Monday, December 31, 2012

Books I Didn't Read - 2012

This time of year is a book addict's biggest nightmare.  It's the time of year when we realize just how many books we DIDN'T read.  Every year around this time, I lament the days I spent lingering between books, watching Downton Abbey, or listening to news radio, because I could have been reading or listening to another book.  I see all the "Best Of" lists coming out and beat myself up for passing up this book or that.

There are too many books, too little time, and I will never read all the books I want to read.

So, here I dedicate a post to all the books I Wish I Read in 2012. 

FLIGHT BEHAVIOR by Barbara Kingsolver (Harper)
THE ROUND HOUSE: A NOVEL by Louise Erdich (Harper)
THE PASSAGE by Justin Cronin (Ballantine/Random House)
THE YELLOW BIRDS by Kevin Powers (Little, Brown)
THE GODS OF GOTHAM by Lyndsay Faye (Putnam, Amy Einhorn)
WILD by Cheryl Strayed (Knopf)
THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE HER by Junot Diaz (Riverhead)
THE DOG STARS by Peter Heller (Knopf)
LAURA LAMONT'S LIFE IN PICTURES by Emma Straub (Riverhead)
A LAND MORE KIND THAN HOME by Wiley Cash (William Morrow)
SHINE SHINE SHINE by Lydia Netzer (St Martin's Press)
AND WHEN SHE WAS GOOD by Laura Lippman (William Morrow)
THE SHOEMAKER'S WIFE by Adriana Trigiani (Harper)
RULES OF CIVILITY by Amor Towles (Penguin)
THE FLIGHT OF GEMMA HARDY by Margot Livesey (Harper Perennial)
THE ROOTS OF THE OLIVE TREE by Courtney Miller Santo (William Morrow)
SHARP OBJECTS by Gillian Flynn (Broadway)
WIFE 22 by Melanie Gideon (William Morrow)

Young Adult:

THE DIVINERS by Libba Bray (Little, Brown)
ASK THE PASSENGERS by A.S. King (Little, Brown)
THE FALSE PRINCE by Jennifer Nielsen (Scholastic)
DRAMA by Raina Telgemeier (Scholastic)
SERAPHINA by Rachel Hartman (Random House)
ENDANGERED by Eliot Schrefer (Scholastic)
INSURGENT by Veronica Roth (Katherine Tegan Books)
EVERY DAY by David Levithan (Knopf)
BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY by Ruta Sepetys (Philomel)
SKINNY by Donna Cooner (Scholastic)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Review: The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

Wonderful book, delightful audio!

Synopsis: (from publisher)
The Chaperone is a captivating novel about the woman who chaperoned an irreverent Louise Brooks to New York City in 1922 and the summer that would change them both.
Only a few years before becoming a famous silent-film star and an icon of her generation, a fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks leaves Wichita, Kansas, to study with the prestigious Denishawn School of Dancing in New York. Much to her annoyance, she is accompanied by a thirty-six-year-old chaperone, who is neither mother nor friend. Cora Carlisle, a complicated but traditional woman with her own reasons for making the trip, has no idea what she’s in for. Young Louise, already stunningly beautiful and sporting her famous black bob with blunt bangs, is known for her arrogance and her lack of respect for convention. Ultimately, the five weeks they spend together will transform their lives forever.

For Cora, the city holds the promise of discovery that might answer the question at the core of her being, and even as she does her best to watch over Louise in this strange and bustling place she embarks on a mission of her own. And while what she finds isn’t what she anticipated, she is liberated in a way she could not have imagined. Over the course of Cora’s relationship with Louise, her eyes are opened to the promise of the twentieth century and a new understanding of the possibilities for being fully alive.

Drawing on the rich history of the 1920s,’30s, and beyond--from the orphan trains to Prohibition, flappers, and the onset of the Great Depression to the burgeoning movement for equal rights and new opportunities for women--Laura Moriarty’s The Chaperone illustrates how rapidly everything, from fashion and hemlines to values and attitudes, was changing at this time and what a vast difference it all made for Louise Brooks, Cora Carlisle, and others like them.

My friend Sheila (Book Journey) brought me to meet Laura Moriarty at a BEA (Book Expo America) event in June, where all the book lovers around us were wearing pageboy wigs and raving about THE CHAPERONE!  I felt like they were all in on a wonderful secret, and I knew I had to get my hands on this book!  Well, when Beth Fish Reads told me that Elizabeth McGovern (Downton Abbey) narrated the audio, I couldn't wait any longer and dove right in. Oh, I was so glad I did!

Elizabeth McGovern was the perfect choice to read THE CHAPERONE.  Her effortless dialect from the 1920s pulled me right into the time and mood of this novel.  I got lost in this book in the most wonderful way. and was completely and utterly swept up, I didn't want out.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that while the book was called THE CHAPERONE, it did indeed focus on Louise Brooks' chaperone, Cora,  instead of silent movie star, Louise herself.  Don't get me wrong, of course I found myself Googling all the information I could about Louise Brooks, but it was the character of Cora Carlisle that kept me coming back.

The relationship between Cora and Louise was at the center of the story, but their back stories could not have been more interesting or more different.  Cora was one of the children put on the orphan train in New York City and headed west in search of families looking to adopt children (whatever the reasons), and although her adoptive parents were kind to her, as was her husband, her life was not without difficulties.  When Cora was given the opportunity to come back to New York City as Louise's chaperone, she could not pass it up.

Louise was a precocious child with seemingly endless confidence, knowing she was going to come to New York City, become a star, and never return home.  Unlike Cora's childhood, Louise grew up in a world of privileged independence.  She got everything she ever dreamed of, and then some.  You know how the saying goes, be careful what you wish for!

These women were not mother and daughter, they were not sisters, they were not even friends, yet the relationship they experienced for that summer in New York was the most honest relationship of either of their lives up to that point. There were men in their lives - husbands, fathers, sons - but they were just the catalysts for drama.  The heart of this novel is about Cora and Louise. THE CHAPERONE was powerful, sad, and beautifully written.

Even though I listened to the audiobook, the only downside was the inability to re-read Laura Moriarty's beautiful prose. She had so many wonderful, quotable passages, but I didn't dare stop the audio! I need to re-read THE CHAPERONE in print, just to really appreciate the writing all over again.

Highly recommended!

Book Extras:
Author Website, Twitter, Facebook,
Penguin book page (excerpt here)

About the Book:
Read by: Elizabeth McGovern

  • Listening Length: 13 hours and 14 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Penguin Audiobooks
  • Release Date: June 5, 2012
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0088UTDMU

  • About the Author: (from author website)
    Laura Moriarty earned a degree in social work before returning for her M.A. in Creative Writing at the University of Kansas. She was the recipient of the George Bennett Fellowship for Creative Writing at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, and is now a professor of Creative Writing at the University of Kansas. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas, and is at work on her next novel


    Friday, December 14, 2012

    How popular is TOO popular?

    No, no, no.  I'm not talking about high school!  I'm talking books!  
    (Also, I thought this picture was hilarious after the hate-watching of Liz and Dick.)

    There is a process I go through from the time I fall in love with a book...and the moment when so many other people have read it that it becomes something different.

    Love at first sight.
    Book reviewers are a lucky bunch. We get to dive into books long before they hit the bookstores. We get this big padded manila envelope in the mail.  Inside is an unfinished proof, a galley, an advanced readers' copy of The Book.  Often these little gems will come with a handwritten note from the editor, who was probably the very first person to fall in love with the Book. The note is personal, and invites me to join the club, share in this little secret. I open the Book and get lost in a brand new world of never-before-met characters.  There is no influence of the outside world.  I didn't find Book on the Bestsellers List or the Staff Picks shelf at the bookstore.  No influence. Just me and the Book.

    If I had a photo of myself at this moment, it would be me staring off wistfully as I remember when a love affair with a Book started in just this way. *sigh* I love Books.

    The honeymoon.
    So, I spend the next weeks and months writing reviews, talking to my friends, harassing my Indie bookstore manager - You're All Going To Love The Book as Much as I Do!!  I jump into 140 characters or less mode when another reviewer on Twitter exclaims his/her love of The Book!  Yay! There are a few more in our circle!  Isn't this exciting?   I am on cloud 9, because I have found The Book, the one that gets my heart racing and sparks my love of the written word all over again! I am not alone, but I am one of the select few who will bring news of The Book.

    The silence. 
    This is the period of time between my excitement of The Book and my excitement of the Next Book. I usually fall into a funk during the silence. It's like a book hangover. The period Between Books can be excruciating.  I miss the people from The Book, I miss where they live, their best friends, their romance, their witty banter. It's like going on vacation with a new friend, having the time of your lives, and then having to say goodbye for a while. 

    The Rebound.
    My funk sometimes reads as sadness, at which point I know the funk must end. At this point, I turn to my perennial favorites to bring me back up - Elin Hilderbrand, Janet Evanovich, Sarah Addison Allen, Maggie Stiefvater, Charlaine Harris, JK Rowling.  My own little literary sorority of writers that I can always count on to spark my passion for reading. 

    The Debut.
    The pub date is here, and The Book is everywhere.  First I see it in industry publications - ah, the circle is widening! Yes, the book clubs are coming!  The book clubs are coming! Soon the Book goes beyond the publishing family and is introduced to the general public, like a coming out party! The Today Show, Good Morning America, and, holy Toledo, Oprah's Book Club! I'm so happy for the author, and every time I see her on TV I feel like I'm looking at an old friend. 

    The Media Frenzy.
    Sometimes this happens by the time the paperback edition of The Book comes out, but sometimes it's even earlier. The Book is everywhere.  I can't walk into the grocery store without seeing it, or having someone stop me to tell me about it. It's like having a stranger tell you how great your own mom, yeah, I know, I knew her first!  But, I don't get possessive, because the Book was never mine alone, part of my job as a reviewer is to help introduce the Book to the world.  Get it out there!  But this is something more...something overwhelming.  

    The Movie Rights.
    This is the kiss of death for me and The Book.  Why?  I love movies just as much as the next person.  I'll tell you: Enter all the people who feel they are allowed to have an opinion on The Book because they have seen the movie.  And, oh so many people have seen the movie.  Why?  Because they've been hearing people like me talking about the Book for so long, "it must be a good story" (insert cringe here). Then they read the book...but it's not a pure reading!  Was Tom Cruise who you pictured as Jack Reacher? Was Katherine Heigl your Stephanie Plum?  My characters are tainted by Botox and bad dye jobs. 

    The Popularity
    Everyone has as piece of The Book. It's different for me now. It's not as pure, it's not as honest.   I'm still happy for the author, editor, and the entire team behind the project, don't get me wrong!  But there is smoke in the way. There are even those highly pretentious literary types who proclaim that it must be garbage because it's so popular among "regular people".  Garbage?  The Book?  No.  I wouldn't go that far.  My love for The Book has dulled, I admit, but I really liked it, didn't I? Am I not literary enough to have seen its flaws?  Is it a bad thing to be one of the "regular" people?  I'm not posting pictures on Facebook of my dream cast, so maybe I don't love the book as much as I thought I did. Those are what does that make me?  

    The Not-So-Popular
    Enter the guilt. I'm questioning if I still love a book as much as I once did because it was so popular.  By that logic, I must be thrilled when a book doesn't make it to the Bestsellers or IndieNext lists.  Not the case!  In fact, I want to stomp my feet like a sugar-high toddler - Why? Why? Why? - when a book I love isn't getting the recognition or audience it deserves. This is usually when I throw my hands up and admit that while I have a good eye for the next "big thing" I am a unique reader. 

    The Best Of Lists
    So, here I am. It's the end of the year and I'm doing my best to sort through my favorite books of the past twelve months.  I look at the other lists out there, because I know none of them will the same as mine, because there are no two readers alike.  But there is The Book. It's not quite a movie...yet...but it's very popular.  Everyone is talking about it all over again, and it's on all the Lists.  I have to go back and read my original review, to bring me back to that place before the hype, before the frenzy.  I loved The Book then. Did it stand up against the other books that came after it?  

    Does it stand up in spite of it's own popularity?  

    Tuesday, December 11, 2012

    Holiday Reading: Random House

    Random House is getting into the giving spirit of the season, giving away 
    5 Favorite Books of 2012!  

    From Random House:

    There are many things to love about the holiday season: Decorating the Christmas tree, decadent meals with family and friends, and our personal favorite: extra time to curl up by a cozy fire and read a book. 
    If you reside in the United States, "like" our page and enter for your chance to win a bundle of our five favorite books for some quality holiday reading. The sweepstakes runs from 12/3/12 through 12/17/12.
    "Wonder" by R.J. Palacio
    "The Racketeer" by John Grisham
    "The Twelve" by Justin Cronin
    "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" by Dr. Seuss (The classic audiobook read by Walter Matthau)

    Monday, December 10, 2012

    Holiday Sweeps: Simon & Schuster


    Long ride to Grandma's house? How about that ride back home from college for winter break? Personally, I listen to audio books while I wrap presents!  Whenever you listen to audio books  or have always wanted to try, check out this contest on Simon and Schuster Audio's Facebook Page:

    MONDAY: TOTAL RECALL by Arnold Schwarzenegger and a signed poster of the book cover by the Governator himself.

    TUESDAY: A David McCullough collection! 4 audiobooks from this bestselling author: 

    WEDNESDAY: The Ultimate Christmas Collection: Patrick Stewart's A CHRISTMAS CAROL, THE BRIDGE, THE TRUE GIFT, and THE CHRISTMAS BOX!

    THURSDAY: A Thriller Thursday Collection: CREOLE BELLE from James Lee Burke, BLACK LIST from Brad Thor, LAST MAN from Vince Flynn, and BONES ARE FOREVER from Kathy Reichs!

    FRIDAY: A Pimsleur course in a language of your choice!

    It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

    Today is Monday, December 10, 2012...What Are You Reading?

    This weekly meme is brought to you by the snowiest, the jolliest, the merriest of bloggers, Sheila from Book Journey.  Everyone go on over and say hello to Sheila!

    The Best Books Of 2012 lists are coming out (Goodreads, Washington Post, Publishers Weekly) and I am reminded on a daily basis just how many books I have NOT read this year.  I also think I might live on another planet, or maybe someone has switched book covers on me, because my Best of List is not matching up.  That said, I do have quite a few unread books on my shelf. 

    The year is quickly coming to a close! I have a plan for the remainder of 2012, though.  It's not a perfect plan, but it's a plan.  My pile is below.  My goal is to NOT become distracted by pretty shiny new books that come in the Kate Atkinson's LIFE AFTER LIFE, published by one of my favorite editors, Reagan Arthur.  This book looks amazing, and it is taking all of my willpower to keep my hands away! 

    See? Pretty, right?  Click here for the synopsis...looks SO good.

    Ok, now back to the books I have read, am reading, and plan to read...

    Books Completed:

    THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS by M.L. Stedman (Scribner)
    REACHED (Matched #3) by Ally Condie (Penguin Teen)
    WONDERSTRUCK by Brian Selznick (Scholastic)
    WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE by Maria Semple (Little Brown)

    Book I Abandoned...again:
    (Ugh, I don't know what's wrong with me, I just can't get into these unlikable characters!)

    Currently Reading:

    CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein (Egmont)
    ONE DAY by David Nicholls (Vintage)

    Currently Listening To:

    SHADOW OF THE NIGHT by Deborah Harkness (Viking)
    (It's a long one...but I love the narrator's voice!)

    Plan to Read:
    (I took a picture. This is the pile. Not looking away from the pile. Must stay focused!)

    ROOTS OF THE OLIVE TREE by Courtney Miller Santo (William Morrow)
    CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein (Egmont)
    THE LOST PRINCE by Julie Kagawa (Harlequin Teen)
    THE DIVINERS by Libba Bray (Little Brown)
    THE SHOEMAKER'S WIFE by Adriana Trigiani (Harper) 
    SHADOW OF THE NIGHT by Deborah Harkness (Viking)

    What Are You Reading??

    In My Mailbox


    REACHED (Matched Trilogy #3) by Ally Condie (PenguinTeen)
    THE BELIEVING GAME by Eireann Corrigan (Scholastic)


    THE FOURTH STALL, PART III by Chris Rylander (Walden Pond Press) [not pictured]
    THE FELLOWSHIP FOR ALIEN DETECTION by Kevin Emerson (Walden Pond Press)
    WONDERSTRUCK by Brian Selznick (Scholastic)
    THE HOBBIT by JRR Tolkien (Mariner Books) 

    THE EMERALD ATLAS (Books of Beginning, Book 1)by John Stephens (Yearling; paperback; Summer 2011 IndieNext)
    THE FIRE CHRONICLE (Books of Beginning, Book 2)by John Stephens (Knopf BFYR)
    MR. TERUPT FALLS AGAIN by Rob Buyea (Delacorte)
    BEHIND THE BOOKCASE by Mark Steensland; ill by Kelly Murphy (Delacorte)
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