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Showing posts from January, 2013

book review: The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones

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The backstory: After adoring Small Wars, the last novel by Sadie Jones, so much it made my Best of 2011 list, I was eager to read her newest novel, The Uninvited Guests.

The basics: The Uninvited Guests is all about one night in 1912 at the Torrington family's country estate. It is the 20th birthday of Emerald Torrington, but when there is a train accident nearby, all of the survivors come to the home.

My thoughts: I had high hopes for The Uninvited Guests based on both the rave review Audra gave it and my own enjoyment of Small Wars. For whatever reason, I failed to connect with The Uninvited Guests and didn't enjoy it. I did, however, enjoy the writing immensely, and it was enough to keep me reading when I might have otherwise cast this novel aside. Despite Jones' beautifully descriptive writing, the characters never came alive for me. In a comedy of manners (of sorts), characters are crucial, but these held no intrigue for me. In many ways, this novel defies categorizatio…

These Days Are Ours: Grab It While It's Hot!

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Why, hello there! Things have been mighty quiet around here this January. I've been having a blast teaching a new information literacy course I designed around documentary film in the inaugural J-term (January term), but cramming a semester's worth of reading, assignments and films into three short weeks has proved as exhausting as it is exhilarating. I've spent my weekends lounging on the couch watching television and grading papers rather than reading blogs and writing reviews. I have been reading a bit thanks to my public transportation commute to work. Plus I still have reviews from books read in 2012 to review, and things should be back to normal around here next week when spring semester begins and my teaching schedule shifts from twenty classroom hours a week back to two. I'm also planning a 'Best of J-term' documentary post for those of you who love documentary films too.

In the meantime, I have to tell you about this amazing deal on my favorite read of…

book review: An Uncommon Education by Elizabeth Percer

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The basics: An Uncommon Education, Elizabeth Percer's first novel, is a coming of age novel centered around Naomi Feinstein.

My thoughts: As An Uncommon Education opens, Naomi Feinstein is a peculiar girl with a big intellect and no friends, yet her tale isn't one of sadness. There's a matter-of-factness to Naomi and her honest narration. She writes both of the time in which she's living and with a maturity of observation:

"For entertainment I was given such things as Infamous Women coloring book; Shakespeare's plays in comic book fro; my own miniature Torah, the scroll of which was covered in wavy black lines; historically correct figures of Clara Barton and Abigail Adams; math games made pretty with glass marbles; and a jump rope with a booklet of illustrated counting rhymes to accompany it. In addition to our regular visits to the Kennedy home, every April 19th we drove to Lexington before dawn to witness the reenactment of the Battle of Lexington and Concord…

The Best of 2012

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When I sat down to think about my year of reading, I was thinking more thematically than I have in past years. While one book rose to the top (These Days Are Ours), my reading was incredibly diverse and much of it was dedicated to two particular authors: Pearl Cleage and Alafair Burke. When I think back on 2012, I will fondly remember re-reading (and then reading) all of Pearl Cleage's eight novels. I'll also think of Alafair Burke, an author whose work I'd been meaning to read for years. I read her first stand alone thriller in the summer and proceeded to read her other seven mysteries this year. In 2012, I read 118 books (ten more than 2011, which surprised me, but I suppose cross-country moves and new jobs can hamper reading.)

After I quickly abandoned the idea of ranking these novels as I've done the past two years, I was quite surprised to see how many of these novels I would categorize as family sagas, yet they are all incredibly different.

Without further ado, th…

book review: The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

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The backstory: Tracy Chevalier is an author whose work I've enjoyed for more years than I've been blogging (my sixth blogoversary will be in March for those keeping track.) As I read all of her books pre-blogging, she's one of those rare favorite authors of mine whose work has only been reviewed once here (my review of Remarkable Creatures.)

The basics: The Last Runaway is the story of Honor Bright, a young, British Quaker woman who sets out with her engaged sister to move to Ohio in 1950.

My thoughts: When I sat down to read The Last Runaway on a flight to Portland, Oregon in October, I had to take a deep breath. I admit: I fear my favorite authors will disappoint me. I fear I will somehow outgrow them or their worth will outgrow me. With The Last Runaway, I was also afraid because the topic of the Underground Railroad is fascinating to me. I didn't want my high hopes to hamper my enjoyment of the novel. Looking back, I'm grateful I started this novel at a time when…

The Backlist Book Club is Taking a Break

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In November, I launched The Backlist Book Club, a venture I was really excited about. I looked forward to sharing a backlist pick with you each month and discussing it. Despite the excitement and enthusiasm many of you expressed, the participation has been disappointing.

I'm taking January off to reassess what I want out of this venture. I'll likely still challenge myself to read at least one backlist title a month, but if others aren't participating, I'm hesitant to commit three posts a month to the project. I'm certainly open to suggestions and am considering picking a few titles and asking people to vote. Perhaps doing it monthly is too much. Perhaps different seasonal themes would make it more fun. If you have ideas, I'd love to hear them. If you're intrigued by the concept but haven't had the time to devote to it the past two months, I'd love to hear that too.