Top Ten Tuesday – New TBR Finds

It IS still Tuesday, right?

I have to say, ever since we started blogging about books, I am constantly adding more books to my TBR list. Here are ten that caught our eyes recently.

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Thanks to the Broke and Bookish for the topic. Click here for more Top Ten Tuesdays!

Holly

  1. The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World’s Favorite Board Game by Mary Pilon – I need more nonfiction like this in my life
  2. Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen – because reading Persuasion was fun
  3. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh – I don’t know what this book is but Amanda is all about it
  4. The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan – I found this one after finishing Rodin’s Lover and searching for more books in the historical-fiction-about-artists genre
  5. That Summer by Lauren Willig – I am ready to try out some more Lauren Willig because I love the Pink Carnation books!

Amanda

  1. The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: Mass Delusion and the Dark Side of Cute by Zac Bissonnette.  Thanks Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness for catching my eye with this one!
  2. Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship by Robert Kurson
  3. The Witches by Stacy Schiff
  4. This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!  by Jonathon Evison.
  5. The Royal We by Heather Cocks

What great books have you heard about recently?

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Review: Little Big

Little, Big, John Crowley

Published 1981 by Harper Collins

562 pages

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I was not actually going to write a whole post on this book, but I was trying to find a way to sum it up and I just decided it could not be done succinctly.

I was gifted this book at my 8th grade graduation by one of my dad’s business partners who I adore. However, 14 year-old Holly just could not get into this book, though it remained on my bookshelf all these years.

Little, Big won the World Fantasy Award in 1982, so I knew there was an element of fantasy coming, though it took a while to figure out the setting of the book. We are introduced early on to Smoky Barnable, who works in The City, and he is on his way to marry Daily Alice Drinkwater. He is given specific instructions for the wedding, so the first chapter finds him: “walking not riding to Edgewood, with a wedding-suit in his pack old not new, and food made not bought; and [looking around] himself for a place to spend the night, that he must beg or find but not pay for.”

At that point, I thought the whole book might be an epic quest to get to his bride, but Smoky does indeed succeed in his journey and he and Daily Alice are married. From there, we get glimpses into the past with Alice’s ancestors and into the future with stories of Smoky and Alice’s children, and all the while, the family remains and Edgewood and retains a special connection that the Drinkwater family has to the realm of magic.

You guys, this book is wacky. There is a fish named Grandfather Trout, and, eventually, the reincarnation of a Holy Roman Emperor. There’s a stork and a changeling and a folding bedroom and naps lasting for years. I still don’t really understand what happened – but I will say I have no regrets about reading this book, and I may even pick it up again in another 18 years or so.

Smoky also does not understand everything that happens in the Tale, but he does get some of my favorite lines:

“No,” Smoky said. “No, but there are things in the world that aren’t made up but which aren’t exactly true either, not true like the sky is up and the ground is down, and two and two make four, things like that.”

And

He had after all never been more than a minor character in that destiny, he had always expected to be left in some sense behind: but that fate had been for so long in abeyance, causing him no grief, that (without ever quite forgetting it) he had chosen to ignore it; had even sometimes allowed himself to believe that he had made it go away, by his goodness and acquiescence and fidelity, go away. But he had not. Here is was: and, as gently as she could consonant with there being no mistake about it, Alice was telling him so.

“Okay, okay,” he said. “Okay.” That was a code-word between them, meaning I don’t understand but I have come to the limit of my strength to try to understand, and I trust you to this point anyway, and let’s talk about something else.

Review: P. Zonka Lays An Egg

Review: P. Zonka Lays an Egg, Julie Paschkis

Amanda & Babycakes

Published March 1st 2015 by Peachtree Publishers

Hardcover, 32 pages

Source: ALA Midwinter meeting

23116074Description from Goodreads:

Extraordinary hen P. Zonka spends her time taking in the beauty around her: shiny green grass, buttery yellow dandelions, deep blue sky. The other hens can’t understand why she never lays eggs like they do. Finally, P. Zonka gives in and lays an egg. To everyone’s delight, she produces a wondrous egg containing all the colors and designs that she stores in her imagination.

This will be a short and sweet review for this sweet and beautiful children’s book.  If you’re filling an Easter basket make sure P. Zonka is in it!  This book bright and cheerful and the eggs that P. Zonka lays are seriously gorgeous!  Babycakes and I loved that P. Zonka is happy just doing her own thing every day. She’s not worried about how many eggs one needs to lay.

Added bonus, I loved the end notes about the Ukrainian origins of the eggs and P. Zonka’s name.  You need to read this happy little book!

5 stars!

Thank you Peachtree Publishers for this galley copy!

Review: Ghettoside

Ghettoside: A Story of Murder in America, Jill Leovy

Amanda

Published January 27th 2015 by Spiegel & Grau

Hardcover, 384 pages

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley

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From Goodreads

On a warm spring evening in South Los Angeles, a young man was shot and killed on a sidewalk minutes away from his home, one of hundreds of young men slain in LA every year. His assailant ran down the street, jumped into an SUV, and vanished, hoping to join the vast majority of killers in American cities who are never arrested for their crimes. But as soon as the case was assigned to Detective John Skaggs, the odds shifted. Here is the kaleidoscopic story of the quintessential American murder–one young black man slaying another–and a determined crew of detectives whose creed was to pursue justice at all costs for its forgotten victims. Ghettoside is a fast-paced narrative of a devastating crime, an intimate portrait of detectives and a community bonded in tragedy, and a surprising new lens into the great subject of murder in America–why it happens and how the plague of killings might yet be stopped.

The sad numbers of murders in Los Angeles are not the highest in the country-that goes to my own beloved Chicago.  I wanted to read Ghettoside in part to learn the one murder story Leovy focuses on, but also  to think about what could be applied from LA to the heartbreaking stories here.  This book kept me engaged throughout despite the heavy topic and the statistics.

Ghettoside takes us through the random murder of one young black man in LA, Bryant Tennelle, and also delves into the city’s murder epidemic itself.  Leovy learned the term ghettoside from a homicide detective who picked it up from a Watts gang member to describe his neighborhood:

The term captured the situation nicely, mixing geography and status with the hustler’s poetic precision and perverse conceit.  It was both a place and predicament, and gave a name to that other wordly seclusion that all the violent black pockets of the county had in common…There was a sameness to these places, and the policing that went on in them.  

Leovy looks at the LA police department and its individual homicide investigators, as well as at the offenders, their victims and at witnesses.  Tennelle’s murder is terrible but it is not the only sad story you read about. The men shot everyday in LA each have a story- and Leovy recounts as many as she can as the investigation goes on.  Its just overwhelming how many lives are lost over the course of this book.  I appreciated that Leovy discusses not only the great homicide investigators, but those that have also kind of given up to the “Monster” that is destroying communities.

Leovy makes the reader think about how deep the roots of the ghettoside epidemic go, both in distance and in time.  One must consider the distrust the marginalized have for the police as well as the frustration the police have from community members who won’t help or are unable to help them due to fear of retribution.  The facts that Leovy cites are staggering at times:

From 1994 to 2006, a suspect was arrested in 41% of the 3,300 killings involving black male victims in the city of Los Angeles according to the police department’s own data.

41%!  It not hard to see why communities feel they should be policing their own rather than going to the city.  One of the things that really struck me was a quote about a shooter – I don’t want to say who, but–

If ***** had been your average high school student somewhere else, he might have just been another misfit…  

So many young people aren’t allowed the chance to be an average high school ANYTHING.  This young man ruined his life-and so many others – without maybe ever understanding what he was getting into when he began.  Where are the answers to the ghettoside problems?  Education?  Gun control?  More money to our police departments?  Definitely in better discussions about race and violence.  Ghettoside is definitely one to read and think about.

If you want to read more about Leovy here is a link to an interview with Fresh Air.

Have you read Ghettoside?  Give me your thoughts!

4 stars!

Thank you to Spiegel & Grau and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion.

All quotes are taken from an uncorrected proof, and may differ in the final version of the book.

Top Ten Books We’d Like to Reread from Childhood

Today we’re hooking up with the Broke and the Bookish for the Top 10 books from our teen years that we would love to revisit

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Amanda:

  1. Anne of Green Gables. All the Anne books really. I need to break down and buy the gorgeous new Puffin edition. But I need more bookshelves first.
  2. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of N.I.M.H.  I only remember that I loved this, can’t remember why. #old
  3. Matilda- when can I read this to Babycakes I wonder?  This first or the B.F.G…
  4. Over Sea and Under Stone, (The Dark is Rising Series)Susan Cooper. I am waiting for this to come from the library. My copies of this series disintegrated from being read so often.
  5. A Wrinkle in Time- I have reread this kind of recently. Still an amazing series. Meg is a character I cannot wait to introduce my daughter to!

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Holly

  1. James and the Giant Peach – books this awesome do not require an explanation.
  2. The Phantom Tollbooth – I have re-read this one in recent years. It holds up.
  3. The Giver – I have been meaning to revisit this one and also finish the rest of the series.
  4. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – notwithstanding the fact that Turkish delight is not actually delightful
  5. From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – I don’t remember too much about this book other than learning how to hide in a museum bathroom after hours. Perhaps someday that knowledge will come in handy.

What’s on your list?

Review: At the Water’s Edge

At the Water’s Edge, Sara Gruen

Amanda

Expected publication: March 31st 2015 by Spiegel & Grau

Hardcover, 368 pages

Source: e-ARC from Edelweiss

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From Goodreads…

After embarrassing themselves at the social event of the year in high society Philadelphia on New Year’s Eve of 1942, Maddie and Ellis Hyde are cut off financially by Ellis’s father, a former army Colonel who is already embarrassed by his son’s inability to serve in WWII due to his being colorblind. To Maddie’s horror, Ellis decides that the only way to regain his father’s favor is to succeed in a venture his father attempted and very publicly failed at: he will hunt the famous Loch Ness monster and when he finds it he will restore his father’s name and return to his father’s good graces (and pocketbook). Joined by their friend Hank, a wealthy socialite, the three make their way to Scotland in the midst of war. Each day the two men go off to hunt the monster, while another monster, Hitler, is devastating Europe. And Maddie, now alone in a foreign country, must begin to figure out who she is and what she wants. The novel tells of Maddie’s social awakening: to the harsh realities of life, to the beauties of nature, to a connection with forces larger than herself, to female friendship, and finally, to love.

I admit to some trepidation to beginning At the Water’s Edge.  I loved Water for Elephants (who didn’t?) but her sophomore effort was a book that I wish I hadn’t finished.  That being said, when I saw this was a book involving the Loch Ness Monster I had to read it!  I’m so glad I did because I really enjoyed At the Water’s Edge.  Maddie and Ellis are not a likeable couple when we meet them.  They’re spoiled rich kids living off Ellis’ father and waiting for Maddie’s father to die to “earn” their own fortune.  They drink days and nights away and find all the trouble they can with Ellis’ best friend Hank- another rich ne’er do well.

Maddie has historically been up for any adventure Hank and Ellis suggest, so they assume she’ll also be willing to take an ocean voyage across the Atlantic in the midst of WWII to help them find the Loch Ness Monster.  The trip across U-boat infested waters begins to bring a bit of awareness to Maddie about how lucky they really have been in life.  They arrive in Scotland after a whirlwind beginning to the book and I had my first real look at what marriage is like between this couple.  Ellis is an ass and I didn’t think much better of Maddie at first either.  Ellis and Hank are both deferred from the Army for “medical reasons”.  This causes them both great shame at home and is a major factor in starting their quest.  Maddie finds the deferrals even more disturbing as they’ve actually moved to the UK; a land of rationing, black-out curtains and needing a gas mask with one at all times.

As days of attempting to get footage of Nessie swimming turn into drunken hours at the lakefront Maddie turns away from Ellis and Hank.  She spends her time in the small inn that they’re staying at and even finds herself developing friendships with the hired help-something she’d have never done in Philadelphia.  Maddie starts to question not only Ellis’ motivation in marriage but where she wants her life to go.  As I said, this book does not begin with likeable characters-but I loved how Maddie changed herself once they arrived in Scotland.  I was sure that I would still not like her in the end, but she really finds inner strength and proves herself.  The romance was sweet and also not what I was expecting.

Let us not forget Nessie.  There may or may not be a bad-ass appearance by the monster that steals the book.

4 stars!

Thank you Spiegel & Grau and Edelweiss for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion.

Review: Between Everything and Us

Between Everything and Us, Rebecca Paula  (Sutton College #1)

Amanda

Published January 20th 2015

Source-e-ARC from author

23257933From Goodreads

Matisse Evans is determined to make her sophomore year of college successful after failing out of a prestigious art school and spending a horribly boring gap year at home. Despite her focus, time isn’t on her side as she struggles to hold down three jobs so she can afford her first apartment while juggling course work. In the chaos of it all, Beau Grady moves in and shakes up her world. A college dropout and tattooed bad boy, the rumors about Beau mean one thing for Matisse—trouble. Paralyzed by the fear that she’s missing out on life, Matisse discovers plans may unravel, but what rises in their wake can be worth the uncertainty.

After spending the summer couch surfing, Beau Grady moves into an empty room at his ex-girlfriend’s Portland bungalow, skipping his senior year of college to spend his days working at a Vietnamese food cart instead. Once a star hockey player and gifted student, he’s put his life on hold after receiving a life-altering diagnosis, complacent to live in the moment. Hiding behind false rumors and bad habits, Beau falls for Matisse, letting her believe the worst until their relationship blooms into something they both can’t ignore. Falling for her means having to face a future he’d rather forget, but loving her just might be worth it.

I reviewed Rebecca Paula’s debut Everly After last year and I could not have loved it more.  I felt like I found a bit of my beloved Beckett in Beau Grady.  Beau has all the right appeal for a college girl looking for romance a) he’s hot, b) he’s a hockey player, and c) he’s got a motorcycle. Enough said. However, there’s more to Beau that meets the eye, and the rumors on campus don’t begin to get to the truth.

Matisse- Mati, is trying to prove she can make it as an art student after failing out of her first school. She tries – really tries! – her hardest to avoid the distraction in her hot new roommate.  She has an eye on a prestigious internship and is trying to keep her parents happy with her performance at school.

There’s a slow burn between Beau and Mati which I loved.  They annoy each other into flirtation and some serious sexual tension.  I loved the back and forth- will they or won’t they?  Beau hides behind the rumors about his reasons for dropping out of school. He doesn’t feel like he’s good enough for Mati:

Mati is a someday-girl, the one you’re supposed to meet later when you’re less of a prick and have your shit together.  Someday girls are lost to idiots like me now, and if I’m being honest, they don’t’ exist in the future either.  Because there’s a guy who is ready, who does know how to be an adult and can love a girl like Mati as much as she deserves.  And those guys turn someday girls into forever girls and leave us losers to keep chasing after a string of hookups while we’re stuck remembering the one perfect girl who got away.

Sigh – after all the build up I wanted more.  It felt like Beau and Mati went from interested in each other, to cooling things off, then straight into a relationship -and then on their way out again .  Give me the pay-off for the slow burn!  I wanted less fighting and more flirting!  Paula definitely does write hot romances though-that you can count on.  Rebecca Paula is an author I will for sure keep reading and I am curious to see what else goes on at Sutton College!

3 stars

Thank you Rebecca for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion.