Wednesday, September 28, 2011

book review: The Submission by Amy Waldman

The basics: The Submission is a story of building a 9/11 memorial. A committee has chosen a winner (although not quite unanimously) through a blind submission process. When they open the envelope to discover the winner's identity, they discover he is Muslim.

My thoughts: I started this novel on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, and initially I loved it. I'm an art and literature lover, and I believe both can help us heal from collective wounds, honor those who died and who lived, and be a useful part of conversation. The premise of this book is lovely, and Waldman served as co-chief of the South Asia bureau for The New York Times. This novel had immense potential, but unfortunately it did not deliver.

I adored the first third of this novel. I did opine I wasn't sure how one could end a novel with all of these narrators and conflicting viewpoints, but I was eager to see where Waldman took it. Soon, however, it was clear Waldman was breaking the cardinal rule of debut novels: thou shall not overwrite. Both the story and increasingly the language suffered from overwriting. Instead of the story seeming tight, it seemed oddly meandering. I think a smaller set of narrators among the cast of characters would have helped focus the narrative.

More jarring to me, however, were the suddenly awkward passages. For every beautiful passage:
"The trauma, for Paul, had come later, when he watched the replay, pledged allegiance to the devastation. You couldn't call yourself an American if you hadn't, in solidarity, watched your fellow Americans being pulverized, yet what kind of American did watching create? A traumatized victim? A charged-up avenger? A queasy voyeur? Paul, and he suspected many Americans, harbored all of these protagonists. The memorial was meant to tame them."
there was one that made me groan:
"It was seven-fifteen, an hour when Paul would have preferred to be contemplating the soft hillocks of a sleeping Edith's rear country." 
More often, my problem was Waldman watered down both her story and her wisdom with unnecessary details:
"Across the street she saw green--Prospect Park, Brooklyn's lungs. She breathed air into her own." 
Even my favorite passage (below) includes an unnecessary phrase.

Favorite passage: "Bravery, she thought as she walked, wasn't about strength alone. It required opportunity."

The verdict: Despite a strong premise and beginning, Waldman's overwrites this novel to a frustrating point. It's still worth reading to discuss, as it does present a fascinating portrayal of the complicated emotions so many have post-9/11, but it isn't the novel it could be or I hoped it would be.

Rating: 3 out of 5
Length: 320 pages
Publication date: August 16, 2011
Source: my local public library

As an affiliate, I receive a very, very 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, September 27, 2011

book review: Waiting for Robert Capa by Susana Fortes

Translated from Spanish by Adriana V. Lopez

The basics: Waiting for Robert Capa is the story of Robert Capa and Gerda Taro, two photojournalists covering the Spanish Civil War.

My thoughts: This novel has all of the elements you think I would love: characters based on real people, journalists, and a fascinating historical setting. I had such trouble with the writing, however, I could not relax and enjoy the story.

With a translated work, it's hard to criticize the writing. Truthfully, I don't know if it's a translation issue or a writing issue, but this novel suffered from two of my biggest pet peeves in writing. The singular/plural noun disagreement was atrocious. I know English is peculiar, but sentences such as "Each in their own place" and "When you don't have a world to go home to, one has to trust their luck" drive me bonkers. I'm a huge proponent of both gender neutral language and proper grammar; it's possible to do both. Second, and this gripe is even more personal, Fortes frequently used "this" without following with another noun. "This what?" I often scrawl across my student's papers. I like beautiful, strong language with clear antecedents. There were too many sentences that began "This is." It's weak writing, and, again, it's impossible to know if it's the work of Fortes or Lopez.

Perhaps because my students are prone to these very mistakes I found myself especially irked. Many readers will look past the awkward grammar and embrace this story of war and love, but usage problems kept me from engaging with this novel, which is a shame. I wish I could have gotten past the usage issues, but as I read this brief novel I struggled to not pick up my red pen and feel like I was grading papers.

The verdict: I may not be crazy about the book, but I do think it will make a great film because there is a crux of a beautiful, visual story in this novel. Michael Mann is adapting it for the screen, and I'm eager to see it.

Rating: 3 out of 5
Length: 208 pages
Publication date: September 27, 2011 (paperback original)
Source: from the publisher via TLC Book Tours

As an affiliate, I receive a very, very 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, September 26, 2011

More on Libraries Lending Kindle Books

Last week I shared some helpful hints on how to borrow Kindle books from your library. After using the service for several days, I've discovered a few more things.

1. The perks of not having a Wifi Kindle
Initially, I thought it was cumbersome to have a 3G Kindle instead of a Wifi version because getting library books onto my Kindle requires connecting the Kindle to a computer with USB. I realized, however, if I have to manually load these titles onto my Kindle, I also have to manually unload them. Although I no longer have the book checked out, it's still on my Kindle. I am not able to access it from any of the Kindle apps, but I can still enjoy it on my Kindle. Obviously, this feature could be abused. It is nice, though, to have an option to have an "overdue" book if you haven't finished it yet. Different libraries have set different loan periods (happily, mine has switched from 7 to 14 day loans.) For most books, I don't need 14 days to read them. When my turn comes up on some of the bundled packs (I have my eye on the first six books of the Jim Butcher series that checks out as a single e-book), I will need more than 14 days. My mantra: use it, but don't abuse it. Thou shall not hoard your library's e-books.

2. Returning borrowed Kindle books
As I mentioned above, I rarely need 14 days to read a book, and I've already noticed how long the queues are for some titles. The first book I checked out is due tomorrow, but I was already done. I simply logged into my Amazon account to Manage my Kindle and was able to return the book. It's a nice courtesy to your fellow library users and will help more people have access to the books.

What tips have you learned about borrowing Kindle books from your library?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Short Story Saturday: "Dog Run Moon" by Callan Wink

The backstory: Confession: the first thing I do when I wake up on Monday morning is grab my Kindle and see who wrote this week's fiction selection. Sometimes I'll go on to read it immediately. Sometimes I'll wait until I've had my coffee. This week, however, I was baffled. I'd never heard of Callan Wink, the author. When I flipped to the Contributors page I learned "Callan Wink lives in Livingston, Montana. He is currently pursuing his M.F.A. at The University of Wyoming." I was so excited for Callan Wink, an unknown M.F.A. student in Montana to score a story in The New Yorker. When I tried to find out more about him Monday, this librarian discovered very little. When I tried again on Friday, I was overrun with blog posts and articles about this very story. Cheers to you Callan!

The first line: "Sid was a nude sleeper." 

My thoughts: One thing I've come to love about reading short stories is how little the subject matters to me. With a novel, the subject can be a commitment, but with short stories, it's easier to read outside of your comfort zone. The title of this story, "Dog Run Moon," is hauntingly literal. In its simplest terms, yes, this story is about a man running at night with his dog. To spice it up: he's running naked and two men are chasing him.

What I liked most about Wink's story is the way he managed to have intriguing action at a breakneck speed while infusing the narrator with an impressive amount of emotional backstory and character development. At times, I was reminded of Josh Bazell plopped into Montana. Mostly, though, I found Wink's writing to have both an impressive rawness and emotional depth.

Favorite passage: "Not for the first time in his life, Sid found himself envying a dog. Its fur. Its thick foot pads. A simple, untroubled existence of sleeping, eating, running, fucking occasionally if you still had the parts, not worrying about it if you didn't."

The verdict: Callan Wink is certainly a writer to watch. I enjoyed his interview with Cressida Leyshon almost as much as this story. The interview adds some nuanced details that enhanced my enjoyment of the story and my understanding of Wink.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Publication date: September 26, 2011 (in The New Yorker)
Source: I subscribe to the Kindle version of The New Yorker

As an affiliate, I receive a very, very 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, September 23, 2011

book review: Snowdrops by A.D. Miller

The backstory: Snowdrops is the first novel by A.D. Miller, who served as the Moscow correspondent for The Economist for many years. It was shortlisted for the 2011 Booker Prize.

The basics: Set in the last decade in Moscow, British lawyer Nick Platt narrates his story to his fiancee to explain both what happened during the time he lived and worked in Moscow and how it shaped who he is now.

My thoughts: I've read several novels set in Russia in the past few years, but all of them have been historical. In many ways, Snowdrops felt like a follow-up for me. I could see the impact of Russia's history in Platt's view of Moscow.
"In Russia, there are no business stories. And there are no politics stories. There are no love stories. There are only crime stories."
This novel is part noir and part exploration of Russia, and I found both parts complementary and moving. For such a short novel to accomplish so much is a testament to Miller's writing. His descriptions and characterizations are biting and illuminating, including this one for a minor character:
"Steve was technically British, but he had been trying to avoid England and himself for so long and in so many far-out places--Mexico for three or four years before Moscow, I think, and before that the Balkans, and before that somewhere else that I an maybe even he can't remember--that by the time I met him he had become one of those lost foreign correspondents that you read about in Graham Greene, a citizen of the republic of cynicism."
At the crux of the novel is Nick's relationship with sisters Masha and Katya. They are mysterious and enticing in a classic noir manner. Even as Nick tells this story to his fiancee, he still speaks of them with an intoxicated reverence.

Favorite passage: "Maybe to be this immoral you've got to have religion somewhere--some decrepit gods lurking at the back of your mind, gods you are determined to defy.

The verdict: Snowdrops is everything noir should be. It's creepy and disturbing in very real ways, and I shared Nick's increasing sense of helplessness. I was eager to see how the novel would end even though I would stop short of calling it a thriller. It's a portrait of a modern city and one man's time in it.

Rating: 4.5 stars
Length: 272 pages
Publication date: February 22, 2011
Source: my local public library

As an affiliate, I receive a very, very 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, September 22, 2011

On libraries lending Kindle books

Yesterday was a big day of news on the Internet. Facebook rolled out wildly unpopular changes, Pandora changed its interface, and Amazon quietly rolled out Kindle book lending from libraries (a mere one day after news broke it was testing it at Seattle public libraries.)

I adore my Kindle and prefer reading on it to reading in print, so the availability of another way to access some Kindle books is amazing. (I still love ebook fling, but I don't often have luck getting access to the titles I want--often due to both publishers not allowing loans).

Here are a few things to know about borrowing Kindle books from your library:

1. If your library has a title as an e-book, it now has it available for the Kindle.
I used to dread seeing e-book titles available in my public library catalog because I knew they weren't Kindle compatible. Blessedly, instead of having two different e-book collections (one for Kindle format and one for epub), it's all the same. It's lovely and as non-confusing as possible. The downside: libraries were blindsided by this change, so there will likely be long waiting lists for titles as they figure out what the demand is and explore the feasibility of adding more licenses.

2. You check out from the library but access the title through your Amazon account.
It's a two-step process. You must check out the title through the library's website. Once you have, there's a link to "get for Kindle," which takes you to Amazon. The perks: if you check out the book again later (my library, for example, is only allowing 7-day checkouts. For some titles, you may want to check them out twice) or decide to purchase it, all of your highlights and notes are still there (the same is true for Kindle books you borrow from another user.) Also, going through Amazon allows you to read the title on a variety of devices.

3. You don't have to have a Kindle.
Kindle library books work on any of the apps, so you can read on your iPad, phone, computer or the Cloud reader.

4. Titles won't be delivered with 3G.
If you have a 3G Kindle, as I do, you'll have to transfer it to your Kindle via USB. If you have a Wifi Kindle, you can send it to your Kindle. You can transfer to any of the apps.

Happy Kindle reading! Questions? Leave in the comments, and I'll do my best to answer them.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

book review: The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear

The backstory: The Mapping of Love and Death is the seventh Maisie Dobbs mystery novel. Here are links to my reviews of the first six books: Maisie DobbsBirds of a FeatherPardonable LiesMessenger of TruthAn Incomplete Revenge, and Among the Mad.

The basics: The mystery at the center of this novel is about the death of Michael Clifton, an American cartographer who died in World War I and whose body was only recently recovered. His parents hire Maisie to look into his suspicious death.

My thoughts: For the first time, our story opens in the United States. Knowing Ms. Winspear now lives in California made this detail even more fun to read. At times I worry the war-based mysteries will become too much of a stretch, but this one was among my favorites of the series for several reasons. First, I loved the story of Michael Clifton, an American-born cartographer who felt compelled to journey to England to fight for the country his father was born in. The duality of opening the novel where Winspear now lives but soon shifting to her native London was quite enjoyable.

I find cartography fascinating, especially in a historic sense. How we shape our ideas of our place in the world is one of the reasons I love to read. Cartography is a more literal depiction of our place in the world, and I found its military benefits intriguing:
"It had come as no surprise to his family that Michael Clifton chose to become a cartographer. He had loves maps since childhood, drawn to the mystery of lands far away, fascinated by the names of places and the promise he saw held within a map. 'You always know where you are with a map,' he had told his parents, while persuading them of his choice of profession. 'And if you know where you are, why, you're more likely to be brave, to have an adventure, to search beyond where everyone else is looking.'
While the mystery was completely captivating, the personal storylines in this novel were delightful and moving. At times the action and emotion read like a love letter to fans of this series. I so appreciate Winspear's continuing emphasis on life beyond Maisie's work as an investigator. While these mysteries would still be riveting if the case were the sole focus, Winspear achieves a depth in characters and emotions by moving the stories forward in time. I shed an embarrassing number of tears as I read this mystery, but I smiled through them all, which is a testament to the characters Winspear has created, molded and let experience so many things across these seven novels.

Favorite passage: "Even though she had her own flat in London, even though she was London born and bred, when she came to her father's house, to all intents and purposes she was considered to be home. Maisie smiled. He's been waiting for you to come home. It was true, she always felt a sense of belonging at Chelstone, and particularly when she reflected upon the hours spent with Maurice at The Dower House."

The verdict: The Mapping of Love and Death is the best Maisie Dobbs book yet. The mystery is intriguing and the personal storylines are equally intellectually and emotionally engaging.

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Length: 368 pages
Publication date: March 23, 2010 (it's in paperback now)
Source: I bought it for my Kindle

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, September 16, 2011

BBAW: On Blogging

Today marks the end of Book Blogger Appreciation Week 2011. I've discovered quite a few new blogs, which is always fun! It's also a joy to feel such a part of this wonderful community. Today, the writing topic is about blogging. I rarely get meta about blogging here, but I'll use this opportunity to share a few things that help me enjoy book blogging rather than feel overwhelmed by it.

1. Schedule posts
Want to know something? I'm not writing this post right now. Right now, I'm in the car traveling to Ohio for the wedding of one of my best friends. I wrote this post last Sunday and stopped in yesterday only to add some timeliness to my introduction. Pretty neat, huh? 

My blogging habits have changed a lot over the years, but with my current schedule, I like to carve out a few hours on Saturday morning or Sunday evening when Mr. Nomadreader is at work and write my blog posts for the week. During the week, I like to come home from work, cook dinner with Mr. Nomadreader, read a little bit, spend a little time reading blogs and watch some television. I try to limit my computer time at night because I'm on it all day at work. My brain is tired at the end of the day, and I usually don't want to write. There are times I make an effort to blog during the week, but I try not to do it more than one day in a row. Sometimes I can't wait to share a book review with you and rearrange my pre-scheduled posts to accommodate it. 

2. Don't force it
Sometimes when I follow my sage advice to sit down and write posts for a week, I just can't write anything I'm proud of. It's okay to walk away from the computer. Come back in a few hours or days and try again. I've tried to write my review of The Leftovers three times now, and I think I finally got it right (it will be appearing here next week! Sneak peek: I love it.) 

3. Find your niche and your balance
This blog has changed a lot over the years. I like where it is now. I feel comfortable with my blogging self, and part of that is not being afraid to change. I used to read much more eclectically. Now, I mostly stick to my favorites: literary fiction (especially the awards I like best) and mysteries. Those favorites may change again one day, and my blog will continue to evolve. Thanks for sharing this adventure and journey with me!

Happy Book Blogger Appreciation Week 2011!

As an affiliate, I receive a very, very 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, September 15, 2011

Thursday TV: Parenthood

While The Good Wife is the best show on television and among my all-time favorites, Parenthood is a contender too. (Don't get me started on why they had the same time slot until this fall either.) I mentioned my love of Parenthood before when it wasn't nominated for any Emmys. The new season of Parenthood started Tuesday, and it got be thinking about it all over again.

Mr. Nomadreader has seen Parenthood a few times and enjoyed it, but our schedules were so disparate we rarely got to watch television together. Now, however, we have the luxury of actually spending evenings and weekends together (it's heavenly), so we sat down to watch Parenthood Tuesday night when it premiered.

As much as I loved it, he loved it more. We both laughed and cried (quite normal activities for us when watching emotional programs). I lost count of the number of times Mr. Nomadreader uttered "this show is amazing" or "how do they not win every ensemble cast award?" I agree. While I'm sad Parenthood was shut out of Emmy nominations, it's not a show designed to highlight individual acting.

The opening scene of Tuesday night's episode is classic Parenthood: the kitchen before school. Five actors all talking at the same time. It's genius is in having them all understandable instead of comedic. Parenthood touches on the real emotions of family. As someone in between who remembers my teenage years and is not yet to my parenting years, perhaps I'm the perfect viewer.

The cast features sixteen regulars (according to my scientific count and including a couple of significant others.) They all have something to do. It is what an ensemble should be, but it also make the show so different from what else is on television. There's a dearth of scripted dramas to begin with, and most of the ones on the air involve lawyers, doctors and police officers. Family dramedy is sorely underrepresented, and still the ratings for Parenthood are dangerously low.

People, watch good television. I spend a lot of time championing well-written books with well-conceived characters. Parenthood is all of those things too, and it gets to the heart of why I love episodic television: the emotional connection shared between viewer and characters on a weekly basis rivals the shared connections in literature.

In the U.S. Parenthood airs Tuesday evenings at 10 p.m. Eastern on NBC. The first two seasons are available on dvd, but you can pick up the action amazingly well, even on a show with sixteen regular characters.

As an affiliate, I receive a very, very 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, September 14, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Mrs. Nixon by Ann Beattie

Welcome to Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, to highlight an upcoming release you cannot wait to read.

Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagines a Life
It should come as no surprise to frequent readers that I'm a huge fan of fiction about real people. American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld is my all-time favorite novel, and earlier this year Monica Ali wowed me with her re-imagining of Princess Diana in Untold Story.

When I sat down Monday morning with my coffee to start this week's issue of The New Yorker (bless you, Kindle subscriptions!), I began with the excerpt from Ann Beattie's forthcoming book, Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagines a Life. It's being described as not-quite fiction and not-quite non-fiction, and I am all parts excited for its publication!

The excerpt in The New Yorker was both wonderful and perplexing. Beattie's writing, which I've read sporadically over the years when her short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, is exquisite. I highlighted numerous pages in the short excerpt. If it were a stand-alone piece, however, I wouldn't quite know what to make of it. It lacked a clear beginning, and I'm eager to see which part of the book this excerpt came from and how it fits into the book as a whole. Regardless, I'm eagerly awaiting November 15, 2011 when Scribner will publish Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagines a Life. Need something to tide you over? The New Yorker's Book Bench blog has a wonderful interview with Ann this week.

Pre-order Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagines a Life by Ann Beattie from Amazon in hardcover or for the Kindle.

Now tell me, what are you waiting on this week?

As an affiliate, I receive a very, very 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, September 13, 2011

BBAW: Interviewing Amy

Happy Book Blogger Appreciation Week! This year's theme is Cultivating a Community of Bloggers and Readers. Each day, I'll be posting about the suggested topic for the day. Today's topic is blogger interviews.

This year, I have the honor and privilege of interviewing Amy from My Friend Amy who founded Book Blogger Appreciation Week! 

What is your most treasured literary memory?
What an impossible question! I actually think the complete experience of book blogging is my most treasured memory (I know I'm a cheat) because making friends around books, being exposed to new authors and books, and also new ways of looking and thinking about books has been very rewarding.

We're both big fans of books and tv. How does your all-time favorite book stack up against your all-time favorite tv series.
Hmm. My all time favorites are difference from each other. Silence, my favorite book, is very serious and sobering, but it made me think about faith and suffering a lot differently. Lost, my favorite TV show is very epic-ish, big in concept, but still it was the characterization that made the show. They both grapple with big important themes in life and I think that's why I love them both.

Of all the book blogger events you've created or had a hand in organizing, which are you most proud of?
Book Blogger Appreciation Week, itself. It's been a lot of fun every year, and a huge learning experience for me as both a blogger and a person. But people seem to really enjoy it, and to be able to create something people enjoy has to be one of the best feelings there is.

You have one wish for television and one wish for literature. What do you wish for?
TV: I'd love to see a show that had characters of faith that were realistically depicted. If faith or religion makes it on TV, it's often very cliche and a huge point to the character instead of simply being part of who they are. 
Literature: I'd love to see women's fiction taken seriously and celebrated for what is is. I'd love to eradicate elitism forever!

I promise to read one book you choose for me by the end of 2011. What will you make me read? Why did you choose it for me?
You Are My Only by Beth Kephart. Because it's a stunningly beautiful book that doesn't shy away from either the harsh reality of life and love or the hope that can be found. It deserves a wide audience.

Thanks to Amy for being such an honest interviewee! I'll follow through on my promise to read her pick for me in the coming months. She had a few questions for me too, and I answered them on her blog.

As an affiliate, I receive a very, very 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, September 12, 2011

book review: Displaced Persons by Ghita Schwarz

Displaced Persons: A Novel
The basics: Displaced Persons is the story of Polish Jewsish refugees who have just been liberated from a concentration camp. They are alive, and they are free, but they are essentially homeless. The novel follows them from 1945 to 2000.

My thoughts: I seem to be reading a inordinate number of Jewish World War II novels lately. Displaced Persons carves out its unique niche well, but I imagine it would have impacted me more greatly if I weren't on such a thematic kick. For me, the book began a bit slowly because it was such familiar ground for me. When the narrative shifted geographically, I found it more interesting, partly because the move surprised me.

Displaced Persons is a unique novel in many ways. While the characters go through many changes, it is a relatively calm novel. While many things happen, there is not necessarily a strong plot. Ultimately, it's a quietly reflective and reverent novel about the lingering effects of The Holocaust.

The verdict: Displaced Persons bridges the historical fiction of World War II with the experience of contemporary immigrants. It's a serious and powerful look at war, family and time.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5) 
Length: 340 pages
Publication date: August 10, 2010 (it's in paperback now)
Source: the publisher, via TLC Book Tours

Want more? Check out Ghita's website and see all the tour stops for Displaced Persons.
Already convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Displaced Persons from Amazon in paperback or for the Kindle.

As an affiliate, I receive a very, very 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!

Book Blogger Appreciation Week 2011: On Community

Happy Book Blogger Appreciation Week, everyone! This year's theme is Cultivating a Community of Bloggers and Readers. Each day, I'll be posting about the suggested topic for the day. I'll also have my usual posts: several book reviews, a Thursday TV post, and a Short Fiction Saturday post for you. 

Today, we're encouraged to highlight a few book bloggers who have made book blogging a unique experience. As I thought about how to answer this question and which bloggers to highlight, I realized my answer to this question would have been so different over time. I'm grateful for all the book bloggers who have been a part of this incredible journey. For me, the book bloggers who have made it a unique experience are those whom I feel I know best, both through reading their blogs and through their comments on mine. These four women feel like friends, and I often find myself thinking of them when finishing a book and wondering "who do I know who would like this book?" I have their blogs in my "Favorites" folder of Google Reader, and I read their thoughts first.

Jackie from Farm Lane Books
Jackie manages (much more successfully than I do) to read the longlists for both the Booker Prize and the Orange Prize each year. Our taste isn't always similar, but Jackie is among the best at articulating why she did or didn't like a book, and having read her blog for several years now, I like to guess which books she'll love if I beat her to reading one from the longlists. Although we like to read the same types of books, we often have quite different reactions to them, and that diverse dialogue is representative of what I love so much about book blogging: sharing our individual reactions to books.

Wendy from Caribou's Mom
Aside from books, I fear Wendy and I have very little in common. She's a quilter and an animal lover, and it's safe to say I love to read under a quilt instead of make them and am happily pet-free. Still, she and I have quite similar taste in literary fiction. I truly think of Wendy as a kindred reading spirit, and I love that our similarly excellent taste in literature may be one of our few shared commonalities; it's a true testament to the power of literature. Wendy also writes incredibly eloquent and thoughtful reviews, and I always enjoy reading them.

Audra from Unabridged Chick
For awhile I got complacent and thought I knew all the book blogs in existance. Then I discovered Audra's blog and was aghast I didn't know about it sooner! I love the way Audra writes reviews by asking herself questions. She reads a lot faster than I do, so I rely on her to weed out a few of the less-than-stellar reads from my TBR pile, especially historical fiction. Her reviews are informative, fun, honest and often appropriately hilarious! Audra also shares my love of literary fiction and low-brow television, which is a lovely combination!

Heather from Raging Bibliomania
Heather always make me feel good. She leaves the most encouraging, heartfelt and sincere comments on my blog posts. Her book reviews are beautifully written, thorough and engaging too. Her writing is eloquent and thoughtful, and her lengthy reviews truly engage the material. 

All the rest...There are countless others who have inspired and encouraged me over the years. I've read books I may never have heard of because of book bloggers. I did not name you all individually, but I do believe the collection of book bloggers includes us all. Happy Book Blogger Appreciation Week 2011!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

book review: Wherever You Go by Joan Leegant

Wherever You Go: A NovelThe basics: Wherever You Go follows three Americans in Jerusalem. Yona is there to make amends with her estranged sister, Mark is an scholar, and Aaron is a wandering college dropout.

My thoughts: Joan Leegant's prose is exquisite. As a reader equally drawn to writing and characters, I found myself drawn more to the writing in Wherever You Go. It is both a compliment and burden that I found myself thinking about her beautiful sentence construction more than I did about the novel's events. 

The novel began with Yona's story, and I was quite drawn to her. I was struck by Yona's ability to be both guarded and open. She was mysterious, intriguing and honest all at the same time. When the narrative first shifted to Mark, I was initially less intrigued. As is so often the case, I want to stay with characters I enjoy. When the narrative shifted to Aaron, I found myself following the writing and construction of the story more than the story itself. I'm not sure why my focus shifted, but it did impact my view of the novel. As a reader reading from above, I found myself thinking of how and why Leegant made decisions rather than being along for the journey with the characters.

The verdict: Leegant has crafted a beautiful novel rich with observation and wisdom. Some parts of the story shined more brightly for me, but her writing alone makes this one worth reading. I'm eager to see what Leegant writes next.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Length: 253 pages
Publication date: July 25, 2011 (paperback original)
Source: publisher, via TLC Book Tours

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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Indie Lit Awards: It's Time to Nominate!

September marks the beginning of my favorite time of year: fall. I love the cooling temperatures, changing leaves, and the excitement of the coming holidays. Now I can add one more reason I love September: nominations are now open for the 2011 Indie Lit Awards. The Indie Lit Awards, created by Wallace from Unputdownables last year, allow literary bloggers to be the judges. I'll thrilled to be a voting member of the fiction category this year. As a voting member, I can't nominate books, so we're relying on readers to nominate the books that will make up the longlist. Here are the categories: Biography & Memoir, GLBTQ, Fiction, Mystery, Non-fiction, Poetry, and Speculative Fiction.

Here are the guidelines for nominations:
1. The books must be published in 2011.
2. You may nominate up to five books per genre.
3. Anyone may nominate (except those who made a profit on the book, such as the author, publicist or publisher).
4. Nominations are open from September 1, 2011 until December 31, 2011 at 11:59 Pacific time.

There's no rush to nominate because you have until the end of December, but it is nice to start thinking about the five most outstanding new release books you've read in each category. I may not be able to nominate, but I'm still hoping readers nominate these books I've loved most this year:
The Sweet Relief of Missing Children: A NovelThe First Husband: A NovelUntold Story: A NovelNext to Love: A NovelWe Had It So Good: A NovelState of Wonder

As I was making this list, I couldn't help but notice all are women authors. I read more women authors than men, but my fall TBR list is overflowing with Fall 2011 literary releases, and many of those are written by men. I'll check in again in December with more wishes for the longlist.

What book are you rooting for in this year's Indie Lit Awards? Nominate it today!

As an affiliate, I receive a very, very 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, September 1, 2011

Wrapping up August 2011

August started off as another excellent reading month. The hot, hot weather kept me inside, and Mr. Nomadreader has been working a lot of nights and weekends, which leaves me with even more time to read. My reading fizzled a bit the last two weeks though, as classes started and I spent more time working to get this semester started off well. This month I read seven books.

The Excellent (rated 4.5 stars or higher):
When I Lived in Modern Times
When I Lived in Modern Times by Linda Grant (4.5 stars)

The Good (rated 4 or 4.25 stars):
The Sisters Brothers: A NovelThe Lantern: A NovelFar to Go: A Novel (P.S.)How to Love an American Man: A True Story
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt (4 stars)
The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson (4 stars)
Far to Go by Alison Pick (4 stars)
How to Love an American Man by Kristine Gasbarre (4 stars)

The Somewhat Disappointing (rated 3.75 stars or less):
The Irresistible Henry House: A NovelThe Help (Movie Tie-In)
The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald (3.5 stars)
The Help by Kathryn Stockett (3 stars)

I didn't have any five-star reads this month, but I'm still pleased with the quality of what I read in August. I'm looking forward to a four-day Labor Day weekend and hope to get through a few books to start the month off strong! Happy reading!