Showing posts from 2017

This year's National Book Award 5 Under 35 Novels

I always follow the announcement of the National Book Award's 5 Under 35 honorees each year. The award is given to work that "promises to leave an indelible mark on the literary landscape." This year I was thrilled to see all five are women, and three of the selections are novels. One of the things I most love about the 5 Under 35 is that each honoree is selected by a past National Book Award participant. A novel I might not otherwise pick up (or know about) may rise to the top of the list when I see an author whose work I've enjoyed thinks it shows immense promise.

Chemistry by Weike Wang 
I'm drawn to fiction written by writers who are also scientists. While this novel is definitely about a chemist, but it's so much more. It's a refreshing take on a coming of age novel that challenges the genre's conventional tropes. I desperately want the narrator to have a name so I can talk about her, because I learned so much from her perspective and experience.…

Looking Back on November 2017

Remember last month, when I said I thought the great reading slump of 2017 might (finally) be going away? It did. I finished a whopping sixteen (16!) books. How did I manage such a feat? Well, part of my strategy to break out of the reading slump of the last several months was to keep starting new books if I didn't feel like reading the one I was in the middle of, so I spent some time finishing all of those books. I also made more time for reading. I took vacation the week of Thanksgiving. I've been going to bed earlier to read in bed more. And I also focused on reading what I was in the mood for, which apparently only include mysteries and nonfiction. Whatever it is, I'll take it. Here's what I read in November:

Books read: 16
Fiction: 10
Memoir: 4
Nonfiction: 6
Comics: 1
Young Adult: 1
Audio: 2
Mysteries/Thrillers: 7
New-to-me-authors: 4
Re-read: 1
My favorite November book: The Wife by Alafair Burke (it comesout January 23rd, 2018--look for my review that week)

Now tell me: wha…

book review: Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

The backstory: Last summer, I read and enjoyed Wendy Walker's first psychological thriller All Is Not Forgotten (my review). (Walker has also published several novels that aren't thrillers.)

The basics: One night, two sisters, ages 15 and 17, go missing. Three years later, one of them comes back, and she's desperate to find her sister, whom she left behind in order to escape.

My thoughts: When I read All Is Not Forgotten, I was enraptured. In my review, I wrote "ll Is Not Forgotten is an utterly gripping thriller. I read it compulsively. As I reached its conclusion, however, I realized the thrills were likely gone. In this sense, the novel is authentic and realistic--it's characters feel like real people. While I appreciate the novel's conclusion in this sense, for such a twisty ride, I was mildly disappointed there wasn't one more twist." In many ways, Emma in the Night has the opposite problem. The premise is such an intriguing one, but I found it rel…

book thoughts: Are You Sleeping? by Katheen Barber

The basics: When Reconsidered, a podcast examining the murder of Charles Buhrman, becomes a huge hit, it sends many lives into chaos, including his daughter, Josie, who has done all she can to distance herself from the family after his murder.

My thoughts: Although I didn't love it as much as some people, I was caught up in the podcast Serial several years ago. That podcast inspired the fictional podcast in this novel. Josie narrates this novel, but her narration is intermixed with podcast transcripts, Reddit forums, and Tweets. As a narrator, Josie is frustrating at times. She's not necessarily unreliable, but she doesn't share all she knows (and to do so would ruin much of the suspense.) As a reader, I know I see situations differently when I'm reading a book and looking for clues than I would if it were my life, but it can still be a frustrating experience.

I knew very little about this novel going into it, and I think that's best. As we learn more about Josie an…

Looking Back on October 2017

And the great reading slump of 2017 continues, but I think it might actually be (finally) going away. I have lots of books in process, and I'm spending more time reading and listening the last few weeks. Here's what I read in October:

Books read: 6 (it feels like cheating to count an individual issue of Paper Girls, but I'm so into this series, I have to read them as soon as they're published instead of waiting for the new volumes)
Fiction: 5
Memoir: 1
Short Stories: 1
Comics: 3
Audio: 1
New-to-me authors: 1
Re-read: 1
My Favorite October book: Paper Girls Vol. 2

Now tell me: what was your favorite read in October?

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!

book review: The Late Show by Michael Connelly

The backstory: Michael Connelly is my favorite mystery writer. I've read and reviewed all of his books.

The basics: The Late Show is the first in a new series featuring Los Angeles detective Renee Ballard.
"They worked the midnight shift, the late show, moving from case to case, called to any scene where a detective was needed to take initial reports or sign off on suicides. But they kept no cases. They wrote up the initial reports and turned the cases over to the appropriate investigative units in the morning."My thoughts: One of the (many, many) things I love about Connelly's novels are that they pass in real time. Harry Bosch, the series of his I love the most, was born in 1950. The first mystery featuring Harry, The Black Echo, came out in 1992. I've wondered how and when Connelly will end that series, and what might come next. The Late Show attempts to answer that question. As a character, Renee Ballard thinks and acts a lot like Harry Bosch in her detective …

On Ruth Ware, book ratings, and enjoying what you're reading

When Ruth Ware's third novel, The Lying Game, came out this summer, I decided to finally read her first novel, In a Dark, Dark Wood, which I've been meaning to read since before it came out. I like to read books, particularly mystery and thriller authors, in the order they were written and published. 

I liked In a Dark, Dark Wood immediately. I realized for a book I'd been meaning to read for so long, I didn't really know much about it. I found the narrator's voice fresh, fun and deliciously dark. It didn't necessarily feel like a thriller, but there was a clear sense that something was going to happen and make it darker. The novel is at its best when the narrative has two timelines. When the timelines merged, the pace slowed, and I grew impatient. The conclusion, however, reduced what was an enjoyable 3.5 or 4-star read to me to a 2-star read. I found it maddening and not grounded in the reality the rest of the book was. While I rated it only 2 stars, I was st…

Looking Back on September 2017

I thought August was a disappointing reading month, but September was much worse. I hope October will get me reading more. Here's what I read in September:

Books read: 5
Fiction: 5
Comics: 1
Mystery/Thriller: 1
Audio: 3
New-to-me authors: 2
My Favorite September book: Forever, Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Now tell me: what was your favorite book read in September?

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!

Looking Back on August 2017

After a fabulous reading month in July, August was a disappointment in terms of how much I read. Today a new month begins, and I hope I'm able to carve out more time to read. Here's what I read in August:
Books Read: 7
Fiction: 6
Nonfiction: 1
Comics: 1
Mystery/Thriller: 3
Young Adult: 1
Audio: 1
New-to-me authors: 7
My Favorite August Read: Aftercare Instructions by Bonnie Pipkin

Now tell me:what was your favorite book you read in August?

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!

book journal: The Lucky Ones by Julianne Pachico

The backstory: The Lucky Ones is longlisted for the 2017 Center for Fiction's First Novel Prize.

The basics:  "A literary jigsaw puzzle of a debut novel set in Colombia during the peak of its decades-long conflict, and in New York City."-publisher

My thoughts: When this year's First Novel Prize longlist was announced, I'd already read two. The Lucky Ones was the first one I picked up from the longlist, so I had high expectations. I started it on my lunch break. The first chapter left me breathless; it was extraordinary. It, and many of the other stories, were originally published as short stories, and it shows. Some chapters are stronger than others, and the order certainly matters. Pachico uses names sparingly, and I spent the first parts of most chapters trying to figure out who the narrator was and if/when I'd read about them before. I enjoy non-linear stories told in this way, and I enjoyed it (for the most part) in this novel. I was hoping for the final ch…

Looking Back on July 2017

July 2017 was a phenomenal reading month for me. It has given me hope that my reading and blogging mojo are back in full force. Now if I can only hang on to both once classes start at the end of the month! Here's what I read in July:

Books Read: 15
Fiction: 12
Nonfiction: 3
Mystery/Thriller: 3
Not Yet Released: 4 (one came out this month after I read it)
Audio: 2
New-to-me authors: 13
My Favorite July Read: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Will I get around to reviewing them all? I don't know, but I have been really engaged with posting reviews as I finish books on Litsy. You can find me there as nomadreader, of course.

Now tell me: what's the best book you read in July?

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!

The "Darling, but..." Book Club Is Back

Two years ago, I convinced my spouse to create a book club with me. I read more than he does, but he loves to read. I love discussing pretty much anything with him, and I am forever recommending books to him. We fizzled our pretty quickly, at least partially because Hawthorne wasn't even one yet, and finding a routine to anything was hard. Last week, Mr. Nomadreader suggested we start our book club back again in August. Of course, I agreed.

Our book club is pretty fun, but we do have a few rules. Each month, we each pick one book, and we both read both books. 1. We're not allowed to pick books we've read before (I am not the creator of this rule, but it is a good one because it's terrible to hand a book to your favorite person and say, "I loved this book. I know you will love it too!" And then they don't. I also have so many books I want to make him read.) 2. No one may pick Infinite Jest or a similarly long book.

Here's what we picked for August:


book review: Deadfall by Linda Fairstein

The backstory: Deadfall is the 19th mystery featuring Alexandra Cooper. I've read them all and reviewed a lot of them.

The basics: Killer Look ended with quite a cliffhanger, and Deadfall picks up right where it left off, so spoilers of Killer Look abound in this review.

My thoughts: Over the years I've criticized Linda Fairstein a bit for how little things change in this series. There's comfort in that, sure, but as someone who has been reading this series for fourteen years, I would love to see more time pass in Alex's life. Fairstein upped the ante with the ending of Killer Look--the murder of Manhattan District Attorney Paul Battaglia. Battaglia's demise had been coming for a few books, but the surprise at the end of Killer Look was a great one. Deadfall seeks to solve his murder.

As always, one New York City landmark serves as the focus of the book. In Deadfall, it's the Bronx Zoo. Fairstein infuses current issues about illegal animal trade and big game hunt…

The 2017 Booker Dozen: A U.S. Reader's Guide

Although I've (finally) stopped pretending I will ever actually read all of the longlisted titles, I still eagerly await the Booker Prize longlist each July. Okay, so I do still harbor ideas about reading the longlists once Hawthorne reaches a certain age. What age? It's still unclear. Regardless, the longlists are more fun since the Prize has been opened up to U.S. authors, but I also find it has fewer unexpected picks. This longlist reads like an all-star list, and I'm excited to see who makes the short list (and wins.)

The One I've Already Read

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (3 stars)--I need to review this one, but I also feel like I should read it again. I listened to the audio because of the novelty of having 166 narrators. It was fun to hear so many voices, but the incessant repetition of op. cit. drove me bonkers. I may try it in print, as everyone else seems to love it.

The Ones Available in the U.S. Now

4321 by Paul Auster Days Without End by Sebastian Ba…