Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Quickly: Elisa Albert and G. Willow Wilson on NPR

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 content to this blog!

Monday, February 23, 2015

audiobook review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

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 alcoholic prone to blackouts. It's a wonderful storytelling device to listen as Rachel tries to reconstruct her movements. It propels both the plot and the exploration of how and why Rachel drinks as much as she does. I found this duality very satisfying.

The verdict: The Girl on the Train is a satisfying page turner. It is both a suspenseful, engaging read and a thoughtful exploration of the dark periods of life. Its flawed characters are as fascinating as their actions are at times confounding and heartbreaking.

Audio thoughts: The audio production of this novel elevated my enjoyment of it. The three narrators helped differentiate the three main female characters, as each had her own distinctive voice. After chatting with some who read the book in print, I think I found Rachel to be more sympathetic because of Clare Corbett's performance, which enhanced my emotional connection to Rachel and the events of this novel. Curious? Check out these samples of each narrator.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 (audio production 5 out of 5)
Length: 10 hours 59 minutes (336 pages)
Publication date: January 13, 2015
Source: purchased

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Girls on the Train from Amazon (Kindle edition.) 

Want more? Visit Paula Hawkins's website, like her on Facebook, and follow her 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, February 17, 2015

book review: After Birth by Elisa Albert

The backstory: When I read the essay collection Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York last 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 feelings about that. I don't always agree with Ari, which makes me love her even more. Her raw, clear, unabashed, honest, hilarious and often enraged voice is a thing of beauty: "He's an awesome baby, a swell little guy. Still a baby, though, of which even the best are oppressive fascist bastard dictator narcissists." (If you find that sentence more enraging or offensive than brilliant, stop reading. After Birth may not be for you.)

This novel is mostly Ari's perspective, but in the midst of her thoughts and feelings are beautiful observations and characterizations of others:
"Cat always is really appalled when other people don't share her precise cultural context. Crispin once described it that way. He meant it as an insult, I'm pretty sure, but it's one of the things I actually like about Cat: the way she wants us all on the same page, the way she seems sort of angry, betrayed, when it appears that we are not all on the same page....Cat needs you to know that she's seen things, knows people, has been in the right place at the right time even if she's currently in the wrong place all the time."
Albert packs so many punches into this novel. While Ari's sometimes stream of consciousness narrative at times reads like a manifesto, behind the scenes Albert is telling the other stories of Ari's life, including her grandmother's time in World War II concentration camps, her mother's death when Ari was a teenager, her childhood friendships, her college experiences, and all of the parts of her life, past and present, that aren't part of being a mother.

Admittedly, Elisa Abert and I are about the same age, and there are many pop cultural touchstones Ari and I share in this novel. These connections enhanced my connection with both Ari and this novel. Ari is someone I would be friends with. In fact, as I read, I was texting friends in Albany to find Elisa Albert and be her friend (Facebook tells me we have only one friend in common, and it's not even an Albany friend.) While part of what I love about this novel are the experiences, both similar and shared, I have with Ari,

Favorite passage: "Adrienne Rich had it right. No one gives a crap about motherhood unless they can profit off it. Women are expendable and the work of childbearing, done fully, done consciously, is all-consuming. So who's gonna write about it if everyone doing it is lost forever within it? You want adventures, you want poetry and art, you want to salon it up over at Gertrude and Alice's, you'd best leave the messy all-consuming baby stuff to someone else. Birthing and nursing and rocking and distracting and socializing and cooking and washing and gardening and mending: what's that compared with bullets whizzing overhead, dazzling destructive heroics, headlines, parties, glory, all that Martha Gellhorn stuff, all that Zelda Fitzgerald stuff, drugs and gutters and music and poetry pretty dresses more parties and fucking and fucking and parties?"

The verdict: After Birth is a tour de force. It's an ambitious, smart, confident, provocative, mesmerizing, intimate, brash novel. It is a novel about childbirth and the early days of motherhood, but it shouldn't be pigeonholed as any one thing. Albert's voice, and thus Ari's, is fierce, powerful, and brilliant, and I hope After Birth finds its audience and the acclaim it deserves.

Rating: 6 out of 5
Length: 208 pages
Publication date: February 17, 2015
Source: publisher

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy After Birth from Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Want more? Visit Elisa Albert's website and follow her 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!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sunday Salon: My Book Valentine

The Sunday Salon.comI 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 Euphoria by 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 readers. Euphoria perfectly illustrates why I love to read: it transports the reader to another part of the word to learn about other cultures. It's a window into a world I will probably never visit and experience firsthand. I learned from it, both intellectually and emotionally. But there's also romance. There's adventure. Its lessons are so beautifully linked with the plot. That it's inspired by the life of Margaret Mead adds to its power, as parts of it are true. It's a book I find myself recommending to so many people.

This year, while I snuggle Hawthorne and tell him he's my valentine, I'm also thinking of Euphoria, my book valentine that reminds me why I love to read.

Now tell me: what's your book valentine this year?

Happy Valentine's Day!

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, February 13, 2015

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

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 contradictions to his current Christian faith. From this very introduction, Aslan established himself as an impassioned, authoritative narrator. His narration captures the journey he took to research and write this book and at times infuses the story with the tone of a memoir.

While I thoroughly enjoyed this listening experience, I enjoyed the first third of the book the most. From there, I found the balance at times veered too much to the times in which Jesus of Nazareth lived rather than being about his life. Aslan excels at using the times in which Jesus lived to provide context for many fascinating ideas, but at times the narrative dragged in the last two-thirds of the book, largely because there were so many wow moments in the first third. Still, I enjoyed the experience and some of Aslan's ideas and theories will stick with me for quite some time.

The verdict: While I found the subject fascinating and quite enjoyed the book for the most part, I thought the focus was more on the time in which Jesus lived rather than Jesus himself. Admittedly, Aslan explains his reasons for doing so (chiefly, the lack of resources available), but I still found myself wanting more theories, if not answers, about the life of Jesus as historical figure.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: (336 pages)
Publication date: July 16, 2013
Source: library

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Zealot from Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Want more? Visit Reza Aslan's website, like 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!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

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

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 alphabetically was too big. Part of the brilliance and beauty of this book is its ability to be read in a number of ways (see also: How to Be Both by Ali Smith.) Yet I can only read it for the first time the way I chose to; my reading experience would have been quite different if I opted for the related entries.

While I loved the concept of this book, I found my interest in the entries to vary. This isn't a novella written for momentum, but the distinction between tone in some entries was jarring. Some entries are beautiful and could be enjoyed on their own. Others are more poetic because of what the reader already knows (or perhaps comes to learn) about the two families. Hallberg uses art from different artists to accompany the entries, and the art is so diverse, I sometimes found myself spending more time taking it in than the entry itself.

The verdict: A Field Guide to the North American Family is a brilliant, inventive book. Reading it made me even more excited for City on Fire (pre-order it from Amazon in hardback or for Kindle.) The idea of it is perhaps better than its realization, but it has many beautiful moments, and it is utterly original. As experimental fiction, it's fabulous; as a narrative, some parts fizzle a bit.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: 144 pages
Publication date: October 28, 2007
Source: library

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy A Field Guide to the North American Family from Amazon (no Kindle edition.)

Want more? Read Garth Risk Hallberg's posts on The Millions

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, February 11, 2015

book review: Here by Richard McGuire

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 one place over time. This theme is a powerful one for me, and I would likely embrace it in other forms, but McGuire's art elevates this idea to an even more amazing place. There's both a simplicity and a depth to his art. I found myself lingering over details, but I could also take in the events on each page quickly. As time moves forward and back again and again, I was never disoriented. He captures the visual essence of different times beautifully.

While this novel over all is not linear, there are some linear storylines. Some years we revisit many times, see dialogue and events over the course of a day, as well as other days in a year. Other years are only glimpsed once. And while they are all lovely alone, the ways in which McGuire overlays them, jumps between them and changes their visual scope make this graphic novel so much more than a sum of its parts.

The verdict: Here manages to be a riveting page turner, a thoughtful exploration of time and place, a meditation on the roles and  lives of humans, and a beautiful piece of art. It's astonishingly good.

Rating: 5 out of 5
Length: 304 pages
Publication date: December 9, 2014
Source: library

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Here from Amazon (no Kindle edition.)

Want more? Visit Richard McGuire'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!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Presenting: #Mockalong

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 this summer.

Convinced? Pick up a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. It's only $3.99 for Kindle right now. And Sissy Spacek narrates the audio version, if that sounds good to you.

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, February 9, 2015

book review: Displacement by Lucy Knisley

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 they are. She captures experiences so well, and I find I equally enjoy her take on places I've also visited and those I haven't. While this graphic memoir is very much about the cruise, it's more meditative than I expected. Knisley excels at sharing her emotions and thoughts, but Displacement digs deep into issues bigger than Knisley's own experience: "Constant consciousness of old age's frailties really makes me appreciate youth. It's so interesting that we evolved to respond with automatic care to the young...while old age repels, makes us afraid of our own mortality." While still being her story, in Displacement Knisley's grandparents are also major characters, and she scrutinizes both her relationship with them as well as their traits, the positive and the negative.

Favorite passage: "Whenever I travel through crowded places, I'm struck by how human beings en masse are so incredibly hideous, while individual humans can be so heartbreakingly beautiful. Congregated: ugly, ubiquitous, and repellent. Individually: nuanced, intricate, beautiful, and unknowable. Fragile, separate, singular...fascinating."

The verdict: The interplay of her grandfather's journals with his present self is a sobering portrait of aging. Knisley's reflections are particularly poignant in this memoir, and I loved her combination of whimsy and wisdom.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 168 pages
Publication date: February 8, 2015
Source: publisher

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Displacement from Amazon (no Kindle edition.)

Want more? Visit Lucy Knisley's website, follow her on Twitter and Instagram

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, February 8, 2015

Sunday Salon: On NPR Books

The Sunday Salon.comI 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's good for him to hear different voices and different accents. I know the time will come when I can't listen to audiobooks in his presence, but for now, it works.

Still, one of the things I miss is NPR, so I've recently started listening to the NPR Books podcast, and I'm really enjoying it. In a sense, it's not a podcast. The NPR Books podcast is actually a feed of every NPR news story about books, regardless of which program (i.e. All Things Considered, Morning Edition) airs it.

I particularly enjoy these clips because they're short, usually about five minutes. That's the sweet spot for me listening. If I have more than five minutes, I typically opt for my audiobook, as I have been having such awesome success with audiobooks lately. I also find myself more drawn to the pieces on new nonfiction titles. I'm not as plugged in to nonfiction publishing as I am fiction, and while I don't always add the titles to my TBR, I do enjoy hearing the author interviewed and learning some about the topic. These stories certainly take me out of my "what's new in literary fiction" bubble. In the past week, I've heard stories featuring poets, children's book authors and illustrators, nonfiction, and fiction. There's an intimacy to a radio interview I quite enjoy, and it's also prompted me to seek out other bookish podcasts. In the coming weeks and months, I'll bring you my thoughts on more podcasts.

Convinced? Subscribe to the NPR Books podcast . If you're not the podcast type, you can also subscribe to their RSS feed or read (and listen to) their stories online.

Now tell me: do you listen to podcasts? What ones should I also be subscribing to?

This post is not sponsored. In fact, it's so un-sponsored, I give money to NPR. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Personally: An Anniversary Ode

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 with a snuggly, happy baby sure sets this year apart. And next year: we'll hit double digits. Woah.

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, February 6, 2015

Quickly: A First Edition of The Iliad?

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!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Can I Stream It?

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?
Not only does it cross-search all streaming platforms, it also tells you if its available for digital rental or purchase. It also tells you if it's showing on any of the pay movie channels. Or if it's available at Redbox. Best of all: you can set reminders for individual titles for whichever platforms you choose. Curious when "Orphan Black" Season 2 will be on Amazon? Set a reminder. Want to watch all of the documentaries nominated for awards this year? Set reminders (I did.) And I'm so in love.

Perhaps I should have spent more time looking for a service that would do all of this searching (I updated my film spreadsheet about every three months.) But I feel as though everyone should know and use this site. It just makes sense. I still love my color-coded film spreadsheet, but now I can spend so much more time watching those films than checking multiple platforms to see if they're available to watch.

This post is not sponsored. I just happen to love Can I Stream.It? and wished I knew about it earlier, so I'm writing about it to help spread the word.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

audiobook review: The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

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 Henriquez opted to focus on a teenage love story that felt like it belonged in a separate book.

In many ways, reading this book felt like a roller coaster of emotion and affection. Initially, I loved this novel and was eager to spend time getting to know its characters. There are so many interesting backstories here. As the novel wore on, and the romance between Maribel and Mayor took center stage, I found myself questioning Henriquez's choices more than enjoying the story itself. Part of my issue is that Maribel never narrates her own story. The two primary narrators are her mother, Alma, and Mayor. I found Mayor's sections fascinating, but Alma quickly got on my nerves.

The third act of this novel, however, turned it around again for me, and I quite liked it. I still found the youthful romance to be over-emphasized in this book, but Henriquez redeemed the novel for me in the end.

The verdict: There is a lot I will remember about this novel, even as I had issues with it. Henriquez uses these characters to tell about the varied experiences of Latin American immigrants in Delaware. Unfortunately, I found the main storyline of Maribel and Mayor's romance rather dull and more indicative of young adult fiction. Instead, I wanted to know more about the other cast of characters, whose stories struck me as much more interesting.

Audio thoughts: Initially I loved this audio production, as the variety of narrators really helped me keep the different characters straight. The distinction between Alma's narration and Mayor's beautifully showed the difference in accent between generations. As the book moved on, however, I found myself incredibly annoyed with Alma's narration. It. Was. Just. So. Dramatic. I can't say if the character came across the same way in print, or if it was that narrator's choices, but I increasingly found myself rolling my eyes at her scenes. Mayor's narration, however, was excellent.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: 9 hours 12 minutes (305 pages)
Publication date: June 3, 2014
Source: library

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Book of Unknown Americans from Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Want more? Visit Cristina Henriquez's website, like her on Facebook, and follow her 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, February 3, 2015

book review: The Position by Meg Wolitzer

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 parents book about sex, so its impact on each is different. Indeed, its impact would have been different on each of them regardless, as they are quite different in some ways small and large.

Favorite passage:  "Her marriage to Paul was a response to theirs, just the way all marriages are a response to those earlier ones, with corrections made in the flawed texts, only to be corrected again, and yet again, over time."

The verdict: The Position is a wise, observant portrait of a fascinating and complicated family. Wolitzer deftly navigates the two periods and moves between characters with ease. It's a novel far bigger than its premise, and Wolitzer once again proves her ability to both tell an engaging story and offer smart commentary on life and love.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 307 pages
Publication date: March 1, 2005
Source: purchased

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Position from Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Want more? Visit Meg Wolitzer'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!

Monday, February 2, 2015

On Presidential greetings

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 enjoy it.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sunday Salon: This is February

The Sunday Salon.com

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 of the five titles, The Position by Meg Wolitzer, which I quite enjoyed (review coming this week.) I managed to finish ten book in January, but five of those were audio. I was tired a lot this month. Hawthorne had some sleep regression, and our wake up time shifted from 7 or 7:30 to as early as 5 a.m. He dropped one of his overnight feedings, which sounded great in theory, but I soon discovered getting up twice and sleeping until 7 is preferable to getting up once and sleeping until only 5. It seems that two-hour difference is enough to make it too hard for me to concentrate on a book. The last four nights, he's been only getting up once and still sleeping until at least 7 a.m., so we are happy and reading again.

February Plans
There are a ton of new releases I want to read in the coming months, plus I want to sneak in a few more Tournament of Books finalists before that kicks off in March. (I will write more about the ToB in another post.) Then my favorite day of the year comes in early March: the Baileys Prize longlist announcement! I'm smart enough not to plan on reading anything else in the weeks after the announcement. There are just too many books I want to read. And while this problem is not new, what matters to me most right now is that I'm reading. Which books I read when matters less and less. For now, I'm going back to picking up whatever strikes my fancy at that moment. So I won't be promising to finish my January Bucket List in February or declaring a new Bucket List for February. Instead, I will try to be mindful of my top two reading priorities: making progress on the 2014 New York Times Notable Fiction list and making progress on all Baileys Prize titles, from 1996-present. As long as I'm crossing at least one of each of my list each month, I'm happy. And, yes, I realize reading one a month makes it impossible to ever actually finish those lists. But Hawthorne won't be this needy for ever. And he will sleep through the night soonish. And one day I will have more time and energy to read.

Now tell me: what book are you most looking forward to reading in February?

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