How to Build a Girl: Part 3

July 28, 2014 2014, Book Events 0

how to build a girl moran

Phew, I had to stop and write this post because things are starting to roll and I want to keep reading. We’re on part three of the How to Build a Girl readalong! Things are definitely getting spoilerific now, but I’ll have the readalong broken down in sections in the archives if you’d like to pop by later after you’ve read.

So, Johanna gets the big break of her writing gig and heads off to Dublin to interview musician John Kite. She falls hard for John’s charm and the attention he pays her, as the pair spend an evening chatting like best friends. Later, he mails her a Serge Gainsbourg tape, which I’m not really sure she would dig as much as she digs the fact that it’s from John and sounds creepy sexy. I much prefer his daughter and imagine Johanna would, too, had she been recording in the early 90′s.

Unfortunately, Johanna’s hard crush leads to her writing a fangirling article that cuts her off from the magazine at the same time her family’s benefits are cut off. Not good. After several weeks Johanna is called back in by D&ME, who remind her to be a critic not a fan and take her to her first drunken industry party where she waits for John Kite to arrive. As fate would have it, John pops into the party for a few minutes, says he has to leave, and kisses Johanna before taking off. Johanna turns around to meet Tony Rich, D&ME’s star writer, who is quick to evaluate her and tells her she’s in for causing trouble.

A few specific thoughts:

  • As a non-smoker who frequently finds herself in socially awkward situations, I totally understood Johanna’s appreciation for the handiness of smoking. Such a good excuse!
  • Pretty much every scene between Johanna and Krissi is gold, but holy jeez the shared bedroom.
  • I’m trying to figure out how I feel about Johanna and this Kite fellow. Is he just an epic rockstar douchebag who charms every girl he meets and then floats off to the next city (and let’s face it, Johanna is pretty easily charmed)? Or were the moments they had together genuinely sweet and the spark of a great friendship with Johanna pushing it to be more?
  • I am so excited for Johanna to be trouble.


It’s Sunday and I’m Slumping

July 27, 2014 2014, personal, What Are You Reading? 10

lena finkle's magic barrelOh, hi. I’m here. I’ve been here, obviously, but I feel like I haven’t shared much of what’s been going on without my Monday updates. We’re still chugging along with the How to Build a Girl readalong on Mondays, which has been fun, and I really hope those of you who aren’t reading to avoid spoilers come back to chat later because the book is a hoot and a half.

Right now real world has kind of infiltrated book world. Even though I’m still getting some reading done, I’m definitely distracted and not really enjoying everything the way I should be. After some serious thinking, I decided to leave my teaching job and will be working as a research assistant at a local university starting next month. It’s going to be a huge change, but I’m hoping that it will push me toward a career (and maybe even the PhD track?) I’m much more interested in. Clearly, my mind is all up in the what ifs of that situation and not the books I’m reading.

But I did pick up a few books this weekend that have worked so far. I just started The Angel of Losses by Stephanie Feldman and a graphic novel by Anya Ulinich called Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel. I’ve also been working my way through Carrie La Seur’s The Home Place. Here’s hoping these put me on the road out of Slumpsville!

Am I alone in my slumping or is everyone basking in summer reading?


Chaplin and Company by Mave Fellowes

July 25, 2014 2014, ARC, reviews 8

chaplin and company mave fellowes

Chaplin & Company by Mave Fellowes

Publisher: Liveright | Source: Publisher

Odeline Milk’s days have been pre-scheduled for her entire life; from ritualized meals and slotted television time to precisely documented expenses. But when Odeline is orphaned at eighteen, she is able to leave the restrictions of her small town and seek an audience that will support her dreams of becoming a mime. Lured by an ad for a boat named Chaplin and Company, Odeline takes up residence in one of London’s canal neighborhoods, where she will come to learn the true meaning of community.

Fellowes writes from overhead, peering down and zooming in on each of her characters as they are introduced. She soars through London, building a neighborhood around Odeline, and takes moments to weave the history of the boat in between. What emerges is a beautiful, unexpected coming of age story populated with wonderfully distinct characters.

“London has risen, built itself up like a toy city, stacked itself, crammed buildings against the edges of waterways and railways, so that from the ground these canals are rarely seen. To cross a bridge and glimpse one is a surprise. Life on these waterways is lower than life on the streets around it. It is below the eyeline. A good place to hide.”

Though it is set in modern day, the novel is told in vignettes that echo both the haunting sadness and cheeky charm of silent film. The blend is both surprising and unique, making Chaplin and Company a highly memorable debut.


Follow-Up With Your Favorite Authors

July 24, 2014 2014, discussion, lists 30

new books 2014

As we’re inching closer to Fall, we’re also rounding the corner toward new books from a few of our favorite authors. Let’s take a peek at ten follow-up titles headed our way.

10:04 by Ben Lerner – Spetember 2nd, 2014

Ben Lerner’s Leaving the Atocha Station earned tons of praise in 2011 and he’s back this year with “a stunning, urgent, and original novel about making art, love, and children during the twilight of an empire.”

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell – September 2nd, 2014

Cloud Atlas and Black Swan Green and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. Maybe you shared my epic failure in the BEA line for this magic tome or maybe you’re just waiting patiently for September 2nd, but either way I think we’re all excited.

The Children Act by Ian McEwan – September 9th, 2014

There isn’t much that needs to be said about Ian McEwan. He’s Ian McEwan. We can forget about those times when it goes wrong, because when it’s good it’s oh so good.

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes – September 16th, 2014

If The Shining Girls had you up at night I suggest you get some rest in now because word on the street is this one cranks up the creep factor to the max.

Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood – September 16th, 2014

What is there to say about the incredible Margaret Atwood? Put on your dancing shoes for her first short story collection since 2006!

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters – September 16th, 2014

A big, chunky book full of London and everything we’ve come to expect from Sarah Waters. Is September looking incredible yet or what?

Spoiled Brats by Simon Rich – October 14th, 2014

If you read and loved Rich’s Last Girlfriend on Earth it looks like Spoiled Brats is headed in the same hilarious direction.

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber – October 28th, 2014

Another chunkster from the author of the much-loved The Crimson Petal and the White, hailed as “a monumental, genre-defying novel over ten years in the making.”

Glow by Ned Beauman – January 20th, 2015

Beauman’s Teleportation Accident (and its beautiful cover) shook things up last year and this time Glow sets out to “uncover the connections between foxes behaving oddly in London, Burmese people going missing, and glow, the newest recreational drug.”

A History of Loneliness by John Boyne – February 3rd, 2015

John Boyne made my list of Popular Authors I’ve Never Read (But Want To) and here he is with another incredible sounding book headed our way before I had a chance to get to one.


Do any of your favorite authors have new books in the works?



Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto

July 23, 2014 2014, ARC, reviews 14

 em and the big hoom us cover

Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto

Publisher: Penguin | Source: Publisher

A son looks back on his life in Bombay with his larger than life mother, Em, and supportive father, affectionately known as The Big Hoom. Through Em’s letters and unreliable stories, he attempts to piece together how she met his father and fell into a lifelong cycle of manic depression.

Constantly afraid he will inherit his mother’s madness, the unnamed narrator listens carefully as Em weaves in and out of stories and styles. Em’s tales vary from hilarious, raunchy dating tips to the confession that her children were her undoing, with bouts of unbearable depression and regular hospitalization in between. Each member of her family becomes a carefully placed crutch in her support system, while wondering how much longer they can all hang on.

Despite its topic, Pinto keeps Em and the Big Hoom from feeling weighted or heavy, as the novel is lifted by Em’s charm and her family’s overwhelming love. Even in the darkest moments, as her words directly wound those around her, there is an understanding of  the disease among her family and thought is carefully chosen over reaction. Jerry Pinto takes a subject that is often swept aside and turns it into an engaging, reflective story.

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Desert Island Characters

July 22, 2014 2014, Top Ten Tuesday 35

desert island characters

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is Ten Characters I Would Want With Me on a Deserted Island. I’m aiming for a mix of sensible and pure selfishness here. I’m also hoping this desert island is more tropical resort than Survivor or I won’t be lasting too long.

Teenage Theo and Boris from The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

I’m going to need some entertainment on this island and pulling Theo and Boris straight out of Vegas will provide just that. Boris will roll up with a flak and I’ll just sit and ask him to say things in his weird accent. Later, when Theo and Boris are alone, I’ll giggle over their bromance with the other island characters. It’s perfection.

Karana from The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

If I’m going to have someone save me from dying on an island, I think it needs to be this amazing, animal-loving, weapon-making wonder of a girl from a book I read to pieces as a kid.

Arya Stark from A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin

Uh, who wouldn’t want Arya Stark on their desert island? She’s feisty and funny and we know she can survive a hard scrabble life. Plus, if things get dire, I can have her sit and tell me stories of Robb and Jon Snow.

Jeanne Anne McCullough from The Son by Philipp Meyer

She’s one of my favorite characters ever, so I just need her to be there. Maybe she can shape-shift between her different ages in the book so I can experience her whole life while we’re on the island…because that wouldn’t be weird.

Henry David Thoreau from Walden

Are you ready for me to cheat? I’m going to cheat. So Thoreau isn’t a character, but he’s pretty vital to Walden. He could do double island duty of teaching me how to be okay with solitude and planting a mean bean field.

Cheryl Strayed from Tiny Beautiful Things

Yeah, whatever, I’m cheating again. Thoreau is pretty fantastic on the page, but I’m sure after a few hours I’ll be desperate for a good curse word. Not only did Cheryl Strayed survive a pretty serious trek in Wild, but she knows how to hand out some seriously amazing advice. For this century.

Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Someone is going to have to lay down the law when all of these characters want to kill each other and I can’t think of anyone better than Atticus Finch.


Yeah, it’s only eight. I’m stingy about my food.

What characters would you want to spend time with on a desert island?