Do you save books for rainy day reading?

Do you save books for a “rainy day”?  Trish at Love, Laughter and A Touch of Insanity did a post about delaying pleasure reading that left me thinking.  Some books I want to read because they’re just happy – so why do I wait to read them when I know they’re going to put me into my blissful reading state where nothing else matters?  

Right now the two books I’ve started and stalled on are Jessica Valenti’s Sex Object – a memoir about sexism and Nicole Dennis-Benn’s Here Comes the Sun – a highly recommended novel but it’s about women living in poverty in Jamaica – not fluff.  I NEED FLUFF.  The news is poop, my kid is a petri dish and got sick and passed on to me, and sometimes I just need fluff.  I want to finish both of these books but first I’m going to cleanse my mental palate with Nora Roberts.  I’ve admitted I love Nora and I’m not ashamed.  I’m still trying to figure out how I’ve let the start of her newest trilogy sit on my kindle for 7 months unread.  

My next library book is Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson and I’m excited to read it.  But I’m going to have to balance the justice system and the two books above with something like Sarong Party Girls – and maybe even more smutty romance.  Any suggestions?

Is it just me?  What do you read when the news is dark?  How do you balance light and heavy reading?  Do you save rainy day reading material?  

Our Best Reads of 2015

Amanda

I fell 10 books behind on my Goodreads challenge of 155 books – I think if I had finagled the Goodreads system for rereads better I would have made it though! Oh well – on to 2016!  I read some books I really loved this year so I’d say this Top Ten order is pretty random.  Its also missing books that I also thought were amazing – like Mortal Heart, Invasion of the Tearling, Crimson Bound, Euphoria and Made You Up.  Sigh.  Maybe I should have done a top twenty list…  These were my happiest or most thought provoking and just best reads of 2015.

  1. A  Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman  
  2. Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan
  3. Romantic Outlaws by Charlotte Gordon (also the longest book I read!)
  4. Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
  5. All the Rage by Courtney Summers
  6. The Unquiet Dead by Ausuma Zehanat Khan
  7. The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
  8. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
  9. Uprooted by Naomi Novik  
  10. Dietland by Sarai Walker

 

Holly

I read about half as many books as I meant to in 2015, including 8 from Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series, 7/12 books from my TBR Challenge list, and 4 read-alongs with my sister (Persuasion, Invasion of the Tearling, Mortal Heart, & Romantic Outlaws). Here, in no particular order, are my favorite books that I read this year:

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. RowlingHurts soooooo good.

The Martian by Andy Weir – On audiobook, but I’m counting it because I loved it so much.

The Lords of Discipline by Pat ConroyNot exactly light honeymoon reading, but definitely a gateway book into more Conroy.

MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel BertscheYoung professional in a new city looking for her bestie? HIts a bit – er – close to home.

Persuasion by Jane AustenThe read-along was at least half the fun of reading this one!

I love reading lists- tell me your best reads of 2015!  Happy New Year!

2016 TBR Challenge

Happy almost 2016! It’s time to set the stage for our 2016 TBR Challenge. We didn’t quite finish our 2015 lists, but we’re ready to give it a go again this year.

Last year’s challenge was officially sanctioned, but that’s been discontinued, so we’re tracking our own progress along with Eva, The Paperback Princess. In keeping with the rules from last year’s challenge, these are all books published in 2014 or earlier.

Holly

2016 List

  1. Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple (2012) – Finished 3/21/2016
  2. Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott (1886)
  3. Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt (2012)
  4. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (2008) – Finished 3/19/16
  5. The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan (2006)
  6. Name All the Animals by Alison Smith (2005)
  7. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (1817)
  8. Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson (2014)
  9. Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman (2009)
  10. Sister  by Rosamund Lupton (2010) – Finished 3/1/16
  11. Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson (2011)
  12. A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman (2014)

Alternates

  1. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin (2010) – Finished 4/26/16
  2. We the Animals by Justin Torres (2011)

2015 TBR Carryovers

  1. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (1990)
  2. The Emperor of all Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee (2010)
  3. Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman (2006)
  4. When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present by Gail Collins (2009) – Finished 1/24/16
  5. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon (2001) – Finished 1/8/2016

Amanda

2016 List

  1. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (1817)
  2. Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Sussan (1966) – Look out book club!
  3. Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson (2014)
  4. Cinder by Marissa Meyer (2012)
  5. The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright (2006)
  6. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed (2012)
  7. The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan (2013)
  8. Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood (2012)
  9. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (1996)
  10. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (1948)
  11. The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Hercule Poirot #1) by Agatha Christie
  12. The Spellman Files: Document #1 by Lisa Lutz (2007)

Alternates

  1. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel (2006)
  2. The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard, #1) by Scott Lynch (2006)

2015 Holdovers:

  1. Primary Colors by Anonymous (1996) [this has been sitting on my bookshelf taunting me for like 10 years]
  2. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (1980)
  3. Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond (1997) [What was I thinking buying this on my honeymoon all those years ago? Not light beach reading]
  4. Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink (2013)
  5. Lipstick Jihad A Memoir of Growing up Iranian in America and American in Iran by Azadeh Moaveni (2005)

Some of these even cover Estella’s Revenge‘s #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks Challenge which is exciting!  Link up if you want to challenge yourself with us!

Become a Podcast Addict/ Nonfiction November

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This week in Nonfiction November, the topic is nontraditional nonfiction – including “e-books, audiobooks, illustrated and graphic nonfiction, oversized folios, miniatures, internet publishing, and enhanced books complete with artifacts.”

I love a good nonfiction book, but when it comes to other ways of consuming nonfiction, I have a clear favorite: podcasts. Oh, not just any podcasts – I am here to tell you exactly where to start listening to get hooked on audio storytelling.

Here is your 5 step guide to becoming a podcast-addict.

 

  1. Start here: In 2014 (or maybe late 2013?) Alex Blumberg left NPR to found a podcast company called Gimlet, where he chronicled his own journey in season one of Startup, and started launching new (amazing!) podcasts. Check out this recent episode of Startup, called “The Secret Formula,” which explains the kind of obsessively crafted podcasts Gimlet makes. This will set the tone for everything else you’re about to listen to.startup_logo_small2
  2. Next, try another Gimlet podcast: Mystery Show hosted by Starlee Klein. If you don’t love the episode “Belt Buckle”, then I’m not sure we can be friends.mystery_logo_small
  3. Remember when I said Alex Blumberg left NPR? Now it’s time to revisit where he learned how to make great podcasts: from one Ira Glass at This American Life. There are currently 539 shows, so I get that seems a bit overwhelming. Here’s a few episodes to start with: “Very Tough Love,” about a drug court in Georgia, and “The Problem We All Live With” – parts 1 and 2, about school segregation and integration. And also, “Fear of Sleep.” Seriously, just listen.logo-v5
  4. Before there was Gimlet, Alex Blumberg helped start NPR’s Planet Money, a show that bills itself this way: “Imagine you could call up a friend and say, “Meet me at the bar and tell me what’s going on with the economy.” Now imagine that’s actually a fun evening. That’s what we’re going for at Planet Money.” If you’re ready to dive into this show, start with this 5 episode series where the Planet Money team worked with economists to create a fake presidential candidate pitching an economist-approved agenda. No, really – it will get you thinking for sure.download
  5. It’s time for one more Gimlet Show. Alex Goldman and PJ Vogt host Reply All, “a show about the internet.” Careful readers may have noticed that I say “this is a book blog,” but I often start with books and then write about whatever I feel like – that’s basically what Alex and PJ do. They definitely start with the internet, but this show goes into all sorts of fascinating directions. Like in the episode “Shipped to Timbuktu.” You really, really, really need to listen to this one.replyall_logo_small

 

Bonus step: visit http://serialpodcast.org/ and wait for Season 2 to be released. You can certainly catch-up on Season 1 if you haven’t heard that yet. But I’m assuming you have, right? It’s the only the most popular podcast ever.

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Some technical notes: iTunes is the obvious place that most people find podcasts, but there are definitely alternatives. I’ve been using an app (for Android) called Podcast Addict that I love. I download when I’m on wifi and listen to downloaded episodes wherever: in the car, on a run, and while making dinner or doing laundry. You can also play the linked episodes above right from your computer.

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And finally – I am often terrible at responding to comments, but I really want to hear your thoughts on these podcasts and whatever podcasts you love! So let’s discuss, eh?

Book Pairings: Nonfiction November Edition

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In case you missed it, last week Amanda kicked off our Nonfiction November with some of her fave NF reads. Lest she call me out again for skipping out, here I am to get us started for this week’s topic: pairing up a nonfiction book with a fiction one.

Grouping books together is totally my jam – see exhibits a, b, and c – so I am excited about this topic.

Holly’s Pairings

Issac’s Storm + The Promise

Hurricane

Both of these books have been on my TBR for a while, and I’m actually just waiting for Issac’s Storm to be mine from the library so I can hop to it! Issac’s Storm is Erik Larson’s nonfiction account of the 1900 hurricane in Galveston, Texas – the greatest natural disaster in American history. The Promise is Ann Weisgarber’s novel about a young woman from Ohio who arrives in Galveston in 1900 to marry a childhood admirer. I can’t to see how the fictional account works in the realities of the storm.

 

The Girls of Atomic City + Code Name Verity

ww2

If you are interested in reading about women during WWII, then I’m going to recommend both of these books. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein is an amazing novel about two friends and the role they play in the war effort. The Girls of Atomic City is Denise Kiernan’s nonfiction account of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and the work that was done there during the war. Young women doing what they can during the war? Check. Hardships and reality? Check. Secrets and intrigue? Check. Seriously – you won’t regret reading either one.

 

Amanda’s Pairings

The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife and The Missing Corpse + The Talented Mr. Ripley

duke

I just finished The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife and The Missing Corpse which was kind of a bizarre story.  I spent most of the book trying to figure out when the Dead Duke really died and whose life he was living at the time.  Trying unravel this mystery led me to thinking about Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley.  Ripley’s way of becoming someone is far more sinister than what might have happened with the mysterious 5th Duke of Portland and  T.C. Druce – but Druce sounds like kind of a dirtbag which led me to this comparison.  

 

The Witches: Salem, 1692 + A Few YA Reads

FotorCreated

I’m only 20 pages into The Witches right now and I keep thinking of books I have read or want to read! First,  I thought of the Cahill Witch Chronicles by Jessica Spotswood which I’ve been wanting to read forever.  Witches trying to stay secret – yes please.  Next I thought of The Fever by Megan Abbott, about a creepy panic when high school girls fall ill.  Not my favorite read to be honest, but it was compelling and the paranoia hearkens back to Salem quite a bit in my mind.  Continuing with the YA theme I thought of The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker.  This is more of a stretch I think – but the accusations and the searching for witches is what brought it to my mind.   Last one,  maybe more middle grade I suppose, but the fantastic Madeline L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time series -specifically A Swiftly Tilting Planet.  As I read about Cotton Mather inserting himself into the history of Salem I thought about how he gets involved in the story of Meg and Charles Wallace.  And  I want to now throw over my whole TBR to read the whole Wrinkle in Time series again.   I am curious to see what else jumps to mind as I keep reading – and a bit nervous to read about what happened in Salem.  

What books are you linking together this week?

 

 

Banned Book Week 2016

It’s Banned Book Week, guys!

Last year, I jumped into the conversation with a post about impressionable teenage readers. When Sheila at Book Journey sent a reminder about Banned Book Week 2015, I was all in. I was thinking over the next few days about what to write about, when, as if on queue, there was breaking news about a YA book banned in New Zealand. Clearly, this was a sign. I cannot resist all things New Zealand.

Let me tell you about this book: Into the River, by Ted Dawe.

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In 2013, this novel, a prequel to Dawe’s earlier work Thunder Road, won a New Zealand Post Children’s Book Award.

Just recently, after complaints from a family advocacy group about the book’s “sexually explicit content, drug use and the use of a slang term for female genitalia” (The Guardian), the New Zealand Film and Literature board has placed an “interim restriction order” on the book, subject to a permanent classification sometime this month. (If you want the full scoop, go here.)

Currently, this book cannot be distributed or displayed anywhere in New Zealand.

Most of the new articles mention this being the first book banned in New Zealand in 22 years. I am not sure what book was banned 22 years ago, but according to this handy WIkipedia page, a book called The Peaceful Pill Handbook was initially banned in 2007.

The Peaceful Pill Handbook, not that I’m advocating for its banning, provides information on assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Into the River is a coming-of-age story at an all-boys boarding school in Auckland, New Zealand. Te Arapa is a Maori teenager who leaves his village and family to attend a prestigious boarding school on scholarship. The early chapters, dripping with cultural references, illustrate Te Arapa’s relationship with his grandfather, and how he grows up.

And then, he goes on to school, where his name and his identity are both transformed. Devon, as he is now called, makes a lot of bad decisions, many of them related to drugs and sex. He also witnesses his best friend’s inappropriate relationship with a teacher. In the end, I found that he had become a pretty despicable person (who was also surrounded by some awful adults).

The National Director of Family First NZ, the group that sparked the ban was quoted as saying “”I’ve read it to parents, I’ve sat with a group of fathers, none of them want their children to be reading it. I wouldn’t want my daughter to be hanging around with people who have been reading it.”

I wouldn’t want my daughter to be hanging around with people who have been reading it.

Yikes. That’s a powerful statement about fear of written words. I didn’t love this book. I didn’t love the characters. However, I don’t believe that reading this book would give anyone the impression that the choices Devon made were great, logical steps forward in life.

Parents, by all means, raise questions about what your children are reading. Give input. Discuss books together. Guide them towards books that will make them smarter, more critical, more compassionate people. Please.

But let’s give the entire population of NZ a little credit, and let individuals and families make their own choices about reading material.

And, if you want to throw Ted Dawe a bone, Into the River is available on Amazon – complete with a parental advisory explicit content warning (provided you’re not in NZ).

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What I’ve Been Reading

Oh, hello there, reader. My sister has done an admirable job of keeping up the book talk here at Gun In Act One, while I’ve been buried under a mountain of work, but it’s high time I reported in on what (little) I’ve been reading.

  1. MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche – this book came into my life last summer.  I finally picked it up one night recently, which turned out to be perfect timing. Bertsche’s memoir is about finding that she hasn’t established a real, solid friendship in her city after two years of living there – and she chronicles her quest to change that by going on 52 friend dates over the course of the year. While I’m not about to add that challenge to my to-do list, I did come away with plenty to think about in terms of the effort it takes to make friends in your twenties thirties.
  2. mwfSome work books. Okay, I won’t go into everything I’ve read recently about workplace culture and communications, but here’s one: The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni. I know business books are not for everyone, but books are my go-to for just about everything. This one was recommended to me, and I dug it.advantage
  3. The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy – while Amanda has long professed her love for Beach Music, this was my first Pat Conroy novel, though it will not be my last. I started this while J & I were headed to vacation in Charleston, and I finished en route back to the midwest. I loved the parts of the book that read as a love letter to the holy city. I loved the rest of the book too – a heartbreaking and fascinating and devastating look into the friendship between four boys in a military college in the 1960s.  

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What have you been reading this summer?