How many books do you read at once?

As I looked at my Currently-Reading shelf on Goodreads last night I realized that my reading style is really kind of crazy lately.  I have 6 books down as currently reading!  And really, 5 of them I am in the process of reading.

  1. The Invasion of the Tearling.  Maybe you’ve noticed I can’t shut up about Book 1- The Queen of the Tearling.  Holly and I are reading #2 together and she is taking her sweeeeeeeeeeeet time.  I’m not reading ahead only because I’m the best sister ever.
  2. The Scarlet Pimpernel.  This has been on my TBR for years (thanks Mom!) and thanks to the 2015 TBR Challenge I’m finally crossing it off. I’m excited to see the spies in action that inspired the Pink Carnation series.
  3. Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science-and the World.  My morning commute non-fiction.  I can’t read non-fiction after work or I fall asleep – no matter how good it is.  Shameful! But anyway, this book is awesome! Full of super cool and smart women!
  4. Recipe for Disaster by Stacey Ballis.  Honestly I’ve mostly heard of Ballis because she’s Jen Lancaster’s bestie, but that seemed as good a reason as any to pick up her book at ALA this January.  Kind of a cute chick book thus far, good for when I want to read but not tax my brain.
  5. Never Be Younger: A YA Anthology.  9 retellings of Shakespeare stories in young adult.  I need to finish asap for a review this week! Thankfully these are fast reads.
  6. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  This is the cheater on my current list. I don’t think I’ve picked this up since January.  I clearly need to just go back to page 1. I fear I’d be disowned all around if I quit this without a fair chance.

I like going between different books for commuting and a definitely a different read for before bed.  I really like to reread at bedtime because I don’t want to get so sucked into something new that I have to stay awake- anyone else?

I also like to have a few genres going at a time.  This is a lot – but I’d say I often have a non-fiction and 2 fictions reading at once. Maybe a high fantasy and a contemporary? Or YA and an adult.

Do you read more than one book at once?  Or listen to one and read one?  Please tell me someone has more books going at once than my five!  Holly pointed me to this post at I’m Lost in Books where the blogger reads 12 books at a time! Though that makes my head hurt to think about, she makes the comparison to keeping up with multiple tv shows at once. I think that makes sense- but I don’t watch that much tv either!

Also I’m playing with Riffle as opposed to Goodreads.  Are you on Riffle?  Any reason you might like it better than Goodreads?

Update! I forgot my kindle this morning.  Boo hoo! So my TBR is about to be 7 books because I need something for my ride home!

2015 TBR Challenge Check-In

Well, as we’re a quarter of the way through 2015, it’s time to see how far we’ve made it in the Roofbeam Reader 2015 TBR Challenge. We each listed 12 books that we are determined to get through this year.

Click here for our lists

Holly –

I have finished 3/12. I had #4 out from the library but I didn’t get to it before it was due back, so I’m not sure which I’ll be looking to read next

Little, Big – I have moved this book countless times since 1996, and once I put it on my 2015 TBR List, I knew I had to tackle it first. In defense of the number of years it took me to read this book, I am confident that I got more out of it now than I would have had I read it at 14.

Persuasion – Check out all the fun Amanda and I had reading this book from our readalong posts. I am glad I finally got around to this Jane Austen classic, and now I’m inspired to make it to the rest of her works (maybe not in 2015…).

The Casual Vacancy – My heart is still recovering from this one.

Amanda –

I feel like a failure! I’m at 2/12.  I have started #3-The Hitchhiker’s Guide- but it was over a month ago so I don’t think that counts anymore.  Maybe I’ll start the Scarlet Pimpernel next to go along with our Lauren Willig Pink for All Seasons Readalong.  Those are kind of odd books to flip between!

Persuasion– Loved it!  See above!

Into thin Air – You’re never going to catch me climbing Everest let me just tell you!

Now less typing and more reading!

On New Releases

Blogging about books has certainly changed the way I read. I read more, and pay more attention to details about each book so that I can have something (hopefully) interesting to write about. I keep better track of what I want to read soon, and what books might compliment one another. I have a better awareness of what books are out there, and what is getting good reviews, so I can choose more deliberately. Don’t get me wrong – I read always and only because I find it enjoyable, but blogging has made me a bit more systematic in my approach to books.

However, one thing that has not changed is that I just.don’t.care about reading new books right as they’re released.

Recently, I read this great round-up of books that will be adapted for TV and film in 2015 from River City Reading. I had a moment of panic about all the books I haven’t read yet (but mean to): The Casual Vacancy, Me Before You, The Maddaddam Trilogy, The Martian, and so on and so on! Ahhhh!

And then I remembered that in addition to rarely getting around to new release books (and yes, I realize that there are books on that list/link that are not at all new releases), I am also non-committal about seeing TV/movies when they’re released. I am currently (slowly) watching season 3 of Big Love, and just finished season 3 of Justified. I’m clearly okay with being behind the times.

I understand that there is some benefit of weighing in on cultural conversations when a new book/TV/movie is released. I also understand that many of those conversations take place on the Twitter these days, which is another area I just can’t keep up with. Maybe that’s why I don’t like Twitter – it’s too current. I should probably start reading backlist Tweets to see how that feels.

What do you think? Are you up-to-date on new releases? Or trying to finish books you’ve had since 1996?

One Year Later

CAKE_CLIPART

Guess what, people? We started this blog exactly one year ago today. In honor of our birthday, we’ve decided to reveal the answers to life, the universe, and everything. Or, just share a few details about what we’ve been doing this year.

What on earth are you guys doing?

I think that it started something like this:

Amanda: You know, one of my friends has a book blog.

Holly: WTF is a book blog?

Amanda: You know, like a blog, about books. We could do that!

Holly: Yeah, I don’t really understand what that means. Let’s do it!

Amanda: Secretly plots how she will get access to all of the books.

Holly: Secretly plots how she will write about random things and vaguely connect them to books. Maybe no one will notice?

Why do you guys do this?

Reason 1: It’s fun, and we think we are hilarious.

Reason 2: We’ve started reading books together to write about, which are probably some of our best posts. If you want to see that for yourself, check out the books we’ve read together this year.

The Cuckoo’s Calling

Grave Mercy

Dorothy Must Die

Dark Triumph

The Silkworm

Reason 3: We have been validated by actual writers, so we feel justified in continuing to write in our own way about books. This post about reading about John Brown received a comment from author Tony Horwitz. That’s Pulitzer Prize winning Tony Horwitz, yo. And Amanda recently got an author comment on her review of a book by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg – a.k.a. superbestsellers.

So, we’ll just keep doing what we do. Maybe we’ll get better. Maybe we’ll update our now out-of-date ‘about us’ page soon.

Why should I read your blog?

a. Because we’re funny?

b. So you know what books to read? (Or not to read?)

c. Because sometimes we give things away. Come back on Saturday because we are giving away a book we love!

d. All of the above. Obviously

e. 42

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books On Our Fall To-Be-Read list

Today we’re hooking up with the Broke and the Bookish for their Top Ten Tuesday and here are our Top Ten books to read this fall:

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Holly – I honestly have a lot of non-fiction books that I have my eye on, but none of them made it onto this list – probably because they take me longer to read, while I know I can realistically get through most of these while it’s still Fall.

The Silkworm – I know, I know, Amanda and I need to read this book. After all, we LOVED the first Comoran Strike book!

Feed – Amanda told me that I must read THIS Feed, by Mira Grant (currently reading it, sister!), and then I learned there is ANOTHER popular YA book, also called Feed, by M.T. Anderson. I decided I must read both.

Dark Triumph – Not gonna lie, I did not love the first book about teenage nun assassins. But, Amanda has talked me into reading the second, so we should get on that soon. Maybe this one will make more sense?

Silvern – I have some thoughts on Gilded, the first book in this series (trilogy?) – some good, some bad, some undecided, but I am intrigued enough to be ready for Silvern. I shall report back.

Little, Big – Remember when I wrote about the David Foster Wallace article that took me 3 years to read? Well, that ain’t got nothing on Little, Big. I received this book from a co-worker of my dad’s who I adore, for a graduation present. From 8th grade. In 1996. I think I tried to read it then, and I didn’t get very far, but this book has moved all over the place with me, and has a spot on my limited bookshelf. It’s time.

Amanda– I’m doing a happy dance that Holly is reading Feed! Everyone should read it! Seriously!

Dreams of Gods and Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #3) – I’m ashamed of how long I’ve had this out from the library.  The end of the second book just about killed me so I really need to start this.  Its huge though and its been intimidating me because of that.  Seriously, the hardcover is 613 pages.

Bitter Greens – Historical fiction and retelling of Rapunzel set in Venice?  Yes please.

The Cure for Dreaming – This sounds delightfully creepy.  Shamefully I have Cat Winters’ first book In the Shadow of Blackbirds on my shelf to read still too.

The Birth of the Pill – This seems timely with the news regarding reproductive freedom.  My next nonfiction to start-I am really excited!

Dark Triumph – As Holly said above, I wasn’t as enamored with the first book as others, but I’m intrigued by Sybella and I think I’m going to have to talk to my sister into reading this along with me very soon.

What are you looking forward to reading this Fall?

Blogging, ARCs, and Obligations

Holly:

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, and you are the observant type (unlike me), you might have noticed that Amanda posts a lot more reviews than me. That is because she reads faster than a speeding bullet. She also receives and reviews a lot more ARCs (that’s Advance Reader Copies) and other books directly from publishers.

I have, since we started blogging, requested exactly one book through Netgalley (a site where bloggers and reviews can request books to read before they are published). It was a Civil War novel called Neverhome and I did not get it. I have, since we started blogging, received exactly one book from a publisher, Dorothy Must Die, because I saw Amanda emailing with the publisher, and I said, “oooh, ask if they’ll send me one too, and we can review it together!” She obliged, and they obliged.

Anyway, I haven’t been too motivated to seek review copies – I have a lot of books on my (small) bookshelf, or downloaded for my Kindle, or available at the library, and I just am not that inspired to keep up with what’s not even out yet. I don’t want deadlines, self-imposed or otherwise, on my reading.

But, I don’t think that’s how Amanda sees it at all, so I thought we should discuss. I started by sending Amanda a link to this blog post where Kim @ Sophisticated Dorkiness argues that blogging “for” books has negative connotations, and calls for bloggers to start thinking of reviews differently – less about reviews “in exchange for” books, and more as “for review consideration.

So, sister, discuss:

Amanda:

I admit it. I read quickly.  I can’t help it.  Reading is also my first choice for entertainment 90% of the time.  I’d rather sit on the couch with a book than watch tv.  Its not always high brow reading and that’s fine!  As a result I’m always looking for my next book.  I have my library hold list maintenance down to a science.  I love knowing what books are coming out soon and stalking my favorite authors for more.  I love hearing what friends are reading and I love talking about books.  So when I realized how many book blogs are out there and that I could really do this myself-with my sister of course-requesting ARCs became part of that.  

I won’t deny that part of the appeal of setting up a book blog was free books-not only that, free books before they’re published.  But I love connecting with people who read even more than me and that read the same random variety that I do.  My goodreads shelf that I’m currently reading now contains chick-lit, fantasy, feminist essays, and historical fiction-both YA and adult.  I will try almost any book you put in front of me and I love finding others like that.

Holly:

Hmm, but does free mean in exchange for a review, or does free mean, review and talk about this book if you really love it? Because some of the books you’ve received do not sound very good – and I’m not sure that those reviews are very helpful to the publishers – uh, I guess unless people are into that sort of stuff…

So are you obligated to review, or not?

Holly again:

Amanda’s response has been to send more more links to read!

A thoughtful response on On Starships and Dragonwings, weighing in on “exchange” and “consideration” and another from There Were Books Involved.

Hmmm, both of these are pretty much in agreement with the first link I sent Amanda, that maybe the sentence “I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review” is not entirely accurate or appropriate.

So maybe Amanda agrees too? And will change her mind about phrasing her reviews? I’m waiting to find out. [Taps foot. I’d whistle too but I am not capable of whistling. #truth]

Amanda:

I guess my basic thought is-why would a publisher give me a book FOR FREE if I wasn’t going to give some kind of opinion on it to the world at large to see?  Why would I ASK for a book if I wasn’t willing to do that?  Yes, there have been some books that I requested and read that either a) weren’t well written or b) insane and icky–but that doesn’t mean they won’t work for someone else.  There are people out there, sister, that consider Twilight high-fiction.  Who said there’s no such thing as bad publicity?  That’s a quote right?  Maybe that’s true in the book business?

Maybe I’d feel differently if I had authors beating down my door trying to give me books I don’t want to read.  Aside from spammy twitter attempts I haven’t really had that happen.  Really the lack of payment exchange is what sums it up for me.  If I want to read something without giving a review and without paying for it I will go to the amazing Chicago Public Library.  If they don’t have it I’ll try Paperbackswap.com.  If they don’t have it I’ll either suck it up and buy or go without.  But if I ask for something to read for free from a publisher I have no problem with their being an expectation for a review or some kind of feedback submitted.

Holly:

You know, I definitely don’t have authors beating down my door trying to give me books I don’t want to read. But you know what I do have? A sister always trying to demand I read more of the books. Sigh.

Amanda:

But come on! Have I been wrong?  Go back and read Quintana and then sigh at me sister.

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Whatever. Smooches.

Reading Outside the Box

Holly here – you may have noticed that Amanda has been pumping out the books reviews lately! I must again point out,  in case anyone out there is feeling inadequate, that my sister reads at a super-human speed. In the meantime, I  was slogging my way through a few long books, and happy to let Amanda drive the blog, but she said something to me yesterday along the lines of:  “hey slappy – you better post something soon or else I won’t take you to this place I just heard about that serves Korean BBQ tacos on naan when you visit next month.” Clearly she knows how to motivate me – here I am.

Since Amanda and I started this blog, I’ve been reading more, but I’ve also been reading more deliberately – that is, paying attention to what sort of books I am most drawn to. And, while I am sure that I read across different genres, and a mix of fiction and non-fiction, I’ve noticed a few articles lately about diversity, or the lack thereof, in popular fiction (particularly YA).

At the same time, I was listening to the NPR TED Radio hour podcast recently, and in the episode “Identities,” novelist Elif Shafak was talking about her writing process – writing in Turkish and English, writing as a woman from the Muslim world, and navigating different cultures – and one line about the power of literary characters really struck me:

In my mid-20s, I moved to Istanbul – the city I adore. I lived in a very vibrant, diverse neighborhood where I wrote several of my novels. I was in Istanbul when the earthquake hit in 1999. When I ran out of the building at three in the morning, I saw something that stopped me in my tracks. There was the local grocer there, a grumpy old man who didn’t sell alcohol and didn’t speak to marginals. He was sitting next to a transvestite with black – long black wig and mascara running down her cheeks. I watched the man open a pack of cigarettes with trembling hands and offer one to her. And that is the image of the night of earthquake in my mind today.

A conservative grocery and a crying transvestite smoking together on the sidewalk. On the face of death and destruction, our mundane differences evaporated and we all became one, even if for a few hours. But I’ve always believed that stories do have a similar effect on us. I’m not saying that fiction has the magnitude of an earthquake, but when we are reading a good novel, we leave our small, cozy apartments behind, go out into the night alone and start getting to know people we had never met before and perhaps had even been biased against.

Yes yes yes. I think reading a book about a character who you can identify with is extremely powerful, but so it is reading a book about someone who is not like you.

So, as I keep adding to my ever-growing to-be-read pile, I want to make sure I’m seeking out reads that reflect the variety of cultural and ethnic and racial differences in the world. I grew up reading about Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield, and their Pacific coast adventures seemed a world away. I’d like to think that I can do better than that now. And I’d also like to think that young readers from every country, creed, or color can find an accessible, published book with characters they can relate to as easily as I was able to.

If you too, are looking to diversify your reading, here’s a few lists to start from:

  • This post from American Indians in Children’s Literature covers a number of Young Adult books with American Indians. I’ve added If I Ever Get Out of Here to my TBR list.
  • Diversity in YA is a website that celebrates “young adult books about all kinds of diversity, from race to sexual orientation to gender identity and disability.” They’ve got a number of book lists archived here. Noughts & Crosses is one book that jumped out at me, especially because I remembered reading a review of it here.

And, just this week thanks to Cuddlebuggery’s list of Hot New Titles (of all YA releases), I added Gilded, about a Korean-American girl who suddenly moves to Seoul with her Dad. (“Then she discovers that a Korean demi-god, Haemosu, has been stealing the soul of the oldest daughter of each generation in her family for centuries. And she’s next.“) Who’s intrigued?!

Any other recommendations?