TBR Challenge 2017 Update #1

For those just arriving: I’ve decided to participate in the TBR Challenge this year.  The object is to read as many books as you can that you’ve had on your “to-be-read” pile by the end of the year.

Also, I’ve made a decision about this challenge.  If I’m not into something on my TBR list, I’m not going to finish it.  Too many books, too little time.  I will, however, give each book 100 pages before I give up.

Here’s how it’s going so far…

The Man in the Picture:  A Ghost Story by Susan Hill: Stay tuned for more, Horror Month 2017!

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  I’m sorry, I just couldn’t get into this.  I’d certainly suggest it to readers who enjoyed The Golem and the Jinni or Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, though!  It’s got incredible atmosphere, nice historical sense of place, and the style is really evocative.  Not my (book)bag, but it might be yours!

The Father of the Rain by Lily King.  I was absorbed in this one from the first chapter.  It’s an engaging, nuanced story of a complicated father/daughter relationship, spanning many years.

The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt.  I was a couple pages into this novel when I realized that I’d begun it before.  Would you believe I’ve never read anything by Byatt before?  Language to savor and beautiful period detail.  Sweeping and engrossing.  But, alas, not one that grabbed me personally.  And I felt really guilty about that, because it’s a gorgeous book.

The Ghost Orchid by Carol Goodman.  I’ve read a couple of Goodman’s books, and I enjoy her brand of psychological suspense.  This one, set at a writer’s retreat in upstate New York, is a great Gothic tale and period piece as well as a suspense story.  It reminded me a lot of Kate Morton’s work (The Forgotten Garden in particular).  I got halfway through and then flipped to the end.  For some reason (perhaps the alternating chapters?), the tension just never took for me.

Well.  A bit disappointing.  But I guess this is why some of these books have sat on my To-Read shelf for five years.

Also, I keep adding new stuff to my TBR list, so now I’ve got 842 items on it.  I began with 831.  And have read or tried to read five.

I’m thinking I won’t see much of a net gain from this project.

–Marie

Marie’s Currently Reading: Blizzard Edition II

Ugh.  Last time I could make jokes but this time digging out our driveway took three hours and I don’t want to talk about it except to say:

598480

 

On the plus side, I did spend the not-shoveling part of the snowstorm with some great books!

The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan.  This book about the women who worked at Oak Ridge during World War II reads like a novel.  Since this is still within living memory, the author was able to interview lots of people, and to focus on a few individual stories.  The first-person accounts really add an immersive layer to the history.  In alternate chapters, the history and science behind the atomic bomb is explored.  A nice introduction to the making of the atomic bomb, and also a great exploration of the women who had a hand in making it happen.

The Widow’s House by Carol Goodman.  Very much my usual, and Goodman is very much in her wheelhouse with a novel about two writers who go back to their college town in upstate New York to work as caretakers for a former teacher.  The teacher’s house has a tragic past, and lots of family secrets and maybe a ghost.  Entertaining and enjoyable, and I’m just getting into the meat of it now.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  This book was all the rage when it was first published.  Everyone was reading it and talking about it.  It’s been on my TBR pile for years, and I just started it the other night.  The first chapter was a promising, atmospheric, and mysterious beginning to a story about rival magicians in the late 19th century.

Ghost Road Blues by Jonathan Maberry.  Yet another novel I’m reading in preparation for Horror month!  I’ve loved all the short stories I’ve read by Maberry, so I decided to give this title a try.  It’s about an ancient evil in a small town.  If it spooks me, you’ll see it in October!

That was all I had time for before the shoveling began.  And the watching of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, which is awesome and you should stop reading this right now and go watch it.  Maybe this weekend I’ll have time for more books and Gently.  After shoveling.

–Marie

 

 

Marie’s Currently Reading…Blizzard Edition!

As most of you have probably  heard, there’s a blizzard on the way to Maine tonight.  CRIPPLING, you guys.  It’s going to be CRIPPLING: http://haggett.bangordailynews.com/2017/02/12/home/crippling-blizzard-on-the-way-for-coastal-and-interior-maine-2/

snowmen
I’ll do my level best not to go insane.  No promises.

Tomorrow is looking like a wash.  A whitewash.  We’ve called a closure already here at the library, because…seriously, CRIPPLING BLIZZARD, guys.   In between shoveling out our driveway from the snowdrifts and baking brownies and praying that the power stays on, I’ve got lots of great books on the go for tomorrow’s snowstorm!

Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air by Richard Holmes–a history of hot air ballooning!  There’s something incredibly inspiring about the early aeronauts and their quest to take to the air.  Balloonists were showmen, scientists, adventurers, and everything in between.

Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart–fun, rollicking historical fiction with a fascinating lead and some cracking good dialogue.  It’s about a woman named Constance Kopp, who was one of the first deputy sheriffs in America.

The Matchmaker of Perigord by Julia Stewart–this is a witty and very entertaining novel about a barber in a small French village.  When he starts losing clients due to baldness, he decides that he’ll become the village matchmaker instead.  It’s clever and cozy but not twee.

Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon–I need at least one thriller on standby.  An alcoholic journalist tries to redeem her life and career by taking on an unsolved case.

Not a bad set of companions for the day.  Apart from Snow Shovel, of course, who I’ll be seeing a lot of.  I hope you’re all holed up somewhere snug and safe tomorrow!

–Marie

 

 

 

 

Marie’s Favorites of 2016

If nothing else, 2016 has at least been a good reading year.  One of the best in recent memory, I’d say.  I discovered new favorites (Helen Ellis) and rediscovered lots of old ones (Grady Hendrix, Donald Ray Pollock, and Shirley Jackson).  Thanks to my book club I’ve read some outstanding nonfiction this year, too!

Here’s a link to my 2016 Reading Challenge over at Goodreads.  In general I’m not a huge fan of reading challenges that are purely numbers-based, but I think it’s great to have a way to track my reading over the course of a year.  Looking over my list from 2016, I see that I branched out a bit more into contemporary women writers.  I’ve also dipped back into the historical fiction well, which used to be one of my favorites.  I burned out on thrillers, but still love crime (thank you thank you for the new book this year, Tana French!).

I know we’ve still got more than a week to go before the year officially ends, but trust me when I tell you that it is highly unlikely that I’ll be able to finish anything before New Year’s.  So below please find my list of favorite reads of 2016.  Click the cover to go to the blog post for that book.

Happy holidays, folks!

american housewife

the other typist

wonder garden

lake of dead

calamity leek

Batman_thelonghalloween

Not Working

best-friends-exorcism

Heavenly Table

great-detective

wohlsdorf

Marie’s Not Reading This: Holiday Edition!

…holiday in that the holidays are swiftly approaching and my cookie-laden brain can only handle Christmas specials, not that these are holiday books.

I’ve got a bookmark in quite a few titles right now, but nothing at the point where I can write about it.  So here’s what’s on my coffee table/in my bookbag:

Mischling by Affinity Konar (so tough to read but so so good)

The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis (fans of Daniel Woodrell and Cormac McCarthy take note!)

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks (it is time to finally read past the first few pages of this!)

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (haven’t started this yet, but I’m so excited for it–it’s been on a ton of best of 2016 lists)

Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin (thank you NPR Book Concierge for alerting me to the existence of this new biography!)

Not so long as other lists in this category!  Also, in looking over these titles, I realize I’ve made a rookie mistake in my reading choices.  Winter is not the time for sad/upsetting/bleak/generally heavy reads. No wonder I’m dragging my feet and reaching for Bill Bryson and Terry Pratchett.

I’m going to go home to eat candy and watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  I’ll grapple with this list another day.

–Marie

Marie’s Reading: Comfort Books

It’s been a rough couple of weeks all around, hasn’t it?   I’ve decided to turn to bibliotherapy to cope.

Bibliotherapy is a therapeutic technique which uses literature to support good mental health.  Bibliotherapists do a sort of readers advisory therapy session with readers, with the goal of providing a suggested reading list which will help the reader through challenging times.   Ceridwen Dovey talked about it over at The New Yorker last summer.

I decided to come up with my own list of books which make me feel better, either by distracting me, making me laugh, or providing some hope. Yours, of course, would probably differ.  There’s always the book mentioned in Dovey’s article, The Novel Cure, if you need some guidance.

Here’s my highly personal list of self-medication titles, which I am taking as needed:

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, especially Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and the final installment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson

The Huge Book of Hell: A Cartoon Book by Matt Groening

The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, the Death books in particular

Take it easy out there, friends.

 

 

Marie’s Not Reading This: Spring Fever Edition

It’s been a weird cold spring around here.  Gray and chilly and still freezing at night.  It snowed yesterday.  I had to dig out my wool skirt and turtleneck sweater.

But today.

Today it’s beautiful out, sunny and breezy and warm, and I’m stuck at the library working.  Working to catalog books and write about books and check books out and process books for your interlibrary loans.  So that you can take them to the beach or to your porch or to your yacht or to your treehouse to blissfully read in the sunshine.  While I sit at a desk and type and stare out the window at the beautiful library lawn and wish I could at least smell the ocean.

I forgot where I was going with this.

Oh yeah: there are lots of books I could take to my yacht if I had one.  Time for another edition of Marie’s Not Reading This!

As always, these are books I have in progress.  Clearly publishers know that lovely days like today have been few this spring, so they’re publishing all the good books now so that we have something to read.  We’re also a little less than half-way to Halloween, so I’ve been reading more Horror in preparation.

Here you go, in descending order of how far along I am in each book.

Marie’s Not Reading (Because She’d Rather Be Playing Outside):

The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War
by Lynn H. Nicholas
The City & The City by China Mieville
Fellside by M.R. Carey
Travelers Rest by Keith Lee Morris
The Lightkeepers by Abby Geni
Over the Plain Houses by Julia Franks
The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman by Nancy Marie Brown

Enjoy the weather, tourists and people who don’t have to work today.

–Marie