Showing posts from December, 2011

Books Read in 2011


Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith, The Dragonfly Effect
Susanna Fraser, The Sergeant's Lady
Matthew Gallaway, The Metropolis Case
Sadie Jones, Small Wars


Ida Lichter, Muslim Women Reformers
Helen Simonson, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi, The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay


Camilla Gibb, The Beauty of Humanity Movement
Valerie Laken, Separate Kingdoms
Michael David Lukas, The Oracle of Stamboul
M.L. Malcolm, Heart of Lies: A Novel
Tara L. Masih, Where The Dog Star Never Glows
Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins, Kiss Her Goodbye
Danielle Trussoni, Angelology


Isabel Allende, Ines of My Soul
Apex Magazine, January 2011 (Issue 20)
Lauren Belfer, A Fierce Radiance
India Drummond, Ordinary Angels
M.L. Malcolm, Heart of Deception: A Novel
Molly Peacock, The Paper Garden: An Artist Begins Her Life's Work at 72
Sandra Worth, Pale Rose of England


Sarah Addison Allen, The Peach Keeper
Rosalind Brackenbury, Becoming George Sand

Friday Reads and I'm all messed up...

I'm operating on vacation time, which means I've no idea what day of the week it is, what the date is, and I can barely keep track of time (East Coast vs West coast because I've only changed half the clocks in my life). But I'm having a fabulous time! My vacation plans got all changed once my wife and I reached San Francisco -- my brother and his wife decided to join us for these two weeks, so we scrapped some of LA and will be hitting other towns instead. I love trips like this, and I'm thrilled to spend time with my brother and his awesome wife and adorable children.

My FridayReads is The Imaginary Emperor: A Tale of Old San Francisco by Steve Bartholomew, a historical novel inspired by the man who, in real life, declared himself emperor in 1859.  Isn't that just so California?

Happy New Year's to everyone.  We'll be celebrating quietly this weekend as my wife  will be running a half marathon on New Year's day.  What a crazy woman!  I plan t…

Historical Fiction Challenge 2012

Last year, my most successful reading challenge was Historical Tapestry's Historical Fiction reading challenge. My goal was 20 books and I read 44 books. Go me! This year, I plan to do the same.


Anita Amirrezvani, Equal of the Sun
Ellis Avery, The Last Nude
Anne Clinard Barnhill, At the Mercy of the Queen
April Bernard, Miss Fuller
Nancy Bilyeau, The Crown
Jesse Blackadder, The Raven's Heart
Christine Blevins, The Turning of Anne Merrick 
Michael Boccacino, Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling
D.L. Bogdan, The Sumerton Women
DeAnna Cameron, Dancing at the Chance
Clare Clark, Beautiful Lies
Angela Davis-Gardner, Butterfly’s Child
Jill Dawson, Lucky Bunny
Debra Dean, The Mirrored World
Tan Twang Eng, The Garden of Evening Mists
Jennie Fields, The Age of Desire
Nicole Galland, I, Iago
Francine du Plessix Gray, The Queen’s Lover
Jennifer Haigh, Baker Towers
Karen Harper, Mistress of Mourning
Jane Harris, Gillespie and I
Kathryn Harrison, Enchantments
Rashad Harrison…

Island of Wings by Karin Altenberg

Title:Island of Wings
Author: Karin Altenberg

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 1830s / Rural Scotland / Marriage / Isolation / Motherhood)
Publisher/Publication Date: Penguin Paperback Original (12/27/2011)
Source: The publisher

Rating: Liked a great deal.
Did I finish?: I did!
One-sentence summary: A Scottish missionary's wife learns about the savage cruelty of men and nature when she lives on a remote island off Scotland in the mid-19th century.
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I do as it captures the really gorgeous aspects of the novel -- the staggering landscape and the mystery of new arrivals.

I'm reminded of...: Sadie Jones, David Rocklin

First line: The young woman rose from her berth almost before she heard the knock on the cabin door.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy -- this is a quiet but intense, almost adventurous historical novel that moves and entertains.

Why did I get this book?: 1830s + missionary's wife + isolated locale = win!

Review: A …

Hitting the road once more!

Happy winter holidays, for those who celebrate! Today my wife and I are off on two week holiday on the west coast! We'll be visiting my brother and his wife, my darling niece and my brand new nephew! (Baby squishing, here I come!) We'll also be road-tripping along the Pacific Coast Highway, from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and everything in between. As always, food and literature will be the cornerstone of our trip, from Hammett to Chandler to Steinbeck to Twain (I got a tip that Twain had a cabin out that part of the world!).

Our tentative reading/audiobook list includes:

The Imaginary Emperor: A Tale of Old San Francisco by Steve Bartholomew
The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett (audiobook/performance with Michael Madsen and Sandra Oh, yum!)
Nightmare Town: Stories by Dashiell Hammett
The Colorado Kid by Stephen King (my wife is getting bold since I so enjoyed Lisey's Story!)
Selected Readings from the Portable Dorothy Parker by Dor…

Mailbox Monday, December 26

Seen both at Mailbox Monday -- hosted in December at Let Them Read Books -- and The Story Siren, my Mailbox Monday/In My Mailbox -- on a Monday, for once!  You might be shocked to see I received no books as gifts -- my family thinks I have too many books and got me other things for Christmas!   But that's okay, because I did get some incredible books this week -- including the most darling package of books from Christine Blevins and a gift bag of Penguin Classics from the Harvard Book Store.  Happy holidays to me! ;)  Have you read any of these?  What did you get?

For Review

Lizard World by Terry Richard Bazes
Midwife of the Blue Ridge by Christine Blevins
The Tory Widow by Christine Blevins
Graveminder by Melissa Marr


Emma by Jane Austen
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell


Two winners this week!

The winner of People Tell Me Things is ... Pearl!

The winner of The Printmaker's Daughter is ... Jackleen!

Congrats to the winners! I've got one open giveaway and more coming this week.

Friday Reads and I'm making a list...

Vacation, finally! Or, in a few hours: I'm off this afternoon and then my whirlwind weekend begins. My wife's family celebrates Christmas, so we'll be spending some time with them, and in between that, I'm cleaning house and washing laundry in anticipation of our winter vacation! And because I can't stop myself, and since I had such fun with my top ten reads of 2011, I'm making a list of my favorite author interviews of 2011, too (plus, there are some interviews that still make me smile! Why keep that to myself?).

Despite the craziness, or because of, I'm still curling up with a book this weekend. My FridayReads is Island of Wings by Karin Altenberg which has this cold moody thing that doesn't quite match Boston right now (again, we're back in the 60s -- what's up, Mother Nature?!). Still, it has this moody ambiance which reminds me a bit of San Francisco (fog, mostly, but whatever), and since I'm heading to the Bay Area in a few day…

Top 10 of 2011

I was pretty pleased with myself in 2010, having doubled my reading from 2009, but this year takes the cake. I hit my goal of reading 100 books (in fact, as of today, I've read 109!).

Despite the increased reads, however, I had much harder time picking my top ten reads for this year. I enjoyed the majority of the books I read and only a few stood out to me as very clear winners for top ten.

Rating books is still a challenge: last year I scored out of five, but I gave that up as it felt sort of arbitrary. This year I switched to ranking things as liked and loved (or hated). Still, something is flawed: in total, I 'loved' 21 books this year, but weirdly enough, only six of them made my top ten. For me, a top ten is not just books that I enjoyed in the moment, but books I can't stop chewing over and thinking about and most importantly, pushing on my friends. They're books I want to reread.

This year, six of the writers on this list are male, as opposed to last …

All the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson

Title:All the Flowers in Shanghai
Author: Duncan Jepson

Genre: Fiction (Historical / China / 1930s / Mothers and Daughters / Arranged Marriage / Coming of Age)
Publisher/Publication Date: William Morrow Paperbacks (12/20/2011)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Okay.
Did I finish?: I did -- this reads very quickly.
One-sentence summary: A young woman in 1930s Shanghai is transformed by her marriage and the changing political landscape of China.
Reading Challenges:Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I'm not wild about the cartoon-y Chinese woman, even though it has a vintage-y look. However, the physical cover is gorgeous -- the paper is heavily textured, with embossing of the border and lettering. Plus French flaps and deckle edges, yum!

I'm reminded of...: Philippa Gregory, Sidney Sheldon

First line: I still know your face.

Do... I hate the use of Papyrus font for the chapter headings?: YES. Not only is it a bit cheesy, but it doesn't fit the story, the era, or the locale. Ther…

Lisey's Story by Stephen King

Title:Lisey's Story
Author: Stephen King

Genre: Fiction (Marriage / Loss / Writer on Writing / Supernatural / Sisters)
Publisher/Publication Date: Pocket (6/19/2007)
Source: Personal copy.

Rating: Loved!
Did I finish?: Yes, although I put off finishing it for about three weeks because I wasn't ready for it to end!
One-sentence summary: Lisey Landon, widow of famous author Scott Landon, finds herself the focus of a deranged fan.
Reading Challenges:R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VI

Do I like the cover?: I do -- the shovel is a huge motif in the story, but the wintry background doesn't quite fit (I think).

I'm reminded of...: Laura Lippman, Jennifer McMahon

First line: To the public eye, the spouses of well-known writers are all but invisible, and no one knew it better than Lisey Landon.

Did...I squeal when I caught two Lisey's Story references in the AMC miniseries of Bag of Bones?: YES. for once, I got the inside joke!

Did...I actually put off finishing this book for something lik…

Mailbox Monday, December 19

Seen both at Mailbox Monday -- hosted in December at Let Them Read Books -- and The Story Siren, my Mailbox Monday/In My Mailbox on a Sunday. A very random assortment of reads this week -- but don't they look good? Have you read any of these?  What did you get?

For Review

Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron
The Girl with the Crooked Nose by Ted Botha
Our Man in the Dark by Rashad Harrison
A Discovery of Witches: A Novel by Deborah Harkness
Journey to the Heart of Luna (Space: 1889 & Beyond, #1) by Andy Frankham-Allen
All the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson
Cinder (Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer


Just one giveaway ending today, and so...

The winner of A Different Sky is ... Atlantisflygirl!

Congrats to the winner! I've a few open giveaways still and more coming, so check them out if you didn't win!

FridayReads and I sure miss breathing...

Stupid cold is still lingering! My doctor said my cough may last another eight weeks, which makes me want to cry. As does my wife, who keeps getting rattled out of bed by my hacking. It's sadness all around. Thankfully, I'm immersed in some good reads this week and I've got some heavy lazing-about in my future.

My FridayReads for this weekend is a collection of essays by Croatian author Dubravka Ugrešić, Thank You for Not Reading: Essays on Literary Trivia. It is marvelous. Published in 2000 (in English in 2003), it's funny, playful, sharp commentary on reading, readers, celebrity authors, and publishing. I learned about her via BookSlut, who featured her newest collection of essays, Karaoke Culture.  I'm also starting a new historical fiction novel, All the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson, which looks promising (even though I'm not wild about the cover).

So, what are you reading this weekend?

Little Miss Austen and Little Master Shakespeare, by Jennifer Adams

Title:Little Miss Austen: Pride & Prejudice and
Title:Little Master Shakespeare: Romeo & Juliet
Author: Jennifer Adams, writer; Alison Oliver, illustrator

Genre: Fiction (Classic Lit / Educational)
Publisher/Publication Date: Gibbs Smith (2011)
Source: My public library

Rating: Loved.
Did I finish?: I did, because I can count to ten.
One-sentence summary: Two classics, boiled down to ten items.

Do I like the cover?: Yes, they're adorbs!

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Buy!

Why did I get this book?: Hormones + classic lit + adorable illustrations.

Review: Try not to judge me too hard, but I fell in love with these adorable baby board books while babysitting this past weekend, and I was deeply saddened that the children I had knew how to count and stuff. I'm a sucker for things like this, too, even though I don't want to be, and the sampler-esque feel to the Austen cover and the paper doll-style art of both books just charmed me from the start.

So, how nuanced can a counting boo…

Charles Dickens: A Life by Jane Smiley

Title:Charles Dickens: A Life
Author: Jane Smiley

Genre: Non-Fiction (Biography / Literary Criticism / Writers on Writers / 19th century / UK)
Publisher/Publication Date: Penguin (11/29/2011)
Source: The publisher.

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: I did, very easily!
One-sentence summary: An easy, welcoming intro to the life and times of Charles Dickens.

Do I like the cover?: Adore it. How quintessentially Victorian is it?!

First line: The literary sensibility of Charles Dickens is possibly the most amply documented literary sensibility in history.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy -- very readable, lovely size (easy to hold), and fascinating.

Why did I get this book?: I like Jane Smiley, I like the Victorians, and I've always been curious about Dickens.

Review: Terrible confession: I hate Dickens. At least, I think I do; I'm not sure I've ever read him, other than A Christmas Carol, and to be honest, I'm not even sure I've read it.  (I've certainly seen enough adaptati…

Mailbox Monday, December 12

Seen both at Mailbox Monday -- hosted in December at Let Them Read Books -- and The Story Siren, my Mailbox Monday/In My Mailbox on a Sunday. A ton of historical fiction this week -- super fun! Have you read any of these?  What did you get?

For Review

The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau
The Turning of Anne Merrick by Christine Blevins
From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant by Alex Gilvarry
The Maid and the Queen by Nancy Goldstone
The Book of Lost Fragrances: A Novel by M.J. Rose


I've been sick for the last week or so -- dragging myself out of bed feels epically hard -- so my apologies for the late posting of these two popular giveaways!

The winner of In the Forests of the Night is ... Tracy A.!

The winner of The Doll is ... Danielle!

Congrats to the winners (who have been emailed)! Check out my current giveaways. And now, I'm back to bed!