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books & reading nightstand

Nightstand: February 2014

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It’s been a great month for curling up with a good book. I’ve spent a lot of cold winter nights wrapped up in one story or another and managed to finish four books since last month! For some people that is a rather average, small looking number but for me it’s huge since most of my reading happens at night before falling asleep, which a lot of times is just for half an hour or so.

Anyway, if it isn’t obvious I’m linking up again with the ladies at 5 Minutes for Books to share with you the books on my nightstand, both literally and figuratively. What I’m reading, what I read recently and what’s coming up next.

Since last month I read the following books:

  1. A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle – Finished January 28, 2014 – I don’t know if I would have enjoyed this story as much if I weren’t such a huge fan of the BBC series, Sherlock, but since I can’t (yet) go back in time and unsee the show, I’ll just have to base my feelings of the book around the fact that I’ve seen the show also and thus knew the major plot points. However, the original story is actually quite a bit different from the tv show’s version and there were things I genuinely liked about each. I didn’t really care for the middle part of the book where they leave Sherlock and Watson to further explain the back story of characters that I won’t name here, cause you know, spoilers. But at the same time, I think the backstory was necessary so overall, I did enjoy the book and I’ll definitely be reading more of Doyle’s Sherlock stories soon.
  2. Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz  Finished February 4, 2014 – It’s hard to judge this book fairly having already seen the Lifetime tv show based on the book, however loosely. There are some things about the show I liked better and some things I liked in the book, but having seen the show first I couldn’t help but prefer it. I found the characters on the show to be more fully fleshed out and well rounded and a little more likable to boot, but there were aspects to the book that I found really interesting and I love how it intersected with another of Cruz’s series, the Blue Blood books. The cliff hanger ending has me intrigued to read more, but maybe not right away.
  3. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant (February Book Club) – Finished February 17, 2014 – I’m glad I finally took the time to read this book – I started it once years ago and left it unfinished, balking at the complexity of the many stories being told in one book. I think appreciated it now more than I would have back then anyway. This is a fantastic story that touches on a lot of subjects that anyone can relate to – from being a mother to a daughter, a sister, a wife – hardships faced, adapting to new cultures and continually learning to pick up the pieces of our lives and start anew when needed. I think this will be a book that stays with me for a long time.
  4. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – Finished February 19, 2014 – I read this book basically in one day – it was a mad, crazy, obsessive daylong reading spree in which putting the book down felt painful and wrong until I’d finished. My apologies to the children, husband and pets neglected on February 19, 2014.In many small ways, it felt like this book was written exactly for me – like the author had captured a piece of my soul and put it on paper. While I can’t necessarily relate to the WHOLE story (don’t have a twin sister or a psychologically diagnosed mental illness – also don’t write fanfiction and am significantly older than 18) – so much of it I could definitely relate to and I quickly found myself rooting for Cath and waiting for certain plot events to come about. I, simply put, loved this book and kinda wish I could read it all over again today. – Full Review –

Right now I am reading The Last Word, book six in the Spellman series by Lisa Lutz. I puffy hearts adore this series and it’s just the right mix of comforting familiar characters and relatively easy to read writing – but a story that likely won’t completely consume me which was a priority because I’m still trying to keep the story line of the Red Tent in mind until our book club meeting tomorrow night and I’m still reeling a little from Fangirl and I can only handle So Many riveting plots at once mentally. The Last Word is terrific so far (despite the shambles that Izzie seems to have found herself in once again) but I can mentally set it aside when necessary.

After I’ve finished that and the book club meeting tomorrow is behind me, I’ll likely pick up March’s book club pick, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, because at 624 pages it could likely take me awhile to finish and I want to give myself plenty of time. If I manage to finish it in time, I’ll likely pick up one of the following:

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell because seriously. No explanation needed.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs because the first chapter totally pulled me in when I picked it up a few days ago and I only put it down because it was pulling me in too much (see my paragraph above about the book I’m reading now).

The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle because it’s the next book in the kindle anthology that I’m slowly working my way through.

Or you know, one of the other 8 million books crowded around my nightstand, vying for my attention. And god forbid I break down and buy something new…

What’s on your nightstand right now?

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books & reading nightstand

Nightstand: January 2014

my nightstand

It’s the fourth Tuesday of January and that means it’s time to share with you all the books currently on my nightstand, either literally or figuratively. I’m linking up with the ladies at 5 Minutes For Books to write about what I’ve been reading this month and what I’m planning to read next.

So far this year I have finished the following books:

  1. Freakonomics by Steven Levitt (January Book Club) – Finished January 12, 2014 – I enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I would. Very interesting, whether you agree with them and their findings or not. It made for a very lively book club discussion about a very wide array of topics. – Full Review
  2. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray – Finished January 23, 2014 – I thought the premise of this book was fascinating and the plot kept me intrigued throughout. I also felt the book was attempting to do an AWFUL lot and that it occasionally read as cheesy, over done and sometimes predictable, but being a young adult novel I can kind of over look the predictable aspects. All in all, I think it was a very funny and satirical look at the commercialism and typical coming of age issues that young girls are faced with, in the midst of a very atypical story.
  3. Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman – Finished January 24, 2014 – This was such a fun, quick read. Gaiman writes a really fun story and the book has terrific illustrations to accompany it. This was one the whole family loved and it made a great read aloud this weekend with the kids.

Right now I am reading A Study in Scarlet, the first Sherlock Holmes novel by Arthur Conan Doyle because I cannot get enough of Sherlock Holmes right now; and I’m also reading The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, which my book club will be discussing in February.

So what’s up next?

Well I’ll definitely be reading some more Sherlock Holmes stories and the March book club pick is American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I also have Fangirl and Eleanor and Park, both by Rainbow Rowell staring wistfully at me from my nightstand and kindle and I just downloaded Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz, which the tv show on Lifetime was based on. Those are the books most likely to be devoured next but my reading can be unpredictable so you never know.

How about you? What are you reading right now?

What's On Your Nightstand

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books & reading nightstand

Nightstand: November 2013

my nightstand

Seriously guys, is someone messing with me? Did someone change the date on my computer (and cell phone, tablet, and page  a day calender)? HOW is it the 4th week of November already? It should NOT be possible, but since the impossible seems to have happened once again, let’s talk about the books on my nightstand, linking up with the lovely ladies at 5 Minutes For Books yet again.

Last month I read 5 books :

a classic, a book on writing, a YA dystopian book, a short memoir on potty training and a romance novel by an author I adore

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  1. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger – Finished October 22, 2013 – I was on the fence about how many stars to give this one. I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it. It made me think (a little bit) but also nothing really happens. In a nutshell, this is a book about two siblings who are so smart that they can barely function in normal society – they are just incapacitated by their own cleverness. 2/3rds of the book is literally the world’s longest lecture. Then there is a phone call and both Too Smart For Their Own Good characters seem to come momentarily to their senses and then it ends. It’s a short story, so it’s not a big time commitment and there were definitely interesting moments and thoughts. But it isn’t one I’d jump up and down to recommend.
  2. Short Story: From First Draft to Final Product by Michael Milton – Finished October 26, 2013 – I found this book to be very helpful. He has a lot of great tips and ideas and I love the concept of showing one of his stories through several stages of editing and giving examples of some great feedback that he got during the editing process. A useful, informative quick read. I made a lot of highlights to look back at later.
  3. Allegiant (Divergent #3) by Veronica Roth – Finished November 8, 2013 – I almost don’t even know what to say about this final book in the Divergent trilogy. It was fascinating, painful, daring, occasionally flawed, occasionally brilliant. A fitting end to her series all in all, though I imagine many readers take issue with a lot of Roth’s choices in this book, especially the ending, I do think it was the best ending for the story. My one real complaint is just that her decision to write from both Tris’s point of view and Four’s was not exceptionally executed. The two characters’ voices are not very distinct and it was easy to forget who was talking which made the first half of the book at least a little difficult to get lost in. All in all though, I did really enjoy it.
  4. Over My Dead Potty by Amy Sprenger – Finished November 10, 2013 – A nice short read with no shortage of laughs – great for anyone who is potty training, has potty trained or anticipates potty training a child. This is less a how to manual and more of a hilarious mini-memoir.
  5. Take Me, Cowboy by Jane Porter – Finished November 13, 2013 – I’ve come to trust Jane Porter to be one of those authors that will always deliver a good story and this book is no exception – it was a nice quick love story that definitely falls further into the line of “passionate romance novel” than most of the books that I read, but it was written so well that I didn’t mind one bit!

currently readingRight now I am reading two books:

This month my book club is reading Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. We’ll be discussing it in just two weeks and I’m only about 1/4 of the way through it according to my Kindle.

This book is intense and complex, with a plot and writing style that take a little getting used to. So for the first 25% of the book I couldn’t tell if I liked it or not and had a hard time committing to it, causing me to “cheat on it” with a lot of other books (read: the two books you see above after Allegiant and the book below that I’ll talk more about in a minute).

“What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath. During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.

What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?”

Somewhere around that 1/4 mark though the book started to settle into a rhythm or I got used to the rhythm it had been in all along. Either way, the book got better for me and I’m not longer quite so quick to put it down for a lighter read every night. Only some nights.

I’m also reading As You Do… by Richard Hammond, who you may know from Top Gear, a show that my husband adores and I occasionally enjoy watching with him, mostly for the antics of Richard Hammond. This book reads as though Hammond is actually standing next to you talking. His writing style is VERY similar to his talking style which I suppose could be a good thing or a bad thing but I consider it a good thing.

I’m not super far into the story but I am really enjoying it so far. It’s a collection of stories from his adventures on Top Gear and other ventures. I actually bought this book for my husband and he LOVED it so much that I felt inclined to read it myself. So far so good…

“The wry, honest and often hilarious chronicles of a very brave and clever TV presenter, Arctic explorer, and general drawer of the Short Straw..

He ranges widely over his life and times—a visit to Glastonbury with James May reminds of him of his early years of playing in a band and how and why he never quite made it as a rock star; the stunts and other perils that come his way like the Top Gear North Pole race (why is it Richard who is out in the howling elements in a dog sled while the others are in the heated cab of an all-terrain vehicle?), Africa where he falls in love with and repatriates a stray car, and the U.S. (once to be chased by rednecks in middle America, the other in pursuit of his hero Evel Knievel); his passion for cars, what he owns and why, and although he loves his wife why it is a toss-up whether he says hello to the wife or the cars first.

Balancing home and family with a crazy, peripatetic working life (or not, sometimes), the hamster is well and truly back on the wheel.”

So what’s next?
Some of the other books I’m considering reading before the end of the year are:

The Last Word by Lisa Lutz – the latest in a story about a zany family of private detectives – “Isabel Spellman is used to being followed, extorted, and questioned—all occupational hazards of working at her family’s firm, Spellman Investigations. Her little sister, Rae, once tailed Izzy for weeks on end to discover the identity of her boyfriend. Her mother, Olivia, once blackmailed Izzy with photographic evidence of Prom Night 1994. It seemed that the Spellmans would lay off after Izzy was fired for breaching client confidentiality, but then Izzy avenged her dismissal by staging a hostile takeover of the company. She should have known better than to think she could put such shenanigans behind her.”

Wish You Were Eyre by Heather Vogel Frederick – #6 in a series : “It’s a dream come true for Megan, who’s jet-setting to Paris for Fashion Week with Gigi. Meanwhile, back in Concord, Mrs. Wong decides to run for mayor, so Emma and Stewart team up to make her campaign a success. Jess and Cassidy are also hoping for victories, Jess in the a cappella finals with the MadriGals and Cassidy in the national hockey championships with her teammates. In the midst of it all, the girls—along with their Wyoming pen pals, who drop in for a visit over Spring Break—dive into Charlotte Bronte’s classic Jane Eyre. Some real life romance follows, as Becca may have found a Mr. Rochester of her own.”

Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle – After watching Sherlock on Netflix recently, I’m kind of obsessively looking forward to season 3 starting in the new year so it might be a good time to read some of his stories while I wait impatiently. My husband read a lot of them a year or two ago and I keep meaning to follow suit.

What’s on YOUR nightstand?

You can participate in What’s on Your Nightstand? in several ways. Choose what’s appealing to you:

  1. Take a picture or simply give a list of the stack of books that you are in the process of reading or planning to read (it might be on your nightstand, on a bookshelf, or like me, under your bed).
  2. Give short reviews of the book or books that you read this month.
  3. Tell about what you are reading and why. Did someone give it to you? Are you trying out a new genre at the recommendation of a friend (or website)? Did you stumble across a new author in a used bookstore?
  4. Write about your reading habits. When are you reading these books? Is one reserved for bedtime reading? Does one stay in your car to be read while you are waiting? Do you read just one book at a time?

However you choose to write about your nightstand this month, make sure you link up at 5 Minutes for Books!

What's On Your Nightstand

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books & reading nightstand

Nightstand: October 2013

What's on your nightstand?It was downright COLD when I took my daughter to the bus stop this morning (MM is home sick). Frost covered car windshields, leaves covered the sidewalks and lawns and a winter jacket covered my four year old. It’s THAT time of year.

With only another week and a half or so of October, it’s time to write about what’s on my nightstand with the ladies at 5 Minutes For Books. The premise is simple for this one: Write about what you are reading and what you’ve read recently and / or plan to read next. You can even include a picture of your nightstand. Here’s mine:

my nightstand

I had just cleared it all off and put everything back on nicely after buying a new lamp (<3) which was small enough to allow me to finally put the little bookhouse that my husband built for me on as well. So above you can see some of the books I’m planning to read next:

Black Heels to Tractor Wheels: A Love Story by Ree Drummond – The infamous Pioneer Woman, one of my favorite bloggers, shares her real-life storybook romance, set on a historic Oklahoma cattle ranch.

The Last Word by Lisa Lutz – the latest in a story about a zany family of private detectives – “Isabel Spellman is used to being followed, extorted, and questioned—all occupational hazards of working at her family’s firm, Spellman Investigations. Her little sister, Rae, once tailed Izzy for weeks on end to discover the identity of her boyfriend. Her mother, Olivia, once blackmailed Izzy with photographic evidence of Prom Night 1994. It seemed that the Spellmans would lay off after Izzy was fired for breaching client confidentiality, but then Izzy avenged her dismissal by staging a hostile takeover of the company. She should have known better than to think she could put such shenanigans behind her.”

Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster – I started this one a couple months ago, set it down and keep meaning to pick it back up: “This is the story of how a haughty former sorority girl went from having a household income of almost a quarter-million dollars to being evicted from a ghetto apartment… It’s a modern Greek tragedy, as defined by Roger Dunkle in The Classical Origins of Western Culture: a story in which “the central character, called a tragic protagonist or hero, suffers some serious misfortune which is not accidental and therefore meaningless, but is significant in that the misfortune is logically connected.””

The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory – “Katherine of Aragon. Known to history as the Queen who was pushed off her throne by Anne Boleyn, here is a Katherine the world has forgotten: the enchanting princess that all England loved. First married to Henry VIII’s older brother, Arthur, Katherine’s passion turns their arranged marriage into a love match; but when Arthur dies, the merciless English court and her ambitious parents — the crusading King and Queen of Spain — have to find a new role for the widow. Ultimately, it is Katherine herself who takes control of her own life by telling the most audacious lie in English history, leading her to the very pinnacle of power in England.”

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde (not the other one) – “Part social satire, part romance, part revolutionary thriller, Shades of Grey tells of a battle against overwhelming odds. In a society where the ability to see the higher end of the color spectrum denotes a better social standing, Eddie Russet belongs to the low-level House of Red and can see his own color—but no other. The sky, the grass, and everything in between are all just shades of grey, and must be colorized by artificial means.”

Wish You Were Eyre by Heather Vogel Frederick – #6 in a series : “It’s a dream come true for Megan, who’s jet-setting to Paris for Fashion Week with Gigi. Meanwhile, back in Concord, Mrs. Wong decides to run for mayor, so Emma and Stewart team up to make her campaign a success. Jess and Cassidy are also hoping for victories, Jess in the a cappella finals with the MadriGals and Cassidy in the national hockey championships with her teammates. In the midst of it all, the girls—along with their Wyoming pen pals, who drop in for a visit over Spring Break—dive into Charlotte Bronte’s classic Jane Eyre. Some real life romance follows, as Becca may have found a Mr. Rochester of her own.”

Betsy Tacy and Tib and Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill by Maud Hart Lovelace – I read the first one to my son awhile back and keep meaning to read more in the series. These are books 2 and 3.

Now for the real kicker. I probably won’t read any of these next. November is Nanowrimo and I am not sure how much reading I’ll get done so I plan to focus first on our November / December book club pick, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson:

“On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born, the third child of a wealthy English banker and his wife. Sadly, she dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in any number of ways. Clearly history (and Kate Atkinson) have plans for her: In Ursula rests nothing less than the fate of civilization.”

After I finish that, if time permits, I’ll get to some of the books mentioned above. Otherwise, they’ll have to wait for December.

So what did I read this month and what am I reading right now?

This month I read:

  1. somedaysomedaymaybeSomeday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham (October Book Club Pick) – Finished October 8, 2013 – I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, but I love Lauren Graham and the plot sounded fun. It was even better than I was expecting, honestly. Graham’s main character, Franny, is kooky and flawed and easy to relate to and she does a good job fleshing out her characters to make them seem realistic. I loved all the 90′s era references and Graham did a great job with tying themes together in the book. She follows a somewhat stereotypical formula but pokes fun at the formula while doing so. Add to this a little love story that has you rooting for a happy ending and a fun glimpse into the world of acting. I really enjoyed it and towards the second half just absolutely could not put it down. – full review
  2. My Lucky Life in and Out of Show Business by Dick Van Dyke – Finished October 13, 2013 – Although Van Dyke is probably one of the greatest actors of all time, he is not one of the greatest writers. He’s very good, but not great. The book flits around from topic to topic and often doesn’t get to the meat of any stories – largely because he chose from the beginning to not write any salacious “gossip”. I applaud him for that but unfortunately conflict is what makes a story interesting usually so although he did his best, a lot of the stories felt a little flat. Like “Once upon a time this amazing thing happened and then this less amazing thing happened, but I’m not going to tell you about it. The End.” Overall… I liked it enough to finish it, but I did not love it enough to heartily recommend it.

Right now I’m reading Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger since it was mentioned so often our book club pick, Someday, Someday, Maybe (the main character is named after Franny from the Salinger book).

“The short story, “Franny”, takes place in an unnamed college town and tells the tale of an undergraduate who is becoming disenchanted with the selfishness and inauthenticity she perceives all around her.

The novella, Zooey, is named for Zooey Glass, the second-youngest member of the Glass family. As his younger sister, Franny, suffers a spiritual and existential breakdown in her parents’ Manhattan living room – leaving Bessie, her mother, deeply concerned – Zooey comes to her aid, offering what he thinks is brotherly love, understanding, and words of sage advice.”

I thought it might be useful to have read both books and Franny and Zooey is very short so it isn’t much of an undertaking. It’s definitely not a favorite of mine so far, but it is interesting so I’m glad I took the time to read it.

So what are you reading?

And will you be attempting Nanowrimo this year? If so, you can friend me here!

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books & reading nightstand

What’s On My Nightstand: September 2013

I’m kind of crazy late in publishing this month’s What’s On Your Nightstand? post. For anyone new, this is a super fun, super ease blog carnival, hosted by the lovely ladies at 5 Minutes for Books.

The goal is pretty simple: Share what books you’ve been reading this month and what you plan to read next.

I’ve read three books this month: read in september

  1. The “Nerdy” Non-fiction one: Secret Lives of the First Ladies by Cormac O’Brien – Finished September 8, 2013 – This a great way to learn a little bit more about the many first ladies of the US and about the country’s history as well. The book is informative and interesting and perhaps best of all it is easy to read.
  2. The Cheesy “guilty pleasure”: The Highlanders Hope by Cali MacKay – Finished September 21, 2013 – I downloaded this for free on my kindle and found I could not put the story down until the mystery was solved. While definitely a “romance novel” I found it had just the right amount of detail left to the imagination for my taste and had plenty of actual story to keep from just being pure fluff. From a literary aspect, this book was good in that it kept me wanting to read more but it definitely overused a few descriptive details – the raising of eyebrows was used into infinity.  I’m considering reading some of the other stories in her Highlanders series but not in any great rush.
  3. The “must read” Literary One: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (September Book Club Pick) – Finished September 25, 2013 – This was one of those books that makes you think and then makes you think harder and then makes you think that maybe you don’t know very much after all. It’s a sort of story within a story within a story that seems to be constantly changing the rules and making you question what you thought you understood. Basically, it’s brilliant.

Last night I started reading Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster, who is normally a sure thing for me, but I have to be honest, I’m not sure it’s what I’m in the mood to read right now. So I may flip through some of the many books that are crowding my nightstand / bookshelves / desk / home.

Possibilities include:

next to read

A Celeb Memoir: My Lucky Life in and Out of Show Business by Dick Van Dyke – “A colorful, loving, richly detailed look at the decades of a multilayered life, My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business, will enthrall every generation of reader, from baby-boomers who recall when Rob Petrie became a household name, to all those still enchanted by Bert’s “Chim Chim Cher-ee.” This is a lively, heartwarming memoir of a performer who still thinks of himself as a “simple song-and-dance man,” but who is, in every sense of the word, a classic entertainer.”

A Young Adult Novel: Wish You Were Eyre by Heather Vogel Frederick – “It’s a dream come true for Megan, who’s jet-setting to Paris for Fashion Week with Gigi. Meanwhile, back in Concord, Mrs. Wong decides to run for mayor, so Emma and Stewart team up to make her campaign a success. Jess and Cassidy are also hoping for victories, Jess in the a cappella finals with the MadriGals and Cassidy in the national hockey championships with her teammates. In the midst of it all, the girls—along with their Wyoming pen pals, who drop in for a visit over Spring Break—dive into Charlotte Bronte’s classic Jane Eyre. Some real life romance follows, as Becca may have found a Mr. Rochester of her own.”

A Light Mystery: The Last Word – Spellman Files #6 by Lisa Lutz – “Isabel Spellman is used to being followed, extorted, and questioned—all occupational hazards of working at her family’s firm, Spellman Investigations. Her little sister, Rae, once tailed Izzy for weeks on end to discover the identity of her boyfriend. Her mother, Olivia, once blackmailed Izzy with photographic evidence of Prom Night 1994. It seemed that the Spellmans would lay off after Izzy was fired for breaching client confidentiality, but then Izzy avenged her dismissal by staging a hostile takeover of the company. She should have known better than to think she could put such shenanigans behind her.”

The Next Book Club Pick: Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham – “Franny Banks is a struggling actress in New York City, with just six months left of the three year deadline she gave herself to succeed. But so far, all she has to show for her efforts is a single line in an ad for ugly Christmas sweaters and a degrading waitressing job. She lives in Brooklyn with two roommates-Jane, her best friend from college, and Dan, a sci-fi writer, who is very definitely not boyfriend material-and is struggling with her feelings for a suspiciously charming guy in her acting class, all while trying to find a hair-product cocktail that actually works.”

What are YOU reading right now?

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books & reading nightstand

Nightstand: August 2013

It’s hard to believe that the month is almost over. In less than a week BOTH of my children will be IN SCHOOL. This is craziness! For roughly three hours each weekday I will have the house to myself (unless you coun’t the dog) while BB is at 4K and of course MM will be starting second grade. We are all super excited (and a little nervous). This last week of summer vacation has been filled with peanut butter and honey sandwiches, PBS Kids shows, discovering and devouring The Lizzie Bennet Diaries in two days and, occasionally, reading.

Anyway, the last time we talked nightstands I was reading  The Selection by Kiera Cass. Similar to the LBD, after discovering the series I became obsessively hooked and read every book out in the series as fast as humanly possible. I am a sucker for a good love story and this one was a complicated doozy – almost as complicated at Elizabeth and Darcy’s.

All in all, I’ve read four books since my last nightstand post:

  1. The Selection by Kiera Cass – Finished July 24, 2013 – This book just sucked me in and refused to let go from the first page. Though the writing is fairly simple (YA book), the story is fascinating and the characters are even better. I downloaded the following book, Elite and her novella, The Prince before even finishing this one. – Full Review
  2. The Prince a novella by Kiera Cass – Finished July 25, 2013 – It was really interesting to get a chance to get to know Prince Maxon a little better and see the Selection through his eyes. There were a few funny moments when you see his reaction to something that you remember America going through – and it’s a nice quick read – it took me an hour to finish the story.
  3. The Elite by Kiera Cass – Finished July 27, 2013 – Good lord, I could not put this book down. I am really enjoying this series and anxious for book three.
  4. Moranthology by Caitlin Moran – Finished August 20, 2013 – I think I enjoyed this book even better than her last. With a variety of topics, this book is hilarious and insightful, but mostly hilarious. Interviews with famous musicians, reviews of Downton Abbey and Sherlock and stories about her marriage and childhood and everything in between. If you like Caitlin Moran, you will LOVE this book. If you don’t know who Caitlin Moran is, but you like Tina Fey or Jen Lancaster or The Bloggess – you will LOVE this book. – Full Review

In between starting and finishing Moranthology, I tried reading The Alienist by Caleb Carr to discuss with my book club, but I honestly couldn’t seem to get into it at all. It’s a very long, very descriptive and gruesome book and frankly just not what I was in the mood to read. So I decided to sit out this month’s book club and instead finished Moranthology and LOVED it.

Right now I am reading a bit of non-fiction but also relatively light reading: Secret Lives of the First Ladies by Cormac O’Brien. Goodreads.com describes it thusly:

“Your high school history teachers never gave you a book like this one! Secret Lives of the First Ladies features outrageous and uncensored profiles of the women of the White House—complete with hundreds of little-known, politically incorrect, and downright wacko facts.”

For those following along with my summer reading challenge, I would need to somehow finish the book I am reading now and one other title before the end of the month to finish my personal challenge. This seems highly unlikely, especially thanks to The Lizzie Bennet Diaries completely taking over my life for the past two days, but I am still proud of all the reading that I have gotten done this summer and looking forward to making some new fall reading goals.

Books I’m planning to read next include:

In general, my nightstand is starting to get way, way crowded again but my brain is a bit hazy on all the titles so I’ll save them for a longer list on another day!

What are you reading right now?

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books & reading nightstand

Nightstand: July 2013

I was thinking about what to blog about today – BB’s 4th birthday party? The Amazing Pay it Forward Shoes? Yes I definitely want to tell you about those things soon, but then I noticed it’s time for What’s On Your Nightstand? @ 5 Minutes for Books! Who can pass up a chance to talk about BOOKS? Certainly not me!

Never participated in What’s On Your Nightstand? Just answer some or all of the following questions:

What books have you read recently? What are you reading right now? What will you read next? Basically what books are on your nightstand, either literally or figuratively.

Since last month I have read:

  1. The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart – Finished July 5, 2013 – It was really fun to read a little of the back story on Nicholas Benedict from the Mysterious Benedict books – he was a pretty amazing kid! The story itself stands on it’s own so if you haven’t read the other books in this series, you can feel free to read this one first. I found the book to be well written and funny with plenty of mysteries to solve.
  2. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain (July Book Club) – Finished July 21, 2013 – I’m kind of grateful that I didn’t previously know very much about Hemingway’s life, much less his wife Hadley’s, because there was never any moment in this book where I definitely knew what would happen next. Beautifully written, this book was a favorite of mine. I really sympathized with Hadley and found the book to be a fascinating look at marriage, literary history and life in the 1920′s. – Full Review

the selection by kiera cassI just started reading The Selection by Kiera Cass last night. I am definitely intrigued by the story’s premise and the main character, America Singer, is definitely that right mix of a sassy, fiercely independent free thinker who suffers from being in love with the wrong guy, according to her society. Yes, it’s a YA Dystopian Story – my fave! Here’s a quick description:

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself—and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

So when I finish this book, here are the books from my Summer Reading Challenge I’m thinking I’ll read next:

I have to confess though, my wandering literary eye has been itching to read a few other books that have come into my possession recently. I have been doing a really good job sticking to my original list, but sometimes that gets tough when really good looking books come my way.

Also contenders for upcoming reads:

The City of Bones by Cassandra Clare – I downloaded this on impulse on my Kindle the other day for super cheap and I really would like to read it before seeing the movie, plus it would still qualify as reading a book on my kindle which was one of my goals for my Summer challenge.

The Last Word by Lisa Lutz which I won in a Goodreads.com First Reads Giveaway. I don’t actually have the books in my hands yet as it still needs to ship out to me – but I think I’ll have a hard time ignoring it when it gets here.

What are you reading right now?

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books & reading nightstand summer reading

Nightstand: June 2013

We are quickly approaching the end of yet another month and it’s time to check in with those fantastic ladies @ 5 Minutes for Books with a What’s On Your Nightstand? update.

If you’ve never participated before, it’s super easy – just answer some or all of the following questions:

What books have you read recently?

What are you reading right now?

What will you read next?

Basically what books are on your nightstand, either literally or figuratively.

Since we last talked nightstands, I read two books:
nightstand-june2013-3

  1. Pandemonium (Delirium #2) by Lauren Oliver – Finished May 29, 2013 – I put off reading this book for awhile, worried that it would be too depressing, given the way that book one ended, but I’m glad I finally picked it up. I think Oliver makes a few interesting decisions in her story telling that provide a less predictable plot and more realistic lives for her main characters. I’m interested to see what develops in the third book.
  2. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (June Book Club) – Finished June 12, 2013 – This is going to be one of those books that stays with me for a long time. The overall concept of this story is both fantastical and disturbingly plausible – the way any good dystopian kind of story should be. I think the author did a great job of fleshing out her story, providing a main character that was both realistic and likeable with plenty of side stories that had less to do with the world potentially ending and more to do with coming of age. This was a book that really sucked me in while I was reading it – I really liked it. – Full Review

Right now I’m reading The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart, which is the prequel to the incredibly popular Mysterious Benedict Society series. “Nine-year-old Nicholas Benedict has more problems than most children his age. Not only is he an orphan with an unfortunate nose, but he also has narcolepsy, a condition that gives him terrible nightmares and makes him fall asleep at the worst possible moments. Now he’s being sent to a new orphanage, where he will encounter vicious bullies, selfish adults, strange circumstances – and a mystery that could change his life forever. Luckily, he does have one thing in his favor: He’s a a genius.”   I’m only about 1/4 through the book (it is a pretty big book!) but so far enjoying it quite a bit. I think it holds up well as its own book so if you haven’t read the other books in the series, you could easily pick this one up first.

summerreading-buttonSo what’s on tap to read next? With Summer in full swing, I am holding my first annual Summer Reading Challenge. I decided to host a very informal reading challenge at my blog this summer, because why should our kids have all the fun? If you’d like to join in, you can link up your reading goals here. The challenge will run until September 1st and you can join in any time. I challenged myself to read 9 books this summer, preferably ones I already own.

The ones I’m most likely to read in the coming month are :

nightstand-june2013

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain (Book Club Pick for July) – “A deeply evocative story of ambition and betrayal, The Paris Wife captures a remarkable period of time and a love affair between two unforgettable people: Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley.”

The Selection by Kiera Cass – “For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon. But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks. Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself—and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – “Jay Gatsby is the man who has everything. But one thing will always be out of his reach … Everybody who is anybody is seen at his glittering parties. Day and night his Long Island mansion buzzes with bright young things drinking, dancing and debating his mysterious character. For Gatsby – young, handsome, fabulously rich – always seems alone in the crowd, watching and waiting, though no one knows what for. Beneath the shimmering surface of his life he is hiding a secret: a silent longing that can never be fulfilled. And soon this destructive obsession will force his world to unravel.

Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster – “This is the story of how a haughty former sorority girl went from having a household income of almost a quarter-million dollars to being evicted from a ghetto apartment… It’s a modern Greek tragedy, as defined by Roger Dunkle in The Classical Origins of Western Culture: a story in which “the central character, called a tragic protagonist or hero, suffers some serious misfortune which is not accidental and therefore meaningless, but is significant in that the misfortune is logically connected.” In other words? The bitch had it coming.”

Or some combination of those… Or different books entirely – you never know with me!

What are you reading right now?

Do you like to make reading goals or just fly by the seat of your literary pants?

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books & reading nightstand

Nightstand 2013: May

It’s kind of amazing that May is nearly over already with summer following quickly behind. The end of another month means it’s time to check in with the ladies at 5 Minutes For Books and share the books that are currently on my nightstand or have been there recently.

Since we last nightstanded together, I read the following books:

  1. Pretty in Plaid by Jen Lancaster – Finished April 30, 2013 – I love pretty much everything Jen Lancaster writes and this was no exception. Funny, poignant and full of the wit and the fantastically crazy stories you’d expect from her.
  2. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple (May Book Club Pick) – Finished May 9, 2013 – Epistolary novels are always a bit of a gamble, in my opinion. Breaking away from a traditional narrative can make it hard to get immersed in the story, but Where’d You Go, Bernadette did a great job providing a story you’ll find yourself lost in way into the late hours of the night. I found myself relating to Bernadette a lot, which was a little bit scary for awhile there, but it also kept me rooting for her and her family. This is a great look at mental illnesses both perceived, ignored and real – and a story that shows the complexities of families, marriage, neighborhoods & the world. For a “book of letters, emails and memos” this book packs a pretty big punch. – Full Review
  3. The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen – Finished May 18, 2013 – I think in some ways I enjoyed The Runaway King even more than the first in this series. Sage aka Jaron’s wit and humor is as well written as ever and his character is going through a bit of personal growth while trying to save his kingdom from certain peril. This book packs adventure, coming of age, a touch of romance & a lot of humor between it’s pages. I highly recommend this series!

Right now I’m reading Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver – book two in the delirium series. I was a little hesitant to read this one due to the major bummer of an ending in book one, but I have to say I’ve really been enjoying it and I’m already starting to anticipate book three as I get closer and closer to the end of the book.

Next up I plan to read the following books, which make up the remainder of my Spring Reading Thing Challenge:

  1. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (June Book Club Pick) “On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, 11-year-old Julia and her family awake to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow. The days and nights grow longer and longer, gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into disarray. Yet as she struggles to navigate an ever-shifting landscape, Julia is also coping with the normal disasters of everyday life–the fissures in her parents’ marriage, the loss of old friends, the hopeful anguish of first love, the bizarre behavior of her grandfather who, convinced of a government conspiracy, spends his days obsessively cataloging his possessions. As Julia adjusts to the new normal, the slowing inexorably continues.”
  2. The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart – Why have I not read this one yet? I’m not sure, so let’s remedy that! “Nine-year-old Nicholas Benedict has more problems than most children his age. Not only is he an orphan with an unfortunate nose, but he also has narcolepsy, a condition that gives him terrible nightmares and makes him fall asleep at the worst possible moments. Now he’s being sent to a new orphanage, where he will encounter vicious bullies, selfish adults, strange circumstances – and a mystery that could change his life forever. Luckily, he does have one thing in his favor: He’s a a genius.”
  3. Vixen by Jillian Larkin – “Jazz . . . Booze . . . Boys . . . It’s a dangerous combination. Every girl wants what she can’t have. Seventeen-year-old Gloria Carmody wants the flapper lifestyle—and the bobbed hair, cigarettes, and music-filled nights that go with it. Now that she’s engaged to Sebastian Grey, scion of one of Chicago’s most powerful families, Gloria’s party days are over before they’ve even begun . . . or are they? Clara Knowles, Gloria’s goody-two-shoes cousin, has arrived to make sure the high-society wedding comes off without a hitch—but Clara isn’t as lily-white as she appears. Seems she has some dirty little secrets of her own that she’ll do anything to keep hidden. . . . Lorraine Dyer, Gloria’s social-climbing best friend, is tired of living in Gloria’s shadow. When Lorraine’s envy spills over into desperate spite, no one is safe. And someone’s going to be very sorry. . . . From debut author Jillian Larkin, Vixen is the first novel in the sexy, dangerous, and ridiculously romantic new series set in the Roaring Twenties . . . when anything goes.”

After that I’ll be getting started on my personal summer reading challenge – click here for more details!

What books are you reading?