Wednesday, December 31, 2014

On Finishing Books and Not Finishing Books

Yesterday, our Top Ten Tuesday topic was our ten goals or resolutions for 2015.  I didn't contribute to the post here, but I wrote my own post on my blog.  Eight of my resolutions dealt with either reading or writing because those are two areas I really want to work on next year.  I want to read more and to read better, I want to finish some writing projects I've started, but I really want to start finishing the books I start.

I am a chronic abandoner.  Most of the time it's not a conscious decision, where I say, "I've given this book (insert criteria for leaving a book) and it's just not getting me, so I'm not finishing."  No, most of the time I'll start a book, really enjoy it, recommend it to some friends, and then start gravitating towards another book.  Usually, this happens as a result of going a couple of days without much reading, but often enough it's because I start thinking about a second book and just can't stop thinking about it, so reading the first book becomes a chore, meaning that I'll usually opt to not read rather than force myself to read something I don't want to read.  This means that in a given year, I start a lot of excellent books and read a ton of pages, but only wind up finishing around 25.  At the rate that my "books owned" list grows, I have little hope of ever finishing everything.  Not that the goal is to finish everything (there's just not enough time in the world to read all the books), but I would like to make a good dent, you know?

There are quite a few articles out there arguing both sides of the issue.

Why Finish Books? by Tim Park
Why You Feel Guilty for Leaving Books or Games Unfinished by Thorin Klosowski
Finish that Book! by Juliet Lapidos
Why I Finish Books by Nicole Perrin
More on Finishing Every Book You Read by Joanna Cabot
Finishing a Book You Don't Like:  Do You or Don't You? by Kira Walton

(Don't) Finish What You Started by Evan Gottlieb
On Not Finishing Books and a Blog Worth Following by David Dobbs
Now I Stop Reading a Book if I Don't Enjoy It, Do You? by Gretchen Rubin
Promiscuous Reading by Mark O'Connell

Everyone has their own reasons for finishing or not finishing.  Some say that you should finish out of respect of the work/author.  Some people just like to finish what they start.  On the other hand, some people don't want to be bored or pressured.  Typically non-finishers have a set criteria of reading so many pages or so many chapters and if the book isn't capturing them, it gets let go.  And I can totally see this if you are reading for reasons other than pleasure.

I've been reading The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller, which is a great book that I haven't finished yet.  The following quote really set in my mind the seeds for this resolution:

However, once you start to give up on books, you may lose the skill of finishing them – my early difficulties with The Master and Margarita and Middlemarch proved this. In addition, your opinion will automatically be worth less than that of someone who has taken the trouble to finish the book because, in at least one key respect, they know what they are talking about and you don’t.  (Miller, Andy (2014-12-09). The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books (and Two Not-So-Great Ones) Saved My Life (pp. 140-141). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.)*

I don't want to lose the skill of finishing books.  I really like finishing a book.  I love how you turn to that last page and your chest gets all tight and then you digest the last word and you can breathe again.  Then you kind of sit in wonder and look at the world with new eyes.  Or maybe that's just me.  I agree that finishing books helps give the speaker a bit more credibility when they say they hated a book because they really worked at finishing it and didn't just dismiss it without knowing if there were any redeeming qualities.  Personally, I like to be able to give good reasons when I am discussing books, which frequently requires finishing the book in the first place.  Miller goes on to say that "you may erode your integrity to a point where you sincerely believe the difference between saying you have read a book and actually reading it is little more than semantics" (Miller, The Year of Reading Dangerously, p. 141).*

In 2015, I resolve to finish most books that I start, but not necessarily all of them.  

I'll break in here to say that by "start" I mean the books I spend a day or two reading a good chunk of, not one I just pick up and read the first few pages of when I'm trying to decide what to read next.  Part of my process of picking the next book usually entails grabbing several from my shelves and sampling the first few pages of each until one grabs me.  Sometimes it takes a couple of trips to the shelves.  And then sometimes I just KNOW what I want to read next.

I think for me it will mostly be a matter of focusing my attention and not letting my mind wander to all of the other books out there.  I am sure that at some point I will encounter a book that I find to be truly heinous and I'll have to decide what I am going to do about that.  Maybe give it 20% of the book and if I am just legitimately not feeling it, set it aside.  I say that because I firmly believe that some books are a matter of right place, right time, right mindset.  For instance, I'm currently reading a contemporary book that I just don't know how I feel about.  The premise is interesting.  I can relate to some of the thoughts and impulses of the protagonist.  But at times the book is kind of off-putting in how it unfolds and I don't know whether I like it or not.  At this point, I would say that it's not going to wind up on any of my favorites lists or even one I'll keep to reread, but it may surprise me.  So I push on.  On the other hand, I've started books and read a few pages and just didn't get sucked in.  I don't feel that I really owe these the effort of finishing right then, but admit that maybe later on I'll fall in love with them.

What about you?  What are your thoughts on finishing or not finishing the books you read?  If you are a finisher, how do you keep your focus when you aren't really feeling a book?  If you are not a finisher, what are your criteria for setting aside books?  Do you set them aside temporarily or forever?

*Can I just say that I LOVE how the Kindle app on my Mac automatically adds the citation for the quotes I'm using?!  I hate creating the proper citation.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Our Bookish Goals For 2015

For future Top Ten Tuesday topics & info on how to participate, click here!

Daisy's Goals/Resolutions

1. Catch up on the reviews I need to write: I actually have a GoodReads shelf for all the books that I've read, that I haven't written a review for and as I'm typing this, there are 77 books on it. I really need to get it together and just write those reviews or just SOMETHING about them so I can move on and clear that shelf out. My goal for 2015 is to have the number of books on this shelf always in the single digits.

2. Catch up on my series: I've started reading SO many series and never continued them beyond the first book, which is just such a waste, cause I loved some of those first in the series and really want to continue them. Which brings me to:

3. Read what I want when I want: I probably can't make this goal all the time, but I need to cut back on review copies and just read all those books I bought for myself or just the ones that I WANT to be reading (though many of those are books I get for review, so it sorta goes hand in hand at times), with less pressure to get them read in time and everything. Also, I can't keep justifiying buying all these pretties without actually reading them.

Julia's Goals/Resolutions

4. Actually read the books on my literal To Read Shelf
I have a shelf in my house that was my literal To-Read shelf. Well, recently it has been overrun into an entire To-Read bookcase... and some auxiliary piles. It probably has about 100 books in it. I want to read them, I want to then move them to my upstairs study room in an organized fashion.

5. Read more in general
I actually did pretty well in one of my reading challenges. I may have even completed it (i am not sure. I didnt go back and look to see if I had read the right 26 types of books). But especially toward the end of the year I just stopped reading in general. I replaced reading time with Netflix binges or HBO Go movies. I want to read again. I need that time back. 

6. Finish/Catch-up on some series
This is one thing that is a constant goal of mine. I have a list of series that have been updated while I sit and not read them. I have a whole shelf on booklikes that is just "The Next Book in a Series." So I want to continue with that.

Jamie's Goals/Resolutions

7. Cull, cull cull: I did some decent culling in 2014 but there's still a lot I KNOW I can get rid of. My interests have changed and I have books that I have had for MANY years and I need to just let goooo. Lots of ARCs from years ago that I told myself I will read...not going to happen.

8. Organize my Goodreads: I added a lot of stuff on there from when I joined (2008) until now and I REALLY need to delete some books I have no interest in and organize the shelves I really want to use.

9. Read at least 5 classics in 2015: I have neglected the classics largely in the past few years. I want to get back into reading them.

10. Stop returning my library books late: I can't tell you how much money I spent on late fees in 2014. I mean, it's kind of like donating to the library but I'd rather it be on my own terms rather than because I'm too lazy or forgetful.

Tell us your 2015 goals and resolutions!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Top Ten Books Bridget Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing This Year


For future Top Ten Tuesday topics & info on how to participate, click here!

1. Ex-Purgatory – Peter Clines. I reread 14 recently and it’s sooo good. So I’m really excited to see what else Peter Clines has written! He also has a new book, The Fold, coming out next year that I’m excited to see too! 

2. The Martian – Andy Weir. Left alone on Mars, astronaut Mark Watney doesn’t even have a way to signal Earth that he’s alive—not that he’ll survive long enough for a rescue to arrive. He’s refusing to give up, but will he be able to overcome the impossible odds that are stacked against him? 

3. Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy:Annhiliation; Authority; Acceptance – Jeff VanderMeer. This kind of counts as 3, but they’re all in one hardcover edition so I’m counting it as a single book. The Southern Reach trilogy tells the story of Area X, a remote area that has been cut off from the rest of the continent for the past several decades. No one who explores the area survives. 

4. Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel. Station Eleven sounds quite a bit like The Stand: a decade and a half after a pandemic flu kills a large portion of the country’s population, a traveling acting troupe arrives in a small town under the stringent control of a violent prophet. 

5. The Paying Guests – Sarah Waters. I’ve heard so many great things about this book! Looking forward to reading it soon (even if I don’t get it for Christmas)! 

6. The Magician King and The Magician’s Land – Lev Grossman. Again counting these two books as one because I have lots of books on my list and since they’re two parts of the same trilogy they kind of count as the same. 

7. Unwind – Neal Shusterman. I’m kind of over the dystopian-YA genre, but Unwind caught my attention. Can anyone tell me if it’s worth the read for someone who is sort of burnt out on YA dystopias? 

8. Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides. I’ve read The Marriage Plot and The Virgin Suicides, so now I have to read Middlesex. I’ve heard it’s the best of the three! 

9. Wicked Girls – Alex Marwood. Twenty-five years after they were both charged for murder at the age of eleven, Kirsty and Amber’s paths cross again. Will they be able to hide their secret from their unsuspecting families? 

10. Anathem – Neal Stephenson. Scientists, philosophers, and mathematicians live sequestered in monasteries until they are called back into the world to deal with a crisis of astronomical proportions.

What books do you want Santa to put under your tree this year??

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Broke and Bookish Book Haul for 12/7 - 12/20

Daisy's Book Haul

I only got one physical copy of a book these last two weeks and it's The Duke's Guide to Correct Behavior by Megan Frampton, which sounds like something I will really enjoy, I've never read anything by Megan Framptom before, but I'm excited!

Egalleys for review:
-Half the World by Joe Abercrombie: OMG SO MUCH EXCITEMENT!!! I LOVED Half a King and cannot wait to read the sequel! Happy dances were involved when I got the e-mail saying I was approved for this!
-Stonehill Downs by Sarah Remy: this sounds REALLY good! I'm always up for new-to-me fantasy!
-Paper or Plastic by Vivi Barnes: I think this will be a whole lot of cute fluff. I need this in my life.
-The Devil Takes a Bride by Julia London: a marriage in name only that will lead to love OBVIOUSLY. I like this kind of plot.
-Tempting the Pirate by Tamara Hughes: one word: PIRATE. I am in.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Bridget Wants to Know How You Find New Releases and Debut Novels

In preparing some of my Top Ten Tuesdays for 2015, I’ve been forced to enter an unfamiliar world: the world of new releases. In general, I don’t track new releases unless they’re by J. K. Rowling or Stephen King, in which case there’ll be enough press around them that I don’t have to go out of my way to do any research on them.

What I want to know is: how does the rest of the reading world find and know about all these new releases coming out? Am I living under a rock?

Writing about my Top Ten Most Anticipated Debut Novels for 2015 (which I’m just now realizing I did wrong, I just did 2015 new releases, but I’m not rewriting it now, sorry) was a huge struggle. I ended up culling a few HuffPost and Book Riot lists for books I thought I’d be interested in, and used those as a jumping-off point on Amazon to find “related items” that would also be released in 2015. I actually ended up with 11 books in the end, but—as I mentioned above—I’m pretty sure most of them aren’t debut novels at all. I know a few are, but certainly not the majority.

So, blogger friends, tell me: where do you find new releases, particularly debut novels, that strike your fancy? I peruse NetGalley on occasion, but much less these days as I have enough hard copy books to last me a while and it’s hard for me to concentrate when I’m reading on my iPad. (I’m actually thinking about selling it because I hardly ever use it, so I’m also trying to distance myself from it a little bit.) I also haven’t found a whole lot to love on NetGalley. I’ll occasionally find something that piques my interest, but by the time I’m approved for it, I’m not as interested as I was, and I forget about it. Out of all the titles I’ve downloaded from NetGalley, I’ve probably read 20% of them all the way through and enjoyed an even smaller percentage.

I’m also quite a bit less into YA than most of my TBTB compatriots, so while there seems to be no shortage of YA novels getting churned out, most of that volume is lost on me.

I’ve finally begun to use Twitter a bit more fluently (@thebookishmilso, should you want to follow me), and I’ve followed a couple of authors and a LOT of publishers, so maybe that will help? I don’t know. Guys, I’m really clueless here. Help a sister out?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Daisy's Review of Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Title/Author: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
Publisher/Date published: Dutton, August 14th 2014
How I got this book: bought a shiny hardcover

Goodreads summary: Love ignites in the City That Never Sleeps, but can it last?

Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart.

So we read Isla for Book Club October and it was AMAZING! 3 of us loved it and our fourth member not so much, she actually DNF-ed it, but we still gushed about it over dinner (sorry Mel!). It was probably one of the most anticipated books of 2014 and it was very much worth the wait!

Let me start off by saying that I'm a huge fan of Stephanie Perkins' writing. She manages to pull me into the story and it just flows and I wanted to keep reading and had me laughing and going NOOOOOO!!! and just made me FEEL everything. It was awesome.

I liked Isla, she and Josh made sense together and the way their relationship developed felt real. And then they were blissfully happy and I was like: we have over half of the book left, this has to go wrong somehow right?? And it did. And it was painful and I wanted to shake Isla and tell her to stop sabotaging her relationship and just OMG I could just SEE it go down like that and it was awful.
But the book isn't called Isla and the Happily Ever After to mess with you, it's really a happy ending and I adored it. It was sweet and just fit Isla and Josh's personality and their bond and it made me swoon and just all the happy sighs.

I really liked the way sex was handled in this book. It was realistic and even though it's obviously a big deal, it wasn't overly so. Am I making sense? It was just a natural part of their relationship and also: I can now never look at bunnies the same way again (you'll know what I mean if you've read the book), so thanks for that.

I also loved the return of Anna, Etienne, Cricket and Lola, I so love those characters, especially Etienne with his 'Anna and I are headed out for a celebratory dessert. I'd ask you all to join us, but I don't want you there', AWESOME. If Anna one day decides she doesn't want him anymore, I volunteer to soothe his broken heart!

I could probably go on and on about all the things I loved about Isla and the Happily Ever After, especially after re-reading some of the quotes (which are all AMAZING), but I'm just going to say this: READ THIS BOOK. And Anna and the French Kiss (which is still my favourite of the 3 and now I'm dying to re-read it) and Lola and the Boy Next Door and let them make your heart happy, like they did mine.

My rating: 5 stars

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Top Ten Books We Read In 2014

For future Top Ten Tuesday topics & info on how to participate, click here!

Kimberly's Picks

1. Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch- Wow! This is one heck of a debut novel. I loved the world she created, it was rich and vibrant. The characters are fantastic, none of them are cookie cutter stock characters, they're all detailed and layered and endlessly interesting.

2. Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund- A retelling of one of my all time favorite stories, the Scarlet Pimpernel? Yes please! The first book in the series, or it's companion, was excellent. This one was even better! Awesome characters, fantastic world building,

Tahleen's Picks

3. Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger, narrated by Moira Quirk. I loved this steampunk ladies' spy school story. Gail Carriger is a wonderful author with a creative and absorbing world she's used now in two series, and Sophronia is a character to be reckoned with. The sequel, Curtsies & Conspiracies, was just as delightful, and I can't wait to listen (because the audiobooks are spectacular) to the third in the series, Waistcoats & Weaponry.

4. A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty, narrated by Fiona Hardingham, Andrew Eiden, Kate Reinders, and Peter McGowan. When I first heard the premise of this book, I was skeptical. A girl in Cambridge, England somehow starts communicating with a boy in an alternate world called Cello? But, to my happy surprise, it works beautifully. I loved the two stories in tandem, and seeing how the two characters and their worlds converge. I was even happier with Cracks in the Kingdom, the sequel. I am waiting for book 3!

5. The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. It's the kind of fantasy with no magic, set in another world that resembles ancient Greece. Forbidden romance, politics, war, intrigue. This is such a complex story and world, and I enjoyed reading this one very much.

Julia's Picks

6. The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith. I was nervous about picking up this book for book club, knowing that it was J.K. Rowling and that I would have high expectations. Everyone had such mixed reviews on her last non-HP book... would I like her writing mystery? The answer is a resounding yes! This book was great! I can't wait to get my hands on the sequel. 

7. The Bridge by Rebecca Rogers Maher. I bought this book early in the year on a whim when I found it linked on Dear Author in a comment to a post about ... something. The premise is that these two people independently want to commit suicide by jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge, unfortunately (fortunately?) for them, they run into each other and each can't go through with it knowing the other would die... so they spend the next 24 hours together each trying to convince the other to live. It's a shorter book but I devoured it. What a unique story that I thought was executed really well. 

Daisy's Picks

8. Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo: it's not secret I LOVE this series and this final book just slayed me. I'm still not ok and OMG I just need more ok? Like I said in my review, Ruin and Rising was everything I never even knew I wanted it to be. And basically you should all read this series. Cause it's awesome. (Jana is seconding this choice!)

9. Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas: cue all my fangirly flailing. THIS BOOK you guys!! I just cannot. It's been a little over 3 months and I still cannot handle my feels over this book. After I finished it I just wanted to wallow in my feelings and just had the biggest book hangover. In case it wasn't clear yet from the raving that's been going on around the blogosphere about Sarah J. Maas and her Throne of Glass series, I'm saying it again: GO FORTH AND READ THIS SERIES.

10. The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley: I really feel like The Emperor's Blades hasn't gotten enough buzz, which is a shame, as it's one of the best adult fantasy novels I've read this year. It's got intrigue and amazing warriors and just weird stuff going on and it truly made my heart happy.

Bridget's Picks

11. The Magicians by Lev Grossman. I think I've mentioned it before, but The Magicians is like Harry Potter, THE COLLEGE YEARS plus Narnia plus lots of awesome other stuff. So good. It's the first in a trilogy, and I'm hoping for the other two for Christmas, as you'll see on my Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me post on 12/23 :)

12. Above by Isla Morley. Got this one through NetGalley and it was amazing. Definitely a little disturbing—think The Lovely Bones—but very well-written and quite a ride.

13. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. This book was incredible. It was funny, sad, magical, and just lovely all around. It's very short, but really perfect in its length. Everything about this book was unutterably gorgeous. I read it right at the beginning of 2014 and have spent the last year singing its praises to everyone I know. READ THIS BOOK.

Jana's Picks

14. Boomerang by Noelle August. My favorite new adult EVER. It's such a sweet and funny story, with a pretty swoony romance that begins in the funniest, most awkward way possible. 

15. Wish You Were Italian by Kristin Rae. This book took me right back to Italy, and I never wanted it to end!! It's pretty much perfect. 

16. The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson. Holy CRAP. This book is amazing and has an epic twist you'll never see coming.

Jamie's Picks

17. Station Eleven by Emily St. Mandel: OH MY GOSH YOU GUYS. This book really surprised me. It made me think so much, too! And the writing <3

18. I'll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson: THIS BOOK IS AN ALL TIME FAVORITE. Gorgeous and heartwrenching and JUST THE BEST.

Tell us your favorite books you read this year!!!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Came A Little Early For Jamie!

So last night my husband and I celebrated our Christmas with him mom since we are going to be visiting my dad for the holidays and among the gifts from my (amazing) mother-in-law was a $50 Barnes and Noble gift card!!


It's already burning a hole in my pocket though and I'm already facing the OMG WHAT DO I BUY WITH IT dilemma.  I don't know, maybe it's just me, but I get overwhelmed by the possibilities. Do I buy a new book I've never read? Buy a book I loved but don't own? And how to pick out of all of those???

My book buying habits have changed A LOT since I got laid off and was unemployed for a while. Even now I'm not in a great situation so I'm still not buying AS many books as I used to because I'd rather keep my lights on so I can READ books. So, now, every time I DO buy a book I am always VERY strategic and calculated about it because I see the crazy amount of unread books on my shelves that I spent my hard-earned money on!

So here are a few of the books I've been contemplating buying with it:

- Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer
- Wild by Cheryl Strayed
- The Catastrophic History Of You & Me by Jess Rothenberg
- How To Save A Life by Sara Zarr
- More Than This and also A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
- Every Breath by Ellie Marney

Those are just some loose ideas so what I want from YOU GUYS is:

1) Tell me a book you read this year and LOVED
2) Tell me an older favorite (a book you read a couple years ago and has stuck with you).

Hopefully I'll be able to use this gift card wisely!!! Do you think I should buy any off the list I already made? 

Friday, December 12, 2014

A Giveaway On A Friday Sounds Like A Great Way To Start The Weekend, Yes?

Happy Friday!! We've got an awesome giveaway for y'all today to celebrate the release of the 3rd book, Gathering Darkness, in the Falling Kingdoms series. If you are a fantasy fan and haven't jumped on this series, get on it!

We are happy to offer an amazing Falling Kingdoms prize pack that will include:

 - Copies of Falling Kingdoms, Rebel Spring & Gathering Darkness
- Falling Kingdoms postcard set
- Falling Kingdoms t-shirt

Series Overview

In the three kingdoms of Mytica, magic has long been forgotten. And while hard-won peace has reigned for centuries, a deadly unrest is simmering.

As the rulers of each kingdom grapple for power, the lives of their subjects are brutally transformed…and four key players, royals and rebels alike, find their fates forever intertwined. Cleo, Jonas, Lucia, and Magnus are caught in a dizzying world of treacherous betrayals, shocking murders, secret alliances, and even love.

In AURANOS, privileged Princess Cleo is forced to confront violence for the first time in her life when a shocking murder sets her kingdom on a path to collapse.

In LIMEROS, the king’s son, Magnus, must plan each footstep with shrewd, sharp guile if he is to earn his powerful father’s trust, while his sister, Lucia, discovers a terrifying family secret about her birth that will change everything.

In PAELSIA, rebellious Jonas lashes out against the forces of oppression that have kept his country cruelly impoverished—and finds himself the leader of a people’s revolution centuries in the making.

Witches, if four, are put to death, and Watchers, immortal beings who take the shape of hawks to visit the human world, have been almost entirely forgotten. A vicious power struggle quickly escalates to war, and these four young people collide against each other and the rise of elementia, the magic that can topple kingdoms and crown a ruler in the same day.

About The Author

photo credit Shanon Fujioka

Morgan Rhodes is the New York Times bestselling author of the FALLING KINGDOMS series. As a child, she always wanted to be a princess—the kind that knows how to wield a sharp sword to help save both kingdoms and princes from fire-breathing dragons and dark wizards. Instead, she became a writer, which is just as good and much less dangerous. Along with writing, Morgan enjoys photography, travel, and reality TV, and is an extremely picky yet voracious reader of all kinds of books.


Follow Morgan Rhodes on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram
Find the Falling Kingdoms series on Facebook


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Prizing & samples courtesy of Penguin Young Readers

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Lori's Favorites of This Year

Technically, I was supposed to organize a Cocktail and Conversation post for today, but those posts always sneak up on me, so it didn't get done.  I also didn't get my post written for last week because, among other things, I spent over two hours on the phone dealing with insurance, then got called into work on my day off.  So I decided to go ahead and do my post today because I really liked my post that I was mentally composing whilst on the phone (because who really wants to pay attention while they are dealing with insurance stuff?).

With the end of the year looming before us, I've begun thinking about what I've read this year and what I really liked.  I didn't read a ton this year, I never do.  But I feel like I read a pretty good variety for me.  As a result, I am kind of surprised by the books that are quickly becoming solidified as my favorites for this year.  I usually read mostly fiction.  I'll usually read a couple of non-fiction books for fun, which I enjoy, but don't usually totally knock my socks off.  So, imagine my surprise when--as I am reflecting on my favorite books of the year--I realize that my favorite reads this year are non-fiction.  Naturally, I am not stopping reading for the remainder of the year, but I feel pretty comfortable in naming these as my favorite reads of the year.

Judging a Book by Its Lover by Lauren Leto  This one came in a BookRiot Quarterly box earlier this year.  When I first read the description on the back, it didn't really sound like me, so it kind of hung out on my bookshelves for a while.  One afternoon or evening I wound up grabbing it and flipping it open.  I finished the next day.  Leto's book is full of a lot of really interesting and short essays or pieces about reading and not taking reading too seriously.  It has a very long list of what your favorite author says about you.  It has a long chapter on how to fake reading certain authors, which really turns out to be a great reading pathway if you choose to actually read some of Dostoevsky's works (to name one author).  I had a lot of fun reading this book.  It really helped me chill out and decide to not pressure myself so, so much with my reading.  I read for fun.  So isn't stressing out over what I'm reading totally defeating the point?  It is, it is.

Thus ends the books I've actually finished.  The remaining ones on my list are all in progress.  I think I'll finish two of them by the end of the year.  One, however, is perfect for stringing out for a while.

My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff  I'm at the halfway point with this one.  It was a quick read for me up to that point.  I would have made more progress, actually, if I hadn't stopped for watch an episode of NCIS with my parents (it's our family time).  I am loving reading about the publishing industry during the late 1990s.  Rakoff is extremely relatable to me.  She faces a lot of issues that I faced and still face today, like the part when she realized that her friend who had always written poetry had let that dream die and how that affected their friendship dynamic (basically--people change).  I can't wait to see what happens next.  It's an unputdownable memoir.  Love it!

Ten Years in the Tub by Nick Hornby  Beginning in the early 2000s, Hornby (author of High Fidelity and About a Boy) began writing a monthly column for Believer magazine.  He continued writing this column for ten years.  This volume collects all of his articles.  Each month begins with Books Bought and Books Read, then he discusses what happened and offers up impressions of his reading.  He also offers up a lot of wisdom about his reading life in the process.  For instance, he muses that the books we buy probably say more about us than the books we actually read because the books we buy illuminate who/what we aspire to be, whereas we read books for a variety of reasons that are sometimes have less to do with us than outside forces.  He also shows that you can do a whole lot of reading while still having outside interests (for him it's soccer and music) and that it's OK if sometimes those outside interests overshadow our reading for a while.  This was another that made me realize that reading doesn't have to be a super serious venture.

The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller  I impulse bought this one a couple of days ago, when it was released.  Except I had to buy an e copy because none of the stores near me had any physical copies in stock.  It's fine, but I would have preferred the ability to underline and mark pages for future use.  Anyway, Miller decides that he's dissatisfied with his reading life, so he decides to organize it a bit more.  He starts with a list of ten classics that he's really kind of ashamed that he hasn't read yet and vows to start reading them.  The list ultimately grows to fifty books.  He works his way through each novel.  The book he writes details his journey through the list, what happens to him along the way, how the novels make him feel and how they impact his life, etc.  It's not a ton of literary criticism or a book review of each novel, which I really like.  Though, reader beware, there are spoilers to the plots of these books.  So far for me this hasn't been too big of a problem, but once he gets to reading novels I really want to read but haven't yet read, I'll probably wind up skipping those bits.  This one is a bit more serious because it explores the importance of literature and reading, but I think it's ultimately about pleasure and one man's way of making his reading journey pleasurable to him.

I find it interesting that all of the books that are going down as my favorites for the year are non-fiction books about reading.  But I like it.  These books have given me a lot to think about with my reading and have given me some ideas for how to go forward.  I also find it interesting that all of them are ones I only picked up in the last month.  I could have just as well skipped the first ten months of the year.  :)

I'm still really excited about all of the reading I have left for the year.  In addition to finishing the Rakoff and Miller and making more progress on the Hornby, I am working on I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe, tentatively starting Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, and making some plans for my upcoming reading goals and ventures.  Plus, there absolutely must be a reread of David Sedaris's Holidays on Ice.  It's a must for this time of year.

What have been your surprise favorites of the year?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Top Ten New-To-Us Authors We Read In 2014

For future Top Ten Tuesday topics & info on how to participate, click here!

Julia's Picks

1. Meredith Duran: I started off this year reading through some of the books on my eReader (a goal that oh so quickly fell to the wayside as new and shiny things grabbed my attention). Meredith Duran was one of those purchases I did while reading romance deals posts and I really enjoyed the story I read, The Duke of Shadows. It made me want to seek out more of her work, which is on my eReader, but I have yet to read book two. 

2. Jim C Hines: This author was a unique discovery for me. I knew him from the internet and his blog where he poses like romance novel hero/heroines and fantasy heroines to see how ridiculous the poses are. I found out about his new series through those posts and had them on my to read list for quite a while. Luckily my sister bought them so I was able to finally try out his work.

3. Ruta Sepetys: I have you guys to thank for this one. Out of the Easy was one of the recommendations from the Slumplist and I really loved it. It has made me want to seek out some of her other books or at least I have her on my radar for when her next release comes out.

Bridget's Picks

4. Lev Grossman. I read The Magicians, the first in a trilogy, this year and it was awesome. The two other books in the trilogy are definitely on my Christmas list. :)

5. Jeffrey Eugenides. I read The Marriage Plot on my honeymoon (thought it would be appropriate) and over the summer I read The Virgin Suicides. I liked The Marriage Plot better, but both were good. Hoping to read Middlesex sometime next year.

6. George R. R. Martin. I also started reading A Game of Thrones on my honeymoon after it utterly captured my husband for two straight days. I'm sort of in a slump with the series right now—I put down A Feast for Crows a few months ago and haven't felt motivated to pick it up again—but for the most part I've been enjoying it.

Jamie's Picks


7. Sarah J. Maas.  I know I'm late on the bandwagon here but I read Throne of Glass on Memorial Day and then binge read Crown of Midnight and Heir of Fire right after BEA. SARAH J. MAAS = my 2014 really. She changed the game for me.

8. Marie Rutkoski: Another author just totally getting me hooked on fantasy this year. I LOVED The Winner's Curse and The Winner's Crime. This trilogy is PHENOMENAL and Marie just has a way with words and shredding my heart!!!

9. Kiersten White: So I read Illusions of Fate and this was my first Kiersten book! I was really, really impressed. Then I read her story in My True Love Gave To Me and loved that. Can't wait to check out the rest of her books!

10. Corey Ann Haydu: Life By Committee just blew me away! Corey is so, so talented and I've loved getting to know her online as well where we've had some really great conversations about life! Definitely an author who I feel is underrated and it is my mission to shout her name from the rooftops!

And Jana's jumping in last minute to add Mary E. Pearson (Kiss of Deception), Abigail Haas (Dangerous Girls), April Lindner (Love, Lucy), and Jennifer L. Armentrout (Don't Look Back).

So tell us all your new favorite authors from 2014 and make our TBR list EXPLODE!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Julia Reviews Notes to Boys by Pamela Ribon

Title/Author: Notes to Boys by Pamela Ribon
Publisher/Year Published: Decmeber 2013 by Rare Bird Books
How I got this book: My coworker loaned it to me
Why I read this book: My coworker told me too :)
Rating: 4.5 stars

Pamela Ribon has been showing up a lot in my recent life. First of all, she shows up with that horrible barbie book nonsensebringing it all to life in her blog post. Then I see her name mentioned in a Smart Bitches post and think, "Oh! I recognize her! She is the one who wrote the hilarious thing on the sad barbie book". And finally, it came to a point when I looked at the book my friend from work had loaned me and realized it was her again. At that point I knew I was going to like this book. 

My friend had told me that this was their bookclub pick this month and most of the ladies had liked it though it took a bit to get into. I liked it from the beginning though did skim through some of the more cringe-worthy notes. 

Let me back up. This book is written on the concept that Pam saved all of the notes she wrote to boys as a teenager. They are just brimming with 15 year old angst and feeling. I would read them and cringe to myself on her behalf and then cringe again remembering some of the things I did as a teen. Thank God I didn't save any AIM conversations... All this cringing would culminate in the grateful realization that I was no longer 15 and did not have to worry about overwhelming feels anymore. Teenage angst is real, yo. It get's better. But then you get adult worries like bills... anyway...  

My favorite parts of this book were not the notes themselves but the context and stories around them. Pam is a fantastic writer who drew me into her past quite easily. I want to read more of her books and blog posts now that do no center around these notes. The notes were my least favorite part actually. I enjoyed them more toward the beginning, but as the book went on I had enough flashbacks thanks. 

Anyway, I enjoyed this book. Give it a shot if you are interested in a memoir centering around some of the more embarrassing aspects of teenage girlhood doused with a good dose of humor. 

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