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Thursday, January 31, 2013

BlogHer Book (Club) Talk: HERE I GO AGAIN, by Jen Lancaster

cover image, HERE I GO AGAIN via indiebound.org Here I Go Again: A Novel
Jen Lancaster (Facebook) (Twitter)
NAL (January 2013), Hardcover (ISBN 0451236726 / 9780451236722)
Fiction, 320 pages
Source: Publisher
Reason for reading: BlogHer Book Club

The BlogHer Book Club is sponsored by Penguin Group. BlogHer arranged for me to receive a copy of this book as a Book Club participant, and compensates me for this review and participation in online discussions. All opinions expressed are my own.

Opening lines (from the Prologue):
“Every high school has a Lissy Ryder—you know, the girl who’s absolutely untouchable. She goes by many names, but you might have known her as the Prom Queen.
The Head Cheerleader.
The Mean Girl.
The Bitch.
She was the richest and the prettiest, with the blondest hair, the thinnest thighs, and the hottest car, and she never let you forget it. Nothing made her happier than stealing your boyfriend, just to see if she could.
And she could.
Of course she could.
She was Lissy Ryder.”
Book description, from the publisher’s website:
Twenty years after ruling the halls of her suburban Chicago high school, Lissy Ryder doesn’t understand why her glory days ended. Back then, she was worshipped...beloved...feared. Present day, not so much. She’s been pink-slipped from her high-paying job, dumped by her husband and kicked out of her condo. Now, at thirty-seven, she’s struggling to start a business out of her parents’ garage and sleeping under the hair-band posters in her old bedroom. 
Lissy finally realizes karma is the only bitch bigger than she was. Her present is miserable because of her past. But it’s not like she can go back in time and change who she was...or can she?
Comments: There are two kinds of people--those who couldn’t wait for life after high school, and those whose lives peaked in high school. Melissa Belle “Lissy” Ryder is the second kind, but she hasn’t spent the last twenty years pining for her glory days; rather, she’s been living them as if she were still in their midst...despite all contrary evidence, which includes losing her job, her home, and her husband. But she’s in for a rude awakening at her high-school reunion, as one classmate after another confronts her with her own rudeness at the time. The next morning, she’s offered an unusual opportunity to make things right...which leads to other things going shockingly wrong.

After becoming one of the early blog-to-book successes with Bitter is the New Black, first in a series of humorous memoirs, Jen Lancaster made her fiction debut two years ago with If You Were Here. In Here I Go Again--the resemblance to the title of a Whitesnake song is thoroughly intentional--she mixes the snarky humor and knowing pop-culture references that have marked her earlier writing with authentic-sounding dialogue, a dash of fantasy and magical realism, and an unexpected amount of heart.

This is a story about second (and third) chances, karma, and consequences. It’s a story that illustrates that it’s never too late to develop self-awareness, and that sometimes it takes a long time to become a grown-up and stop becoming your mother. I’m pretty sure it’s intended on Lancaster’s part that Lissy starts out as a caricature--Here I Go Again follows her journey to become something more. She stumbles a bit along the way, and there are probably more surprises for her than there are for the reader, which is a way of saying that some aspects of the novel are predictable and a little too neat.

However, those are minor complaints about a fast-reading, funny novel that’s less light than it looks. I’m reading and discussing Here I Go Again with the BlogHer Book Club this month, and I think it offers a lot for book clubs to talk about.

Rating: 3.75/5

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Shelf Awareness Book Talk: THE TELL, by Hester Kaplan

The Tell: A Novel
Hester Kaplan
Harper Perennial (January 2013), trade paper (ISBN 0062184024 / 9780062184023)
Fiction, 352 pages

A version of this review was previously published in Shelf Awareness for Readers (January 22, 2013). Shelf Awareness provided a galley of the book and compensation for the review.

Opening lines:
“For weeks he’d waited for the wild lilacs arching over the carriage house to come to bloom. Then, back from teaching and a plodding swim at the Y in the afternoon, Owen had spotted the first fat plume with its buds rising like a thousand fists. The driveway’s pea gravel had protested underfoot as he broke off a sprig. He’d put the lilacs, delicate and strong-perfumed, in a pitcher on the sill over the sink for his wife Mira and saw now, as he looked up from his hands circling under running water, how their hue matched the lowering sky, the drooping sun.”

Book description, from the publisher's website:
An elegant and haunting novel of love and family, The Tell demands that we reconsider our notions of marriage—duty, compromise, betrayal, and the choice to stand by or leave the ones we love. 
Mira and Owen's marriage is less stable than they know when Wilton Deere, an aging, no longer famous TV star moves in to the grand house next door. With plenty of money and plenty of time to kill, Wilton is charming but ruthless as he inserts himself into the couple's life in a quest for distraction, friendship—and most urgently—a connection with Anya, the daughter he abandoned years earlier. Facing stresses at home and work, Mira begins to accompany Wilton to a casino and is drawn to the slot machines. Escapism soon turns to full-on addiction and a growing tangle of lies and shame that threatens her fraying marriage and home. Betrayed and confused, Owen turns to the mysterious Anya, who is testing her own ability to trust her father after many years apart. 
The Tell is a finely-wrought novel about risk: of dependence, of responsibility, of addiction, of trust, of violence. Told with equal parts suspense, sympathy, and psychological complexity, it shows us the intimate and shifting ways in which we reveal ourselves before we act, and what we assume but don’t know about those closest to us.
Comments: Those close to us will often, over time, learn to recognize our “tells,” physical signals of our state of mind--signals we may always not be conscious we’re sending. Deciphering those signals is much harder than learning to spot them, though, and without clear and direct communication, they’re subject to misinterpretation. Hester Kaplan’s The Tell explores a husband’s efforts to unravel exactly what his wife’s tells are telling him.

Providence, Rhode Island seems an odd place to find a retired sitcom actor, but Wilton Deere has moved there in an attempt to reconnect with his long-estranged daughter Anya. Mira Thrasher, surprised to find that the man she watches on TV during her late-night bouts of insomnia is living next door, invites him to dinner. As Wilton becomes a bigger part of their lives, enlisting Mira and her husband Owen into his efforts to win over Anya, Owen becomes increasingly unsettled by Mira and Wilton’s developing relationship. When he finds that Mira has been disappearing from the struggling art school she runs to spend hours at a nearby casino with Wilton, Owen fears she’s developing a gambling problem. If she is, it’s not the couple’s only problem.

The Tell is provocative, beautifully written, and offers great discussion potential. In exploring the choices we make in our closest relationships, including the things we can’t tell each other, Hester Kaplan draws an unsettlingly intimate portrait of a marriage in crisis.

Rating: 3/5

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday Salon: It is Finished!



The Sunday Salon


Question: Are the books in your house books those you've read and loved and won't part with, or are you mostly surrounded by your TBR collection?

TBR/Books in Waiting (collage) www.3rsblog.com

I think I remember, once upon a time, having shelves full of the books I'd read, and being afraid I'd one day run out of new ones to read. The last several years have seen the scale tip very much in the opposite direction--I keep very few books once I read them, but I've got hundreds waiting around for their turns. It seems to be a common condition among book bloggers, though. Andi and Lu both recently shared pictures of some of their books-in-waiting (Oh! I just came up with that term! Feel free to appropriate it for your own use), and I thought it might be fun to do that today.

My TBRs are in several different locations. The largest section of the collage shows the books I forget I have--they live in a cabinet in our upstairs hallway and are usually behind closed doors. The bookcase at the lower right has glass doors (which I opened to take the picture, for some unknown reason), but the books in there are double-stacked, so I'm not sure it helps much. And none of these pictures show the review-book table--these are all books I bought or was given.

There's been one book that's lived in a strange TBR limbo for nearly six years, with a bookmark about 3/4 of the way in. I liberated it yesterday. At last, I HAVE FINISHED THE HISTORIAN.

Procrastination-(Read)along #peeon, via www.fizzythoughts.comcover image: THE HISTORIAN, via librarything.com


I will write a Book Talk post about it, but for now, I'll just say I'm glad it's history for me, and it's definitely not going to be one of my keepers--I do not intend to repeat this.

So, it's finished--but something exciting is just getting started. Planning for Armchair BEA 2013 is in the very early stages. Mark your calendars for May 28-June 2, and please check out the announcement post I've linked to here to see how you can help us make this year's event the best yet!



Thursday, January 24, 2013

Book Talk: THE REVOLUTION WAS TELEVISED, by Alan Sepinwall

cover image: THE REVOLUTION WAS TELEVISED, via www.alansepinwall.com
Alan Sepinwall (Blog) (Twitter)
Self-published by What's Alan Watching? (November 2012), trade paper (ISBN 0615718299 / 9780615718293)
Nonfiction: essays/pop culture, 306 pages
Source: Purchased ebook (Smashwords: ISBN 9781301879960)
Reason for reading: Personal; recommended by Linda Holmes of Pop Culture Happy Hour

Excerpt from an Excerpt (previously published on Grantland.com):
“The story of Lost makes no sense.

And by that I don't mean the story on the show — though this is the point where you can feel free to insert jokes about the numbers, the outrigger shootout, or the reasons why Walt was "special" — but the story of how Lost itself got made.

The creation of Lost defies nearly everything we know about how successful television shows — or great ones — are made. The idea for Lost came not from a writer, but a network executive. The first writer on the project got fired. The replacement creative team had a fraction of the usual time to write, cast, and produce a pilot episode. The executive who had championed the show was himself fired before it ever aired. One of the two creators all but quit the moment the pilot was finished. Nearly every creative decision at the start of the show was made under the assumption that it would never succeed. Everyone believed it was too weird, too dense, too unusual to work. And it may have been. But it worked, anyway.”
Book description: A mob boss in therapy. An experimental, violent prison unit. The death of an American city, as seen through a complex police investigation. A lawless frontier town trying to talk its way into the United States. A corrupt cop who rules his precinct like a warlord. The survivors of a plane crash trying to make sense of their disturbing new island home. A high school girl by day, monster fighter by night. A spy who never sleeps. A space odyssey inspired by 9/11. An embattled high school football coach. A polished ad exec with a secret. A chemistry teacher turned drug lord. 
These are the subjects of 12 shows that started a revolution in TV drama: The Sopranos. Oz. The Wire. Deadwood. The Shield. Lost. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. 24. Battlestar Galactica. Friday Night Lights. Mad Men. Breaking Bad. 
These 12 shows, and the many more they made possible, ushered in a new golden age of television — one that made people take the medium more seriously than ever before. Alan Sepinwall became a TV critic right before this creative revolution began, was there to chronicle this incredible moment in pop culture history, and along the way “changed the nature of television criticism,” according to Slate. The Revolution Was Televised is the story of these 12 shows, as told by Sepinwall and the people who made them, including David Chase, David Simon, David Milch, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, Vince Gilligan and more.
Comments: I don’t often blog about television, because unless I want to get into the recapping business--and I don’t--I find it difficult to capture thoughts on such time-sensitive things as TV-show episodes. But many of my favorite blogs to read--other than book blogs, of course--and podcasts to listen to are either partly or exclusively TV-related, and the best of them manage to find ways to combine timely recapping with more analytical discussions of series arcs, themes, and characters.

Thought-provoking, insightful commentary on movies has been around for decades, but there’s less history of it with television. However, both television drama and the internet have pushed boundaries during the last 15 years or so, and it seems fitting that thought-provoking, insightful commentary on thought-provoking, insightful television would spring up online. TV critic Alan Sepinwall has been a leading source of this commentary, at his popular blog, What’s Alan Watching?, and on his long-running podcast with fellow Hitfix.com writer Dan Fienberg. Drawing on years of background material as well as new interviews, Sepinwall discusses twelve of the most groundbreaking, influential television dramas of recent times in The Revolution Was Televised: The Crooks, Cops, Slingers and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever.

The “crooks” and “cops” Sepinwall’s subtitle alludes to are from series like Oz, The Sopranos, The Wire, The Shield, and Breaking Bad; the “slingers” would be the foul-mouthed Wild West denizens of Deadwood; and, of course, the “slayer” is one Buffy Summers. The book’s thesis, supported by Sepinwall’s examples, reflects the influence and depth of genre conventions in storytelling--in addition to the shows referenced in the subtitle, we have 24, Battlestar Galactica, and Lost--and their expansion well beyond any limits of genre, illustrated via Friday Night Lights and Mad Men. While much of the resource material for the book comes from Sepinwall’s columns and blog, The Revolution Was Televised is by no means a collection of recycled posts. This is deep-diving, detailed discussion of how great television gets made. Sepinwall gets into the production and behind-the-scenes business of each show as well as the analysis of significant episodes and characters. This is writing that takes television as serious art seriously, and if you’re interested in that kind of thing--and granted, I very much am--it’s all thoroughly engaging, engrossing reading. It left me wanting to read more about, and re-watch with new perspective, the shows I love, and got me much more interested in catching up on some of the shows I’ve never watched.

The Revolution Was Televised is also notable for reasons other than its content. Sepinwall opted to self-publish it, but it has since been acquired by one of the publishers who turned down his original book proposal and will be reissued by Simon and Schuster’s Touchstone imprint this coming spring. And while traditional-publisher reprints of self-published works are becoming more common, reviews of self-published works in traditional critical venues are still pretty rare; Sepinwall’s book not only scored a New York Times review, it ended up on NYT book critic Michiko Kakutani’s top-10 list for 2012. I know it’s only January, but I won’t be surprised if The Revolution Was Televised ends up on my own 2013 Books of the Year list, too.

Rating: 4/5


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Hazy Shades of Winter(Time)

I've lived close to 40% of my life in places that don't have four distinct seasons, and winter has always been the one most noticeably absent. My teen and college years in Florida were summerlike for about ten and a half months a year, including most of the months we were in school. I've lived in Southern California for the last decade, and while I really do appreciate the appeal of the mild climate--and my hair is finally controllable here, thanks to the low humidity--the lack of variation seems to be contributing to a recurring sense of temporal displacement. In simple terms, I know it's January, only a few weeks past Christmas, but I keep thinking it's March already. Since I tend to be especially busy during the first three months of any year, you might imagine that feeling, even briefly, that I've lost a solid chunk of time would be distressing.

Not REAL winter--Christmas Village www.3rsblog.com
This time of year always throws me off a bit, but it feels more out of whack than usual this time around. As an accountant working on closing the business year and preparing for the annual audit, I know I'll still be living with December 2012 for at least another few months. As a freelance book reviewer, I've just received a package of "for your consideration" galleys for March 2013. Once the holiday decorations are taken down and put away, there are few environmental cues here that it's still wintertime, aside from the fact that it gets chilly enough to run the heat at night. It seems wrong to label your feelings as "the winter blues" when your environment neither looks nor feels like winter, but I think that's an element of it too, although typically that means wanting winter to be over faster--I seem to want the opposite right now.

Winter in Southern California www.3rsblog.com

In all honesty, I don't miss some of those wintry indicators. It's nice not to go for days at a time without seeing the sun, and I'm perfectly fine not driving on snowy roads. And really, doesn't the "winter wonderland" thing lose its charm for most of us once the holiday season winds down anyway? (Tell me the last time you sang "Let it Snow" in February.) One thing I appreciated about living in Memphis was that it was not business as usual when real winter weather hit; the few "snow events" that occurred each year would pretty well shut everything down so you'd be encouraged not to leave home at all until temperatures went back up. It was just enough wintertime, and I do miss that sometimes. Maybe I'm just pining for a couple of snow days to take a breather from it all.

We're all familiar with the sense that time seems to speed up as we get older, but I don't really like the feeling that I'm having lately that I've jumped over days at a time and lost my reference point for "present." On the one hand, it is a bit reassuring to realize that the answer to "Where did the time go?" is that it actually hasn't gone anywhere yet, and reset myself accordingly. On the other hand...well, I'm at a stage of life where I don't want time to move any faster than it has to. My fear of fifty has been documented, and I'm pretty well aware that I have much more time behind me than ahead of me, thanks.

And so I remind myself, often, that we're not even one month into the new year yet. I've got lots to do, but there's still plenty of time to get it done.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Shelf Awareness Book Talk: DADDY LOVE, by Joyce Carol Oates

cover image: DADDY LOVE, via Indiebound.org Daddy Love
Joyce Carol Oates
Mysterious Press (January 2013), hardcover (ISBN 0802120997 / 9780802120991)
Fiction (mystery/thriller), 240 pages

A version of this review was previously published in Shelf Awareness for Readers (January 18, 2013). I was provided with a galley of the novel and compensated for the review.

Opening lines:
“Take my hand, she said.
“He did. Lifted his small hand to Mommy’s hand. This was maybe five minutes before the abduction.
“Did she see their car? she asked him. Did he remember where they’d parked?
“It was a kind of game she’d played with him. He was responsible for remembering where they’d parked the car at the mall which was to teach the child to look closely, and to remember.”
Book description, from the publisher’s website:
Dinah Whitcomb has everything: a loving husband and a smart young son named Robbie. Then one day their world is shattered when Robbie is abducted from a parking lot and Dinah is run over by the kidnapper’s van, mangling her body nearly beyond repair. The kidnapper, a reverend named Chester Cash, aka Daddy Love, has for years abducted, tortured, and raped young boys. Daddy Love renames Robbie as ‘Gideon,’ brainwashing him into believing that he is Daddy Love’s real son, and any time the boy resists or rebels he is met with punishment beyond his wildest nightmares.

As Robbie grows older he becomes more aware of just how monstrous Daddy Love truly is. Once terrified of what would happen if he disobeyed Daddy Love, he begins to realize that the longer he is locked in the shackles of this demon, the greater chance he’ll end up like Daddy Love’s other ‘sons’ who were never heard from again. Somewhere within this tortured boy lies a spark of rebellion . . . and soon he will see just what lengths he must go to in order to have any chance at survival.
Comments: Whether she’s working in general or genre fiction, Joyce Carol Oates has rarely shied away from the darker aspects of human nature. In Daddy Love, her first full-length novel for the mystery/crime imprint Mysterious Press, she explores that all-too-common parental nightmare: a child’s abduction by a predatory stranger.

Dinah Whitcomb’s five-year-old son, Robbie, is literally ripped from her hands in a mall parking lot by con artist Chet Cash. It’s not the first time Cash, who refers to himself as “Daddy Love,” has spotted a young boy he decides is meant to be his and taken him for himself. At his old farm in rural New Jersey, he will keep this child, whom he re-names Gideon, as isolated as possible, and raise him as he raised several other boys before. And several years later, this boy will no longer appeal to Daddy Love as he once did, and Daddy Love will discard him in the same way as he did his predecessors. Back in Michigan, Dinah Whitcomb slowly recovers from the severe injuries she sustained in trying to stop her son’s kidnapper, and the years pass with no news of him or Robbie.

Oates has a particular gift for pulling readers into stories they're not sure they really want to read. Daddy Love's subject matter makes it difficult to get through at times, but Oates’ storytelling makes it even more difficult to put down; while graphic in spots, it’s even more evocative when it leaves things to the imagination. This is a dark, fast-paced, deeply unsettling parental fairy tale.

Rating: 3.5/5

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

(Audio)Book Talk: YEAR ZERO, by Rob Reid

cover image, YEAR ZERO (via indiebound.org) Year Zero: A Novel
Rob Reid (Facebook)
Audiobook read by John Hodgman
Del Rey (July 2012), Hardcover (ISBN 0345534417 / 9780345534415)
Fiction (SF/speculative), 384 pages
Source: Purchased audiobook (Random House Audio; Audible ASIN B008J9GD28)
Reason for reading: Personal

Opening lines: “Aliens suck at music. And it’s not for a lack of trying. They’ve been at it for eons, but have yet to produce even a faintly decent tune. If they had, we’d have detected them eons ago. We’ve been scanning the skies for signs of intelligent life for generations, after all. And we’ve actually picked up thousands of alien anthems, slow dances, and ballads. But the music’s so awful it’s always mistaken for the death rattle of a distant star. It’s seriously that bad.

“Or more accurately--we’re that good. In fact, humanity creates the universe’s best music, by far.”
Book description, from the publisher’s website:Low-level entertainment lawyer Nick Carter thinks it’s a prank, not an alien encounter, when a redheaded mullah and a curvaceous nun show up at his office. But Frampton and Carly are highly advanced (if bumbling) extraterrestrials. And boy, do they have news. 
The entire cosmos, they tell him, has been hopelessly hooked on humanity’s music ever since “Year Zero” (1977 to us), when American pop songs first reached alien ears. This addiction has driven a vast intergalactic society to commit the biggest copyright violation since the Big Bang. The resulting fines and penalties have bankrupted the whole universe. We humans suddenly own everything—and the aliens are not amused. 
Nick Carter has just been tapped to clean up this mess before things get ugly, and he’s an unlikely galaxy-hopping hero: He’s scared of heights. He’s also about to be fired. And he happens to have the same name as a Backstreet Boy. But he does know a thing or two about copyright law. And he’s packing a couple of other pencil-pushing superpowers that could come in handy. 
Soon he’s on the run from a sinister parrot and a highly combustible vacuum cleaner. With Carly and Frampton as his guides, Nick now has forty-eight hours to save humanity, while hopefully wowing the hot girl who lives down the hall from him.
Comments: When I received some promo material about Rob Reid’s Year Zero at a publisher event during Book Expo America week last summer, I was initially dismissive--the title made it sound like yet another apocalyptic/dystopian/SF novel, and I’m pretty selective about reading those. When I actually gave the handout some attention weeks later, I discovered that my first impression was way off base--for one thing, it’s more about averting an apocalypse; for another, music plays a big role in the story, and that speaks to my pop-culture nerdiness. But what really sold me was Michelle’s enthusiastic review of Year Zero in audiobook, as read by John Hodgman.

Copyright attorney Nick Carter is stunned by the story he’s told by the brother-sister intergalactic pop stars Frampton and Carly when they arrive unannounced in his office one evening. My recollections of 1977 here on Earth are that it wasn’t an especially significant year for much of anything, but as Carly and Frampton explain to Nick, it was the year that the rest of the universe accidentally discovered our music, and fell wildly, insatiably in love with it. Life throughout the cosmos was redefined by the transformative force of the theme song from Welcome Back, Kotter, and the moment when it was first heard marked a new beginning of time. (Personally, I think maybe we owe the universe an apology, but anyway...) For over three decades, our music has been eagerly consumed across the galaxies, without our knowledge--and without appropriate royalty payments. As the aliens have come to understand the scope of their massive copyright-law violations, they’ve realized that repayment of the debt to Earth’s music industry will basically bankrupt the rest of the universe. Can Nick find a legal loophole...soon enough to foil a plan that would literally blow up the debt, and Earth right along with it?

Rob Reid founded the pioneering online music service Rhapsody.com (still around, did you know?). I’m sure the experience he gained with music licensing and copyright matters there informs the legal angle of Year Zero  but it never hijacks the narrative; this is fortunate, because the “legal” part of “legal thriller” is rarely the “thrilling” part. But in any case, this isn’t a legal thriller anyway--it’s absurdist, satirical science fiction, which reminded me a little of Christopher Moore, and a lot of Douglas Adams. This is by no means a bad thing, as The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy is the pinnacle and gold standard for absurdist, satirical science fiction. That said, Year Zero is literally more earth- and time-bound; while it’s full of reference points in current technology and popular culture, many are especially likely to click with readers old enough to remember Welcome Back, Kotter.

I’m glad I knew going in that Year Zero wasn’t yet another apocalyptic/dystopian/SF novel, but I didn’t know just how funny it would be. I laughed a lot while listening to this one. I didn’t love every single character voice John Hodgman used here, but his narration was excellent overall, and I thought he was a fine match for the material. The door was left open for a Year Zero sequel--but since Reid has already written a completely unrelated book called Year One, the title might need to go off in another direction--and there’s a good chance I’ll be back for it.

Rating: Book 3.75 / 5, Audio 4 / 5

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Discovering Books with Riffle--An Invitation



http://read.rifflebooks.comBook bloggers don’t usually have to look very hard to find good books to read. In fact, I sometimes think we have the opposite problem. Between the blogs, online newsletters, booksellers and industry contacts, sites like Goodreads, and conversations with our reading-loving friends online and off, we have almost too many places to learn about what we might want to read next. Do we need another “book-discovery” website?

Maybe we book bloggers don’t--but even now, when nearly everyone’s online, I’d still guess that the majority of people who read books don’t blog about them (and some may not even be aware that there are people who do). With mainstream-media book coverage these days often limited to the biggest-selling and/or most controversial titles, readers need to look elsewhere to find books worth their time. Riffle could be one of those places.

Publishers Weekly called Riffle “Pinterest for books,” and the site’s founders don’t discount Pinterest’s influence:
“...Riffle takes its name from the word for thumbing through a book. And that’s exactly the sense of discovery that founder and CEO Neil Baptista would like to re-create online. He wants to go beyond the current Internet phase where anybody can write a review. ‘...There’s a ton of online expertise, and we want people to push their content through Riffle,’ says Baptista, who plans to work with book bloggers, booksellers, authors, and others to create a ‘distilled single feed’ for books.
"To do so Baptista will make use of data and insights about readers that (Riffle creator) Odyl has already gleaned through its marketing work for authors and publishers. And he plans to add new Riffle members slowly. People can’t just sign up, they have to (request invitations to join). 'Pinterest is still invitation only,' he points out. 'That made them ensure that they had quality content before you sign in. The first impression is key to inspiring a user. Invitation only is a way to give us an idea of what people want so we can give them great content...Our whole perspective is that content will get people attracted to this,' says Baptista, who is following the Pinterest and Instagram models. 'We want to invite people in and be part of its development.'”
I’ve accepted an invitation to join Riffle. I’m still trying to figure out exactly how it will fit into my online book-related activities, but I’m starting by taking them at their word; if Riffle is “Pinterest for books,” I’ll try keeping my book wish list--which I set up on Pinterest last year--on Riffle. 

Riffle cover photo, via www.facebook.com/pages/Riffle/170348713089664

Like Pinterest, Riffle is largely image-driven--in this case, by book covers, and it isn’t geared for cataloging, reviewing, or even rating books. However, it’s very easy to search out or spot a book, click on the cover to get information about it, and mark it as one you’re “interested” in. You can also mark what you’re currently reading (just one book at a time, but I hope that changes), check it off when you finish it, recommend it if you think it’s worthy, and share your recommendation on Facebook if you choose to.

Now I’d like to discover people on Riffle, not just books, so I’d like to invite you to join me there. Use this code, and please follow me once you get there! (The code will only work for a limited number of responders! If it’s no longer valid when you click it, please contact Riffle to request an invite of your own.) And if you have some good ideas about how to get the most out of Riffle, let us all know about them!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Book Talk: HELL IS OTHER PARENTS, by Deborah Copaken Kogan

Hell Is Other Parents: And Other Tales of Maternal Combustion
Deborah Copaken Kogan (Twitter) (Facebook)
Hyperion/Voice (2009), Paperback (ISBN 1401340814 / 9781401340810)
Nonfiction: essays/memoir, 224 pages
Source: Purchased e-book (iBooks: eISBN 9781401394547)
Reason for reading: personal

Opening lines (from the Prologue, “King of the Mountain”):

“‘You’re not going to just leave that tiny girl up there all alone, are you?’ the stranger asks, his tone grave. He’s pointing an accusatory finger up at my daughter, Sasha, who--giggling and triumphant, her hair aglow with the last rays of the evening--has just scaled the summit of a gigantic rock. ‘She’ll fall.’

“I smile politely. I’m used to unsolicited parental advice by now. ‘No, she won’t,’ I say, careful to keep my eyes on Sasha and on her more cautious older brother, Jacob, who’s leaning against the base of the rock, a safe thirty-odd feet below his sister, eating an ice-cream sandwich and pondering the mechanics of subtraction. ‘She loves this rock. Knows every crevice. And she’s older than she looks.’

“Sasha is three. But at two foot nine and twenty-three pounds, she is the size of an average one-year-old.”
Book description, from the publisher’s website:From Deborah Copaken Kogan, the acclaimed author of the national bestseller Shutterbabe, comes this edgy, insightful, and sidesplitting memoir about surviving in the trenches of modern parenting. 
Kogan writes situation comedy in the style of David Sedaris and Spalding Gray with a dash of Erma-Bombeck-on-a-Vespa: wry, acutely observed, and often hilarious true tales, in which the narrator is as culpable as any character. In these eleven linked pieces, Kogan and her husband are almost always broke while working full-time and raising three children in New York City, one of the most expensive and competitive cities in the world. 
Shutterbabe is all grown up and slightly worse for the wear, but her clear-eyed vision while under fire has remained intact.
Comments: Most nonfiction has subtitles for a reason, and it’s a good idea to pay attention to them. In the case of Deborah Copaken Kogan’s personal-essay collection, Hell is Other Parents, you’re going to encounter more “other tales of maternal combustion” than the snarky observations about modern parenting that the title implies. That said, the main title isn’t misleading. There are snarky observations about modern parenting in “Hell is Other Parents,” “La Vie en Explose,” and “The Adolescent Vulcan” (a double entendre of sorts--Kogan’s son Jacob played the young Spock in Star Trek (2009)), but Kogan herself is the object of some of them, and her life as a parent is largely incidental to pieces like “The Big Chills” and “The Graveyard of Old Beaus,” a followup of sorts to Shutterbabe, her earlier memoir of her life as a globe-trotting photojournalist.

Quoted publisher's description aside, I really wasn’t expecting quite so much memoir from this book, but I read and enjoyed Shutterbabe years ago, so I didn’t mind catching up with Kogan. While I’m not sure I’d say I liked her stories better this time around, I did find it easier to relate to the more intimate scale of the conflicts she describes here--working-mother challenges, refereeing kids’ social lives, raising three kids in close quarters--versus those in the international war zones Shutterbabe frequented.

The essays in Hell is Other Parents are linked, but loosely; there’s no overriding central narrative or thematic connection uniting them. That allows them to be read in spurts, which is one reason this book fit well into my recent round of quadruple-booking--the fact that it’s so brief is another. While the book wasn’t quite what I thought it would be, I enjoyed Kogan’s wry humor and sharp observations, and I’d like to see more of them.

Rating: 3.75/5

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sunday Salon: Bookkeeping, 1-13-2013

One reason I fell away from participating in the Sunday Salon for a while was that I'd come to feel like my posts here needed to be topical--in the "have a topic" sense, that is, not the "time-sensitive, hot-button" sense, although sometimes that applied too--and I was finding myself lacking the time, energy, and/or brainpower to write posts like that every week. I don't think I've recovered it, to be honest, but since the only topic the Salon really asks for is books, I guess I should let that be enough for a Sunday post some weeks.

"Bookkeeping: Reading Status Report" button www.3rsblog.com
Reading in Progress

I’ve finished three of the four books I was reading last Sunday:

The Tell, by Hester Kaplan (Shelf Awareness review coming)
Hell is Other Parents, by Deborah Copaken Kogan (review posting tomorrow)
Year Zero, by Rob Reid (audiobook read by John Hodgman) (review coming)

I finished the audiobook on the way to work Friday morning, and I don’t think I’ll start another one right away--I build up a backlog of podcasts while I’m reading an audiobook, and I’ll be spending drive time this week listening to those. I'm hoping to finish The Revolution Was Televised this weekend

After mulling it over publicly last week, I’ve bitten the bullet and resumed--almost six years on--reading The Historian. I left off on page 497 in April 2007, 179 pages from the end, and I’ve still got over 100 pages to go. It wasn’t long after starting it again that I remembered why I set it aside, but I was also reminded of why I never did bail on it completely. I have the rest of January to get it done for Fizzy Jill’s “Procrastination-along,” a.k.a. #peeon, and I think it just might happen. I’m on a mission, and I’ve got this great button she made for me to keep me going:

#peeon the historian button by www.fizzythoughts.com

Aside from that, since last week was good for finishing books, the coming week looks like it'll be one for starting them.

Recent additions to TBR Purgatory
(Books acquired in December and January, not including galleys for review consideration)




The Fault in Our Stars (Collector's Edition) by John Green

(Yes, I’ve read it already--it was one of my 2012 Books of the Year. However, I read it in e-book and I decided I really wanted a nice keeper copy.)




If you’d like another place to convene online with fellow bookish, bloggish folks when The Sunday Salon’s not in session, check out the Book Bloggers Community on Google+. Becca from Lost in Books started this group around the first of the year. It’s growing quickly, and there are some good conversations going on there...which is part of the point:
“This is a friendly, non-judgmental community for book bloggers.
GUIDELINES:
1. You must run a book blog to join.
2. No spamming will be permitted.
3. You cannot just add links here. You MUST participate in discussions. This is a community, not an advertising agency.
4. Most of all this is to be fun! Learn, laugh, share, grow. :)”
See you there, maybe? Unless you're too busy reading something good, of course...

The Sunday Salon, a weekly online book conversation

Friday, January 11, 2013

Five for Friday--The Return of the Link Roundup!



Rebelmouse, via www.rebelmouse.com
If you follow me on Twitter and/or Facebook, you know I share a lot of links (it's most of what I do on Twitter most days, actually--thank you, Buffer!). I like passing along worthwhile reads, and I feel that it helps compensate for my being a spotty blog commenter. But it's easy to miss things in the social-media stream, and sometimes I honestly can’t remember what I’ve already put out there, so it’s nice that I have a place that collects and keeps track of it all: my Rebelmouse site. (You can get one of your own, and follow others’ sites too!) 

Rebelmouse is an aggregator designed to be your “social media front page,” and you have full control over what to show there and how it looks. I’ve added a “Stuff to Share” page tab at the top of the blog that links to mine, if you feel like trolling around...

Profligate social-media sharing is the main reason I quit doing link roundups here on the blog, but every now and then I miss them! I think Rebelmouse will make it easier for me to bring them back on occasion, and it's helping me offer some “if you missed this, go check it out” recommended reading to you today:

"Bookmarks: Recommended Reading" badge www.3rsblog.com

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2012 in Review--'Riting & Randomness...and a little 'Rithmetic

I usually do a little year-end number-crunching in the process of coming up with my Books of the Year, but this year I decided to share those before I put up the stats. However, before I get to the Bookkeeping, I have answers to some questions from the "Book Blogging/Reading Life" section of Jamie's annual End-of-Year Book Survey.

hosted at The Perpetual Page-Turner (www.perpetualpageturner.com)
Favorite review that you wrote in 2012? 
If I leave my Books of the Year reviews out of the running here, it's my review of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (audiobook read by Jim Dale). And since I also use the “review” label when I blog about movies, I’ll include my discussion of my husband’s favorite movie of 2012, The Avengers, here too.

Best discussion you had on your blog?
The fact that these two related posts went up back-to-back during Book Blogger Appreciation Week probably helped, but book bloggers do enjoy talking about book blogging, don’t we?
Most thought-provoking review or discussion you read on somebody else’s blog?
I read quite a few good discussions, but was a bit lax about keeping links! The Unconventional Blog Tour (May/June 2012) had some outstanding blog posts about blogging that I still have saved for reference, though, so let’s go with that one.

Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?
Although it technically wasn’t an “author event,” I’m going to count seeing The Rock Bottom Remainders’ final performance here, since the members of this ramshackle rock band are all better known for their writing than their musical skills. And I’m glad I was able to attend Book Expo America again in 2012, especially since I don’t think I’ll be going back in 2013. We’re overdue for a family vacation that doesn’t have anything to do with conferences, but I’ll miss seeing New York City with some of my best book-blogging friends.

Best moment of book blogging in 2012?
I devised the Book Blogger Buddy System when inspiration struck me in the wake of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, and was thrilled by the enthusiastic response and participation it received! Although I’m afraid I haven’t been too great a Buddy myself--sorry, Angela, and I’ll try to do better in 2013!--I hope it’s working out well for most participants, and I’m still planning to open a new round of sign-ups in the spring.

Most Popular Post(s) This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?
My most popular posts (according to Google Analytics) don’t usually have much to do with books; I tend to discount the views for posts involving a giveaway; and I do have some older posts that still get decent search traffic. Having made all those disclaimers, these are my five most-viewed written-in-2012 posts:
Post(s) You Wished Got A Little More Love?
I spent so much time working out my evolving position on indie authors that I had to break it into two posts, but neither seemed to get all that much of a response:
Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?
This year seemed to be more about making better use of bookish things I’d already discovered than finding anything new. I retired my dedicated e-reader in favor of using several apps on my iPad for e-book reading (I like the iBooks reading experience best, but I’ve also got the Nook and Kindle apps installed); I got more use out of Audible; and I finally figured out a good use for my Goodreads account (if you’re looking for my book-review archive, it’s over there.)

New favorite book blog you discovered in 2012? 
I don’t add new book blogs to my rotation nearly as frequently as I did a couple of years ago, and sometimes I forget exactly how long I’ve been reading a particular blog, but I’ll single out three new additions this year: Tread SoftlyBooks, Personally, and Sorry Television.

One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging In 2013?
During a couple of weeks late in the year, I read three books concurrently--one in print, one e-book, and one audiobook. I’d like to practice that particular combination to read polygamously more often, since it’s probably the only way I’ll get my average reading rate up from a book a week!

And now, let's run some numbers!

"Bookkeeping" at www.3rsblog.com

Total books read: 52 (counting one I’m still reading at year-end)
Total pages read: 14,363 (I’ve never tracked this before, but since Goodreads does, I’ll include it here)
Total reviews posted: 50 (books #51 and #52 will be reviewed in Shelf Awareness in January 2013 and posted on the blog after publication there), including 2 re-reads reviewed for the first time

Genre/category stats

Fiction: 36 (70%)
  • Adult 32
  • YA/children’s 4
Nonfiction: 16 (30%)
  • Biography/Memoir 11
  • History/Culture 3
  • Other 2 
Female authors: 36 (70%)
Male authors: 16 (30%)
(Despite the similarity in the numbers, there is no correlation between genre and gender. I read fiction written by men and nonfiction written by women, and vice versa.)

Review stats:

Paid reviews: 14
Reviews for blog tours: 10
Reviews of books published in 2012: 38

Book sources:
Personal (purchased/gifts), all formats including ebooks and audiobooks: 25
Publisher, for blog tours: 9
Publisher, for paid reviews (Shelf Awareness/BlogHer Book Club): 14
Publisher, direct: 4

Ratings:
4-5: 22, including 3 rated 4.25 / 5
3-4: 27
2-3: 1
Unrated: 2 (reviews not yet posted)

2012 Reading Challenges (goal / read):

Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge: 52 / 51 (not including book #52, currently in progress)
Memorable Memoirs Reading Challenge: 4 / 4 (I read more than 4 memoirs this year, but stopped counting them after I hit this target)
2012 Ebook Reading Challenge: 5 / 5 (signing up for the same level in 2013)
2012 Audiobook Challenge: 6 / 10 (jumping to the “Going Steady” level--12 audiobooks--in 2013)

Did you have reading goals for 2012? Did you accomplish them? And what reading plans do you have for 2013?

Monday, January 7, 2013

2012 in Review--Reading: Books of the Year!

I'm doing my year-in-review posts a little bit backwards this time around. The reading statistics will be part of the "'riting-and-randomness" portion of my 2012 review. Today, I'm getting straight to my Books of the Year.

This year's selections are more fiction-heavy, because that represents my reading patterns in 2012. I didn't set young-adult fiction apart this time, but two of my fiction picks are contemporary, realistic YA--that said, "contemporary" and "realistic" describe my adult-fiction choices as well. And so, without further dithering, and in alphabetical order...

Books of the Year, Fiction

The Fault in Our Stars, John Green
THE FAULT IN OUR STARS cover, via indiebound.org (affiliate link)
“Green’s adolescent characters tend to have the best qualities of real teens--intelligence, observational skills, critical thinking, a functioning moral compass, and keen, if dark, sense of humor--but they’re never too good to be true. This is particularly fortunate in his latest YA novel, The Fault in Our Stars, as his principal characters are teens with cancer; in different hands, they could be all too easily sanctified and/or reduced to their condition. However, Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters are rendered vividly alive in the time they have with each other--'living (their) best life today,' whether they want to or not.
In different hands, this story could simply be a tragedy. Here, it’s hilarious, heart-rending, romantic, sometimes furious, occasionally farfetched (but not where it really matters), painfully honest and honestly painful. The writing is both straightforward and evocative, and the dialogue is particularly remarkable: it’s literate and casual, sometimes within the same sentence--and as someone who’s lived with teens quite recently (and currently), it rang thoroughly real to my ears.”
Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver
FLIGHT BEHAVIOR cover, via indiebound.org (affiliate link)
"There’s a great deal going on here. The author’s background in biology informs the scientific elements of the novel, but those elements aren’t conveyed in a manner that feels inauthentic to the story. Kingsolver’s characters are well-developed and complex, and their grappling with the effects of a changing natural world on their lives feels authentic as well. However, what struck me most about Flight Behavior was a sense of empathy and compassion. The novel’s setting is the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Tennessee, a conservative, economically-struggling area subject to a fair amount of Southern stereotypes; by endowing Dellarobia with wry humor and just enough self-awareness, Kingsolver refrains from making her characters cheap targets.”

ONE LAST THING BEFORE I GO cover, via indiebound.org (affiliate link)“The father-daughter relationship is the central one in One Last Thing Before I Go, and it's a messy, complicated, ultimately endearing one. Silver believes Casey is a much better child than he deserves--she's clearly not perfect, but on balance, he's probably right about that, although their simultaneous crises are providing plenty of opportunities for him to make things up to her. His efforts to do that, fumbling as some of them are, were what eventually won me over...
...(W)hat stands out to me about One Last Thing... is that it was a funny novel that made me feel profoundly sad for its characters at least as much as it tickled me. I didn't find it funny in the same way as This Is Where I Leave You; while it does have a few strong set pieces, much of its humor is wry, observational, and tinged with a very dark edge. It suits the material, but it wasn't quite what I expected. And I definitely did not expect to be moved nearly to tears, but I was, and more than just once or twice. That reaction made me question whether Tropper might actually be off his game; I was well into the novel before I decided that he was very much on it, but he'd changed up the rules just a bit.”
SMALL DAMAGES cover, via indiebound.org (affiliate link)“The whole idea of sending a pregnant teenager away until she has given birth--and given away her baby to adoptive parents, so that she can then return home from her mysterious trip and pick up her life where she left off--is an oddly old-fashioned one, and while the novel is clearly contemporary, its time frame isn’t quite of-the-moment. It’s also an interesting angle on the question of “choice” debate, in which adoption seems to be the least-discussed choice much of the time--but...Kenzie doesn’t feel much ownership of this particular choice. Feeling resentful and out of control, her stay in Spain seems like exile, and her inadequate knowledge of the language is only one source of her discomfort as she struggles to come to terms with the turns her life has taken.
Beth Kephart, on the other hand, seems to operate very comfortably within this foreign setting, and Small Damages is among her best work.”

Books of the Year, Nonfiction

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Amy Chua
“The very nature of memoir sometimes makes it challenging to evaluate the story being told and not the person telling that story. Amy Chua makes it especially challenging with her parenting memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother; particularly in the audio version, which she reads herself, she seems quite aware that she’s opening herself to a lot of potentially negative personal judgment. But she doesn’t seem entirely uncomfortable with that, either; as an attorney and law professor, as well as a mother, Chua is likely well acquainted with both passing judgment and being subjected to it.
The original premise that led Chua to write ...Tiger Mother--that Chinese mothering practices are better than “Western” ones--is a pretty judgmental one, and if the book stuck to it more closely, it might have been judged even more harshly than it was by some readers. But along the way, it develops into a much more personal story--one that contains many revealing, unflattering details undermining that original premise, and that allowed me to feel more empathy for Chua and her daughters, even when I vehemently disagreed with her.”
“(Jenny) Lawson is gifted at exaggeration for comic effect, and her stories will induce laughing and cringing in equal measure.
While some of the material in the book may be familiar to Lawson’s online readers--such as “And That’s Why You Should Learn to Pick Your Battles,” the story of her purchase of a giant sheet-metal chicken that she christens Beyonce--much of it is stories she hasn’t shared before. Readers will learn about Lawson’s rural West Texas childhood, with her dad’s taxidermy shop in the back yard; how she met and married the famously long-suffering Victor; her rather unlikely career in human resources with a faith-based organization; and her ultimate decision that her daughter deserved a crazy country childhood, too...complete with taxidermied animals.”

Honorable Mentions

Favorite Audiobook

Rules of Civility: A Novel, Amor Towles (read by Rebecca Lohman)
“Personal reinvention has long been part of the mythos of New York City, and it’s a primary theme of the novel; the title comes from a list of 'instructions for living' that George Washington compiled for himself, and which serves as a personal guidebook for Tinker. Eve and Tinker’s purposeful reinventions have effects and repercussions for Katey, shaping and redirecting her own less calculated self-making. 1938 is a year in which Katey experiences much of New York life for the first time, and she gets the opportunity to choose which aspects of it she wants to carry forward. She works hard and well, she’s wry and observant, she’s smart, independent, and open to taking calculated risks...and she never goes anywhere without a book. I don’t think she was created to be instantly lovable, but I found her thoroughly engaging and would have been happy to follow her story through decades, rather than just one year (although we do get an epilogue).”

Bandwagon Book (or, "everyone's talking about this book, so read it before they stop talking about it")

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
“I haven't read any of Gillian Flynn's fiction before this, but I have seen it praised, and I understand why. In Gone Girl she smartly blends plot-based suspense with psychological intrigue, and does it through the alternating perspectives of two unreliable--and frequently unlikable--narrators. The novel explores some provocative and unsettling questions about marriage: in general, its particular shape for any two people involved in it, and just how much of our real selves we allow into it.

But I wouldn't advise taking Nick and Amy Dunne as any sort of models for marriage, even of the cautionary variety. They're one of those couples whose individual dysfunctionalities match up well enough to form an entity with its own unique flavor of screwed-up.”

Characters Who Found Novels:

Reading Mini-Trend: The Brat Pack Comes Back, in Books

Since I gave Rob Lowe credit for my Banned Books Week re-read of S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders, I'll count that as part of this mini-trend too, along with Susannah Gora's You Couldn't Ignore Me if You Tried, which includes these three and many others in its discussion of the Brat Pack and the 1980s.

Better Luck Next Year: or, Six Books I Meant to Read in 2012, But Didn’t

So, how did your 2012 reading stack up, and do we share any favorite books?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Sunday Salon: Getting Started--And a Survey, Too

Happy 2013! I haven't dropped into the Sunday Salon for awhile (almost three months(!!)), so the first Sunday of a new year seems like an appropriate time to get back into the groove. I'm not sure I'll be around every week, but I've missed being around at all.

The Sunday Salon, a weekly online discussion among readers


I'll be posting my 2012 Books of the Year selections tomorrow--four fiction, two nonfiction, and several special mentions--so if you're interested in that kind of thing, I hope you'll check in to see what I chose. My year-end reading stats and challenge summaries will post on Wednesday. I know they're a little late to be official "year-end" posts, but I didn't really have time to work on them until after Christmas, and so many of us were on holiday blog breaks during the last couple of weeks that I decided to hold them till we were all getting back to business as usual.

My reading year is off to a running start--as of yesterday, I was reading four books concurrently! This is practically unheard of for me, and it's a bit of a test, to be honest. I had a triple-booking stretch for a couple of weeks in November and December, and it went better than I expected it to, so I'm upping the stakes just a bit. Besides, double-booking and audiobooks are two of the suggestions Lifehacker recently offered in answer to this question (one we might call "The Bookworm's Eternal Dilemma):
"Over the years I've collected hundreds of books I want to read, but no matter what I do they just keep piling up. Is there a way I can read faster and get through this backlog quickly?"
 So here's what I've been quadruple-booking this past week:

  • one print book, fiction--a galley for my Shelf Awareness review gig--which I hope to finish and write up today 
  • one audiobook, fiction
  • two e-books, both nonfiction
snapshot of "currently reading" collection http://www.librarything.com/catalog.php?view=Florinda
the e-books and the audio I'm currently reading
The next print book I'll be reading after I finish the galley was inspired by Softdrink a.k.a. Fizzy Jill:
"...(T)he #peeon is really the Procrastination-along. The intent is to 'finish that damn book if it’s the last thing I do.' In January. Because I don’t know about you, but I got better things to do come February. 
The point is to finish that one book that has been bugging you or that you’ve been meaning to finish or that you just want to get out of the way."
I'm going to #peeon Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian. Since I left off 3/4 of the way through it almost six years ago, my discussion post about it may be kind of weird, but I will be able to get rid of it in good conscience afterwards. (And since I am 3/4 done with it, I hope that means the rest will go relatively quickly...)

#peeon via www.fizzythoughts.comcover of THE HISTORIAN, via www.librarything.com

Speaking of things that go relatively quickly...if you have a little time between now and January 20, would you consider participating in a survey on "The Cost and Value of Book Blogging" for Wendy Darling at The Midnight Garden? She'd like to get a broad sampling of book bloggers across all genres to provide information about their investment of time and money in their blogs--all of the questions are optional, so you may answer as many or as few as you like, and it's anonymous unless you choose to leave your contact info. I've responded, and I'm curious to see how it shakes out.

There's rain in our forecast today, so it should be a good day to stay in and hit the books. What are you reading this Sunday?