Showing posts from January, 2012

Gillespie and I by Jane Harris

Title:Gillespie and I
Author: Jane Harris

Genre: Fiction (British / Scottish / 19th century / Artists / Unreliable Narrator / Missing Children / Secret Identities)
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper Perennial (1/31/2012)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Loved like I wanted to marry it!
Did I finish?: Yes, inhaled over a matter of days.
One-sentence summary: Elderly Harriet Baxter puts down in writing the events from her tumultuous time in Glasgow in the late 1880s while facing another mystery of her own.
Reading Challenges:Historical Fiction, Victorian

Do I like the cover?: I love it: it's striking, and kind of creepy, and reflects elements from the novel.

I'm reminded of...: A.S. Byatt, Shirley Jackson, Sarah Waters

First line: It would appear that I am to be the first to write a book on Gillespie.

Did... I get up early three mornings to have more time to read?: YES, and this was after staying up wicked late to keep reading. (Perhaps why my cold was prolonged. Ooops!)

Buy, Borrow, or Avo…

Mailbox Monday, Jan 30

Seen both at Mailbox Monday -- hosted in January at At Home With Books -- and The Story Siren, my Mailbox Monday/In My Mailbox.

An amazing week of arrivals, just the medicine I needed to feel better! I had a yucky weekend of snotting and coughing (Ti, I did, however, use my neti pot with great success so thank you!) but checking out these books made me very happy!

What did you get this week? Read any of these?

To Review

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Witness the Night by Kishwar Desai
An Uncertain Age by Ulrica Hume
The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey
A Hole in the Ground Owned by a Liar by Daniel Pyne
Kama Sutra by Vatsyayana
Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson
The Garden Intrigue (Pink Carnation #8) by Lauren Willig


The Doctor and the Diva by Adrienne McDonnell, thanks to Poof Books

Immigrant Stories Reading Challenge

I'm drawn to immigrant stories so I'm surprised I didn't jump on this challenge last year. Regardless, I'm psyched to join the Immigrant Stories Reading Challenge this year. As usual, I'm playing it safe by committing to:

Just off the boat: 1-3 books

But I bet I can reach this easily. (Bold words, I know!)


DeAnna Cameron, Dancing at the Chance
Angela Davis-Gardner, Butterfly’s Child
Lawrence Durrell, Judith
Alex Gilvarry, From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant
Carolle Jean-Murat, Voodoo in My Blood: A Healer's Journey From Surgeon to Shaman
Sheila Kohler, The Bay of Foxes
Kathryn Harrison, Enchantments
Giles Kristian, Blood Eye (Raven, Book 1)
Stephanie LaCava, An Extraordinary Theory of Objects: A Memoir of an Outsider in Paris
Anouk Markovits, I Am Forbidden
Sarah McCoy, The Baker’s Daughter
Timothy L. O'Brien, The Lincoln Conspiracy
Emily Perkins, The Forrests
Michel Stone, The Iguana Tree
Saima Wahab, In My Father’s Country: An Afghan Woman…

Victorian Reading Challenge

Last year, one of my all-time favorite reads came via the Victorian Reading Challenge, so I'm totally doing it again this year! Excitingly enough, the possibilities are pretty open:

You can read a book, watch a movie, or listen to an audiobook, anything Victorian related that you would like.

Watch?! Oh yes: Victorian costume dramas are my crack. I'm planning to read some Anne Bronte this year and hopefully more Thomas Hardy since I loved Far From the Madding Crowd.


Michael Boccacino, Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling
Clare Clark, Beautiful Lies
Jennie Fields, The Age of Desire
Jane Harris, Gillespie and I
Robin Maxwell, Jane

Edgar Awards Reading Challenge

Being the crime fic fan that I am, the Edgar Awards Reading Challenge was a no brainer for me. Some of my best reads in previous years have been gleaned from the Edgar shortlist. I'm hedging my bets though, and committing to:

Patrolman = 1-3 books

so I can hopefully be successful this year!

Dewey Decimal Challenge

The Dewey Decimal Challenge is an unusual one for me: I don't read a ton of non-fiction so even the lowest level of participation is going to be rough for me.

Dilettante--Read 1-5 non-fiction books

Still, I read about a handful of non-fiction books last year, and this challenge allows poetry to be counted -- a helpful way for me to accomplish more than one reading goal this year!


Joan Frank, Because You Have To
Jonathan Gottschall, The Storytelling Animal
Janet Groth, The Receptionist: An Education at The New Yorker
Carolle Jean-Murat, Voodoo in My Blood: A Healer's Journey From Surgeon to Shaman
Stephanie LaCava, An Extraordinary Theory of Objects: A Memoir of an Outsider in Paris
Sandra Newman, The Western Lit Survival Kit: An Irreverent Guide to the Classics, from Homer to Faulkner
Mark Spivak, Iconic Spirits
Dubravka Ugrešić, Thank You for Not Reading: Essays on Literary Trivia
Vatsyayana, Kama Sutra
Saima Wahab, In My Father’s Country: An Afghan Woman Defies Her Fate


Thank you everyone for the wonderful well-wishes -- I so appreciate it! You made my weekend for sure -- I got sniffly for an entirely non-cold related reason! ;) I'm feeling better (hot tea is doing wonders, plus sleep), and I'm going to try to prop myself up with a book.

One giveaway winner this week:

The winner of The Western Lit Survival Kit is ... Kathleen B.!

If you didn't win, check out my current giveaways! More coming soon...!

A to Z Reading Challenge

I failed the A to Z Reading Challenge spectacularly last year but I've decided to try again -- and I'm going to be really strategic about my reading to make this thing happen. After back-and-forthing about whether to do author or title, I've finally decided to do it by author. I hope I'm not making a terrible mistake!

A: Ellis Avery, The Last Nude
B: Anne Clinard Barnhill, At the Mercy of the Queen
C: Jetta Carleton, Clair de Lune
D: Jennifer duBois, A Partial History of Lost Causes
E: Tan Twang Eng, The Garden of Evening Mists
F: Sara Foster, Beneath the Shadows
G: Nicole Galland, I, Iago
H: Bruce Holbert, Lonesome Animals
I: Lora Innes, The Dreamer, Vol. 1
J: Suzanne Joinson, A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar
K: Sheila Kohler, The Bay of Foxes
L: Peter Leonard, All He Saw Was the Girl
M: Doug Magee, Darkness All Around
N: Rachel Neumeier, House of Shadows
O: Maryanne O'Hara, Cascade

Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge

Given my love for paranormal/supernatural fic, I'm surprised I didn't join a challenge like this before! So, without further ado, the Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge. I'm signing up for

Initiate: Read 1 - 5 Witchy Books

which should be pretty easy. It's a shame I'm out of my pagan-y phase I was in during high school, or I'd have this down in no time! (Non-fic and fic count!)

Susie Moloney, The Thirteen
Rachel Neumeier, House of Shadows
Rachael Pruitt, The Dragon's Harp

Books in Translation Reading Challenge

A new-to-me challenge, very self explanatory: Books in Translation! I'm aiming for:

Beginner: Read 1-3 books in translation

since I've no idea how many translations I'll get to this year. But I just got the new translation of Madame Bovary that I'm dying to dig in to -- and surely I can read two more books, right?? I think this will be a great cross challenge for Europa Editions, so maybe I'll seriously challenge myself and aim for six books! (Ha!)


Vatsyayana, Kama Sutra

NetGalley Reading Challenge

A new-to-me no-brainer challenge, the NetGalley Reading Challenge is perfect since I get so many of my ARCs from NetGalley and I love my ereader. I'm going to temper my ambitions, however, and go with the lowest level of commitment:

Blue Star - read 1-10 NetGalley Books in 2012

but I'm still aiming for 10! Here's hoping!


Nancy Bilyeau, The Crown
 Alex Bledsoe, Wake of the Bloody Angel
Michael Boccacino, Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling
Tina Connolly, Ironskin
Lawrence Durrell, Judith
Sara Foster, Beneath the Shadows
D. B. Jackson, Thieftaker
Ryan David Jahn, The Dispatcher
Sarah Jio, Blackberry Winter
Adam Johnson, The Orphan Master's Son
Suzanne Joinson, A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar
Giles Kristian, Blood Eye (Raven, Book 1)
Bianca Lakoseljac, Summer of the Dancing Bear
Janice Law, Fires of London
Emily Jeanne Miller, Brand New Human Being
Rachel Neumeier, House of Shadows
Maryanne O'Hara, Cascade
Emily Perkins, The Forrests
M.J. Rose, The…

Sick day

Actually, it's been more like a sick week. After my wife's fantabulously awesome 30th birthday party, we both got a wicked disgusting cold. We missed about three days of work due to it and sadly, reading has taken a backseat. Mostly because I can't lift my head, nor do I want to. Sleep is about all I want. That, and breathing through my nose, but one thing at a time.

I'm all messed up for reviews, so sorry about that. I'll be juggling things next week to try to keep from being totally derailed from my schedule, and I've got so many awesome books in my queue to share. I hope to get caught up visiting everyone -- apologies for not commenting this week! I'll try to catch up this weekend.

From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant by Alex Gilvarry

Title:From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant
Author: Alex Gilvarry

Genre: Fiction (Satire / Post-9/11 / New York City / Fashion / Immigrant Experience / War on Terror)
Publisher/Publication Date: Viking Adult (1/5/2012)
Source: The publisher

Rating: Liked a great deal!
Did I finish?: Raced through it, howling!
One-sentence summary: Filipino fashion designer, Boyet Hernandez, finds himself embroiled in the War on Terror and imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay after he accepts funding for his fashion line from the wrong man.

Do I like the cover?: I do -- it fits the feel of the novel -- playful and pointed in equal parts.

I'm reminded of...: Gary Shteyngart

First line: I would not, could not, nor did I ever raise a hand in anger against America.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy -- this is edgy, ludicrous, pointed, and funny!

Why did I get this book?: I haven't read a great deal of post-9/11 fiction and the absurd premise really attracted me.

Review: You're never going to believe what …

Mailbox Monday, Jan 23

Seen both at Mailbox Monday -- hosted in January at At Home With Books -- and The Story Siren, my Mailbox Monday/In My Mailbox.

This isn't Mailbox Monday related, but I had to share a photo from my wife's birthday yesterday.  The shark-themed party was a smashing success -- check out the birthday cake that our bestie Natalie made for her! She's not a trained baker but she still made an incredible cake that was delicious and amazing!

For Review

Dust to Dust by Benjamin Busch
Blue Monday by Nicci French

FridayReads and I'm planning a party...

I don't expect to get much reading done this weekend; I'm throwing a huge party for my wife, who is turning 30. She's a Jaws fan, so the theme is low-brow and cheesy: sharks, sharks, and sharks. With a fringe of shark-hybrids for good measure (Sharktopus, I'm looking at you.).  A friend is carving a shark cake for her, so I'll share the silly awesomeness later on (along with, I hope, gloating about how great the party ended up being!).

I'm still finishing up From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant by Alex Gilvarry and it is seriously so good. Ridiculous fun, with a metric ton of satire -- not bitter, and not sharp -- and a circle of fabulous characters. I'm also starting A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. I'm apprehensive about that one: it sounds a bit Twilight-for-adults but friends loved it, so...we'll see!

What are you reading this weekend?

The Last Nude by Ellis Avery

Title:The Last Nude
Author: Ellis Avery

Genre: Fiction (Historical / Paris / 1930s / Artist & Muse / Same-Sex Relationships / Historical Figure Fictionalized)
Publisher/Publication Date: Riverhead Hardcover (1/5/2012)
Source: The publisher

Rating: Loved!
Did I finish?: Yes!
One-sentence summary: American expat Rafaela Fano becomes a model for avant-garde artist Tamara de Lempicka, and eventually her lover, in 1920s Paris.
Reading Challenges:Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I adore the cover -- it's one of de Lempicka's portraits of Rafaela and the feel of it so captures the mood of the story. So perfect. I love the font used with my whole body.

I'm reminded of...: Emma Donoghue, Anaïs Nin, Sarah Waters

First line: I only met Tamara de Lempicka because I needed a hundred francs.

Do... I agree with New York Press that Ellis Avery is The Best Writer You've Never Heard of But Should Go Read Right Now?: YES. Where has she been all my life?! I'm a fan for life now!


The Thorn and the Blossom by Theodora Goss

Title:The Thorn and the Blossom: A Two-Sided Love Story
Author: Theodora Goss

Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / Academics / Romance / Medieval Literature)
Publisher/Publication Date: Quirk Books (1/17/2012)
Source: The publisher

Rating: Loved -- I was immediately taken with the book and the story within!
Did I finish?: Yes, in a snap!
One-sentence summary: The story of two lovers, told from the view point of each lover.

Do I like the cover?: Love it -- both the box cover and the covers for each story.

I'm reminded of...: Nick Bantock, Holly Phillips, Catherynne M. Valente

First line: Brendan saw her before she saw him, a girl about his own age, wearing a gray cardigan, faded jeans, and sneakers. from 'Brendan's Story'

Do... I love everything about the physical design of this book?: YES. This is the kind of book you'd see in a totally awesome dreamy historical or fantasy movie, where everyone wears the clothes I wish I could wear, and finds awesome artifacts I wish existed in m…

Graveminder by Melissa Marr

Author: Melissa Marr

Genre: Fiction (Supernatural / Romance / Undead)
Publisher/Publication Date: William Morrow Paperbacks (1/17/2012)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Okay.
Did I finish?: I did, but just barely.
One-sentence summary: Twenty-something Rebekkah learns she's destined to mind the dead and keep them in their graves, and she fights with the obligation and implications of the job.

Do I like the cover?: No -- I loathe it. This is supposed to be Marr's debut in to adult fiction, and I feel like this cover places it squarely in YA fic. I vastly prefer the hardcover version.

I'm reminded of...: Kelley Armstrong, Lauren Groff

First line: Maylene put one hand atop the stone for support; pulling herself up from the soil got harder every year.

Did... I stay up until after midnight in order to finish this?: YES. The world-building was great, and I wanted to know more.

Did... I love the 'scrapbook' included at the end of the novel?: YES. I'm a big fa…

In My Mailbox Monday, Jan 16

Seen both at Mailbox Monday -- hosted in January at At Home With Books -- and The Story Siren, my Mailbox Monday/In My Mailbox. I'm a bit zombie-ish today for some reason -- maybe a cold, or still shaking off West Coast jet lag -- so I plan to spend my day lost in a book (or two). Thankfully, I got many delicious new arrivals this week -- choices, choices! What did you get?

For Review

Sonoma Rose by Jennifer Chiaverini
Harem by Colin Falconer
Faith: A Novel by Jennifer Haigh
Gillespie and I by Jane Harris
Women and Their Gardens: A History from the Elizabethan Era to Today by Catherine Horwood
The Dispatcher by Ryan David Jahn
The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy
The Technologists: A Novel by Matthew Pearl


I had two giveaways end last week but jet lag wiped me out so much I didn't get around to announcing them. (Sorry!) Finally, ta-da, some winners!!

The winner of All the Flowers in Shanghai is ... Na!

The winners of Island of Wings are ... Zibilee, Patti, and Karen G.! (As of 1/18, third winner is Ruth!)

The winners have been emailed. If you didn't win, check out my current giveaways. At the moment, only one, but starting next week I've got a million or so coming!

Friday Reads and it's my anniversary...

Last week was my second blogiversary! I began my blog in January of 2010 (but back dated items to make it seem meatier) but I can't believe it's been two years already! I swear, I feel like I just started blogging. Thanks to all of you for visiting and commenting and making this such a lovely experience!

I'm back from my long holiday in California and I'm so missing my brother and his family. And that glorious, glorious sunshine. Le sigh.  Boston isn't making it any easier, being all icy and rainy and generally gross.

This weekend, I'm reading From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant by Alex Gilvarry.  It's amazing so far -- fun, funny, biting, breezy and meaty.  I'm super excited to snuggle in and read -- that's the only perk of this yucky weather!  What are you reading this weekend?

Interview with Rashad Harrison

My first read for 2012 was Rashad Harrison's deliciously fantastic Our Man in the Dark, a noir-ish mystery-ish thriller set during the Civil Rights era. I loved everything about this book -- the setting, the characters, the ambiance, the fantastic writing -- and so it was a huge treat to get to interview Mr. Harrison. Read on to learn more about his writing, his book, and what he does when he's not writing! (And seriously, get Our Man in the Dark!)

What was the plot of your very first piece of fiction?

A young boy discovers an old book in a forgotten section of a library. The book is magical: it can turn the reader’s fears into reality.

I was seven, and it was published in the Prairie View Elementary school newspaper. Other masterpieces soon followed, like “The Dinosaur Gets a Toothache,” and “Santa Quits His Job.”

Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

My typical writing session begins with a bit of structured procrastination (Internet, piano, reading). Then I speak al…

The Western Lit Survival Kit by Sandra Newman

Title:The Western Lit Survival Kit: An Irreverent Guide to the Classics, from Homer to Faulkner
Author: Sandra Newman

Genre: Non-Fiction (Literary History / Literary Analysis / Western European Literature / Humor)
Publisher/Publication Date: Gotham (1/3/2012)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked a whole heck of a lot -- loved at moments!
Did I finish?: I did!
One-sentence summary: A thousand or so years of Western literature, summarized and ranked -- amusingly! -- in about 280 pages.

Do I like the cover?: I do -- it's playful and fun, like the book.

First line: In the 1920s, educators like Mortimer Adler started the Great Books programs, while imprints like Everyman's Library made the classics available to everyone at reasonable prices.

Did... I laugh so much on my subway ride that I tried to stifle my laughter, but kept sniggering so much a woman offered me a cough drop?: YES. Newman's humor is like mine -- geeky, sarcastic, feminist -- and so she and I were on the same page about…

Mailbox Monday, Jan 9

Seen both at Mailbox Monday -- hosted in January at At Home With Books -- and The Story Siren, my Mailbox Monday/In My Mailbox, post-vacation edition. Thankfully I came home to some books which helped soften the sting of being away from California, the pool, my brother, and my adorable niece and nephew.

For Review

At the Mercy of the Queen: A Novel of Anne Boleyn by Anne Clinard Barnhill
Baker Towers by Jennifer Haigh
All Her Father's Guns by James Warner
See What I See by Gloria Whelan

Our Man in the Dark by Rashad Harrison

Title:Our Man in the Dark
Author: Rashad Harrison

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 1960s / Southern US / Civil Rights Movement / Historical Figure Fictionalized / Government Conspiracy)
Publisher/Publication Date: Atria Books (11/15/2011)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Loooved. Fabu way to kick off 2012!
Did I finish?: Yes -- I couldn't stop myself!
One-sentence summary: Set in 1963, an accountant with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. becomes an FBI informant in an effort to prove his patriotism and improve his own life, and ends up in gr
Reading Challenges:Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: Love it -- it fits the mood of the story perfectly!

I'm reminded of...: Lawrence Block, Raymond Chandler, Walter Mosley

First line: Night has come, and so have the shadows that once pulled me in against my will.

Did... I keep thinking about this book every time I had to stop reading and be all sociable with my family?: YES. Thankfully I love them, so I only resented them a little bit that I had to st…

Summary of 2011 Reading Challenges

This was my first year really committing to reading challenges, and I discovered, as with so much else in my life, my eyes are bigger than my belly.  Or in this case, my aspirations are greater than my time.  Despite the breakneck reading I did this year, I didn't focus much on hitting my reading challenge goals, which means I only completed six of my sixteen 2011 reading challenges.  Oops!  I'm scaling back for 2012.  Here's the quick-and-dirty of how I did for 2011:

British Books (12 books)
Success! Read 20 books.

Criminal Plots (6 books)
Failed! Missed by two.

Eastern European (4 books)
Failed! Only read two of four. Additionally, I've sorted of started hating on this challenge because 'map of Eastern Europe' has become, like, my second biggest source of traffic to this blog. Boo.

E-books (12 books)
Success! Read 12, which surprised me, as I thought for sure I'd double that. I guess I don't use my e-reader as much as I thought! (Shh, don't tell …

2012 Europa Challenge

Even though my foray into the 2011 Europa Challenge was a bit of a fail -- I only read one book, and I didn't even review it! -- I'm doing it again because I really love Europa Editions and want to gobble them up. This time, for the 2012 Europa Challenge, I'm going to limit myself to Ristretto Level (2 Europas). Hopefully I can manage that!

Possibilities include these; any you think I absolutely must read?

Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Laurence Cossé, An Accident in August: A Novel
Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt, The Most Beautiful Book in the World: Eight Novellas

2012 E-books Reading Challenge

Since my e-reader is one of my of my most beloved possessions, it's a no-brainer for me to do the E-Book Reading Challenge again. I'm going to aim for DVD - 25 ebooks which is a bit ambitious considering I only read 12 e-books in 2011. (I have about three hundred books in my e-reader, I just am not reading the rest of my TBR!). However, I hope to get a jump on my e-book reading since I'm on vacation for two weeks this winter and I don't want to lug around a badrillion hard copies -- now my e-reader is especially handy!


Eleanor Hallowell Abbott, Molly Make-Believe
Nancy Bilyeau, The Crown
Alex Bledsoe, Wake of the Bloody Angel
Tina Connolly, Ironskin
Lawrence Durrell, Judith
Tan Twang Eng, The Garden of Evening Mists
Sara Foster, Beneath the Shadows
D. B. Jackson, Thieftaker
Ryan David Jahn, The Dispatcher
Sarah Jio, Blackberry Winter
Adam Johnson, The Orphan Master's Son
Suzanne Joinson, A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar
Giles Kristian, Blood…