously.

The verdict: Dept. of Speculation is a fascinating, thoughtful, slim novel. As I read, I was utterly enraptured. It was so good that when I was finished I was oddly disappointed because I wished the collection of so many moments of brilliance added up to a bit more as a whole. Still, it's a novel I'll continue to re-read for years to come, and I'll continue to savor the prose of Jenny Offill.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: 192 pages
Publication date: January 28, 2014
Source: publisher

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Dept. of Speculation from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Want more? Visit Jenny Offill's website.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sunday Salon: It's a __________!

Bestill my pregnant heart--I think spring has finally arrived in Des Moines! Yesterday (while I was working all day, of course), it got up to the mid-fifties and was sunny and beautiful. Today is set to be even better: 68 and sunny. I'm preparing myself for back deck-sitting reading weather for most of the day. Chores? Probably not happening. Grilling out for dinner with Mr. Nomadreader? Definitely happening.

In other news...
It's a boy!
...the nomadbaby is happy to tell you he's a boy! I was not one of those moms-to-be who knew what I was having. Everyone else seemed convinced we were having a girl, however, and I was a bit surprised to see he's a boy. I'm also ecstatic. I didn't care whether the nomadbaby would be a boy or girl, but it's so nice to know. And to use the right pronoun. And picture what he will look like. And to have an answer to at least one question (no, he doesn't have a name yet, but there are several strong contenders. I even think Mr. Nomadreader and I now agree on which those strong contenders are--we've both abandoned a few names we each alone loved.)

The nomadbaby is also now big enough (21 weeks yesterday!) that I can feel him moving around inside of me all the time. It's totally awesome (and a little weird), but I can see how in a few weeks his constant dance moves may get annoying. Until then, if you see me, I might appear to be having a conversation with myself as my face betrays the movements my belly feels.

Reading
Perhaps the pregnancy brain fog is finally lifting because I'm actually craving literary fiction again (I'm still loving mysteries too!) Today I'm finishing up Thirty Girls by Susan Minot, which I've been reading since February and is actually really good, but it's depressing and the language is beautiful, and I have been a very moody reader rarely in the mood for it. Next up: more Bailey's Prize longlist titles. Perhaps The Shadow of the Crescent Moon by Fatima Bhutto. 

Now tell me: is it spring where you are? What are you reading?

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

book review: Concrete Blonde by Michael Connelly

The backstory: Concrete Blonde is the third mystery in Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch series. Read my reviews of the first two: The Black Echo and The Black Ice.

The basics: Harry Bosch is on trial in civil court for the killing of the Dollmaker serial killer four years ago. Meanwhile, it appears the Dollmaker may not be dead. A new note, presumably from the killer, is received, and it points to a new body, one who died after the Dollmaker.

My thoughts: I have an odd fascination for serial killer stories, and Concrete Blonde is a good one. By re-investigating the murders from four years ago, before the Bosch series begins, the reader gets to know more about this case that demoted Bosch from the prestigious Robbery Homicide Division to Hollywood homicide. In many ways, this book felt allows Bosch and his recent past to come full circle. It's simultaneously an intriguing mystery and a suspenseful legal thriller, as every clue to the new body and note have potentially dire implications for Bosch's civil defense case.

I enjoyed each element of this novel, but I most appreciated the depth with which Connelly explores Bosch's backstory in this mystery. I'm frequently annoyed when mystery writers stifle character growth, even when paired with a compelling mystery. Connelly shows no fear, either in his mysteries tinged with law enforcement corruption or with exploring Bosch's demons. Bosch isn't a character I would say I particularly liked, but he is one I increasingly trust and remain fascinated by. I can't wait to see where Connelly takes him nest.

The verdict: Concrete Blonde is another excellent book in a superb series. While I correctly predicted some of its twists and turns, Connelly once again kept me on my toes. The biggest strength of this novel is the combination of beguiling mystery and the continued growth of Bosch as a character.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 392 pages
Publication date: June 1, 1994
Source: purchased

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Concrete Blonde from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Want more? Visit Michael Connelly's websitelike him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

book review: The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell

The backstory: The Other Typist is one of my book club's March picks (we meet every other month and read two books.)

The basics: Rose Baker is an orphan who works as a typist at a Lower East Side police precinct in the 1920's. When Odalie joins the precinct as the titular other typist, she and Rose develop a friendship, but their lives seem fraught with peril and obsession.

Warning: this review contains some vague spoilers.

My thoughts: Rose narrates from the future, and it's clear from the beginning that she isn't always telling the reader everything. Her narration is concerned with what to tell and when. I don't think it's a stretch to say there are many clues she is not the most reliable narrator. I'm a huge fan of unreliable narrators, and as I read I savored the clues Rose doles out. I wouldn't go so far as to say the novel reads like a thriller, but I expected a big reveal of some sort for the reader to finally piece together the validity of Rose's story. Instead, the end of the novel raises many more questions than it answers.

As a reader, I don't need every element of a story tied up in a neat little package for me at the end of the novel. After all, life is rarely so neat, and I like some ambiguity. The Other Typist reminds me that there is definitely such a thing as too much ambiguity. I was enchanted with this book as I read. I thoroughly enjoyed my suspicions of Rose throughout the novel. I'm drawn to characters who are interesting, regardless of whether or not they're likeable (and Rose is definitely not always likeable.) She is, however, interesting and usually understandable.

When I turned the last page, I had one of those moments where I had to ask "that's it?" Initially, I hoped that although the ending wasn't what I expected, I could come to understand it. I didn't. I'm of two minds about this novel. I had a delightful reading experience with this novel, but I really disliked the ending. Does the ending taint my enjoyment of the novel? No. It does, however, tinge the reading experience with some sadness for the unfulfilled promise of this novel. I'm very much looking forward to our discussion of this novel tonight!

Favorite passage:  "The typewriter is indeed my passport into a world otherwise barred to me and my kind."

The verdict: While I loved the experience of reading The Other Typist and trying to figure out Rose and her story, the ending was too ambiguous to be satisfying.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: 359 pages
Publication date: May 7, 2013 (it's out in paperback next week)
Source: library

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Other Typist from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Want more? Visit Suzanne Rindell's website.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sunday Salon: Home again, home again!

The Sunday Salon.com
Happy Sunday morning from my beloved porch couch! Our three-season porch is my favorite part of our house, and I expected to be able to use it all winter, but it turned out to be far too cold for that. We've just opened it back up, and I love having its extra space, particularly as we very slowly drift toward spring (yes, it's supposed to snow tomorrow, but then we should see a 68-degree-high later in the week.)

Travel
The great second trimester travel tour came to an end when we got back from New York yesterday afternoon. For the past five weeks, I've spent more time away from home than at home. It's been such a joy to visit all of the other cities I've called home in my adult life (Atlanta, Lawrence, Kansas City, and Albany) and have my baby bump rubbed and kissed and loved by so many. Our baby already has quite the village cheering its arrival in August. As much fun as my trips have been, it's also really good to be home. I'm starting to feel that nesting instinct kick in, and I have the first urge to clean my house since before I got pregnant. I'm ready to settle in and enjoy life at home again.

Pregnancy
This weekend I hit a major milestone: 20 weeks. It's technically the half-way point, and the psychological boost it's giving me is a blessing. I'm starting to believe I actually will have this baby and not just be pregnant forever. Pregnancy is definitely not my favorite life experience. In many ways, it's not as bad as I thought it would be. The physical symptoms aren't excruciating or unbearable (at least not yet, as everyone seems so eager to tell me.) I've struggled with the emotional and psychological symptoms of pregnancy much more than the physical. It's emotionally grueling. I feel like a teenager again, and I did not enjoy being a teenager. It's exhausting being on guard all the time to deny myself things I love to eat and drink. And it feels interminable. Thankfully, the twenty-week benchmark is shifting my mood somewhat. I'm finally starting to believe I will actually have a baby at the end of this experience and not just get stuck in some science fictional universe where I really will be pregnant forever. In the meantime, please don't tell me to enjoy this time now because it's only getting worse. Pregnancy is hard, but I think different parts of it are harder for some than others, and I would gladly have more physical than psychological symptoms. It would be a relief to point to something specific to complain about instead of trying to put into words why as much as I already love this baby growing inside of me and am glad to have this life experience, I do not enjoy being pregnant. Eventually I hope I find the words and can write an essay explaining my complicated thoughts and feelings on being pregnant.

Reading
While Mr. Nomadreader and I drove to New York and spent a week relaxing with family and friends, I took a break from my Bailey's Prize longlist reading and binged on more Michael Connelly mysteries, which are much easier to read while also half-watching television or chatting or navigating from the passenger seat. I decided to read Connelly's books in the order in which they were published, so I had the pleasure of reading The Poet, the first non-Bosch mystery (it was fabulous.) I'm currently back to reading a Bosch mystery, Trunk Music, and I hope to finish it in the next few days. I'm eager to see how the Connelly universe continues to expand and overlap as new series begin.

I am also eager to get back into the Bailey's Prize longlist. A stack of longlisted titles arrived from the UK while I was out of town, and the last two should arrive later this week. Staring at the physical pile of titles fills me with anticipation, and I haven't decided which one to read next. At this point, I doubt I'll finish the longlist before the winner is announced, largely because I'd rather alternate the longlisted titles with mysteries. There are also a ridiculous number of new releases coming out in April and May by authors I've enjoyed in the past. I now plan to read whichever longlisted title most strikes my fancy at the moment until the shortlist is announced. Then I'll focus on those titles until I finish, before moving back to the longlisted titles. I've realized so far in 2014, when I've left myself read whatever appeals to me in that moment rather than committing to specific review dates, that I most enjoy reading when finding a good balance between goal-oriented reading and mood-based reading. I think aiming to alternate Bailey's Prize titles with other titles will work well.

Today
I plan to spend the rest of the day reading Trunk Music, writing a few blog posts for this week, watching basketball, and running errands before heading back to work tomorrow. I'm really enjoying the men's NCAA tournament again this year, and Michael Connelly chapters are often the perfect length to read during commercial breaks.

What are up to today?

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

book review: The Black Ice by Michael Connelly

The backstory: The Black Ice is the second mystery in Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch series (read my review of The Black Echo, the first in the series.)

The basics: When LAPD detective Cal Moore is found dead of an apparent suicide in a LA hotel room on Christmas, Harry Bosch investigates.

My thoughts: After loving the first Bosch novel, I was curious to see if Michael Connelly could write another that was as good. He did. I was foolishly impatient when The Black Ice began. "Where's the mystery?" I wondered. Soon, the novel was swirling with numerous mysteries that may or may not be connected, and I was enchanted.

There are some similarities to The Black Echo I could foresee becoming tropes, but they work here. Bosch is somewhat of a rogue, but he isn't a rogue for the sake of being one. As the action shifts to Mexico, the action became even more intense. I won't spoil the resolution, but I will say it is beautifully executed.

Favorite passage:  "We want the truth, Detective. You are confusing that with what we choose to tell the public."

The verdict: The Black Ice is every bit as good as The Black Echo was. If you're a fan of dark mysteries, drop what you're doing and start reading this highly addictive and accomplished series.

Rating: 5 out of 5
Length: 388 pages
Publication date: June 1, 1993 
Source: purchased

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Black Ice from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Want more? Visit Michael Connelly's websitelike him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

book review: Bumpology: The Myth-Busting Pregnancy Book for Curious Parents-to-Be by Linda Geddes

The basics: Linda Geddes, a British author and journalist, wrote the New Scientist column entitled Bumpology. It now continues on her website.

My thoughts: Since the moment I found out I was pregnant, I've eagerly explored the non-traditional pregnancy books. I'm more interested in the how and why than in the strict, traditional rules. I'm more interested in exploring the experiences of real pregnant women than the advice of the experts. I'm most interested in learning about pregnancy across the globe, so Bumpology was right up my alley. I'm continuously startled at the differences between the pregnancy and birth experiences in the U.S. and Europe (and Australia): "Around 58 percent of U.S. women have an epidural, while in the UK, it is closer to 20 percent."

Much of what I read in the early sections of Bumpology I had already learned in Emily Oster's excellent Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong--and What You Really Need to Know (review coming next week.) I won't fault Bumpology for that, as there need to be more sources, particularly for U.S. women, exploring the truth behind the rules we're given without evidence. Still, what reading these two books close together made clear is that while many of the ideas are the same, the two authors take dramatically different approaches. Different readers will have different preferences.

Bumpology is essentially a collection of Bumpology columns. One big pro to this approach is the breadth of topics covered. Bumpology begins with pregnancy, continues with birth, and ends with babies. I will definitely pick it up to re-read those sections when the time comes. One big con, however, was how little information was included about some topics. With 150 sections in just over 300 pages, very little is explored in depth. For some topics, the amount of information was just right, but for others, I wanted more. I wish Geddes would have expanded some columns. I also wish she would have done some more revising for this U.S. edition of the book. While I welcomed her British perspective, there were numerous opportunities to play up different policies and results.

The verdict: There's a lot of good information in Bumpology, but it left me wanting more of many vignettes and less of others. As a reading experience, it was uneven, but as a resource to refer to as I get closer to birth, and as my baby grows after s/he is born, I think it will prove a helpful one.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Length: 336 pages
Publication date: March 11, 2014
Source: publisher

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Bumpology from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle edition.)

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