New & Noteworthy | February 2017 Edition

Wow, ya’ll, wow. The month is pretty much over, whoops. In any case, I’m coming at you with the next (late, late, late) installment of New & Noteworthy, highlighting five frontlist titles releasing this month.

Necessary disclaimer: I’m incredibly unlikely to read all five of these books this month, or even this year. This is an exercise for me to (attempt to) chill myself out and focus a bit on the books I want to prioritize the absolute most. This month we’ve got a rocky marriage or two, hidden letters, missing mothers, comparison woes, and a whole lot more.

Abbreviated synopses courtesy of Goodreads. I got my life together this month (oh how I make myself laugh), and will bring these to you in chronological order, because I’m organized like that (but not *so* organized I can get this post out in a timely fashion).

A Separation, by Katie Kitamura (Riverhead, February 7th)

A young woman has agreed with her faithless husband: it’s time for them to separate. For the moment it’s a private matter, a secret between the two of them. As she begins her new life, she gets word that Christopher has gone missing in a remote region in the rugged south of Greece; she reluctantly agrees to go and search for him, still keeping their split to herself. In her heart, she’s not even sure if she wants to find him. Adrift in the wild landscape, she traces the disintegration of their relationship, and discovers she understands less than she thought about the man she used to love.

Swimming Lessons, by Claire Fuller (Tin House Books, February 7th)

Ingrid Coleman writes letters to her husband, Gil, about the truth of their marriage, but instead of giving them to him, she hides them in the thousands of books he has collected over the years. When Ingrid has written her final letter she disappears from a Dorset beach, leaving behind her beautiful but dilapidated house by the sea, her husband, and her two daughters, Flora and Nan. Twelve years later, Gil thinks he sees Ingrid from a bookshop window, but he’s getting older and this unlikely sighting is chalked up to senility. Flora, who has never believed her mother drowned, returns home to care for her father and to try to finally discover what happened to Ingrid. But what Flora doesn’t realize is that the answers to her questions are hidden in the books that surround her.

The Woman Next Door, by Yewande Omotoso (Picador, February 7th)

Hortensia James and Marion Agostino are neighbors. One is black, the other white. Both are successful women with impressive careers. Both have recently been widowed, and are living with questions, disappointments, and secrets that have brought them shame. And each has something that the woman next door deeply desires. Sworn enemies, the two share a hedge and a deliberate hostility, which they maintain with a zeal that belies their age. But, one day, an unexpected event forces Hortensia and Marion together.

Harmless Like You, by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan (W.W. Norton, February 28th)

Written in startlingly beautiful prose, Harmless Like You is set across New York, Connecticut, and Berlin, following Yuki Oyama, a Japanese girl fighting to make it as an artist, and Yuki’s son Jay who, as an adult in the present day, is forced to confront his mother’s abandonment of him when he was only two years old.

Everything Belongs To Us, by Yoojin Grace Wuertz (Random House, February 28th)

Two young women of vastly different means each struggle to find her own way during the darkest hours of South Korea’s economic miracle. Seoul, 1978. At South Korea’s top university, the nation’s best and brightest compete to join the professional elite of an authoritarian regime. Success could lead to a life of rarefied privilege and wealth; failure means being left irrevocably behind.

 

What February release are you most anticipating, or read already and can recommend?

 

It’s Monday, February 20th | What Are You Reading?

This past weekend I went to my nephew’s first birthday party. What!?! How is that even possible. My sister and I were pregnant together, which means my sweet Baby E isn’t too far behind, and will be celebrating his own first birthday in less than two months. WHAT!?!

Due to being busy, distractable, and otherwise unfocused, I’m reading the same things as last week. However, I am flying through Big Little Lies on audio. It’s incredibly compelling, with some biting social commentary I’m enjoying. I think it’s just the kind of book I needed in my life at the moment.

I’m feeling a little worn out on Version Control, to be honest. I’m liking it well enough, but am just kind of… bored. I’m going to give it a little bit yet, but if it doesn’t pick up, I’m probably going to move on. There are a few March releases I’m hoping to get to, and I’ve also really been pulled to pick up Kindred, by Octavia Butler, although haven’t yet done so. We’ll see what my reading has in store for me this week.

I hate talking about the weather, but it is supposed to be 62 degrees and sunny this week Wednesday. In February. In Wisconsin. This aligns perfectly with my day off, and I think Baby E and I are going to go on a little outdoor adventure.

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?

 

It’s Monday, February 13th | What Are You Reading?

Sorry for the unexplained absence. Stress, and stuff. At least I’ve been reading! I flew through Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing, which was nothing short of amazing. Is it sad that I feel like I flew through it, when in reality it took me ten days to read? Ahhhh, new realities.

I’m still going to try to get through another few Tournament reads, but honestly, am losing interest in the short list a bit. Many of them I’m just not feeling right now, which is fine. I’ve made it through seven titles so far, and in my opinion, that’s not too shabby. I don’t plan to force any of them on myself, as I have been known to do in years past. With that being said, I decided to give a stab atVersion Control, and so far so good one chapter in. Mostly, I’m giving this beheamouth book a chance, because Julianne told me to. That’s reason enough, amiright?

I also started listening to Big Little Lies on audio, and am utterly delighted by the narrator. I find myself weirdly smiling while driving and listening, and I suspect it’s completely because of her flawless delivery. I have enjoyed Moriarty’s writing style in the past, and I’m hoping to watch the HBO release in a (somewhat) timely manner.

I hope your week goes as well as can be expected these days, and you find time to cherish and enjoy little things of high significance. For me, it was my son belly laughing continuously yesterday, my super-strong cup of black coffee this morning over an impromptu delicious breakfast date with The Hubs, and my dog currently sleeping with her cold snout in the crook of my elbow.

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?

 

What I Read | January 2017

Go me! I read five books this month! Well, if we’re being technical, and I guess we can go there, I *listened* to three books, and *read* two books. But whatever, it’s all good to me.

Read

The Vegetarian, by Han Kang

Not as weird as it was sold to me as, but I liked it a lot. The ending kind of just petered out a bit, but it didn’t ruin the experience for me all that much. I say, read it if you haven’t yet, but manage your expectations.

All The Birds In The Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders

Speaking of weird… not sure what to make of this one. Still processing, I’ll get back to you.

Heard

Dreams From My Father: A Story Of Race And Inheritance, by Barack Obama

You guys. I think I’ve said this a million times already, but the way to ingest this amazing story is to LISTEN to it. Obama narrates it himself, and I was a puddle of tears by the end of it. Obvs.

The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead

Alternatively, I definitely feel like I missed out on an integral part of the experience of this story by audiobooking versus reading it in the traditional sense. I still really loved it, wholeheartedly agree with the mad praise, and think it is certainly worth the hype.

My Name Is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Strout

Blerg. This one just didn’t do it for me. I think I said it best on Goodreads: “it was fine, I’ve already forgotten.” That about sums it up.

DNFed

The Man Who Shot My Eye Out Is Dead, by Chanelle Benz

There was nothing really wrong with this, I just wasn’t feeling it. I liked the first story well enough, but then when moving on to the second I could barely make it through a sentence. I definitely think this was a case of “it’s me, not you” so don’t necessarily take my word for it.

What were the best and worst books you read this month?

 

It’s Monday, January 23rd | What Are You Reading?

Love, love, LOVED seeing all of the photos of those of you who marched this past weekend. I desperately wanted to go myself, and just know I was there in spirit. Good work, my friends.

In reading news, I’m still reading much of the same as I was last week, although I have made steady progress in both. The Underground Railroad is really starting to heat up, and I’m finding myself wanting to drive around the block a few times to get in a little extra listening.

I was seriously debating giving up on All The Birds In The Sky at around the 50 page mark, but trudged forward a bit, and am really glad I did. It’s a weird book, and I’m not sure I really understand what’s happening… but in a good way. Like… robots, talking to birds, dead dogs… and some other stuff… yeah, not sure, but I’m down.

I’ve got a busy week ahead, and am *really* looking forward to getting my hair done, which is at least two months overdue. Grey hairs abound, and dull, mousy roots, anyone? Also, four hours worth of audiobooking (yes, I drive nearly two hours each way to get my hair done, I’m loyal like that), a glass of wine in the middle of the day, and a relaxing hour or so to myself… a rare bit of bliss.

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?

 

Tournament Of Books 2017 | Prepping, Planning, & Strategizing

Ok, folks. It’s time. After obsessively refreshing (and refreshing, and refreshing) The Morning News site, impatiently and anxiously awaiting the short list announcement, I find myself overall quite tickled by the results.

Last year was honestly a bit of a disappointing line-up, and I found myself loosing interest, and never even ended up posting final thoughts, or really much of anything along the way. This year promises to be a different story, I’m hoping.

I apologize in advance for the excessive use of parentheses, but… whatever, get over it. I have.

At the time of the list announcement, I have read a whopping grand total of three of the short list selections (The Mothers, The Vegetarian, and Grief Is The Thing With Feathers). I own one additional book (Homegoing), and am currently listening to one (okay, two) other(s) via audiobook (The Underground Railroad and My Name Is Lucy Barton).

My strategy going forward is to focus on reading the ones I wanted to read back when I first heard about them (i.e. Homegoing, All The Birds In The Sky, Version Control, We Love You Charlie Freeman). Depending on how quickly, or not, I get through those will determine what others I end up picking up. And, let’s be honest, I’m at the mercy of my library holds list and my mad skills in working the system in my favor. (Insert evil laugh track here).

The “play in” this year will be between the three sports related books (Sudden Death, The Sport of Kings, and The Throwback Special). Barf, not really my thing. I’m not going to even consider reading any of those until I know which one makes the final sixteen… and honestly, probably not even then.

There are also one or two I’m just not digging, and will pretty much 100% for sure not be getting to, which is cool by me. Lastly there are some real chunksters on the list this time around (The Nix, Version Control, The Sport Of Kings), although they could have been realllllllly mean and included the over 1,200 page Jerusalem, which I *NEVER* would have even considered trying to pick up at this time in my life… or ever.

So, I have a plan, let’s put it into action! Any of you out there reading along for ToB17? I’d love to chat about it, and hear your reading strategy.

 

It’s (Late) Monday, January 16th | What Are You Reading?

I’ve been book hopping like a mofo lately. I got into a bit of a funk waiting around for the ToB short list, and have since abandoned everything I *was* reading either to DNF-land or later-land. I’m starting to get back on track. Whew.

I’m a ways into The Underground Railroad audiobook, and so far so good. I’m taking a quick detour to listen to My Name Is Lucy Barton, since my ticket came up at the library, and it’s short at only four hours. I’m getting the feeling Elizabeth Strout and I just don’t get on well, because I can’t bring myself to care one iota about any of the characters. (Which is the same problem I had when I listened to The Burgess Boys). So you had a rough childhood, so you and your mom have been estranged, so you’re sick… meh.

In print I’ve just started reading All The Birds In The Sky, and it’s definitely too early to tell. The story is intriguing so far, but the writing feels a little stilted. We’ll see how we get on once I’m into it a bit more.

At the last minute, I was invited by my bestie to a bookish event at my favorite local indie bookstore, and I’m so glad I went! Clinton Kelly, after releasing many “lifestyle” books, has recently come out with a book of personal essays entitled I Hate Everyone, Except You. I haven’t read it yet, but thought it would still be fun to go see him, especially since What Not To Wear got me through my college years (even though it sounds like he didn’t really love being on that show all that much, and I can certainly agree that the show has problematic features). I managed not be *too* terribly awkward during the book-signing-and-photo situation.

This past week also brought us Obama’s farewell speech… anyone else cry like a baby? I know I can’t be the only one. The only time he let the audience go on and on in a fantastical display of clapping and cheering, was for Michelle. What a guy.

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?

 

2017 Bookish, Blogging, & Otherwise (Non)Goals Ramble

This post feels a little belated and rambly, but I definitely needed the extra reflection time, and am just going to go with it. The end of 2016 flew by in a blur of work, here and there, and everywhere, ergo I didn’t get much, or really any, time to reflect on the year that was, and the year that will be. I’m not keen on “resolutions” or making big, momentous proclamations at the start of the new year, but I do like to give some thought on positive changes moving forward, and as well as emphasis on leaving the toxic behind.

I know in the greater realm, 2016 was a bit of a garbage fire. However, for me personally, it will go down as one of the best of my life. It brought me my son, Baby E, who is almost 9 months old already (WHAT!?!?). It was a year of growth, of change, of joy, of hardship, of little memories, of life-altering moments.

However, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that every single second was the-best-time-ever, and I enjoyed every single moment of every single day. That would be a lie. It’s fucking hard. Some days I’m so exhausted I don’t even know what to do with myself. I love Baby E more than anything and everything, but every once and awhile I just want to leave the house for an hour without thinking about pumping, or nursing, or nap times, or what-have-you. Some days I just want to sit on the couch for fifteen minutes, with nothing but peace and quiet for company, and not be obsessing over what I *should* be doing instead. Sometimes (wait, all the time) I want to shake off this overwhelming, stifling, choking guilt associated with being a working mom, even though I know it’s what’s best for our family, and thus what’s best for Baby E as well. BUT, I wouldn’t change a thing. Day in, day out, it’s pretty amazing being a mom, watching Baby E change and grow, and knowing it’s because of me, and The Hubs, and our love.

All of this to say, I’m not really going to set any concrete goals this year. I love this space, and yearn for it when I’m missing in action. I love reading, perusing your blogs, interacting and getting giddy over books.

I have been, and will continue to read to Baby E every day. I also feel like I’ve slowly been able to reintroduce a somewhat daily not-just-board-books reading habit back into my life, if only for fifteen to twenty minutes per day. I’m planning on attempting to read some new releases for review consideration, but will greatly limit what I request and accept. I’m hopeful I can visit my favorite book blogs on the regular, comment here and there, and otherwise engage on social media when I’m up to it. I’m loosely planning on at least one blog post here per week, and any more than that will be a bonus. With that being said, I’m also really going to try to give myself a dang break during the times when none of this happens the way I want it to.

I have many ideas swirling around in my brain vortex. Blog post ideas about curating a child’s library. Some non-traditional review inklings. A gander at some non-bookish blog posts, perhaps. Would anyone be into that? I want to develop and stick with a fitness routine. I want to meal plan, food prep, and eat healthy most of the days of the week.

Lastly, most importantly, and most encompassing of *everything* mentioned above and elsewhere, is I want to concentrate on teaching myself the skills to live a more intentional life, to remove the clutter, strike a balance, and focus on what matters the most.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for stopping by, and here’s to the new year. Hope it treats you and yours well.

 

It’s Monday, January 9th. | What Are You Reading?

Another week gone by, where does the time go? I finished my first book of the year, The Vegetarian, and think it was overall an excellent choice. I didn’t love the end, but didn’t hate it either.

Next up, I decided to try out a short story collection, The Man Who Shot Out My Eye Is Dead, which releases later this month, and so far it’s pretty good, but a little too early to tell. I really struggle with short story collections in general, so also concurrently picked up Wolf In White Van, which I know everyone was dying over a couple of years ago when it first came out. I never said I was timely, but I do want to read it before Darnielle’s next book releases in February. Lastly, I’m nearly to the end of Dreams From My Father, and will be sad to see it go, along with being super extra sad forever and ever to see the author himself go later this month as well.

So, I did the incredibly cliché thing of hitting the gym first thing this year. I have wanted to get back into a fitness routine for quite some time since Baby E has been on the outside (of my body, that is). Just finally when I felt like it was actually a feasible option, I had to go and have emergency abdominal surgery. Oy. My ten pound lifting restriction was finally over the week of Christmas, so obviously that wasn’t going to happen given social obligations and my hectic work schedule. Ergo, first of the year it was… just like everybody else.

I’ve never been a runner, and honestly, don’t really have any desire to ever be a runner (blasphemy, I know). I hate the treadmill, and find it so mind-numbingly boring, I never make it longer than twenty minutes. But, what has always worked for me in the past are group classes (i.e. Body Pump, Body Combat, yoga, etc). This time around, I’ve decided to give Cross Fit a go, and so far I’m digging it. I have found I need the group atmosphere to keep my energy up, an instructor to keep me moving, and the public shame of stopping so I don’t just say “good enough” and retire before getting in a beneficial work out. I’ll keep you posted, but currently my legs feel like Jell-O, and it’s great.

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?

 

New & Noteworthy | January 2017 Edition

I always love perusing Edelweiss, NetGalley, and publishing house websites in anticipation of the latest books hitting the shelves. I’ve never really done routine posts on the blog highlighting  those catching my attention, but let me tell you, I have some intense spreadsheet action keeping track of every minute detail. For the new year, I have decided each month to pare down my massive list and share with you the five books topping off my queue.

Disclaimer: I’m incredibly unlikely to read all five of these books this month, or even this year. My hope is this exercise will help me better focus my wandering and fickle attentions and hone in on what I’m *most* hoping to get to.

The year is starting off with quite the juicy stack, and any one of these appear incredibly worthy of my time. Abbreviated synopses courtesy of Goodreads. Of course these are in no particular order, because chronology would make too much sense.

Idahoby Emily Ruskovich (Random House, January 3rd)

One hot August day a family drives to a mountain clearing to collect birch wood. Jenny, the mother, is in charge of lopping any small limbs off the logs with a hatchet. Wade, the father, does the stacking. The two daughters, June and May, aged nine and six, drink lemonade, swat away horseflies, bicker, sing snatches of songs as they while away the time. But then something unimaginably shocking happens, an act so extreme it will scatter the family in every different direction. In a story told from multiple perspectives and in razor-sharp prose, we gradually learn more about this act, and the way its violence, love and memory reverberate through the life of every character in Idaho.

The Man Who Shot Out My Eye Is Dead: Stories, by Chanelle Benz (Ecco, January 17th)

A stunningly original debut collection, The Man Who Shot Out My Eye Is Dead is about lives across history marked by violence and longing. In ten stories of impressive range, Chanelle Benz displays a staggering command of craft as she crisscrosses through time and space to create a complex mosaic of humanity. The characters in Benz’s wildly imaginative collection are as varied as any in recent literature, subverting boundaries of race, gender, and class, but they share a thirst for adventure that sends them rushing toward moral crossroads, becoming victims and perpetrators along the way. 

Difficult Women, Roxane Gay (Grove Press, January 3rd)

Gay returns with Difficult Women, a collection of stories of rare force and beauty, of hardscrabble lives, passionate loves, and quirky and vexed human connection. The women in these stories live lives of privilege and of poverty, are in marriages both loving and haunted by past crimes or emotional blackmail.

The Most Dangerous Place On Earthby Lindsey Lee Johnson (Random House, January 10th)

In an idyllic community of wealthy California families, new teacher Molly Nicoll becomes intrigued by the hidden lives of her privileged students. Unknown to Molly, a middle school tragedy in which they were all complicit continues to reverberate for her kids: Nick, the brilliant scam artist; Emma, the gifted dancer and party girl; Dave, the B student who strives to meet his parents expectations; Calista, the hippie outcast who hides her intelligence for reasons of her own. Theirs is a world in which every action may become public postable, shareable, indelible. 

Fever Dream, by Samanta Schweblin, translated by Megan McDowell (Riverhead, January 10th) 

A young woman named Amanda lies dying in a rural hospital clinic. A boy named David sits beside her. She’s not his mother. He’s not her child. Together, they tell a haunting story of broken souls, toxins, and the power and desperation of family. Fever Dream is a nightmare come to life, a ghost story for the real world, a love story and a cautionary tale. One of the freshest new voices to come out of the Spanish language and translated into English for the first time, Samanta Schweblin creates an aura of strange psychological menace and otherworldly reality in this absorbing, unsettling, taut novel.

 

Is there a January release you’re most looking forward to?