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Weekend reads, May 18

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My weekend read is In the Distance with You by Carla Guelfenbein, a literary thriller set in Chile inspired by Clarice Lispector. It has a delicious opening line -- "Somewhere on the planet, there was someone responsible for your death." -- and I can't wait to settle in tonight for a good long read.

 What are you reading this weekend?

Top Ten Reads of 2017

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In 2017 I read 40 books, and while it's on the leaner side (compared to the years I was aiming for 200+!), it felt like the first year I was really back into reading in a way I hadn't been since I was pregnant in 2014.

I got much closer to my goal of being a free-range reader in 2017, but I still struggled with balancing reading with other activities, and more importantly with regards to this blog, writing about my reads. (Here I am, almost halfway through 2018, and I'm seriously behind on reviews. Ugh!)

In 2017, thirty-four of all the authors I read were women. Seven were authors of color. Four of my reads were audiobooks, which is a first for me! I managed two non-fiction reads: one a memoir, the other a food/how-to guide. Twenty-four of my reads were 2017 releases.

As always, my top ten reads for the year were books that delighted me upon reading and have lingered with me after. All are books I've recommended multiple times and/or won't shut up about. Only one …

Wordless Wednesday, May 9

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My Wordless Wednesday: a snapshot of my morning.


Book Review: Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel

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First line: --Central, this is Lapetus. Target in sight.

This is the final novel in the Themis Files trilogy (I reviewed the previous two novels, Sleeping Giants and Waking Gods.) 

I'm not going to summarize the plot because I don't want to end up spoiling anything. As a concluding novel, it did everything I needed a final book to do: wrapped up plot threads, answered the mysteries, and provided some final flash bang.

As with his previous novels, I think some of Neuvel's characterizations are thin -- no doubt because the story is told through transcripts and journal entries -- and it left me a little impatient with the story.

These were fast reads, so if you want a Michael Bay-esque summer action flick in a book, this trilogy will do it.

Title:Only Human
Author: Sylvain Neuvel
Genre: Fiction (Sci Fi / Speculative / Mecha / Aliens / Parenthood / Social Commentary / Warfare)
Publisher/Publication Date: Del Rey (5/1/2018)
Source: Edelweiss

Book Review: Eventide by Therese Bohman

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First line: The subway car was packed and she had to stand from Slussen to Östermalmstorg, crammed between people who all seemed to be sweating.

I didn't think I'd so enjoy a book that details the angst of being 40ish and uneasy about one's life. But Bohman's slender novel and her cerebral, melancholy heroine Karolina, are touching, familiar, and wryly funny.

This is a familiar story, but still feels fresh and vibrant. Karolina is 40-ish and newly separated, a decision that she agonizes over. Living alone, she relishes the freedom even as she doubts her own decisions. When her charming graduate student's research reveals an exciting, forgotten female artist, there is the promise of something more.

Bohman's narrative style, as translated by Marlaine Delargy, is both grounded and ethereal: we experience Karolina's grimy commutes through the city as well as float with her during her lofty, meandering ruminations. It's a think-y kind of novel that doesn…

Book Review: The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

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First line: The new doctor took her by surprise.

This book is my catnip: Victorian, gothic, haunted house slash ghost story maybe slash unreliable narrator, plus mysterious deaths and creepy countrysides and, well, this read did not disappoint.

I loved it.

Elsie is a young widow, mere months into her marriage. Her husband died under mysterious circumstances at his family's decrepit country estate and Elsie must go there for his burial, accompanied by a mousy cousin-in-law, Sarah. She finds The Bridge, as the house is called, in shambles, with an clumsy, unprofessional staff surrounded by hostile villagers. She also finds a home, and family, steeped in tragedy.

I don't want to say too much more lest I giveaway a small but meaningful detail, but needless to say, Purcell creates a story with all the shiver-inducing details one wants in a creepy gothic-y horror. Nothing can be trusted: not people, not one's senses, not history, not place.

The title's silent companions are …

Book Review: Ecstasy by Mary Sharratt

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First line: Nineteen years old, Alma Maria Schindler longed body and soul for an awakening.

I knew, from the previous novels of Sharratt's that I've read (the astounding Illuminations and fascinating The Dark Lady's Mask) that I would love Ecstasy -- even though I feared the story of Alma Mahler's life would frustrate me. However, I should have trusted that Sharratt would somehow manage to make me not just enraptured of/with Alma but also the people in her life, including the frustrating Gustave Mahler.

Alma Schindler is beautiful and clever, growing up in Vienna's glittering world of art and intellect. She composes and wishes to devote herself to music, but aspires to a passionate love as well. She eventually marries Gustave Mahler, a genius who demands she give up her composing and devote her entire self to his art. The cost, unsurprisingly, is enormous.

This probably sounds miserable, but Sharratt somehow manages to make it deeply compelling and kind of understan…

Interview with Mary Sharratt on her newest novel, Ecstasy

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I'm an enormous Mary Sharratt fan; her novels are rich, detailed, evocative, complicated, lush, and compelling. (See my reviews for Illuminations and The Dark Lady's Mask.) I'm sharing my review of her newest novel, Ecstasy, tomorrow, but needless to say, it'll be all gushing praise. Sharratt's portrait of Alma Mahler, Gustave Mahler's beautiful, talented wife, is so good. I couldn't say I liked Alma's choices, but Sharratt allowed me to imagine why she would have made them.

I'm delighted to share my interview with Ms. Sharratt about Ecstasy. There's also a giveaway at the end, too!

How did Alma's story cross your path?

I’ve always been a huge Gustav Mahler fan. I adore his music and he appears like the perfect tragic hero, rising up from rural obscurity and facing insurmountable struggles in his life, and meeting his untimely death with great courage and dignity. But then I became intrigued by the figure of his wife, Alma, especially after …

Weekend reads and wow, it's been a while...

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Yikes, it's been a while.

Winter did a number on me, as it always does; although I can say that while I wasn't reading much (and clearly not blogging about it), I've been filling my time. This year I've finished six knitting projects, which is a record for me given that I normally only manage one piece a year!

A few weeks ago, we adopted two cats since Unabridged Kid and I had reached our limit of cat-less living. After bickering over names for two weeks, we finally reached agreement: Gus, from Gus's Garage, and Stanley, from Stanley's Garage. (Notice a theme?)

I've fallen terribly behind on my novel; I pretty much stalled out after the winter holidays, and I've just gotten back into a morning writing habit (one hundred-ish agonizing words a day, le sigh).

This weekend I'm starting Mary Sharratt's Ecstasy, a historical novel about Alma Mahler. Gifted in her own right, she put all that away for her marriage, and I'm kind of shoulder tense i…

Teaser Tuesday, February 27

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My Teaser Tuesday this week is from Molly Tanzer's Creatures of Will and Temper, a Victorian novel inspired by Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, only with literal demons and very open homosexuality. It's not hyperbole to say it's delicious.

Also, it's a novel about sisters, and they don't get along, and I'm loving it. I love complicated sister relationships (I don't have a sister, so I live vicariously!).

And finally, Tanzer's narrative style is fantastic and matches the novel's premise beautifully. It makes my soul thrill -- something I think the characters would appreciate -- and I half gulp, half linger as I read.

Anyway - my teaser! This scene is from early on, when Dorina faces her mother and older sister, anticipating she might be in trouble.

Dorina tried to read them like a painting--if an artist had arranged them, how should their positions be interpreted? What intrigues could be presumed, given their attitudes, their expression…

Weekend reads and I'm actually not reading all that much...

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Yikes. It's been almost a month since my last post.

I've read only two books so far in 2018 which is pretty much panic-worthy, although I am swimming in really great options. Just haven't had the focus to sit down and read.

I haven't worked on my novel much either (sad trombone) so I can't really say what I'm doing with my time. (Well, I sort of can: I've been knitting up a storm and going through my tarot and other woo, doing some housekeeping and deep diving.)

Anyway, it's not lack of awesome books that has me not reading. It's just me. However, I've got two tempting Victorian-ish books that are siren-calling to me, so here's hoping I get out of my rut! Both are new library finds: Molly Tanzer, Creatures of Will and Temper and E.K. Johnston, That Inevitable Victorian Thing.

Unabridged Toddler and I did a short booktube video to talk about the books we're reading this weekend. What are you reading this weekend?


What are you reading thi…

Wordless Wednesday, January 24

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I'm reading Susanna Kearsley's The Firebird, and the decks featured are, from the left, Shamanic Healing Oracle and Ostara Tarot.

Cold, wet Wednesday. Send cocoa.

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?