it’s monday! what are you reading?

It’s Monday, what are you reading?—a weekly blog meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

I’m getting into the very-extra-super busy time of year at work (during the school year, all the times are busy times!) but we’re approaching the end of the semester when everyone is finishing up recitals, which means I get a little bit swamped, to put it politely :) So while I like being busy and having lots of projects, this 5–6 weeks or so means I don’t have as much time for reading. Summer is right around the corner, though!

Over the weekend I took a lovely day trip to Columbia, Missouri, to hear a choral work of my husband’s performed in concert, and caught up with a college friend who works out there now. We had a great time! Also, yesterday, I finished reading The Thief of Always by Clive Barker, which was a childhood favorite of my husband’s and now we can discuss it. Marriage book club! I love it.

After that, I started Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum, picked up from the library. I have to see what all the fuss is about, and I can’t wait to get into the discussions at the Socratic Salon website! I’m behind everyone over there but that’s okay. Finally, I’m almost finished with the audio for Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke, which I expect to finish tonight on my drive to rehearsal.

What are you reading this week?

it’s monday! what are you reading?

It’s Monday, what are you reading?—a weekly blog meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

I had a pretty decent week last week, although I didn’t get quite as much reading in as I wanted to. Ain’t that just how it goes! Anyway, I did get a bunch of posts and reviews up like I wanted. My husband was out of town but I was busy getting the house ready for a family visit over the Easter weekend, which was a total blast :)

For reading, I’m still working through Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke which I started for my orchestra commutes a couple weeks ago. It’s not as creepy as I was hoping for, but it’s decent for the road. I’m about two-thirds through by now. Next, I started Clive Barker’s The Thief of Always. Not a typical choice for me, but it was a favorite of my husband’s when he was a kid and he recently re-read it, and asked me to read it so we could talk about it. Marriage book club!!

What are you reading this week?

transatlantic

In March, I thought it would be fitting to get in (stay in?) the Irish spirit with TransAtlantic by Colum McCann, an Ireland native whose book focuses on several people and their dealings with the country. From Goodreads:

Newfoundland, 1919. Two aviators—Jack Alcock and Arthur Brown—set course for Ireland as they attempt the first nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean, placing their trust in a modified bomber to heal the wounds of the Great War. Dublin, 1845 and ’46: On an international lecture tour in support of his subversive autobiography, Frederick Douglass finds the Irish people sympathetic to the abolitionist cause—despite the fact that, as famine ravages the countryside, the poor suffer from hardships that are astonishing even to an American slave. New York, 1998: Leaving behind a young wife and newborn child, Senator George Mitchell departs for Belfast, where it has fallen to him, the son of an Irish-American father and a Lebanese mother, to shepherd Northern Ireland’s notoriously bitter and volatile peace talks to an uncertain conclusion.

These three iconic crossings are connected by a series of remarkable women whose personal stories are caught up in the swells of history. Beginning with Irish housemaid Lily Duggan, who crosses paths with Frederick Douglass, the novel follows her daughter and granddaughter, Emily and Lottie, and culminates in the present-day story of Hannah Carson, in whom all the hopes and failures of previous generations live on. From the loughs of Ireland to the flatlands of Missouri and the windswept coast of Newfoundland, their journeys mirror the progress and shape of history. They each learn that even the most unassuming moments of grace have a way of rippling through time, space, and memory.

I found TransAtlantic to be a quiet read, with my interest ebbing and flowing a bit, I think because it’s laid out like a short story collection with one family as the underlying unifier. I was absolutely enthralled by the opening two parts, focusing on Alcock and Brown and their historic 1919 flight across the Atlantic ocean (the first ever), and Frederick Douglass’s visit to Ireland in the 1840s. The middle waned for me, especially the Sen. George Mitchell section, but picked up steam again for the last third. I thought McCann’s writing was soft and lovely, and I was on the edge of my seat for that opening chapter flying across the Atlantic—the urgency of the action was intense.

Though I enjoyed the book as a whole immensely, I do wish that the characters could have been more fully realized. I would have read a stand-alone book on Alcock and Brock or Douglass’s Ireland trip. Especially Douglass—McCann takes this piece of history and paints a vivid picture, but I wonder what Douglass, a former slave, thought of the dire conditions and abject poverty he surely encountered in 1845 Ireland? Although probably wisely, McCann doesn’t venture to imagine what Douglass may have been thinking on that subject (perhaps he didn’t document those thoughts in a diary or letters). I appreciate the level of research McCann must have put into TransAtlantic for the three main “crossings,” but the family stuff kind of fell a little flat for me in places. Although I did like Lily’s story best. I think the time-jumping was just a bit confusing, I had to keep reminding myself who was whom’s mother.

I’m so glad I finally got around to reading TransAtlantic. It reminded me of Almost Famous Women (my review) and Burial Rites (my review), in writing style and being fact-based historical fiction. Lovely book.

TransAtlantic is my third of twelve books read for the 2015 TBR Pile Challenge.

Read from March 15 to 31, 2015.

the silent wife

I received a copy of The Silent Wife by A. S. A. Harrison from a friend several months ago (a year?) and finally decided to read it in March, being a perfect fit for the KC Library Love on the Rocks Adult Winter Reading Program. From Goodreads:

Jodi and Todd are at a bad place in their marriage. Much is at stake, including the affluent life they lead in their beautiful waterfront condo in Chicago, as she, the killer, and he, the victim, rush haplessly toward the main event. He is a committed cheater. She lives and breathes denial. He exists in dual worlds. She likes to settle scores. He decides to play for keeps. She has nothing left to lose. Told in alternating voices, The Silent Wife is about a marriage in the throes of dissolution, a couple headed for catastrophe, concessions that can’t be made, and promises that won’t be kept. Expertly plotted and reminiscent of Gone Girl and These Things Hidden, The Silent Wife ensnares the reader from page one and does not let go.

I know I’m not the first to say it, and I totally agree—the comparisons to Gone Girl are way off. Sure, it’s a messed up marriage, like in Gone Girl. But The Silent Wife is less thriller than Gone Girl, for starters. While the final “act” is set up in the blurb above (and I kind of wish the blurb hadn’t given that away), Jodi and Todd are less conniving and sociopathic  than Amy and Nick, but still pretty awful to each other. Psychology is a huge element in this novel, with Jodi even being a psychologist herself. There were plenty of twists and turns in the story but I saw a few of them coming, and the ending wrapped up just a little too neatly for me.

This was deliciously dark fiction, though, with plenty of sinister moments, and Harrison’s writing style and pacing keeps you turning the pages for more. I loved how she made Chicago another character in the story, mentioning specific locations, however, the language wasn’t quite right for Chicagoans in spots. I didn’t grow up in Chicago but I’ve been many, many times to visit family there, and never once have I heard anyone I know from Chicago say “hell’s bells.” This would make a great book club choice, since there’s a lot to discuss: cheating and what you do or don’t do about it, what a marriage looks like after 20+ years, childhood trauma, and so on. The Silent Wife came out a couple of years ago so I’m sure many have read it already, but I don’t want to give out spoilers!

Basically it was a good book—not quite great, but still an enjoyable read if you’re into dark fiction about marriages and interpersonal relationships. I was sorry to find out later that Harrison died right before The Silent Wife was published, making it her only novel. I would have been interested to read more from her as she developed her style and voice past her debut.

The Silent Wife is my fifth book of five for the KC Library’s Love on the Rocks Adult Winter Reading Program.

Read from March 15 to 20, 2015.

reading recap: march 2015

monthly recap image
March was just as great as February! Just kidding, it was another horrible month on the personal front. It went by so fast, though, I kind of can’t believe it’s over and we’re in April already. But again, despite the not-fun real-life drama, I ended up reading five books:

march reading recap

I guess five per month is my usual, huh? I liked TransAtlantic the best of these, and it counted on my TBR Pile Challenge. Yay, on track! However, though I did read Rivers for my Ebook challenge, I failed to read a third so I’m technically one book behind on that challenge. Oh well, I’m not going to be tough on myself about the challenges this year. I did end up finishing the KC Library challenge, rounding that out with Shotgun Lovesongs and The Silent Wife. This year the prize for finishing was a nifty glass tumbler!

I’m lucky this month there wasn’t a stinker in the bunch, I enjoyed all these books. One day I’ll have all the reviews posted in time to link them in my monthly recap! I hope March was a good month for you in reading and in life. What was the best/worst for you in books last month?

top ten tuesday: latest tbr additions

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, a fun way to get yourself thinking and sharing about books and bookish things.

March 31: Recently added to my TBR 

Ahem…
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The Thief of Always … Clive Barker
Find Me … Laura van den Berg
The Country of Ice Cream Star … Sandra Newman
Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy … Jeff VanderMeer
Station Eleven … Emily St. John Mandel
Americanah … Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Behind the Beautiful Forevers … Katherine Boo
An Untamed State … Roxane Gay
All That Is Solid Melts into Air … Darragh McKeon

photo 1

Fourth of July Creek … Smith Henderson
The Tusk that Did the Damage … Tania James
Get in Trouble … Kelly Link
Dead Wake … Erik Larson

Yeah it’s a little more than ten.   ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

ETA: I forgot to include The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins! It was on my bedside table :)

What have you recently added to your TBR?

it’s monday! what are you reading?

It’s Monday, what are you reading?—a weekly blog meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

I have big plans to catch up on my blog and reading this week! Maybe it doesn’t seem like I’m behind on posts, but I’m one book review behind and have a few more posts I want to do, especially being the end of the month (reading recap). I have the house to myself this week so it should be pretty quiet, lots of time to read and write. Yay!

This week I’m still working through TransAtlantic by Colum McCann. It’s great and I’m enjoying it so far… unfortunately I’ve been so busy I’m only about 50 pages in, after starting it last week. Hopefully with these next few evenings free I can breeze through the rest of it pretty quickly and count it as a March read.

Otherwise, I’m back to orchestra rehearsals and their 30-minute commutes, so I started a new audiobook. I was in the mood for something creepy and not too long, and so far Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke is fitting the bill quite nicely.

What are you reading this week?

top ten tuesday: childhood favorites to revisit

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, a fun way to get yourself thinking and sharing about books and bookish things.

March 24: Childhood favorites to revisit 

This was a wonderful topic to ruminate on: which books from my childhood I’d like to revisit. I LOVED these ten books when I read them as a kid, mostly I remember the feeling of loving them more than their entire synopses. In alphabetical order by title:

kids books 1

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery: Redhead girls, yay! I also think I read Pippi Longstocking, but don’t remember for sure…

The Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin, Jr.: One of the few fantasy books that hooked me. Gateway book to Orwell’s Animal Farm?

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White: A beautiful classic, who doesn’t want to revisit this one?

Danny, Champion of the World by Roald Dahl: Was I the only kid who liked Danny?

I Am the Cheese by Robert Cormier: I remember a sense of urgency and mystery, but nothing else!

kids books 2

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell: Adventure AND a female protagonist!

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli: Orphan runs everywhere and liked spaghetti a lot? Maybe?

Matilda by Roald Dahl: The best.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster: Another adventure classic! I have no idea what happened!

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein: So imaginative and funny, and I loved the black-and-white illustrations.

What books from your childhood would you like to revisit?

shotgun lovesongs

Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler made the rounds on book blogs last year, and it came up as available on audio through my library last month. I didn’t realize it until I was almost finished, but this book is a great fit for the KC Library’s Love on the Rocks program. From Goodreads:

Hank, Leland, Kip and Ronny were all born and raised in the same Wisconsin town—Little Wing—and are now coming into their own (or not) as husbands and fathers. One of them never left, still farming the family’s land that’s been tilled for generations. Others did leave, went farther afield to make good, with varying degrees of success; as a rock star, commodities trader, rodeo stud. And seamlessly woven into their patchwork is Beth, whose presence among them—both then and now—fuels the kind of passion one comes to expect of love songs and rivalries.

There was a lot I liked about Shotgun Lovesongs. First, yay Wisconsin! It’s not everyday that you experience literary fiction set in Wisconsin (my home state), especially with it being another subtle, accurately portrayed character in itself. I’ve since learned that Butler is a Wisconsin resident, so that obviously makes the setting click, with its spot-on references. I was easily taken by the five friends and immersed in their world, as I have first-hand experience of small, rural Wisconsin towns myself. Their interpersonal relationships and struggles were realistic and easily relatable. Though Little Wing is fictional, I love the nod to Stevie Ray Vaughan (who died in a helicopter crash in Wisconsin) and Jimi Hendrix. Beyond that, with basing his main protagonist on Bon Iver’s leader Justin Vernon (a Wisconsin native), obviously music is a big inspiration for Shotgun and I loved that aspect of this book.

While I said the Wisconsin references were spot-on (and they were), occasionally they were a skosh heavy handed (John Deere and Leinenkugels [almost no one says the full name] and Carhartts oh my!), and the women didn’t feel fully fleshed out for me. Butler shatters some stereotypes with the men, but sadly plays right into others with the women of his fictional rural town (babies on the brain, frumpy clothes for farmer’s wives? come on). I thought it was great that on the audio each character was read by a different actor in the alternating-viewpoint chapters. The actors didn’t sound like they were from “up-nort” (forgivable) but thinking back, the characters all “spoke” in sort of the same voice… their inner monologues were rather similar.

I enjoyed Shotgun Lovesongs very much, though—it was just the right kind of escapism I’ve been needing lately. I’ve also found out that the movie rights have been secured; I can see this translating to film quite well!

Shotgun Lovesongs is my fourth book of five for the KC Library’s Love on the Rocks Adult Winter Reading Program.

Listened to audiobook from February 14 to March 15, 2015.

rivers

Continuing my Ebook Challenge this year! I recently chose to read Rivers by Michael Farris Smith off my iPad. From Goodreads:

It had been raining for weeks. Maybe months. He had forgotten the last day that it hadn’t rained, when the storms gave way to the pale blue of the Gulf sky, when the birds flew and the clouds were white and sunshine glistened across the drenched land.

Following years of catastrophic hurricanes, the Gulf Coast—stretching from the Florida panhandle to the western Louisiana border—has been brought to its knees. The region is so punished and depleted that the government has drawn a new boundary ninety miles north of the coastline. Life below the Line offers no services, no electricity, and no resources, and those who stay behind live by their own rules.

Eerily prophetic in its depiction of a southern landscape ravaged by extreme weather, Rivers is a masterful tale of survival and redemption in a world where the next devastating storm is never far behind.

I am so in the mood for post-apocalypse books right now, and Rivers worked well for me. It’s hard not to compare to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, of course, and these books could be cousins as far as the devastating near-future setting goes, but they are different enough to be enjoyed without wishing you were reading the other.

The aspect I liked best about Rivers was Smith’s detailed world building, especially for the crushing weather—constant rain, frequent hurricanes gaining strength one after another. The bleak, brutal wetness and cold is palpable in this book. Also, there was a lot more action in Rivers than I expected—impossible situations, violence, kill-or-be-killed stuff, which I found all appropriate to the desperate nature of this new world.

A few things didn’t quite work for me, specifically that I didn’t feel like I really knew Cohen, despite being the protagonist and several flashbacks to his life before the storms (which had a tendency to be long sometimes, I’m not sure I cared so much). None of the characters were fleshed out much‚ Cohen is the only one whose past we learn about and I still didn’t feel like he was fully realized.

I enjoyed it a lot though—this scenario of seemingly endless storms ravaging our country is a terrifying prospect and I thought it was imagined well here in Rivers. I’m sure I would have gotten through this faster if I didn’t feel a pinch by a few library books that were coming up due and other life stuff in general.

Rivers is my second of twelve books read for my Ebook Challenge.

Read from February 17 to March 14, 2015.