10.31.2014

MONTHLY WRAP-UP | OCTOBER 2014


This month had its highs and lows reading-wise - but I have to say that Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven was outstanding. I tore through it while simultaneously needing to know what happens RIGHT THE HELL NOW, and never, ever wanting it to end. I think it's one of those rare books pretty much everyone will find something to like in, so I highly recommend that you scurry your buns down to your nearest book dealer and acquire yourself a copy. You can thank me (with more books, of course) later. The other books I finished were:

 
I also started: 



Loving Not That Kind of Girl and Not My Father's Son so far. Glory O'Brien is.... weird. Not sure where it's going or if I want to go there. Nightmares! is really engaging - it's for younger audiences so it's easy to get into and should be a quick read.

Here are the reviews I posted in October:

In other news, here's what you might have missed around the blog this month:

I've enjoyed October's reads - and so many great books came out that I've got plenty I'm looking forward to.Now it's your turn - which stellar books did you finish in the past month? Did you pick up any great ones you're excited to read? Share in the comments!

10.30.2014

BOOK THOUGHTS ON THURSDAY | GENDERED READING


The world of books is never boring. Every week I'll discuss a different topic related to books, often inspired by or in response to what's going on in the online book community (or something I've seen another blogger talk about). I call this Book Thoughts on Thursday. Feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, or even write your own post on the topic and share the link with me! 

***

Whether we think about it consciously or not, gendered reading is important. There are many articles on bookish sites around the web that discuss inequality in the genders of published authors and how our own reading choices impact the gendered landscape of publishing. Personally, I've never thought much about the gender of authors I read. Not on purpose, anyway.

But the other day, as I was writing about the shelves of "read" books that sit proudly next to my desk, I started noticing the authors' names emblazoned on the spines, idly thinking about how many of them were male or female. And then I began counting. The numbers surprised me.

After all the discussion of male prevalence, I fully expected to find more male than female names on my shelves. What I found was that my reading history (for the past two years, at least) was about 2.5 to 1 female to male.

There are a few potential explanations for this. I don't read very many classics, classics being a famous roll call of "dead white dudes." I have a shelf of them, but I rarely dip into them. I tend to read more contemporary fiction - and, recently, a lot of contemporary young adult. I don't know if there are more women authors published in this genre, but it seems to me there are a larger number of them, and I seem to have brought a lot of them home with me. And there are other, more obvious reasons. We tend to be attracted to authors and stories we feel a commonality with. Being a woman myself, it's likely I'm subconsciously drawn to female authors. Or perhaps all those Women's Studies courses I took in college seeped into my psyche leaving me with a gender bias.

I don't know which of these  - or, indeed if some combination of all of them - informed my reading choices. What I can tell you for sure is that out of 71 books on my read shelves, 49 were written by women. 20 were written by men. And two were written by a woman/man writing team.

What about you guys? Have you noticed a gender bias in the authors whose books you read? Do you try to balance your reading? Share your thoughts in the comments!

10.29.2014

WWW WEDNESDAY | #38


It's time for this week's WWW Wednesdays, hosted by Should Be Reading blog (head over and check them out!).

This link up asks three questions
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What are you currently reading?
  • What do you think you'll be reading next? 
Here are my WWW answers!

What did I recently finish reading?

I just finished this one... finally! I can see how it would make a good movie and am excited to watch it... but I wasn't super impressed with the book. I think it had been over-hyped a bit for me, and I had the same problem as with so many dystopian YAs - inconsistencies in the plot that aren't addressed and leave me feeling frustrated.

What are you currently reading?


I just finished The Maze Runner, so I haven't started anything new yet. But I'm thinking, being nearly Halloween 'n' all, that one of these would be appropriate!

What do you think you'll be reading next?


I haven't fully decided yet, but I might try The Cuckoo's Calling again, or continue on with Not My Father's Son. Then again, NPH is hard to resist...

What about you guys? Read any good books lately? Got any great Halloween reads on the go? Share in the comments!

10.27.2014

TOP TEN TUESDAY | BOOKS & MOVIES THAT GET ME INTO THE SPIRIT OF HALLOWEEN


This week's Top Ten Tuesday on The Broke and the Bookish is: Top Ten Books/Movies To Read Or Watch To Get In The Halloween Spirit. Okay, so admission time. I'm a total wuss. So though I enjoy the spirit of Halloween, I do it without getting overly spooky. I like the warm-and-cosy-with-spooky-edges type of Halloween entertainment. Here's what I've got in mind:

1. The Harry Potter movies. And the Harry Potter books. 

http://sites.psu.edu/perceptions/

Well, I mean, really. PUMPKIN JUICE.

2. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman


Because Graveyard and boy named Nobody Owens who's raised by ghosts.

3. The Nightmare Before Christmas (this goes for Halloween and Christmas equally.)

http://giphy.com/gifs/nightmare-before-christmas-jack-skellington-halloween-blog-KRM030N9i677y

I just love this story. I dunno, maybe I can relate a bit to the character who just wants to understand happiness and joy but can't quite get there. Not that I'm all dark and twisty, but I've got my dark corners.

4. The Walking Dead

http://giphy.com/gifs/k4uIx1omh4H6M

Okay, I was watching it anyway so it's a bit of a cheat. But it's gotta count.

5. Buffy/Angel

http://www.tumblr.com/search/joan%20the%20vampire%20slayer

I can't explain why, but I just love Buffy. Angel is good, too, but Buffy is.... well, Buffy.

6. Rocky Horror Picture Show

http://www.randomrocker.co.uk/new/imgursingle.php?imgurid=1a7Ya&type=1

What's Halloween without fishnets?

Here are some Halloweeny books I haven't read yet but want to:



Okay, so not the scariest roundup, but I enjoy some giggles with my creepy. Did I miss any truly great Halloween classics that won't cause me to give up sleep for a year? Which are your favourites? Share in the comments!

10.26.2014

THE SUNDAY REVIEW | MY SALINGER YEAR - JOANNA RAKOFF


Poignant, keenly observed, and irresistibly funny: a memoir about literary New York in the late nineties, a pre-digital world on the cusp of vanishing, where a young woman finds herself entangled with one of the last great figures of the century.

At twenty-three, after leaving graduate school to pursue her dreams of becoming a poet, Joanna Rakoff moves to New York City and takes a job as assistant to the storied literary agent for J. D. Salinger. She spends her days in a plush, wood-paneled office, where Dictaphones and typewriters still reign and old-time agents doze at their desks after martini lunches. At night she goes home to the tiny, threadbare Williamsburg apartment she shares with her socialist boyfriend. Precariously balanced between glamour and poverty, surrounded by titanic personalities, and struggling to trust her own artistic instinct, Rakoff is tasked with answering Salinger’s voluminous fan mail. But as she reads the candid, heart-wrenching letters from his readers around the world, she finds herself unable to type out the agency’s decades-old form response. Instead, drawn inexorably into the emotional world of Salinger’s devotees, she abandons the template and begins writing back. Over the course of the year, she finds her own voice by acting as Salinger’s, on her own dangerous and liberating terms.

Rakoff paints a vibrant portrait of a bright, hungry young woman navigating a heady and longed-for world, trying to square romantic aspirations with burgeoning self-awareness, the idea of a life with life itself. Charming and deeply moving, filled with electrifying glimpses of an American literary icon, My Salinger Year is the coming-of-age story of a talented writer. Above all, it is a testament to the universal power of books to shape our lives and awaken our true selves.
  - Goodreads

 
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The context of this book made me by turns swoony and incredibly jealous. It's the story of a young woman who, after finding herself somewhat lost after graduating from college, takes a job working for a literary agent - the literary agent of J.D. Salinger, no less. She somehow managed to stumble into a job and a world that most of us bookish folk would kill for. She gets to read Salinger's fan mail, take home not-yet-published manuscripts and immerse herself in a literary world few of us have ever even caught a glimpse of. One that no longer exists.

I related strongly when she described reading Judy Blume's new manuscript, or her nerves upon answering the phone to talk to "Jerry" Salinger.  That she seemed so dissatisfied with this experience is both realistic (being on the bottom rung in any workplace involves tedious hours spent on administrative drudgery) and disappointing - I wanted to wallow in a rose-tinted version of employment in any book-related field.

I also struggled to feel a connection to the characters. The narrator felt by turns stiff, naive and passive. And I had a really difficult time with her relationship with her boyfriend. She lacked backbone, and though she kept showing us that he wasn't a nice bloke, she time and time again let him talk her into doing things that she wasn't comfortable with or letting him get away with disrespectful (sometimes flat out douchey) behaviour without so much as confronting him. I have very little patience with that sort of thing, and I've been spoiled by YA books where wrongs are righted and the nasties are taught a lesson. I didn't really feel like I got the satisfaction of seeing him put in his place, so I was left with a lingering (and, okay, slightly vengeful) desire to see him smooshed like a bug.

I wanted more both for and from her, and though we see her come out of her shell as the book continues to begin asserting herself at work and stretching her wings as a writer in her own right, by the end of the book I still felt somewhat disgruntled.

Overall I enjoyed the writing and found Joanna's coming-of-age tale to be both realistic and raw. At times awkward and painful, it echoed those first hesitant, stumbling steps we all must take into adulthood. But it also (perhaps because of this) left me feeling somewhat uncomfortable as I read. This wasn't an era of my own life I much care to dwell on (mistakes made, heartbreaks endured, and a general lack of direction and maturity - not to mention the poverty of one's early adult years) and therefore wasn't one I necessarily enjoyed living vicariously. That said, Rakoff's writing style was easy to be drawn in by and she gave me enough bookish voyeuristic thrills to keep me turning pages right to the end.

If you're a fan of understated and introspective writing - and, of course, a total book geek - you'll enjoy tiptoeing through the hallowed offices of Salinger's agency, admiring bookshelves packed with first editions and peeking over shoulders at unpublished manuscripts with Rakoff.

------

Book Title: My Salinger Year
Author: Joanna Rakoff
Series: No
Edition: Hardback
Published By: Knopf
Released: June 3, 2014
Genre: Memoir, Personal, Literary
Pages: 252
Date Read: September 11-20, 2014
Rating: 6/10

10.25.2014

STACKING THE SHELVES | #44 (OR THE ONE THAT MADE ME REALLY MISS HIMYM)


Time to look at the books I added to my shelves this week with Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews! Not necessarily books I bought - also includes books I borrowed, was given or otherwise ended up with. Weeks where I don't buy books I'll scramble around my shelves and find some books I haven't shared in a StS post yet! 


 
Choose Your Own Autobiography - Neil Patrick Harris
Nightmares! - Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller
I Am Malala - Malala Yousafzai

Somehow I ended up with not one, but TWO books by members of the How I Met Your Mother cast arriving this week. Both of which I'm excited to read! (Though now I'm kind of tempted to embark on an epic HIMYM re-watch instead....)

What about you guys? What did you add to your shelves or dig out of long-forgotten TBR piles this week? Have you read any of these? Share in the comments!

10.23.2014

BOOK THOUGHTS ON THURSDAY | REMEMBERING WHY I LOVE THE BOOKISH INTERWEBS


The world of books is never boring. There are movies being made based on our favourite stories, raging debates over the relative merit of books and series, book-related events and a never-ending plethora of bookish topics I just like thinking (and talking) about.

While I absolutely adore my regular link-ups and have no intention of giving them up, I do feel like this blog could use a bit of shaking up - and a bit more in-depth discussion. To that end, I'm adding a new weekly feature - Book Thoughts on Thursday.

Starting now, every week I'll discuss a different topic related to books, often inspired by or in response to what's going on in the online book community (or something I've seen another blogger talk about - I'm looking at you, Karen!). Feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, or even write your own post on the topic and share the link with me! 

***

Everywhere I look this week I'm seeing talk of the author who took an online altercation with a book blogger offline*. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, you can find an account here, the blogger's Goodreads comments here, and the original article here [this link isn't direct - it will allow you to read the article without generating any page hits for it].)

Though I have plenty of opinions, I'm actually not here to share them. Everything I'd say on the topic has already been said (and said better than I could - see links at the end of this post), and I think the best thing at this point is to let the issue die down and give everyone some space to regain their cool. But I think there are some important underlying issues to consider in the meantime.

I know the situation has many book bloggers re-considering their online presence - some are removing personal information or making accounts private, others are now nervous about expressing a less than favourable opinion about a book (something I've never been very comfortable with, but am now even more nervous to do), and there are even some who are giving up book blogging altogether.

As for me, I worry that this will change dynamics - between bloggers and authors, between bloggers and publishers, and even between bloggers and the books they read. We've been lucky to enjoy a relatively pleasant online community. I say this knowing there have been issues - but for the most part, book bloggers are friendly folk. We'll chat with anyone on Twitter, reply to comments on our blogs, tag one another in fun posts and generally share a childish enthusiasm about everything to do with the world of books.

This sense of instant belonging that book bloggers have fostered never ceases to amaze me.

And there are plenty of authors who have joined in on the fun - many have a significant Twitter presence, will respond to their fans and even take the time to accommodate interviews and participate in blogger events. This ability to reach out to the people who created our beloved fictional worlds is one of the biggest benefits of the internet. When I was a kid, I never dreamed of a time when I would be able to Tweet an author like Matthew Quick or Rita Leganski or Maggie Stiefvater and get a response. It's a heady feeling, to talk to someone you hold in as high regard as we hold a favourite author.

So from my point of view, this little corner of the internet is pretty magical.

Which is why I (along with many other bloggers and authors) am feeling so personally affected by recent events. This is, quite literally, my happy place. And while this situation has prompted me to ask myself some pretty important questions about online security and re-assess some of the information I share and who I share it with, I am more concerned about losing the feeling of trust and belonging I have found through book blogging.

All my thinking keeps leading me back to one central question: How do we get back to the happy, welcoming online family we previously enjoyed?

I don't think there's one simple answer, but I have found my own starting point: Stopping once in a while to make sure I'm not saying anything online that I wouldn't say in person, and that I'm being respectful. It's all too easy (as I know from personal experience) to lose sight of the fact that the disembodied words on the computer screen are actually coming from a real, live person. Not only that, but because online interaction is devoid of the subtleties of tone, facial expression and body language, and because we don't actually know many of the people we interact with, it's so very easy to misconstrue someone's meaning or take something personally that isn't meant that way.

It's also easy to forget that, for all the celebrity status we assign to authors we revere (and I'm far more star-struck by Neil Gaiman and Rainbow Rowell than any Hollywood celeb), they're just people too. Incredibly talented, eloquent and brilliant people, but people nonetheless.
 
Given some time, I know that we'll be able to bounce back and regain the sense of trust and openness that I've come to associate with the online book community. For my part, while I'll be much more careful about what information I share online, I'm not going to let this incident keep me from the amazing community I've found here. Safety is important, but so is finding a group of people, whether online or in person, to share my bookish enthusiasm with!

To finish, I'd like to ask you all - what has your reaction been to this fiasco? Do you feel less safe online? Will this change how you interact online or make you think twice about sharing negative feedback on books or requesting review copies of books? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

***

Further reading:
*Please note that I've removed the names of both the author and blogger from my post. This is because I don't want to get drawn into the nastiness if at all possible and because this post wasn't really about them.

10.22.2014

WWW WEDNESDAY | #37


It's time for this week's WWW Wednesdays, hosted by Should Be Reading blog (head over and check them out!).

This link up asks three questions
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What are you currently reading?
  • What do you think you'll be reading next? 
Here are my WWW answers!

What did I recently finish reading?

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10161216-mr-churchill-s-secretary?ac=1

This book was just what I needed. Suspenseful, reminiscent of Bletchley Circle (man, do I want more of that show!) and it portrayed a period in history I've recently become very interested in - London during the blitz in the early 1940s. It portrayed a kickass female protagonist who pushed against the constraints of her gender, and supporting characters who added depth to her character. A great, light read.

What am I currently reading?

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6186357-the-maze-runner?ac=1
 
I know what you're thinking - finally! Yes, I finally got around to picking up The Maze Runner, and am currently about halfway through it. Bit slow going at first ( a lot of description of the main character's mental state and a bit too much of his repetitive thoughts) but it's finally getting good.

What do I think I'll be reading next?

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13129925-horrorst-r?ac=1

Well, since Halloween is right around the corner, it seems like a good time to take side-trip into the spooky. I don't know how scary this one will be, but it feels appropriate. Plus, coolest book concept I've seen in ages.

That's it for me - what are you guys reading this week?

10.20.2014

TOP TEN TUESDAY | NEW SERIES I WANT TO START


This week's Top Ten Tuesday on The Broke and the Bookish is: Top Ten New Series I Want to Start. I'm not that big on series usually, but when I started reading Young Adult fiction more series hit my radar. Here are some of the first that come to mind:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16101128-the-5th-wave?ac=1https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20880279-the-giver-quartethttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12476820-partials?ac=1

The 5th Wave - Rick Yancey
The Giver - Lois Lowry
Partials Sequence - Dan Wells

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11408650-the-unbecoming-of-mara-dyer?ac=1https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11235712-cinder?ac=1https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11988046-pivot-point?ac=1

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer - Michelle Hodkin
The Lunar Chronicles - Marissa Meyer
Pivot Point - Kasie West

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10194157-shadow-and-bone?ac=1https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11826847-percy-jackson-collection-percy-jackson-and-the-lightning-thief-the-las

The Grisha - Leigh Bardugo

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17684326-the-cuckoo-s-callinghttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17332969-the-100?ac=1

Cormoran Strike - Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling)
The 100 - Kass Morgan

I cheated a little bit, as you may have noticed. The topic said that we should include series published in the last year or two, but there were a couple older ones I snuck in there. The Giver, because with the movie coming out soon I feel like it's back in the current book narrative. And Percy Jackson and the Olympians because I just keep on hearing about it! Everywhere I turn it seems like a fellow book blogger is saying now awesome this series is. So I feel like it belongs on the list.

What about you guys? Which series are you dying to read - and which others should be on my list? Share in the comments!

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