Showing posts from 2017

Books Read in 2017


David Morrell, Ruler of the Night
Ottessa Moshfegh, Eileen


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


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


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


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]


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

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'

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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...

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?

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

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…

Weekend reads and fall is here...

After being a weird, steamy 80 for a few days earlier this week, it's not Uber Autumn out: sunny but brisk, clear and fragrant. I love this weather, which is a bummer, because I'm juggling two good reads and on deck for a few more!

I forget how Marissa A. Ross's Wine. All the Time.: The Casual Guide to Confident Drinking crossed my radar, but I immediately requested it from the library and it is so good we're going to buy a copy to keep. Ross is funny and approachable and her whole attitude about wine is so normal and refreshing. It's like having your cool but not snobby friend teach you about wine.

I'm also reading Matt Ruff's Lovecraft Country, which is this month's pick for my book club. It's a great read and one that I'm so conflicted about. Set in the 1950s, it's a series of interconnected stories of an African-American family who gets embroiled with a white family obsessed with secret societies and arcane secrets. Ruff is unabashed in…

A twenty-eight second walk with me this morning...


The Lady Travelers Guide to Scoundrels & Other Gentlemen is a guide I wish were real...

I love romance novels for the fluff escapism: tame drama, happy-ever-after, armchair time travel, appealing sexytimes.

This first book in a new series did that for me, and if you like tame, slow-burn romances, this one is for you. Our heroine, spinster India Prendergast, is convinced the Lady Travelers Society is a scam. Her beloved aunt has disappeared, and the women running the society are unable to locate her. Worse, Derek Saunders, famed bad boy, is related to one of the women who run the society, and he has taken it upon himself to "help" "find" India's aunt.

Obviously, their instant dislike for each other means they're going to fall madly in love (and that was fine by me).

Normally I wolf down romances in a matter of days, but I actually took a break from this one because it's pretty slow moving. The mystery was a little tiresome because there was an intentional can't-tell-the-truth-for-this-rather-flimsy-reason plotline and it did stretch on…

Book Arrivals, October 9

A quick video for a Monday: another batch of library holds came in this past week, and I got two books in the mail, so hooray for new reads! Have you read any of these? Got any good new books?

Weekend Reads, and it's all toddler all the time

I meant to do a weekend reads video for my stuff, but Unabridged Toddler had other ideas!

A speculative novel about cloning, Jamaica, an alternative United States, and secret agents was remarkably boring...

I really ought to have loved this speculative short novel but I didn't, and it bums me out!

Set in an alternative now, where the US is broken into smaller countries -- Five Civilized Tribes, which is a conglomeration of US Indian/Native American tribes (I believe), the industrialized Tejas and puppet state of Albion, among others -- the story follows a Jamaican secret agent, Desmond Coke, who has smuggled a young boy from Jamaica in hopes of keeping him safe from a variety of nefarious forces.

It takes most of the novel to learn why they're being pursued and it's an intriguing premise. Desmond's work is hampered by geopolitical drama and some good old-fashioned double crossing, and with the 'Old West' ambiance and technology, it has the feel of Firefly or other weird West style stories.

And yet...I wanted more. I think were this a full length novel, it would have worked; the novella format didn't serve the setting or characters. (Full disclosure: I've …

Mood Ring Recommendations: Feeling... Changeable

My current mood is influenced by the changing seasons and the slide into October (possibly my favorite month), so, for this week's Mood Ring Recommendations, my mood is ...

~ Changeable ~
First, the mood I've picked isn't precise, because I'm not exactly sure what mood I'm trying to express. Something that's more than what's on the surface; something duplicitous (but not always bad); one thing and then another. What's one word for all that?

Whatever the word is, these reads all came to mind when I started thinking about stories with a character who wears a mask, is different than we think, or changes midway once we thought we knew them.

Eleanor Hallowell Abbott, Molly Make-Believe: This sweet novel is from 1911, and it's the only positive novel featuring misdirection and misapprehension. It reads like The Shop Around the Corner and other sweet rom-coms, and it's a really lovely, light romance.

Louisa May Alcott, A Long Fatal Love Chase: Pretty m…

Book Arrivals, October 1

A quick booktube video of some of the books that have arrived over the last few weeks, both review copies and some free-range reading library arrivals. (Including a classic better known as a film than a book!) Have you read any of these?

Creepy kids are creepy, especially when they ought to know better...

In our house, this book is practically a sacred text (my wife uh-dores Shirley Jackson). My book club selected this as our read for May, and I was thrilled for the reread because this book surprises me every time.

Our narrator, Mary Katherine (or Merricat, as she's called) lives in her dilapidated house with her sister and uncle. The town shuns them after a terrible family tragedy that resulted in the death of most of her fmaily. But Merricat likes the little life she has, and she does what she needs to in order to protect all of them. And as you might expect, when her happy world is threatened, she gets to work.

I'm being vague to ensure you get the pleasure of Merricat and her story. If you're only familiar with Shirley Jackson through her short story "The Lottery", you need to get this novella. It's a great, atmospheric read -- very quick at 160ish pages, depending on your edition -- and the creepiness crawls over you.

Jackson's Merricat is so sweet …

Wordless Wednesday: But the little things need to be quality

Today's Wordless Wednesday is a response to my Wordless Wednesday from last week.

Basically: $2 stickies have no sticky and now I have learned my lesson. But life isn't over because last night my wife made caramel apples because it was Tuesday.

Teaser Tuesday, September 26: Happy birthday, Gloria Anzaldúa!

"I want freedom to carve and chisel my own face, to staunch the bleeding with ashes, to fashion my own gods out of entrails."
I came across Gloria Anzaldúa in college, after stumbling across the above quote. It electrified and shocked me, as did the passage around it (from her book Borderlands/ La Frontera: The New Mestiza), which provided more context:
"So don’t give me your tenets and your laws. Don’t give me your lukewarm gods. What I want is an accounting with all three cultures—white, Mexican, Indian. I want freedom to carve and chisel my own face, to staunch the bleeding with ashes, to fashion my own gods out of entrails. And if going home is denied me then I will have to stand and claim my space, making a new culture—una cultura mestiza—with my own lumber, my own bricks and mortar and own feminist architecture." You can read a few more powerful excerpts at She's Got the Mic.

Mood Ring Recommendations: Feeling...Indecisive

I'm going to start a new series I'm calling Mood Ring Recommendations, in which I'm going to share recommendations and reviews for books (or other things?, if I feel like it) that relate to the mood. It's an experiment; let's see if it's any good!

Since I'm in the midst of angst-ing about what to do with this blog (I even gave myself a tarot reading for advice!), today's mood is going to be:

~ Indecisive ~
These recommendations are reads that immediately came to mind when I started thinking about making choices (or not), hesitating or being impetuous, or otherwise dithering about doing something.

Kage Baker, In the Garden of Iden: When you can live forever, you have lots of time to wonder about the choices you've made. This book is the start of a thirteen book series (or something like that), but it's a fabulous standalone novel, set during Elizabethan England, with a woman who is more cyborg than human (but she still struggles between head and h…

Tarot Reading: On continuing to blog...

As I shared on Friday, I've been seriously considering closing my blog, since I'm feeling sort of 'eh' about the work it takes to keep it up. And yet, that doesn't feel quite right to me, so I decided to give myself a tarot reading about what to do.

I used the Biz Spread created by New Age Hipster and the Ostara Tarot deck, consulting my two favorite tarot books right now, Melissa Cynova's Kitchen Table Tarot and Jessa Crispin's The Creative Tarot.

Essentially, to my surprise, I think this reading is telling me not to quit! I'm a little fuzzy on some of the cards, but what jumped out to me was this sense of waiting, needing more time, and rejuvenating.

The first card, about where one's business is at, is the 7 of Coins. Crispin interprets sevens as determining what we really want, and 7 of Coins about not rushing to harvest/call it quits. That really struck me because while I've been thinking I'm being honest with myself, it may be that I&#…

Weekend reads and considering closing the blog...

I'm not sure what provoked it, but was struck very strongly this week that I should consider closing this blog.

I think it's maybe that I'm trying to renew my work on it -- I'm trying out different review formats, attempting some YouTube vids, hoping to integrate my tarot and woowoo research -- but I'm so aware of how little interaction I have through it all. I know -- or 'know' -- many bookish folks online, but my interactions are fleeting and quick. I started my blog to connect with other readers -- a virtual book club, I imagined -- and I'm just not doing that.

Reviewing books to help authors and publishers promote them has become the meat-and-potatoes of my blog, and I'm not that excited about it. Certainly my free-range reading of these last few months have been refreshing and fun, but even writing about those reads feels like I'm talking to myself.

So, if that's the case, why continue here?

This post is kind of me "thinking out l…

Wordless Wednesday: It's the little things

Decided to dress up my work game. $2 from Target -- like I could resist!

Check out more Wordless Wednesday posts!

Creepy kids are creepy, especially when they survive plane crashes

My wife was listening to this on her commute and I got hooked, and we spent the last four nights listening to it at home after dinner while halfheartedly doing dishes and whatnot.

Four airplanes crash on the same day, and unbelievably, in three of the accidents, one child survives. But the world is changed by Black Thursday, as the day becomes known, as the children garner international interest and panic. We learn about what happens through Black Thursday: From Crash to Conspiracy, a book that details the events in the days and weeks that follow, and of course, what happens after this book comes out.

I found the premise suuuuuuuper intriguing and I'm a sucker for found documents/ephemera/books-within-books narrative structure, so all that worked for me; but I did get a bit tired near the end of the drawn out mystery.

My wife said this felt like an overpadded novella; I kind of agree. Maybe in book form, when I could have read faster, it might have raced more, but listening, it d…

Booktube: Library Haul, September 14

A quick vid of some of the free-range reads I snagged from the library recently!

Teaser Tuesday, September 12: Middlemarch!

My Teaser Tuesday for this week comes from Middlemarch!...which I am still reading. What are you reading today? Have a teaser to share?

Weekend reads and my first vlog!

It feels like summer is over in Boston -- it's brisk and beautiful and while I love it, I'm also mourning the end of summer because I don't feel like I did enough summer stuff!

So, after fumbling with many different apps, I've made my first vlog/booktube, below. Don't judge me too harshly; I decided to just do it and not agonize, and I'll figure it out along the way. (But helpful tips always welcome!)

My weekend reads are more of Middlemarch as well as The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper. What are you reading this weekend?

A novel about E.M. Forster not getting some is surprisingly moving

I grabbed this book from the library in my usual, arbitrary way: I liked the spine and the binding, and the cover; then I saw it was a Europa Edition and decided to check it out. Then I never got around to reading it, and had forgotten about it until noticing it on my Overdrive wishlist.

Arctic Summer is biographical novel of English novelist E.M. Forster; it's mostly about Morgan's desperate search for love and companionship and sex, and how he basically didn't get those things. It's gorgeous and emotional and restrained, and I loved every word.

Overwhelmingly, this novel is just bittersweet. Morgan is so sweetly likeable (I know it's trendy these days to want unlikable characters, but there's something to be said for characters you also just want to squish) but his life so empty despite the people, jobs, and travel that fill it. He finds some intense emotional relationships, a few that translate into physical/sexual ones, but all seem lopsided and unequal -- s…

Book Review: The Family Plot by Cherie Priest

First line: Yeah, send her on back.

I love a good haunted house story and this one is just perfect. (Hot tip: save this for October and thank me later!)

Reminiscent of The Haunting of Hill House and Insidious, this novel features a tough, slightly damaged heroine who didn't make me eyeball roll once; serious place as character; and creepiness in spades.

The plot is pretty simple: Dahlia, whose family runs a salvage business, is tasked with tearing apart an old estate in a matter of days, a job which requires her and her small crew -- cousin Bobby, Bobby's son Gabe, and new colleague Gabe -- to sleep in the house while they work at all hours to salvage what is can be resold.

The house has other ideas, obviously.

While some of the ghostliness of the story was predictable, I found the anticipation upped my eager jumpiness. But Priest surprised me with a ghostly encounter I'd never considered before, and it has made me even jumpier when I'm alone. The book's narrative …

Monday....musings? August 28

The things that feel summery-y for me are coming to an end: our summer hours at work, which end after this week; vacation for school kids; college kids moving into the dorms; a kind of shift in the weather from muggy heat to tolerable heat; the farm in full harvest mode.

We went camping this weekend, and it was really perfect; I finished Ship Fever which was unbelievable. I love historical short fiction in a way I don't always love short fiction generally -- and while a few of Barrett's stories were too neat, the titular story was un-believable. I'm currently in the throes of Damon Galgut's Arctic Summer, which was a free range reading find, and now confirms I'm just going to browse the library or catalog subject index until a title or book cover catches my attention. (I'm still struggling to finish Middlemarch for my 9/21 bookclub!)

Inspired by Andi of Estella's Revenge, I'm starting to think a little more -- creatively -- about what I want to do with …

Bout of Books, Day 2 and Wordless Wednesday, August 23

Yesterday I started, and nearly finished Arctic Summer by Damon Galgut, a short novel about E.M. Forster. It's just beautiful! and so poignant! and bittersweet! and sad! and talks about exoticization (this is a word, right?) of people of color and repressed homosexual impulses and writing and travel and moms and ... basically, it's working for me and has lured me away from my other current reads which is ... good?

My Wordless Wednesday offering is today's Bout of Books challenge: book spine rainbow!

My rainbow is less rainbow-y than it should be, I realize, but it was the best I could do between making dinner, getting toddler to bed, and, obviously, reading! (It's very blue-y which I vaguely recall reading somewhere is the most used color for book covers, maybe because it's a popular color? or something...? Any book cover/design nerds care to weigh in?)