Reader, Writer, Reviewer


Currently: Getting Excited for BEA!

Thanks to the fun conversations I’ve recently had in the BEA Book Blogger’s forum on Facebook (thanks Kim!), I’m really starting to get PUMPED about Book Expo.  Through the group, I’ve been coordinating happy hour for us bloggers at the end of the first day.  I’m really happy with the potential turnout.  I’m pretending to be all I’m the local Chicagoan, I can play host a bit.  Even though technically I’ve never even been to McCormick Place.  Whatever, I’ll roll with it.

I was a little disappointed when I realized I had packed the journal I brought to BEA in 2012, and I still had plenty of room to fill it up with this years happenings.  Thankfully, journal hoarder that I am, I have this one to bring along this time:

BEA JournalI finally had time to do some research on authors and books, and was able to formulate my schedule.  Yes, I’m OCD, and yes, I did it in Excel because I’m a nerd.  Here’s what it looks like:

BEAThere is SO MUCH good nonfiction being offered.  If all goes according to plan, I will be bringing home 46 books.  If you’re wondering what the green indicates, it’s free time for non-autograph acquisitions and hobnobbing with publishers.

If you plan on attending this year, what’s your game plan?  Or if you’ve been in the past, what works best for you?


Alice in Bed by Judith Hooper

alice in bedRating: *** (3/5)

Published: Counterpoint, October 2015

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: TLC Book Tour

The publisher is offering a free electronic download of this book, so leave a comment if you’d like a chance to win.  Giveaway ends Monday, May 2 at midnight. (Despite my lack of enthusiasm, it’s getting rave reviews on Amazon)

I thought this would be a stimulating glimpse into the intellectual James family, and to a degree it was. Brothers William and Henry, the renowned psychiatrist and author, respectively, and their sister Alice are all extremely philosophic, but I didn’t get a sense for what drove them to pursue their ambitions. The first half of the novel seemed to be a combination of name-dropping Bostonian socialites and Alice’s foray into lesbian sensuality. The second half is her laid up with her various un-diagnosable maladies (melancholia, nerves, gout, et al). She does a lot of pondering as an invalid, whether it’s mentally debating women’s suffrage and their suppression, her past relationships (possibly a traumatic molestation?), or her unusual relationship with her brothers (incestual implications?). It really all boils down to the whole James lot being somewhat mentally imbalanced. While it was a decent portrayal of the limits of women during the latter half of the 19th century, it wasn’t necessarily an exciting narrative.

I received a complimentary copy of this book via TLC Book Tours.



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Arab and Jew by David K. Shipler

arab and jewSubtitle:  Wounded Spirits in a Promise Land

Rating: ****(4/5)

Published: Broadway Books, 2015 (first published 1986)

Format: Paperback

Genre: Nonfiction

Source: Publisher

“Hatreds burn. They mix with sorrow and pride and helplessness and a furious zeal.” Winner of the 1987 Pulitzer, this revised and updated volume is a comprehensive portrait of the ongoing conflict between the inhabitants of Israel. Most of this review is going to reference quotes because Shipler so eloquently defines what it means to be an Israeli (whether Jew or Arab). In the original forward, Shipler examines the profound impact that living in Jerusalem had on him: “At times a rush of anger would propel me to the conviction that, in their mutual hatreds, both sides deserved each other. And then at other moments I was enveloped by a sense that both sides were right. …what gripped me was not so much the politics as the human dimension of the Arab-Israeli confrontation.” He then goes on to interview hundreds of individuals on both sides of the struggle with varying opinions, loyalties, and convictions.

On entitlement: “The hardships of the Palestinian Arabs in modern history bear no resemblance in scope or depth to those of the Jews. …the Arabs from this crucial slice of Palestine have suffered powerlessness and deprivation of liberty but never genocide.” “Both Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews had practically celebrated their own victimhood without acknowledging the others’.”

On indoctrinated stereotypes: “There is a difficult ambivalence in having to live as neighbors with people deemed as unremittingly hostile and violent.”

On violence: “Terrorism is not an aberration produced by demented personalities. It is an integral part of an existing subculture, encouraged and supported and approved by the mainstream of the society that forms the terrorist’s reference points.”

On ignorance: Despite likening Israelis to Nazis, “Very few Arabs seem to know much about the Holocaust. Its full horrors rarely seem to penetrate… And therefore, they cannot understand Israel.”

On stubbornness: “Along with Temple denial, Holocaust denial became a vehicle of Palestinian rage in the course of the frustrating peace negotiations. It was as if the Palestinian victims could not bear the thought of Jews as victims too…”

On religion: “Islam, like Christianity, is a daughter religion of Judaism… Muhammad’s mentors were Jews, since fewer Christians appeared in the Arabian Peninsula at the time… Also, one of Muhammad’s wives was Jewish, a fact seldom mentioned by Muslims.” “The emerging Islamic faith shared many, but not all, of Judaism’s religious practices and theological themes.” “There was a great cross-fertilization in customs and superstitions between Jews and Arabs.”

The most profound quote came from one interviewee on Arab/Jew relations: “Love is more dangerous than hate.” That pretty much sums up the attitude of the whole book. It is a justification of ongoing conflict and hostile attitudes. While this book is all-encompassing and relevant, it was a beast to get through (it took me over 2 months). But it is an unflinching look at the positives and negatives of both sides of Israel as a nation and an ideal.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Blogging for Books.


Bookish Thoughts in Regards to a New House

I am so behind on posts, but things have been crazy busy around here.  As you may or may not be aware, we are in the process of buying our new home and finally ditching condo life! It’s all very exciting but the process is quite overwhelming.  Our new home is only one mile away from where we currently are so, yay, I can still shop at my grocery store and get my pizza delivered.

Our new house is a 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath two-story house on a lovely cul-de-sac.  We love the hardwood floors, the fireplace with a gorgeous mantel, and the outdoor space with a screened in porch, a patio, and a deck.  It’s pretty much move-in ready aside from paint (the current owners weren’t afraid of color, but not all of it was our taste).  There’s even a set of built-in bookcases in the living room that will flank our entertainment system.

I had grand schemes of having a library custom-made by a carpenter, but upon consulting with a wood-working friend, we determined it probably wasn’t feasible.  But we did measure the 3rd bedroom and determined we could fit 8 Billy bookcases from IKEA there, so tons of room to grow.  I would like to to wallpaper the back panels to dress them up and maybe eventually do an IKEA hack to make them look more built-in in the future.  What will I do with my existing bookcases you ask (see picture below)?  They will line a wall of the family room with the fireplace (and my dad’s antique square grand piano) and will house my nonfiction.

In  the meantime, we have to get packing.  We’ve already made some good progress, but now we have to tackle this:

packing books

Those paper ream boxes ShortMan has been bringing home from work are clutch for packing books. Alas, I will not be able to participate in Readathon this weekend, which is the first time in 3 years or so…

I have so many fun and exciting projects planned for the new house, so stay tuned for updates including: Harry Potter guest bathroom, Dante wall, dresser drawer shelves, and of course shelf-staging.  We hope to move Memorial Day weekend, but the next 6 weeks are going to fly by!

In other news, I’m going to schedule the hell out of BEA and take advantage of everything that’s offered.  Have you seen this Publisher’s Weekly article yet?

Also, I got an e-mail from Goodreads telling me this:




Giveaway – The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper

curious charms of arthur pepperI got home from work today to find an unexpected box had been delivered.  It was a finished copy of the delightful novel, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick.  So I am offering this hardcover to my readers.

To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment on this post.  Giveaway ends Monday, April 18 at midnight.  US only.

My review:

As the one-year anniversary of his wife’s death approaches, Arthur Pepper reluctantly interrupts his daily routine to finally clean out Miriam’s closet. When he finds a stunning gold charm bracelet that is so uncharacteristic of the woman he lived with for 40 years, his curiosity is piqued. Upon examining the individual charms, he discovers a phone number, and that one phone call leads to a quirky and charming adventure. Each charm is a clue and leads him to people and places that influenced Miriam’s life before they met. He gets mauled by a tiger, poses nude, bonds with his children, and also discovers a lot about himself. The characters were memorable and varied and I loved the British-ness of the narrative. Even though Arthur was 69/70 years old, it was a delightful coming of age story.


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Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett

imagine me goneRating: *** (3/5)

Published: Little, Brown & Co, May 2016

Format: ARC

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Source: Publisher

This is the story of how mental illness affects a family, primarily Michael, the sufferer. There’s also his father, consumed by the beast of depression, his mother Margaret, the enabler, and siblings Alec and Celia, who are trying to maneuver their own lives. Michael’s inheritance of his father’s debilitating anxiety does not allow him to grasp reality or function in the real world. His determination that he is unlovable makes him frantic and obsessive.

Based on a friend’s recommendation and his declaration that if you loved A Little Life, you’d enjoy this, I was initially excited. I was disappointed that I wasn’t more enraptured by the book. I just didn’t connect with the characters. Despite their family drama, they each seem aloof towards one another, selfish even. And Michael’s Patrick Bateman-esque ramblings didn’t make him particularly endearing. While it succeeded in portraying how Michael’s internal struggles became an external force plaguing his family, I wasn’t entirely captivated by the story itself.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.


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