The September Wrap-Up

Tap, tap, tap. Is this thing on?

September passed in a whirlwind of driving and shopping and packing and unpacking and more driving. We finally received all of our belongings about five days ago and I’ve been trying to get it closer to feeling like home ever since. We’re getting there. The kitchen is done (woo-hoo!) and hopefully the rest of the house will follow suit in the next month. My goal is to be officially settled by Halloween. Doable, right?

Other progress this month: we both have cars, so no more ferrying the husband to work and back or being stuck at home. The girls are getting used to school in the U.S. and making friends. The husband is enjoying his new job so far. We are all enjoying Netflix and Pandora (Orange is the New Black is our current favorite show). Of course, Netflix finally made it to France this past month as well. They were obviously just waiting for me to leave!

So life is zipping along, and while I’ve been too busy to think about working so far, I’m starting to now. Hopefully a good opportunity will present itself soon.

Despite the wealth of reading material here in the U.S., I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had time to indulge myself much this past month. I’m behind on my yearly reading challenge, and I only finished two books this month! Sad, I know. In September, I read:

  1. Indelible by Karin Slaughter
  2. Through the Evil Days by Julia Spencer-Fleming

Both are books in a mystery series, and while I liked them both they were nothing to wow about. I was a bit disappointed by the Spencer-Fleming, as I’d been looking forward to reading this latest one for a while now. It was just okay.

I’m trying to slow down on checking out books from the library because I’m not able to keep up the pace at the moment. I also decided to participate in Trish’s readalong of Drood in October, and I seriously doubt I will have time for anything else this month. That is one BIG book.

 I hope your October is a delightful one full of fall fun and Halloween spookiness (if you’re into that kind of thing). Have a great month–

Library Loot: September 10 – 16

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

I’m excited that I finally get to participate in library loot again, because I have a local library! Now I can go wild with my TBR list. This week I’m showcasing the books that I’ve been stockpiling since we got here. I’m almost finished with Through the Evil Days, but even so I doubt I will get through all of these in two weeks! I’m going to have to learn to pace myself.

This week’s library loot:

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I borrowed The Lottery for R.I.P. season reading, even though I haven’t managed to officially sign up yet. Ditto for A Killing in the Hills, which I’ve had on the TBR for a while now. I saw Patti Callahan Henry at the Decatur Book Festival last month and she mentioned this book in particular, so I’m going to see what I think of her writing with And Then I Found You. Written in Red was recommended to me by my friend Marg, so I have no doubt I will enjoy it. Finally, Raising Freethinkers in a book I’ve heard a lot about and I’m hoping it will give me some practical ideas to use as I try to raise my own pair of freethinking kids.

I also looted a CD (not pictured)–the latest from Passenger. The girls and I have become a bit obsessed with the man/band lately, as we’ve been spending way too much time in the car (my husband and I are sharing a rental until we get our own cars here in the U.S.) My daughters know all the words and sing along loudly. I’ll leave you with one of our favorites–have a great week!

The August Wrap-Up

Well, hmm. Here it is September 10th and I am only now getting around to writing my August wrap-up. I could blame our recent move, but the fact is that I’m just much more interested in reading than I am in blogging these days. I’m reveling in the fact that I have my very own library. Technically it belongs to everyone in our county, but it feels deliciously ALL MINE.

In August, I read five books:

  1. Room by Emma Donoghue
  2. The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
  3. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  4. In the Woods by Tana French
  5. The Likeness by Tana French

My favorite of the bunch was probably The Sky is Everywhere, which features some very unique characters and a fresh voice that was unlike anything else I’ve read in YA (well, except for the ending, which got way too lovey-dovey for my tastes). I liked the two Tana French mysteries as well, although there is a frustrating lack of resolution for any of her characters.

I had some book-related fun at the end of August as I attended the Decatur Book Festival, a three-day independent book festival held every year in a local town. I was lucky enough to get to meet Pat Conroy, and I also went to several panel discussions featuring some of my favorite local writers, including Joshilyn Jackson and Karin Slaughter. I came away with even more books to add to my to-read list.

As for the non-reading portion of my life, August was crazy but things are starting to settle down now. We still have some (big) things to take care of but we are getting there. Fingers crossed that by the time I post my September update (which at this rate may be by Halloween), that we’ll at least have cars to drive and (please, please) have sold our apartment in France.

Hope you all had a great August and that September is already shaping up to be a good one for you–happy reading!

2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pyjamas by Marie-Helene Bertino

cat's pyjamasFormat: e-book galley

Length: 272 pages

Publisher: Crown

Source: TLC Book Tours / NetGalley

From the publisher:

Madeleine Altimari is a smart-mouthed, precocious nine-year-old and an aspiring jazz singer. As she mourns the recent death of her mother, she doesn’t realize that on Christmas Eve she is about to have the most extraordinary day—and night—of her life. After bravely facing down mean-spirited classmates and rejection at school, Madeleine doggedly searches for Philadelphia’s legendary jazz club The Cat’s Pajamas, where she’s determined to make her on-stage debut. On the same day, her fifth grade teacher Sarina Greene, who’s just moved back to Philly after a divorce, is nervously looking forward to a dinner party that will reunite her with an old high school crush, afraid to hope that sparks might fly again. And across town at The Cat’s Pajamas, club owner Lorca discovers that his beloved haunt may have to close forever, unless someone can find a way to quickly raise the $30,000 that would save it.

As these three lost souls search for love, music and hope on the snow-covered streets of Philadelphia, together they will discover life’s endless possibilities over the course of one magical night.

Here’s what I thought:

The world of 2. A.M. at The Cat’s Pyjamas in populated by a host of interesting, quirky characters whose actions and interactions over the course of one evening make up the storyline for this fresh new novel. The main characters–Madeleine, Sarina, and Lorca–are memorable enough, but the many minor characters, while well-drawn, start to blur together by their sheer numbers. I found myself getting confused at several points while reading as I tried to keep them all straight.

Bertino’s writing zips along, and as such the novel is a quick read. I enjoyed the story overall, as it reminded me of the work of Maria Semple, one of my favorite writers. Unlike Semple’s writing, though, I felt that this book was lacking in emotional depth. The character of Madeleine, in particular, was so cynical and cold as to be unbelievable. As the mother of two daughters, I have never encountered a nine-year-old who acted remotely like her.

I would recommend this book to readers looking for a snappy, original read, but not to those looking for a more meaningful reading experience.

About the author:

marie-helene bertinoMarie-Helene Bertino’s debut novel 2 AM AT THE CAT’S PAJAMAS will be published by Crown in August, 2014. Her collection of short stories SAFE AS HOUSES received The 2012 Iowa Short Fiction Award and the Pushcart Prize and was long-listed for the Frank O’Connor Short Story Award and The Story Prize. She hails from Philadelphia and lives in Brooklyn. She was an Emerging Writer Fellow at NYC’s Center for Fiction and teaches at NYU, Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop, The Center for Fiction, and One Story’s Emerging Writer’s Workshop, where she was the Associate Editor for 6 years. She has received fellowships from The MacDowell Colony and Hedgebrook and currently works as a biographer of people with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

For more information, visit: www.mariehelenebertino.com

Thanks so much to TLC Book Tours and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book and giving me a chance to share my review.

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Room by Emma Donaghue

roomFormat: e-book

Length: 342 pages

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Source: personal library

From the publisher:

To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Here’s what I thought:

I’d heard a lot about this book over the past few years, and having LOVED Donoghue’s Slammerkin I was eager to read this one, too. This book was also on my 2014 TBR Pile Challenge list.

I have to admit that I didn’t enjoy this book as much as Donoghue’s previous work. The character of Jack, who narrates the novel, is a five-year-old boy. His narrative voice can be a bit grating, especially as he doesn’t speak like a normal child (having grown up in captivity with no other example than his mother and the television).

I never really warmed to either Jack or the mother, which probably makes me sound very cold-hearted and horrible, but there it is. I was glad with the way things turned out for them and thought that the resolution of the novel was very satisfying, but I just never felt that connection to them that I generally need to feel towards a book’s characters to really enjoy it.

Overall, the book was well-written and the plot interesting. I liked it, but I don’t think it will stay with me in the long-term.

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Booking Through Thursday: Bookcases 2

Booking Through Thursday is a weekly meme about books and reading.

I’ve always considered that my bookcases give a pretty fair representation of me as a person—they show my interests, what kind of things I like, that I have a curious mind, the kinds of things I study … all that. But with the increase of e-books, that litmus test of personality is going by the wayside. Unless someone takes my Kindle and browses through it, there isn’t an immediate, visible display of my interests … am I the only one who finds that kind of sad? Going forward, about the most we’ll be able to tell about someone is that they OWN an e-book reader … but no real idea of what they actually read. I’m going to miss that.

This is a follow-up to last week’s question, and it’s definitely something that I’ve thought about, particularly at the moment as I’m going through the process of packing up my library of books. I’ve realized that I only want to hang on to physical books that I either have a sentimental connection to or which I know I’ll read again–for one time books, it just doesn’t make sense to me to keep them.  For that reason, in many ways I think my bookcases are less of an “immediate, visible display of my interests” than a real glimpse into what’s important to me. The fact is that I’ll read almost anything once, but to keep a physical book it has to matter to me.

What about you?

Booking Through Thursday: Bookcases

Booking Through Thursday is a weekly meme about books and reading.

When you visit a friend’s house, do you find time to browse their bookcases? Does it shock you if they don’t have one?

I love this question because I always wonder what people think when they come to my house. We have lots of prominent bookshelves and just about every kind of book under the sun. Between my love for both genre and literary fiction to my husband’s fantasy series and Dragonball Z collection, we must look very schizophrenic! We just love books, period, as a family.

When I’m at someone’s house I definitely check out the bookshelves, but not in a judgemental way. Mostly I’m looking to see if there’s something I want to borrow! :)

What about you–are you a bookcase browser?