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Showing posts from February, 2015

Quickly: Elisa Albert and G. Willow Wilson on NPR

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My NPR Books podcast subscription continues to delight. I've picked up new titles because of it, but this week, I've felt ahead of the time as they interviewed two authors whose books I read this month: Elisa Albert and G. Willow Wilson. Last week I raved about After Birth by Elisa Albert, and I've been enjoying how much press the book is getting. Yesterday, Elisa Albert was on All Things Considered, and it's a really great interview.

G. Willow Wilson was also on NPR talking about the new all-female Marvel Universe. Although I'm not traditionally a superhero comic book fan, I recently read Ms. Marvel, which G. Willow wrote (review coming soon!) She's one of the keynote speakers at the ACRL conference next month, and I'm even more excited to see her after this interview. Give it a listen too.

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 co…

audiobook review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

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narrated by Clare Corbett, Louise Brealey, and India Fisher

The basics: Rachel, the titular girl on the train, commutes about an hour into London each day. On her commute, the train stops near the home of Megan, and Rachel imagines, and longs for, her life. One day, she sees Megan at her house with another man. The next day, Megan goes missing and is all over the news.

My thoughts: The Girl on the Train is the breakout novel of the season. And it's a good one. It's a literary thriller with well-drawn, interesting characters. I enjoyed the journey as much as the destination (a cringe-worthy pun for a novel about a train, I know.) In short, The Girl on the Train is so successful because it is both appealing to the masses with its fast-paced plot and appealing to more serious readers with its depth and themes.

Rachel is an unreliable narrator, yet she was my favorite character, and I identified with her the most. She's not unreliable for nefarious reasons but because she is an …

book review: After Birth by Elisa Albert

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The backstory: When I read the essay collection Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New Yorklast year, Elisa Albert's essay was among my favorites. When I heard her new novel, After Birth, was a feminist, foul-mouthed novel about childbirth and early motherhood, I knew I had to read it.

The basics: Ari, mom to 1-year-old Walker with her older, professorial husband, is still coming to terms with her traumatic c-section. She's unhappily living in fictional Utrecht, New York, a town near Albany, where Albert actually lives with her professorial husband and young son.

My thoughts: Ari describes herself as "a little obsessed with [Mina Morris], by which I mean a lot, which I guess is what obsessed means." After reading After Birth, I feel the same way about Ari. And perhaps about Albert herself. This books speaks to me in both expected and surprising ways. I have a six-month old son, and as an intelligent, feminist, academic realist, I have some complicated f…

Sunday Salon: My Book Valentine

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I am not a fan of Valentine's Day as a romantic holiday, but since having Hawthorne, I'm re-embracing Valentine's Day as a celebration of love (all types of love.) I'm not a fan of roses, jewelry or chocolates. I am a fan of a good meal, wine, bourbon, and a good book, and my Valentine's Day weekend will include several of each. But as I sat thinking about my valentines, I began to think about what my book valentine is this year.

I've read a lot of great books lately. Some I expected to love and others were surprises. I spend a lot of my time reading, and yet I don't always enjoy what I read. Then there are those books that come along that are both so good and touch me so deeply, and they make me say, "This. This is why I read." I had a hard time just picking one title, but I finally settled on Euphoriaby Lily King, which was my favorite book of 2014. I cannot get this book out of my head. It's both literary and accessible to pop fiction reade…

audiobook review: Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan

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narrated by Reza Aslan

The basics: Zealot is a biography of Jesus, the historical figure, and the times in which he lived.

My thoughts: I grew up in an intellectual United Methodist family. The churches in which I grew up were not ones to take the Bible literally, and they encouraged critical thinking and deep reflection about all things, including faith. I've long been curious about where exactly the lines between Jesus as a verifiable, historical person end and the lines of Jesus as the son of God begin. Zealot attempts to answer those questions of where fact ends and where faith begins, but it also explores the why and how of where faith begins by illuminating historical detail about the time in which Jesus of Nazareth lived, as well as the conditions in which Christianity developed after his death.

In the introduction, Aslan describes his journey from Muslim to fundamentalist Christian to losing his faith when he realized the Bible could not be taken literally because of its con…

book review: A Field Guide to the North American Family by Garth Risk Hallberg

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The backstory: City of Fire, the 900+ page debut novel from Garth Risk Hallberg is the most buzzest about release of 2015. The buzz began over a year ago because Hallberg managed to sell the book for almost $2 million, a rare feat in publishing. While I impatiently wait for a galley (please, please, please!) or for October 20, 2015 (its publication date), I managed to get a copy of his debut novella through interlibrary loan to satiate my appetite.

The basics: Set up alphabetically like a guidebook, A Field Guide to the North American Family is the story of two (fictional) families. Hallberg invites the reader to read in any order, and each entry includes a list of other entries to "see also."

My thoughts: Confession: I may or may not have actually squaled when this book arrived for me from interlibrary loan. I took it home, as soon as the nomadbaby went to sleep, I read it from cover to cover. Part of me wanted to try to read it in out of order, but the pull to read alphabeti…

book review: Here by Richard McGuire

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The basics: Spanning hundreds of thousands of years, Here is the non-linear story of one piece of land (and its inhabitants) over time.

My thoughts: Here begins with a smaller scope than my synopsis. It begins inauspiciously compared to its journey. I read all of this graphic novel in one sitting, and I read much of it with my jaw open in delighted surprise at what McGuire does in this novel. I expected this novel to be the story of the house and those who lived in it over time, as well as how its decor changed. It is that, but it also goes into the future (near and far) and into the past, long before there was a house. I live in a 102-year-old house, and I love to think about the lives of those who lived there before us, particularly as its the only home Hawthorne has ever known. But now I can't stop thinking about our plot of land long before it was a plot, or how long it will stay a plot.

Admittedly, the story is a fascinating one: snapshots of life, human, animal, and earth, in…

Presenting: #Mockalong

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I have a liteary confession to make: I have never read To Kill a Mockingbird. I know, right? So when news broke last week that Harper Lee has another book coming out this summer, people kept asking me what I thought about it. And they assumed I shared their excitement. (And I sort of do, as the premise of Go Set a Watchman sounds way more interesting than the premise of To Kill a Mockingbird.) But I kept *whispering* that I'd never actually read To Kill a Mockingbird.

So I'm finally going to read it. Because we now have a pop culture phenomenon and a literary phenomenon at once. And I simply must have an informed opinion.

The #Mockalong: I'm pledging to read To Kill a Mockingbird sometime in March...and I want you to join me. Whether you've read it before or not, read along with me. On Mondays in March, I'll post about the #Mockalong. On Twitter, we can chat about #Mockalong. And we'll all have To Kill a Mockingbird fresh on our when Go Set a Watchman comes out t…

book review: Displacement by Lucy Knisley

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The backstory: Lucy Knisley is perhaps my favorite graphic memoirist. I've previously read and enjoyed French Milk, Relish, and An Age of License.

The basics: Displacement is a travel memoir of Knisley's experience on a cruise ship with her ailing grandparents (who are over 90 years old.) She also intersperses entries from her grandfather's old army journal, which she read on the cruise.

My thoughts: I have never been on a cruise. Part of me wants to go, but another part of me remembers I don't like crowds. And while I love the water, I am also claustrophobic. Would being on a boat I can't leave feel free or confining? Even before reading Displacement, I'm certain I would not want to be the sole caregiver for two people over 90 while on a cruise. The set-up of this memoir sounds like a quirky independent comedy, and I was curious to see how Lucy and her grands, as she calls them, fared.

One of the things I love about Knisley's graphic memoirs is how immersive…

Sunday Salon: On NPR Books

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I listen to a lot more audiobooks than I used to. In January, audiobooks comprised half of my reading. A lot of this change is due to the nomadbaby. I don't have as much time to read as I used to, so I've consciously transitioned most of the time I used to spend listening to music or NPR and now listen to audiobooks. I listen while I'm feeding him. I listen while I'm cleaning. I listen while I'm driving (and sometimes driving is an activity we'll spend an hour doing just for fun--and the opportunity to listen to an audiobook.)

Perhaps because the nomadbaby has only known a life in which his mom is often listening to audiobooks, he enjoys them. He is a very verbal child, which is no surprise given who his parents are. And while I feel like I talk to him all the time, I noticed early on that I had very little to narrate while feeding him, washing dishes, etc. When we're walking around the house, I talk to him. But the rest of the time, I like to think it'…

Personally: An Anniversary Ode

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Nine years ago today, I went out for drinks with some co-workers after work. I planned to call one of my best friends to wish her a happy birthday when I got out of work. Instead, after offering to drive the man who would become Mr. Nomadreader home from the bar (he lived a block and a half from the bar, and while it was February, we lived in Atlanta), we stayed up all night talking in my car. I knew we were talking a long time, but I couldn't believe we talked all night, but sure enough, the sun was starting to come up, and people were out jogging. And we haven't stopped talking, but we do manage to sleep a lot more than we did in those early months together.

Five years ago today, we got married (in a library, naturally):

This year, I find myself marveling more at the fact that we've been together for nine years than that we've been married for five years. Nine years. That's a quarter of my life (roughly.) 
So happy anniversary to you, Mr. Nomadreader. Celebrating …

Quickly: A First Edition of The Iliad?

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One film that will definitely probably not end up in my film spreadsheet is Jennifer Lopez's new film The Boy Next Door. When the film first came out, I kept seeing tweets about the titular boy giving her a first edition of The Iliad, which is hilarious for so many reasons. I just stumbled across an actual clip of the scene on Slate, and it is somehow even more amazing to see than to imagine. Enjoy, classics lovers!

Can I Stream It?

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Confession: I really enjoy making color-coded spreadsheets. My reading spreadsheet is enormous and filled with past, present and future data. I also keep detailed film spreadsheets. Each year, when the nominations are announced for the film awards (I track Broadcast Critics, NAACP Image, SAG, Golden Globe, BAFTA, Spirit, and Oscars), my spreadsheet-loving heart gets so very happy. I used to spend hours (hours) figuring out how I could watch each nominated film and when.

Last week, my world changed. I discovered Can I Stream.It?

audiobook review: The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

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narrated by Yareli Arizmendi, Christine Avila, Jesse Corti, Gustavo Res, Ozzie Rodriguez and Gabriel Romero

The backstory: The Book of Unknown Americans was a 2014 New York Times Notable book. Update: it was also a finalist for the 2015 Dayton Literary Peace Prize.

The basics: Centered on the stories of the Rivera family, who move from Mexico to Delaware at the beginning of this novel, and the Toro family, who emigrated from Panama many years ago, The Book of Unknown Americans focuses on the budding romance between Maribel Rivera and Mayor Toro, while also providing a backdrop to show the varied Latin American immigrant tales in their Delaware neighborhood.

My thoughts: I love the idea of this novel, and I was fascinated to hear about the large Latin American population in Delaware (and why it exists.) Henriquez grew up in Delaware, and her insight into the neighborhood was obvious. I appreciated the variety of viewpoints, but I soon found myself wishing for more even variety, while Henr…

book review: The Position by Meg Wolitzer

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The backstory: The Position was longlisted for the 2006 Orange Prize. I've previously read and enjoyed two of Wolitzer's other books: The Ten-Year Nap and The Uncoupling.

The basics: Roz and Paul Mellow, a happily married couple with four children, write a very famous book about sex. It features drawings of them in various positions, including one they create themselves. When their four children find a copy of the book, it impacts each of them a little differently.

My thoughts: I expected The Position to be wise, funny and perhaps awkward. As a new parent, I was fascinated by the perspectives of both parents and children. What I didn't expect was to see the action jump to the present (when written, so 2005) and have perspective to see where the six Mellows are now. This combination of past and present infuses The Position with a much more ambitious premise, and it's a more powerful novel because of it.

The four Mellow children were all different ages when they read their…

On Presidential greetings

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On Saturday, Hawthorne received a very important and exciting piece of mail:


I posted a photo of it on Instagram and Facebook, as I do, and my corner of the Internet erupted with wonder. It turns out not many people knew you could request a Presidential greeting when your baby is born, let alone how easy it is. No, we are not really close personal friends with the Obamas (I wish!) Nor did we give a large amount of money toward Obama's presidential campaigns. This greeting is open to all. For many years, you had to mail your request. Now there's an easy online form to fill out. Hawthorne's greeting arrived in less than two weeks. And you're even allowed to procrastinate--you have up to a year after the birth of your baby to request a greeting.

Greetings are also available for other occasions, including weddings, retirements, birthdays (for those over 80), and anniversaries (50+ years.) So this will be the last greeting any of us receive for many, many years. We shall en…

Sunday Salon: This is February

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Last weekend the nomadbaby and I ran errands in t-shirts. Today, we woke up to this:

Now that's more like it. February, it's lovely to see you. Winter, it's about time you made another appearance after your strong start in November (yes, it was a White Thanksgiving and Very Brown Christmas this year.)
Given the eight inches or so that have already fallen and the projected three or four more today, Hawthorne and I are staying in today. I hope he'll nap enough (collectively over his three naps--I'm not being greedy) that I can finish the last one hundred pages of A Dangerous Place. I have so many thoughts already, and I'm dying to discuss it, so I must finish today. It doesn't publish until mid-March, so watch for my review then. But I'm writing this during his first nap, so it may be an after his bedtime finish. If you've read it and want to discuss, please let me know!

Bucket List
I completely failed my January Bucket List. I managed to read only one…