Interview with Lauren of Lose Time Reading!

So, we signed up for this Book Blogger Love-A-Thon deal, and, even though I’m still not sure exactly what that means, the best part was that we got paired up with another blogger to interview. It gave us a good reason to check out another blog that we might not have discovered otherwise, and it was super fun coming up with questions for Lauren. We totally enjoyed getting to know her, and you should go check out her blog too – after you read her awesome answers below!

We won’t ask why you started book blogging, because that’s right on your “about me” page. So, we’ll ask this – how has book blogging changed how you read?

The main thing it’s changed was how MUCH I read. I was still a big reader before blogging but I would read probably between 4 to 6 books a month, now I read between 10 and 15 a month! I also have much more broader tastes. I wouldn’t have considered about 95% of the books I read now prior to blogging!

So, you mention that you love organizing AND you clearly love books. Do you keep an organized TBR list? Track your book stats by different categories? (No pressure…we don’t judge either way!

Oh, I definitely love organizing! I do keep an organized TBR although lately I have been deviating from it quite a bit based on my mood. As far as my review books go I do have a TBR to follow with those otherwise it would be a disaster for me. I do track my book stats by different categories… I have Excel spreadsheets for practically anything you can think of(I would be lost without them!). I enjoy keeping track of which genre I read the most of, last year it was contemporary which was a HUGE shock to me! I also keep a bazillion shelves on Goodreads 😛

Okay, we see Divergent on your fave series list! We are not in agreement on the series (our joint review is here). What’s your take on the progression from the beginning to that end?

It’s so funny that you asked this question because lately I’ve found myself really questioning that series. I LOVED the first book, and if I read it again I probably still would. Insurgent I enjoyed as well but Tris really grated on my nerves and honestly, I think if I was to push myself through it again… both Insurgent and Allegiant would be lower ratings. I’m not sure it gave a proper ending to a series that I loved so much initially. I wouldn’t even list it as one of my favorites anymore 😦

E-reader or hard copy?

Hardcopy 100%! I do love my Kindle, it’s light and so easy to take to work but if I had to choose one for the rest of my life, I would always pick the hardcopy.

Favorite place to read?

This is boring… it’s actually my bed. I just want to be comfy when I read and curling up with a ton of pillows, my cat and a book is the perfect way!

Hey, we are terrible at WordPress and doing fancy blog things. Your blog is so pretty! What tips can you tell us to make an eye-catching blog

Thank you ❤ I don’t really have many tips honestly, except do what you love. You look at your blog more than anyone so make sure that YOU love it! Everyone has different tastes so you can’t appeal to everyone! I did a lot of Googling and looking up tutorials and design techniques. I’m constantly adding and changing things and I think that’s the funnest part. I started out on Blogger, but after a few months switched to WordPress because I wanted a bit more freedom. Well… It was terrifying once I started, I had no idea that it was a completely different than Blogger (research would have been helpful!) so I spent a good week learning how to fix things and making a layout to fit a theme. It kind of worked out in my favor though because now I can use WordPress enough to manage and I learned quite a lot! Google really is your best friend!

Favorite book-turned-movie? Least favorite?

I am definitely not someone who likes book-turned-movies but I do have a few favorites (that of course I can’t narrow down!): Anne of Green Gables, The Devil Wears Prada, The Harry Potter series, The Narnia movies, and The Notebook. I think The Hunger Games and Beautiful Creatures are probably my least favorites, at least my most recent least favorites. I didn’t dislike THG but I was just disappointed overall. I also liked a lot of Beautiful Creatures but it was much too different from the book for me to love it the same way. 

You start reading something that you’re just not digging. Put it down, or forge on?

Oh, the question of the year it seems! I’ve only recently been more open to DNFing a book. I have done it in the past but more often than not I will forge on, I just feel like it may get better and THEN what? Code Name Verity bored me to tears for the first 40% of the book but I pushed through and it’s now one of my all time favorites. Recently I have put several books aside though and I realized that I haven’t even thought about them. There are just SO many books, why waste time on something that you are not enjoying? 

Oh we see you mention a requesting/accepting review copies problem! One of us might be developing that problem! What’s the best thing about review copies – besides the obvious free books!?

I like getting the change to read books before they are in stores! I’m not really sure why, it’s just something that I always thought was interesting since I started blogging. I really enjoy being about to rave about a book on release day, tweet about how awesome it is and support different authors as well. I have also had a chance to try books I normally never would have picked up because of it! It’s a neverending cycle though… It really can become an addiction because there are just SO many eyecatching titles!

Favorite book is too hard of a question so, how’s this – what book comes to mind when you think about how much you love reading? 

This is going to be a very random answer but The Baby Sitters Club series by Ann M. Martin. I have read a lot since I was a little girl and my absolute favorite books were BSC. Whenever I was able to go shopping with my Mom I would make a list of titles that I still needed and then carefully pick out which ones I wanted at the bookstore. She would also take me to secondhand bookstores and I would find a lot of the ones I needed there. I cherished these books, and one of my favorite reading memories was when I was home sick from school with a head cold. I curled up in my bed and read several Super Specials. Despite being sick, I had a ton of fun that day!

^ This answer killed me! I (Holly) could totally relate! Those books were definitely the jam. Leave us a comment with your answer to that last question! (But I bet you can’t top Lauren’s!)
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Review: Assassination Vacation

assassination vacation

Title: Assassination Vacation

Author: Sarah Vowell

Reviewed by Holly

Assassination Vacation – or Sarah Vowell’s books in general – were recommended by a friend when I was talking about my growing preference for nonfiction books, particularly nonfiction that tells a good story. I googled, and realized the Sarah Vowell has been a regular contributor to This American Life. This boded well, as did the description of Assassination Vacation on Goodreads:

“Sarah Vowell exposes the glorious conundrums of American history and culture with wit, probity, and an irreverent sense of humor. With Assassination Vacation, she takes us on a road trip like no other — a journey to the pit stops of American political murder and through the myriad ways they have been used for fun and profit, for political and cultural advantage.

From Buffalo to Alaska, Washington to the Dry Tortugas, Vowell visits locations immortalized and influenced by the spilling of politically important blood, reporting as she goes with her trademark blend of wisecracking humor, remarkable honesty, and thought-provoking criticism. We learn about the jinx that was Robert Todd Lincoln (present at the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley) and witness the politicking that went into the making of the Lincoln Memorial. The resulting narrative is much more than an entertaining and informative travelogue — it is the disturbing and fascinating story of how American death has been manipulated by popular culture, including literature, architecture, sculpture, and — the author’s favorite — historical tourism. Though the themes of loss and violence are explored and we make detours to see how the Republican Party became the Republican Party, there are all kinds of lighter diversions along the way into the lives of the three presidents and their assassins, including mummies, show tunes, mean-spirited totem poles, and a nineteenth-century biblical sex cult.”

Excellent, I thought – historical tourism with a quirky, Ira Glass-approved narrator. I was in.

When I started reading though, I didn’t take me long to realize that I was not enjoying this book. And, I had just read this post about the dilemma of reading something that you’re not digging – finish, or not? For the most part, I’m in Camp Finish. I wanted to give the book a fair shake, and I was holding out hope that it would get a little bit better.

The book is divided into 3 sections – Vowell visits sites related to the assassinations of Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley. I was well into the Lincoln section, waiting for a chapter-break so I could put the book down for a while, when I realized that each section was a chapter, and the Lincoln “chapter” went from page 18 to 121. In and of itself, I suppose there is nothing wrong with exceedingly long chapters, but I think the reason for not breaking up the presidential sections into chunks, is that there really was no theme or ribbon or story arc to connect one incident to the next. And I don’t mean connect the Lincoln incident to Garfield, etc, but rather, to connect Vowell’s trips together. She starts Lincoln’s story while she sits in the audience of a play in Ford’s Theater, then walks over to the Library of Congress. Then next we get a history of the Surratt boardinghouse and the conspirators, followed by 3 paragraphs on the William Seward House, complete with remarks from the museum director. And suddenly next we are going to the Lincoln’s Birthday wreath ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial.

All this, and we’re about 11 pages into Lincoln’s section. Vowell jumps from one place to another and  from history to present day, and I just could not ever figure out where she was going and why. She doesn’t tell her pilgrimages in linear order, or in chronological order of the events, and she brings different friends and family members along on her trips who weave in and out of her narratives.

After reading the book, I have no idea if all of the escapades took place over 6 months or 4 years, and I would say that matters because I never really got a sense for why she was visiting all the sites she could related to the assassinations. She did hint at some interesting thoughts and perspectives, as well as throwing in some commentary on the then-presidential administration (W), but I was too distracted trying to keep up with what place she was visiting now, to really get a sense for her motivation – I mean, besides to write a book with a catchy title.

I did enjoy the Garfield (60 pages) and McKinley (50 pages) sections more than the Lincoln one, probably because I did not know very much about those presidents or those assassinations. Also, perhaps because there aren’t quite as many places to visit, Vowell had to slow down and give a bit more detail about each place she was visiting, which made these chapters much less jarring.

Parting Words – there were a few places where this book had great potential to be what I wanted it to be, instead of being a hotmess of just barely related visits to off-the-beaten-path historical sites. This is one of those places:

“And while I gave up God a long time ago, I never shook the habit of wanting to believe in something bigger and better than myself. So I replaced my creed of everlasting life with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. ‘I believe in America,’ chants the first verse of one of my sacred texts, The Godfather. Not that I’m blind to the Psych 101 implications of trading in the martyred Jesus Christ (crucified on Good Friday) for the martyred Abraham Lincoln (shot on Good Friday).”

TWO Stars

 

 

 

Waiting on Wednesday – Rogue Edition

Holly

Hi. Holly here. Amanda is out-of-town and she left me unsupervised. Amateur move, sister.

Amanda usually does these Waiting on Wednesday* posts, which makes sense because, she finishes about 6 books to every 1 of mine. Generally, I can’t be bothered to look at books that haven’t even come out yet, because I’m trying to keep up reading just enough to be able to write a review every week or so. Amanda, however, clearly needs to read all of the book just to keep herself occupied on her daily commute. Don’t worry though, as of this morning, the woman has 1087 books on her to-read shelf on Goodreads. That should do her for a month or two.

Wait, where was I going, besides making fun of my best pal? Right. Waiting on Wednesday.

So, for this Holly-edition of Waiting on Wednesday, I’m not going to tell you about a not-yet-released book that I’m anticipating. I’m going to list a few books that I’m excited to read, just as soon as I finish my library books – which, incidentally, I have managed to renew 4 times since checking out. Here’s hoping I finish before I reach the renewal limit!

tiny beautiful things

 

1. Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed – because of this review. Well, actually just because of this line: “Cheryl Strayed can write like a motherfucker, and that talent is on display in every one of her lovely, profane, honest and frustrated columns collected in this book.” Sold.

for darkness shows the stars2. For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund – because, since I started trying to keep up with Amanda, I realized just how much YA dystopia, fantasy, sci-fi-sh stuff is out there, and I thought perhaps I’d try to get ahead of the game for once instead of picking up things after everyone else has raved about them (see: Divergent). A lot of the YA reviews I read don’t appeal to me, but this one? Yes. Okay, maybe everyone is already raving about this one, but haven’t seen it all over the place yet.

history of the wife

3. A History of the Wife by Marilyn Yalom – because I like to know what I’m getting myself into.

 

 

 

* Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

I Can (Not) Cry if I Want To

Or, why I’m not that into The Fault in Our Stars.

TFIOS

I know John Green is basically the new patron saint of adolescent literature, and I know his YA books are appreciated by audiences of all ages, and I know everyone is super jazzed about the upcoming movie.

I have to say though, I’m just not that into it, for two reasons.

1. I’m just not a crier. I mean, maybe, once or twice a year when I’m frustrated and there are no words with which I can adequately express my frustration – then, okay, perhaps I’ll shed a few tears. But books? Movies*? Sure, I get caught up in the stories (I am, after all, writing a blog dedicated to books and stories), feel for the characters, and experience the same (assumed) cathartic release of emotions as the criers do.

I don’t think not being a crier is a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s a thing – my thing. And being a crier is just a thing too, but there is something that irks me about how every single review/post/mention of TFIOS has some variation of “ermygod I ugly cried,” or “#criedsohard,” or “I am literally swimming in the tears produced by this book.”  Because when I read that everywhere, then I wonder if there really is something wrong with me (besides the fact that I clearly just have a cold black stone in place of a heart). So, can everyone please just stop trying to one-up each other on your tear volume?

*True story: I do vividly remember tearing up at ONE movie in middle school…Untamed Heart starring Christian Slater. My friends totally mocked me and I have not cried a drop at a movie ever since.

2. My second beef is more about the book than about everyone’s response to it. I liked the book just fine – I mean, it’s a nice YA story, as much as one can call a book about two kids with cancer a “nice” story. But it definitely is a book that makes heavy use of what I shall call The Dawson’s Creek Affect.** Dawson’s Creek, and, to give a more recent example, the movie Juno, presented adolescence the way that we all wish we’d experienced it, or the way we’d like to remember things happening. Everyone uses big words, and teens are incredibly self-aware and always standing by their well-developed inner convictions, and being quirky and uncool is really what’s cool.

Wait, is that how it happened for you?

Anyway, while everyone is going on and on about Hazel and Gus, and how amazing and strong and selfless and real they are (and not to mention, all of the tears), I just kept getting stuck on how well-developed and self-actualized these teenagers were. And, I am sure a teenager facing a terminal diagnosis is more likely to turn into a mindful and sensible person than one who is not battling cancer – but Hazel was just too smart for me to relate to. 16 year-old Holly would not have been friends with 16 year-old Hazel.

However, when I was relating my opinions to Amanda after reading this book, I realized that maybe the best YA works do deal with adolescents through adult glasses – because, while I may have been self-conscious, shallow, selfish, and naive as a teenager, I certainly don’t want to reminisce about those pain points from my clearly much more well-adjusted adult place. I’d much rather get caught up in Katniss Everdeen’s head than in that vapid girl from Twilight.

So maybe I’ll give another John Green book a shot – but don’t expect me to cry about it.

**References to Christian Slater AND Dawson’s Creek in one post? Hello 90s.

 

Review: Wake: A Novel

Wake: A Novel, Anna Hope

Amanda

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From Goodreads…

Wake: 1) Emerge or cause to emerge from sleep 2) Ritual for the dead 3) Consequence or aftermath.

Hettie, a dance instructress at the Palais, lives at home with her mother and her brother, mute and lost after his return from the war. One night, at work, she meets a wealthy, educated man and has reason to think he is as smitten with her as she is with him. Still there is something distracted about him, something she cannot reach…Evelyn works at the Pensions Exchange through which thousands of men have claimed benefits from wounds or debilitating distress. Embittered by her own loss, more and more estranged from her posh parents, she looks for solace in her adored brother who has not been the same since he returned from the front…Ada is beset by visions of her son on every street, convinced he is still alive. Helpless, her loving husband of 25 years has withdrawn from her. Then one day a young man appears at her door with notions to peddle, like hundreds of out of work veterans. But when he shows signs of being seriously disturbed-she recognizes the symptoms of “shell shock”-and utters the name of her son she is jolted to the core…

The lives of these three women are braided together, their stories gathering tremendous power as the ties that bind them become clear, and the body of the unknown soldier moves closer and closer to its final resting place.

Wake takes place over the course of 5 days as the body of an unknown soldier is removed from a grave in France and brought to London to be entombed with great ceremony.  I did not realize as I began this book the importance of the anonymous body being disinterred in France and I wish I had a better grasp of that because I was a little confused at times in the beginning.  Unlike Holly, I really enjoy books with multiple points of view so I liked the switching from anonymous scenes in France, to Hettie, to Evelyn and to Ada despite my early confusion.  The book was slow to start, but once I just went with the anonymous scenes in France it was very emotional and flowed well from woman to woman.  Once you read this definition– “Wake: 1) Emerge or cause to emerge from sleep 2) Ritual for the dead 3) Consequence or aftermath,” you see its the perfect title for the women of this novel.  

Ada is mourning her son, and yet hoping something caused her to receive the wrong news and that he didn’t die.  Hettie is trying hardest to actually live, while giving her wages to her mother and trying not to resent her brother who was so affected by his war experience.  And Evelyn is mourning her lost love and perhaps the most pitiable character as she is so full of anger and bitterness that she cannot move forward.  This book was emotional and intense as the paths of these women brushed through each other and as they each came to terms with the body of the unknown soldier being presented in ceremony.  Hope did an excellent job making these women feel real, not over dramatized at all as they changed over these 5 days.  It was especially sobering to read knowing that WWII was coming in reality.  I was thinking about this book for days after finishing it.

4 stars!

Thank you Random House and Netgalley for the advanced read copy for review!

Waiting on Wednesday — Bossy Sister Edition

Amanda

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

Winnie Davis: Daughter of the Lost Cause, Heath Hardage Lee

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From amazon.com:

Varina Anne “Winnie” Davis was born into a war-torn South in June of 1864, the youngest daughter of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his second wife, Varina Howell Davis. Born only a month after the death of beloved Confederate hero General J.E.B. Stuart during a string of Confederate victories, Winnie’s birth was hailed as a blessing by war-weary Southerners. They felt her arrival was a good omen signifying future victory. But after the Confederacy’s ultimate defeat in the Civil War, Winnie would spend her early life as a genteel refugee and a European expatriate abroad.

After returning to the South from German boarding school, Winnie was christened the “Daughter of the Confederacy” in 1886. This role was bestowed upon her by a Southern culture trying to sublimate its war losses. Particularly idolized by Confederate Veterans and the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Winnie became an icon of the Lost Cause, eclipsing even her father Jefferson in popularity.

Winnie Davis: Daughter of the Lost Cause is the first published biography of this little-known woman who unwittingly became the symbolic female figure of the defeated South. Her controversial engagement in 1890 to a Northerner lawyer whose grandfather was a famous abolitionist, and her later move to work as a writer in New York City, shocked her friends, family, and the Southern groups who worshiped her. Faced with the pressures of a community who violently rejected the match, Winnie desperately attempted to reconcile her prominent Old South history with her personal desire for tolerance and acceptance of her personal choices.

Seriously, could there be a better book for my sister to request (unless its one of my other 45 library recommendations)?  You’re welcome Holly.

Harry Potter Romance Controversy Our Thoughts

Amanda & Holly

Have you seen the news?!  JK Rowling has told Emma Watson–Hermione herself!– that she  “wrote the Hermione-Ron relationship as a form of wish fulfillment”, and that “for reasons that have very little to do with literature and far more to do with me clinging to the plot as I first imagined it, Hermione ended up with Ron” instead of with Harry himself.

WTF JK.

She is also quoted as predicting that the pair would have needed relationship counseling.  To that I say no big deal! I think counseling is good for everyone and why not take something that could make your relationship stronger? I am sure Hermione would instigate counseling and prod Ron into going with her.  Hermione and Ron both are strong willed and opinionated, so I’m sure that taking time to check in with a non-emotional party and making sure they’re both being heard and validated in their marriage would be a good thing!  My sister says I’m assuming a nagging female role for Hermione in the situation that she’d take him to counseling.  I’m assuming the smart woman who knows that marriage is WORK and needs to be worked on continuously actually. So neener neener neener Holly!

Here is how the conversation about these revelations went down between my sister and I during the very boring Super Bowl last night:

Holly:

For starters, WTF.  For seconds, it’s interesting that this is even a conversation. I’m watching the Superbowl and also reading comments on the twitter and the facebook where every commercial and facial expression is analyzed from every angle, but it still surprises me how much we, as in everyone, scrutinize authors outside of the books.  And sometimes completely change our minds about a book based on how we feel about an author.

Not that I’m changing my mind about anything! I just think its weird that a) JK can come out with a statement like that then b) it spreads like wildfire and c) we all go apepoop.

I love when Ron and Hermione get together.  And I love that it starts when Victor is interested in Hermione and then Ron finally wakes up!  I love that Harry and Hermione are platonic great friends of the opposite sex.

But truth?  I don’t love that in the end Harry & Ginny and Ron & Hermione are all happily ever after.  BUT NOT BECAUSE OF SOME BS IDEA THAT HARRY AND HERMIONE SHOULD BE TOGETHER.

The only reason it bothers me is that its just *too* neat and perpetuates this idea you must meet your soulmate, or at least someone you’re really into, by age 15 or you’re destined to wind up lonely and unhappy.

[Amanda disclaimer-I did meet my soul mate at 15. But I didn’t decide he WAS my soul mate for years and years!]

Of course I must remember who I’m talking to. That’s my point.  One of the 2 of us had met our best dude at 15.  The other of us would probably not have gotten along with dude at 15.  So it irks me a little that they all end up with their Hogwarts sweethearts.

Amanda:

I see your point.  Maybe because its a “kids book” the general Happily Ever After ending doesn’t bother me?  Because also, with the short epilogue she had to tie it neatly into a bow.  No room to introduce new loves.  I know some people would be happier if the epilogue was not even included– I am not one of them!

I also LOVE Hermione and I love that she doesn’t end up #2 to HP in a relationship.  She’s so much more than just his girlfriend.  Which I feel is how she would have ended up in perception if they had dated.

Holly:

Yes, I agree with what you’re saying about Hermione not being #2 to Harry, but not sure I agree with the wording.  Ginny isn’t exactly a doormat!  Harry can deal with an independent woman!  But yes, I am glad Harry and Hermione are not like that.  Because she belongs to Ron! So, take back everything I just said about being annoyed with the ending because I actually don’t want it any other way.

Amanda:

But then again it’s not like they had average lives where they were meeting the loves of their life at 15.  They were all signed up to die together.  Kind of different than me being afraid of Brother Ruhl with J.

Holly:

Also Ron gets kind of a bum deal.  What teenage boy isn’t at least a little bit of an idiot? 

[Amanda disclaimer: What fully grown male isn’t sometimes kind of an idiot?}

Amanda:

And that’s not what I meant either! Ginny is a bad ass!  Bat bogey hex?!  And yes– I agree re: Won Won.

Holly:

Excellent point.  Traumatic experiences lead to intense connections.  And I just died at Won Won.

In summary, even if JK thinks the ending should be different, she shoulda kept that thought to herself.  Or maybe she should write a new book about the next generation at Hogwarts.  Though I’d like to think those kids don’t have quite as much seriousness to deal with!  Second, I’d also like to think that Hermione and Rob both learn to bring out the best in one another.  Third, I bet Ginny, Harry, Hermy and Ron hang out like every Friday night.  Big fun.

Amanda:

I agree, but I don’t want books about the kids.  I am ok with just compulsively re-reading.  Besides, JK is too busy writing more Cormoran Strike to write more HP!

What are your thoughts?  Do you think Harry and Hermione belonged together?  Or were you a Lavender fan for Won Won? Are we just crazy?  I’m off to reread!