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24 in 48 Readathon, January 2018

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I have a half dozen posts started and lingering unfinished -- including my top ten reads of 2017 post -- but work and home life (including a string of minor-but-expensive home dramas) has been enough to keep me from having enough brain cells to finish a post.

The 24 in 48 Readathon is this last weekend in January and I'm so looking forward to it. You only (ha, "only") have to read for 24 hours within a 48-hour period, and I'm hoping to scrape out that time, even if it means staying up all night in the living room. I'm so behind on my 2018 reading (basically just dragging my feet through Things Fall Apart) and I'm looking forward to being able to spread out some books around me and start 'em all until something sticks.

In the readathon queue are:

Toni Morrison's Beloved, Chloe Benjamin's The Immortalists, and Middlemarch. I actually have about ten thousand books jostling for my attention and for once, I'm actually overwhelmed by my options!

Ar…

Weekend reads and wow, 2018...

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We've survived the "bomb cyclone" here in Boston, but now have ten thousand pounds of snow to shovel in negative temps. Hooray!

This weekend is the Moby Dick Marathon at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, an annual tradition for our family. So we can safely assume my read for the weekend will be Moby Dick, although I am working on a few reads, trying to find something to sink into: Middlemarch (still!), Emergent Strategy, and The Desire Map.

What are you reading this weekend? For those of you impacted by snow and cold -- hope you're okay!

My first book for 2018

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Sheila of Book Journey invited a bunch of bloggers to share what they planned to read as their first book for 2018 -- and she made a collage of their reads.

I'll be reading Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart -- the January pick for my book club -- and I'm looking forward to it (as much as one can for a book that seems to be heavy on misery).

What's your first read of 2018 going to be?

Books Read in 2017

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January

David Morrell, Ruler of the Night
Ottessa Moshfegh, Eileen

February

Fredrik Backman, A Man Called Ove
Meredith Duran, A Lady’s Code of Misconduct
Zadie Smith, Swing Time

March

Katherine Addison, The Goblin Emperor
Heidi Heilig, The Ship Beyond Time
Nell Stevens, Bleaker House
Sally Thorne, The Hating Game

April

Laurie Lico Albanese, Stolen Beauty
Kristy Cambron, The Illusionist’s Apprentice
Carol Goodman, The Widow's House
Barbara Ann Kipfer, 1,001 Ways to Slow Down
Crystal King, Feast of Sorrow
Sylvain Neuvel, Waking Gods

May

Maurice Broaddus, Buffalo Soldier
Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Sarah Lotz, The White Road
Catherine Magia, The Fisherman's Bride
Shannon McKenna Schmidt and Joni Rendon, Novel Destinations
Emilie Wapnick, How to Be Everything
Naomi J. Williams, Landfalls [reread]

June

Christina Henry, Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook
John Pfordresher, The Secret History of Jane Eyre: How Charlotte Brontë Wrote Her Masterpiece
Kate Quinn,…

Never has a Victorian-era picnic been so chilling, bittersweet, and shocking

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First line: Everyone agreed that the day was just right for the picnic to Hanging Rock -- a shimmering summer morning warm and still, with cicadas shrilling all through breakfast from the loquat trees outside the dining-room windows and bees murmuring above the pansies bordering the drive.

This book. This book!

It's a slim read but one I dragged out over two months because I savored each line. It's a surprisingly bittersweet and chilling read about the aftereffects of a tragedy; in this case, the disappearance of three students and a teacher during a school picnic.

Opening on Valentine's Day, 1900, at a posh girls school in Australia, the novel spans three short, but devastating, months following the strange disappearance of three beloved students and a teacher at Hanging Rock, a local rock formation. The survivors are impacted in varying ways, from the school's steel-spined headmistress, Mrs. Appleyard, and her attempts to keep her school functioning, to Mike, a Briti…

Weekend reads and ... I got nuthin'

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So, after rallying to get back into blogging in October, I've struggled to keep up that momentum and enthusiasm. I've also stalled out on my reading. I blame all that on my eight-week cold which barely resolved itself before I caught another bug, and I'm kind of just tired and grouchy.

I'm still not ready to call it done on my 2017 reading, however. I'm still wading through Middlemarch and really, really want to finish it before 2018. And I've started Zadie Smith's On Beauty and am uh-doring it, so hopefully I can find some time before the 30th to do some long stretches of reading. And I'm, like, 95% done with the shrug I started in May (with the original goal of being done by September) and I really really really want to finish it so I can start something new.

Have you finished your 2017 reading? What's the last book you plan to read for the year? If you've done your top ten (or top reads) for 2017 post, share it with me -- I plan to do wholly…

2018 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

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This is probably my favorite challenge of the year because historical fiction is one of my favorite genres to read (really, it's probably my The Fav). It's also my laziest challenge because I really never need to push myself to hit my goal, so...

For 2018, I'm actually going to limit myself. I'm trying to expand my reading horizons and embrace authors and genres I don't typically dive into. So I think I'm going to commit to Renaissance Reader - 10 books to encourage myself to read widely this year.

Here's to 10 stellar hist fic reads in 2018!

Book and Bookish Presents I Think You Should Get: Holiday Gift Guide 2017

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If you're part of a group/tradition that does gift-giving in the winter, you're probably being barraged with ideas, so I'm sorry to add to the pile up. But I looooooooooooooooooove recommending things and I love gifting, so I'm inserting myself into the melee.

Bookish Things Unabridged Chick Thinks You Should Gift People: 2017 Edition

Marissa A. Ross, Wine. All the Time.: The Casual Guide to Confident Drinking

I've bought this book for myself, and I plan on gifting it to people who are in their mid-20s and their mid-50s (translation: this book is great whether you're new to adulthood or old hat). This wonderfully irreverent and accessible guide has totally changed my relationship with wine, and I've had to stop myself from chasing people around liquor stores recommending this book. Imagine you have a non-snobbish friend who is well-versed in drinking good wine, and she knows you're on a budget but that you also have aspirations to eat/drink a little more…

Midweek reads: cold temps, cozy home

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I can't believe it's been so long since I've updated but I've been felled by a four-week cold that has just really started to clear up. I'm able to sleep through the night with only one bad coughing fit, and while I've lost my voice, I'm not barking like a sea lion every fourteen seconds. Whew!

With great help from a woo woo mystical Facebook group, I've decided to settle into the late fall/winter season and embrace it rather than dread it. Toward that end, I've tried to hygge up my life with coziness and what not. Last night, I pulled out a cup and plate set I bought while on a trip to Savona, Italy years ago (and forgotten about until I found them again), and I indulged in some panettone cake and coffee with my reading.

I'm about a third through Picnic at Hanging Rock, and the only reason I'm going slow is that I'm seriously lingering. I bought the audiobook and am listening to it, but I'm also concurrently reading it. The languag…

Wordless Wednesday, November 8

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I only approve of Christmas-before-Thanksgiving when it comes to Christmas-y foods. (Eggnog, panettone, and nougat-based treats are my particular weaknesses.)

Unabridged Toddler has a cold -- possibly croup -- and it's been a long, tiring week. I'm wicked behind on my NaNo draft and feeling the tickle of a cold in the back of my throat. Winter-ish weather has landed in Boston, which I don't mind, only I've still got AC units in the windows so it's a bit chilly in my house!

As usual, my Wordless Wednesday isn't so wordless but ... whatever, I can only do so much. What's going on with your Wednesday?

This brief memoir of the internet, art, and harassment broke my heart. I didn't expect that.

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First line: I recently experienced the perfect summary of my career at a Build-A-Bear store inside a suburban mall in Lancaster, California.

I only know Felicia Day from The Guild but I find her so funny, charming, and sweet, so when I needed a short audiobook to listen to while doing chores around the house, I settled on hers. I don't know what I was expecting -- Hollywood gossip, I think? some gossip about kissing Nathan Fillion?!?! -- but this memoir instead felt like a plea for some to understand her humanity.

Which isn't a bad thing, but is certainly heartbreaking.

In these post-Weinstein days, it was impossible for me not to hear it as that. Being an actress introduced harassment into her life (she shares more than one icky story of casting harassment), but her connection with gaming and the "geek" world meant an increase in horrible harassment and threats. When she weighed in on #gamergate, it just got worse.

I'm just a nosy fan who wants to know more abou…

Brisk Book Reviews: 2016 Reads I Never Reviewed, Part One

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Okay, since it's really clear I'm not going to power through and write the fifteen plus reviews for my unreviewed 2016 reads, I'm going to attempt some mini-reviews because honestly, these books shouldn't linger here un-reviewed. They're all so great! I might try longer reviews once I get past this block, but in the meantime, quick thoughts about some of the books I read last year.

Genevieve Cogman, The Invisible Library

Literally an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink kind of fantasy book: an otherworldly Library where librarians try to collect one copy of every book from every universe/world.

Amazing premise, but between the overloaded plot and annoying lead characters, I was pretty ambivalent the entire time I was reading (also I'm not into men so pale you see veins; why is this a thing??). It was okay-to-good upon finishing, but despite having books two and three on hand, I've not bee interested enough to pick 'em up, so I guess that says everything.

Weekend reads and it's cold and sunny like my mood...

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It's been a week. On Wednesday, we euthanized my 19-year-old cat Olivia. It was sudden, but necessary, and I'm grateful we were able to do it at home where no one was stressed. We're now a cat-less house, and both Unabridged Toddler and I are planning visits to local shelters because we're not ready to be without animal vibes around.

The weather is decidedly fall here in Boston: blazingly sunny but crystal cold. The house is chilly because we haven't pulled out the AC units, so I'm having to bundle up which is not my favorite way to stay warm. (In this sense, hygge isn't really my jam. Candles and cocoa and roaring fires, yes; wool sweaters and socks, no ma'am.)

I'm in that weird place where I've got, like, seven books started, and I'm probably not more than fifty pages into any of them (other than Middlemarch). I blame work, and stress over the cat, but I'm looking forward to biblio-comfort. 

I'm really digging A Secret Sisterhood: …

What's the unbelievable horror?: secret society of power-hungry magicians or relentless, unabashed racism?

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First line: Atticus was almost home when the state trooper pulled him over.

This ended up being my book club's October read, and I'm glad, because it's been on my TBR since it was released last year.

And I'm wicked conflicted about it.

On one hand, this was a really, really entertaining read, a mix of family history and supernatural drama. On the other hand, I struggled (and am struggling) with the author's identity as a white guy, and his depiction of characters of color.

The novel was originally pitched as a tv show, which shows, as it is a series of interconnected vignettes that feels like a tv episode. Which isn't to say it's not good, but it only goes so deep.

The detail Ruff explores most is the repressive violence the main characters face as people of African descent. Which is good, and, brings to mind Kara Brown's piece "I'm So Damn Tired of Slave Movies":

"I’m tired of watching black people go through some of the worst pain i…

"Someone's come in and killed Father!": An interview with Erika Mailman

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I'm thrilled to share my interview with novelist Erika Mailman. Erika wrote Woman of Ill Fame, which I read in 2013 and uh-dored. (I actually can't believe I read it four years ago - it's so vibrant in my mind I would have sworn I read it last year!)

Now Erika is looking at the infamous Borden family murders with her book, The Murderer's Maid. I'll be reviewing this one soon (could there be a more perfect October read?!).

While you wait for my inevitable squees, here's an interview with Erika about her writing of this book (question three shows she is far, far more brave than I could ever be!).

What scene or character surprised you while you were writing?

I had to track down the story that Lizzie Borden had fainted during her trial at the sight of her father and stepmother's skulls. I knew the person showing the skulls was Dr. Draper, but the court transcript during his testimony didn't show her fainting. I started to think the story was apocrypha, but a…