September 2014 Reading Wrap-Up

October 1, 2014 2014, monthly wrap-up 1

SeptMy reading slowed down a bit in September, which was part intentional and part due to my new job. It’s been nice to take a little bit more time with my reading and think about different ways to discuss, though I’m hoping to do some deep-dive reviews on a few books next month, too.

Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera

So We Read On by Maureen Corrigan

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott

Florence Gordon by Brian Morton

Rainey Royal by Dylan Landis

The Way Inn by Will Wiles

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Fire Shut Up in My Bones by Charles M. Blow

Best Book of the Month

Florence Gordon by Brian Morton

I don’t have a ton of review books left this year, so I’m excited to do some backlist reading and pick up a few titles I missed throughout 2014. October also means Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon, which is my favorite bookish event. If you haven’t signed up, head over and do it!

How was your September reading? What are you looking forward to in October?

Divider

Book Club Review: So We Read On by Maureen Corrigan

September 30, 2014 2014, ARC, book club, reviews 9

Book Club Review: So We Read On by Maureen CorriganSo We Read On by Maureen Corrigan
Published by Little, Brown on 9/9/2014
Source: Publisher
Pages: 352
Buy From IndieBoundGoodreads

 

Maureen Corrigan is more than just the voice on books for NPR’s Fresh Air, she’s also spent her career reading, teaching and loving The Great Gatsby. In that time, Corrigan came to realize both how well-loved and misunderstood Fitzgerald’s story is. So We Read On examines The Great Gatsby from multiple perspectives in an effort to understand the American connection to “the Great American Novel”.

My book club loves to mix things up with juicy non-fiction, so we were excited to have advance copies of So We Read On, which we read through the month of September. For much of the book’s first half, Corrigan uses the lives of the Fitzgeralds to dig deep into the text of Gatsby. Just a few months before picking up So We Read On, my book club read Flappers by Judith Mackrell, which centers on several women in the 1920’s including Zelda Fitzgerald. Because we had just read this close biography of the couple, and many of us have read other accounts of the Fitzgeralds and their marriage, our tendency was to find the first section of the book to be slow-going.

But following F. Scott Fitzgerald’s death, the narrative of the book shifts. Rather than focusing on dissecting the text of Gatsby, Corrigan works to piece together his disappearance from popular culture and eventual rise to literary fame. This is where many of us found the book’s most interesting points and content. Several members of my book club work in education, and Corrigan’s investigation into Gatsby’s use in the classroom—both secondary and higher ed—led us to discuss our reading histories as well as the potential impact of the recent push for campus-wide reading programs.

There were collective gasps as we began talking about Corrigan’s time in the Library of Congress and her discovery of the puzzle piece that moved The Great Gatsby from relative obscurity to the hands of thousands of readers. Though we felt like much of the beginning of the book was a slight repetition of what we had already read, Corrigan certainly delivers at the end of So We Read On with an absolutely fascinating, seemingly unknown bit of literary history.

 

Divider

It’s Monday September 29th, What Are You Reading?

September 29, 2014 2014, e-books, it's monday, what are you reading? 32

Monday

You probably remember the cover of A Brief History of Seven Killings from last week and I hope you’re ready to see it a few more times. It’s been a great read so far, but between the attention it demands and its 700+ page count, I think it’s going to take me quite a while. Thankfully, Hannah Pittard’s Reunion is a slimmer, slightly lighter read to break things up a bit. I’ve also been reading a digital copy of The Birth of the Pill by Jonathan Eig in small spurts, though now I’m waiting on a new e-reader!

After my post about my e-reading woes, I threw my Nook up on Ebay and and bought a Kobo Glo, which should be here any day. I switched to using the Kobo app on my phone and and really like the features (I figured out sideloading via Dropbox and it’s super easy!), so I’m pretty excited.

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?

Divider

September Mini Reviews

September 26, 2014 2014, mini reviews 7

19286587Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera

Quick Pitch: Island of a Thousand Mirrors examines the impact of the Sri Lankan civil war on different groups of people by charting the course of the eldest daughter from two distinct families.

Thoughts: Though the jacket copy for Munaweera’s debut focuses on the opposing stories of the eldest daughters, Yasohadra and Saraswathi, more than half of the novel is dedicated to the history of Yasohadra’s family. Saraswathi is introduced in the second half of the book through alternating perspectives and feels somewhat shorted in storytelling. Munaweera’s prose is gorgeous from start to finish, but the novel really picks up pace, intensity and conflict in the second half, which had me wishing Saraswathi had been given equal treatment throughout.

Carolyn from Rosemary and Reading Glasses wrote a fantastic full review that mirrors many of my feelings.

 

9781616954529

Rainey Royal by Dylan Landis

Quick Pitch: Fourteen year-old Rainey Royal lives with her jazz musician father and his cult-like followers in 1970’s New York.

Thoughts: A novel in stories, Rainey Royal follows its title character as she navigates life in an unpredictable home while attempting to find her creative voice and stable relationships among her peers. Dylan Landis highlights Rainey’s growth across the book’s vignettes with a signature style and smart insight that brings the character vibrantly to life.

Find out more about Rainey Royal from Book-alicious Mama and Dylan Landis’ previous work at Bookishly Witty.

 


9780062336101The Way Inn by Will Wiles

Quick Pitch: A “conference surrogate” finds himself in trouble when his position replacing others in business meetings is discovered.

Thoughts: Will Wiles has come up with an absolutely fascinating premise for his latest novel and brings it to life in careful, detailed prose. However, The Way Inn is a rare case where I found myself wishing I was watching a movie instead of reading a book. Its pitch as Up in the Air meets Deception was spot on and though I struggled to get a visual sense of the novel’s trippy scenes, I have no doubt Will Wiles could have written an amazing screenplay.

Ti from Book Chatter dishes all the details in a full review of The Way Inn.

 

9781590516256

A Distant Father by Antonio Skarmeta

Quick Pitch: When his father abandons him and his mother, schoolteacher Jacques is left to settle his feelings of abandonment and loneliness in his small Chilean village.

Thoughts: At just 112 pages, A Distant Father is able to pack an admirable amount of emotion into such a small space. Though the writing in some sentences feels more stilted than others, a shift likely due to translation, much of the novella is beautifully poetic. With noteworthy surprises and memorable characters, Skarmeta’s vision has the quiet precision we come to expect from such an author.

Divider

Broken Monsters & Great Books With Bad Endings

September 25, 2014 2014, ARC, discussion, reviews 32

Broken Monsters & Great Books With Bad EndingsBroken Monsters by Lauren Beukes
Published by Mulholland on 9/16/2014
Source: Publisher
Pages: 528
Buy From IndieBoundGoodreads

 

After Detective Gabriella Versado discovers the top half of a young boy’s body attached to the hind legs of a deer, she shifts her time and energy toward finding the killer, which leaves her teenage daughter wading the dangerous waters of social media alone. A frustrated young journalist new to Detroit picks up the story of the strange killing and aims to make it a viral sensation just as Detective Versado learns the murder is far from an isolated incident.

While Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy surprised me with a close encounter in Richmond, I was well prepared to take a trip back to my hometown of Detroit in Broken Monsters. Prepared, but nervous. It’s easy to get a distant, overhead look at a city like Detroit, but much more difficult to capture its true feel and Lauren Beukes absolutely nailed it. I knew before I read the acknowledgments that Beukes had done more than just ask a native questions, she spent real time in the city. Not only does she include specific, identifiable landmarks (like a re-named Pewabic Pottery and Heidelberg Project), she writes with a real sense of the city’s speed and mood.

While I found Broken Monsters compelling and difficult to put down, I didn’t get the sense of fear that many have discussed, though it’s rare for me to be scared while reading. My biggest issue came with the novel’s end, which is difficult to talk about without spoiling. I applaud Beukes for working to deviate from the standards in crime fiction, but the sudden shift toward supernatural elements felt misplaced and would have worked if it had been better infused throughout.

I’ve read many books without satisfying endings, but I think this is the most polarized I’ve felt. Though I’m sure many readers will have no problems with the conclusion, I have a hard time feeling like I can recommend the novel, despite everything I loved about it. How much does the end of a book impact your overall opinion? Can you overlook an ending you truly disliked if the majority of a novel is great? 

Divider

Recapping SIBA 2014

September 24, 2014 2014, book events, bookstores, travel 22

SIBA14

 

I spent this past Friday and Saturday surrounded by books at the Southern Independent Booksellers Association (SIBA) trade show in Norfolk, Virginia. The show is meant to bring together booksellers, authors and sales representatives to share ideas and highlight upcoming titles. Though it is not open to the public, SIBA offers memberships to bloggers to attend and build positive relationships with the independent bookstore community.

I attended several panels and sessions while at SIBA, but was most impressed with the War Time Authors panel, which included Laird Hunt (Neverhome), Allegra Jordan (The End of Innocence), Olivia deBelle Byrd (Save My Place), Michael Pitre (Fives and Twenty-Fives) and was moderated by Paulette Livers (Cementville). I was so excited to hear Laird Hunt read from Neverhome and was blown away by the insight in Michael Pitre’s discussion of the Iraq War.

SIBA also has a show floor that is similar to a scaled-down version of BEA. I realized pretty quickly that I should take advantage of the reps and their knowledge in order to get some personal recommendations. I started telling them my specific preferences and ended up with some great upcoming picks. Many of these are looking pretty far ahead, but here are a few of the books I left most excited for.

Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson (February 17th, 2015)

“Born and raised in the heart of old Dixie, D’aron Davenport finds himself in unfamiliar territory his freshman year at UC Berkeley. Two thousand miles and a world away from his childhood, he is a small-town fish floundering in the depths of a large, hyper-liberal pond. Caught between the prosaic values of his rural hometown and the intellectualized multicultural cosmopolitanism of Berzerkeley, the nineteen-year-old white kid is uncertain about his place until one disastrous party brings him three idiosyncratic best friends: Louis, a ‘kung-fu comedian’ from California; Candice, an earnest do-gooder claiming Native roots from Iowa; and Charlie, an introspective inner-city black teen from Chicago. They dub themselves the ‘4 Little Indians.'”

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant (December 9th, 2014)

“Addie Baum is The Boston Girl, born in 1900 to immigrant parents who were unprepared for and suspicious of America and its effect on their three daughters. Growing up in the North End, then a teeming multicultural neighborhood, Addie’s intelligence and curiosity take her to a world her parents can’t imagine—a world of short skirts, movies, celebrity culture, and new opportunities for women.”

Where All Light Tends to Go by David Joy (March 3rd, 2015)

“The area surrounding Cashiers, North Carolina, is home to people of all kinds, but the world that Jacob McNeely lives in is crueler than most. His father runs a methodically organized meth ring, with local authorities on the dime to turn a blind eye to his dealings. Having dropped out of high school and cut himself off from his peers, Jacob has been working for this father for years, all on the promise that his payday will come eventually. The only joy he finds comes from reuniting with Maggie, his first love, and a girl clearly bound for bigger and better things than their hardscrabble town.”

Divider