Sunday, October 19, 2014

READATHON: End-of-Event Meme

Well, it's that time! We've reached the end of the road of this read-a-thon. I was able to participate this year much more than the last year or two, since we've discovered that I'm anemic and have been treating it. I slept through much of the last read-a-thon.

End of Event Meme:

  1. Which hour was most daunting for you? I think it was around Hour 19 that exhaustion finally hit me, and I gave in to sleep. I was going strong up to that point!
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? Nope. I always read whatever I have on my list for reviews, and they usually aren't "exciting" books. One of these years, I need to enjoy a good horror story or something!
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Nope! It keeps getting better each year!
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? It looked as if you guys are really getting the whole prize scenario down, with the form and all. Excellent work!
  5. How many books did you read? Just one, but I think it is the first time I've read an entire book during the read-a-thon.
  6. What were the names of the books you read? A Separate Peace by John Knowles
  7. Which book did you enjoy most? Well, I didn't really enjoy it. I thought it was a pretty boring book, but it was the one selected by my book club for this month.
  8. Which did you enjoy least? That would be the one I read!
  9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? n/a
  10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? I'll always try to participate, and I'll always try to be a reader. A cheerleader, I am not!
So it was a great read-a-thon! I was able to hang in this year until around Hour 19 or 20 without any trouble! Thanks to all that make it possible, and we'll see you next time!

READATHON: Best of the Best Challenge (Hour 22)

Lisa from over at Lisa's World of Books is hosting a challenge for the best of best of your reading year. I didn't realize until this moment what a lackluster year I've had so far this year. Looking over my list of books that I've read this year, I realized that there are so few that I'm excited about, but here are my choices:

Best Setting of Your Reading Year

Sinful Folk by Ned Hayes

A terrible loss. A desperate journey.
A mother seeks the truth.

In December of the year 1377, five children were burned to death in a suspicious house fire. A small band of villagers traveled 200 miles across England in midwinter to demand justice for their children’s deaths.

Sinful Folk is the story of this treacherous journey as seen by Mear, a former nun who has lived for a decade disguised as a mute man, raising her son quietly in this isolated village.

For years, she has concealed herself and all her secrets. But in this journey, she will find the strength to claim the promise of her past and find a new future. Mear begins her journey in terror and heartache, and ends in triumph and redemption.

Why? I could picture this entire book in my head. If you've ever seen Game of Thrones and know the barren cold of the North, then you know the setting for Sinful Folk. The author did a great job developing the setting.

Best Mystery of Your Reading Year

The Deepest Secret by Carla Buckley

Twelve years ago, Eve Lattimore’s life changed forever. Her two-year-old son Tyler on her lap, her husband’s hand in hers, she waited for the child’s devastating diagnosis: XP, a rare genetic disease, a fatal sensitivity to sunlight. Eve remembers that day every morning as she hustles Tyler up the stairs from breakfast before the sun rises, locking her son in his room, curtains drawn, computer glowing, as he faces another day of virtual schooling, of virtual friendships. But every moment of vigilance is worth it. This is Eve’s job, to safeguard her boy against the light, to protect his fragile life each day, to keep him alive—maybe even long enough for a cure to be found.

Tonight, Eve’s life is about to change again, forever. It’s only an instant on a rainy road—just a quick text as she sits behind the wheel—and another mother’s child lies dead in Eve’s headlights. The choice she faces is impossible: confess and be taken from Tyler, or drive away and start to lie like she’s never lied before.

Why? This was an interesting story. Built on top of this "whodunit" mystery of who was responsible for a hit and run that killed a neighborhood girl, there is this boy with a rare genetic disease that forces him to live in the night, where he wanders his neighborhood and learns his neighbors' secrets.

Best Series Book of Your Reading Year

Natchez Burning by Greg Iles

#1 New York Times bestselling novelist Greg Iles returns with his most eagerly anticipated book yet, and his first in five years – Natchez Burning, the first installment in an epic trilogy that weaves crimes, lies, and secret past and present into a mesmerizing thriller featuring Southern mayor and former prosecutor Penn Cage.

Why? I've never understood why this book is described as "the first in a trilogy", as it is the fourth book in a series involving the character Penn Cage. Perhaps it is the first that takes place in Natchez? Regardless I really enjoyed the writing and it held my attention throughout. This was a really exciting story about an attorney trying to solve murders that took place during the civil rights era, now decades later. It was so good, that I now want to go back and read the first three books showcasing Penn Cage.

Best Non-Fiction Book of Your Reading Year

The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan by Jenny Nordberg 

An investigative journalist uncovers a hidden custom that will transform your understanding of what it means to grow up as a girl

In Afghanistan, a culture ruled almost entirely by men, the birth of a son is cause for celebration and the arrival of a daughter is often mourned as misfortune. A bacha posh (literally translated from Dari as “dressed up like a boy”) is a third kind of child – a girl temporarily raised as a boy and presented as such to the outside world. Jenny Nordberg, the reporter who broke the story of this phenomenon for the New York Times, constructs a powerful and moving account of those secretly living on the other side of a deeply segregated society where women have almost no rights and little freedom.

The Underground Girls of Kabul is anchored by vivid characters who bring this remarkable story to life: Azita, a female parliamentarian who sees no other choice but to turn her fourth daughter Mehran into a boy; Zahra, the tomboy teenager who struggles with puberty and refuses her parents’ attempts to turn her back into a girl; Shukria, now a married mother of three after living for twenty years as a man; and Nader, who prays with Shahed, the undercover female police officer, as they both remain in male disguise as adults.

At the heart of this emotional narrative is a new perspective on the extreme sacrifices of Afghan women and girls against the violent backdrop of America’s longest war. Divided into four parts, the book follows those born as the unwanted sex in Afghanistan, but who live as the socially favored gender through childhood and puberty, only to later be forced into marriage and childbirth. The Underground Girls of Kabul charts their dramatic life cycles, while examining our own history and the parallels to subversive actions of people who live under oppression everywhere.

Why? This book is absolutely fascinating! In the West, we tend to simplify things, but the issues in Afghanistan are so much more complicated than we want to acknowledge, and this book delves into what leads many parents to turn their daughters into boys, at least for a few years leading up to puberty, and some that remain this way long beyond.

So those are my favorites so far this year. I hope maybe someone else out there who reads this will give at least one of these books a try!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

READATHON: Pet Parade (Hour 16)

Estella over at Estella's Revenge is hosting this hour's challenge, and asking read-a-thon participants to post a picture of what their pet is doing right now.

Well, I have a lot of them in my house, but right now I have this going on in my lap...

This is Shotsie, one of my three cats.

And at the foot of the bed we have this going on...

That's Zook. He's one of my two dogs, and he's jealous that Shotsie is in my lap.

And now back to reading!

READATHON: Book Spine Poetry (Hour 15)

Irish at Ticket to Anywhere is hosting a mini-challenge this hour, challenging people to create poetry from book spines. This isn't my best book spine poetry work, but here is my attempt:

The bird sisters.
The third son.
The forgotten girl,
fiendish Katie Gale.
My mother's secret
autobiography of us.

READATHON: Mid-Event Survey (Hour 12)

Wow! I can't believe we're halfway through the read-a-thon! Both because I've read so little, and because I've slept so little. Usually reading makes me sleepy, and I have to take a few quick naps, but not a single one today! But coughing isn't really conducive to reading...

Mid-Event Survey:

1. What are you reading right now? Still on A Separate Peace by John Knowles. I'm determined to finish it before I start on another!
2. How many books have you read so far? That's it. Just reading the one for now.
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? Still looking forward to trying out A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra.
4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? Tons of distractions, and most are caused by me (and five little furry devils that are running around), and technology. I have a short attention span. So I read for 20 minutes, and get distracted. Read for another 10, get distracted. Read for 30, and...   ....   ....  what was I saying?
5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? Just that it is going by so fast this year. I guess that's what happens when you get treated for anemia, so you aren't spending all of your time just trying to stay awake!

Okay. Now I'm off for a quick shower, and then more reading. I'm in the final stretch with this book, and I'm determined that this will be the first read-a-thon that I read an entire book (even if it's a short book)!

READATHON: Name Your Read-a-Thon (Hour 6)

Felicia "The Geeky Blogger" is hosting a read-a-thon challenge for you to use your read-a-thon book stack to create a name for your read-a-thon. My stack is...

...and my read-a-thon name is "A Wild Constellation of Vital Peace".

READATHON: Coffee or Tea?

Coffee or tea? Tea, please! Normally I prefer peppermint, or sometimes Blackberry-Sage or Ginger Peach. But given my illness this morning, I'm opting for Honey Chamomile!


READATHON: Opening Meme

Good morning! I'm a little late getting started this morning. I've been a bit under the weather, and am drugged up on cough medicine. We'll see how much reading I can get done with medicine-brain!

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? A beautiful Southwest Florida! We're currently experiencing a "cool snap", which has us experiencing some lovely '60s in the mornings!
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? Probably A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra. (I've actually already finished The Underground Girls of Kabul seen on the sidebar. Excellent book!)
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? The pacific veggie pizza I plan to have delivered from Dominos later: white sauce, mushrooms, roasted red peppers, onions, tomatoes and banana peppers with feta cheese and provolone on a thin crust. It's so good!
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! I'm a divorced 40-something. I work in the technology field, selling and supporting software for a small company. I lived on the east coast and in the Pacific Northwest before moving back and now own my own home near my hometown. I share my home with two dogs, three cats and a bird (and currently my brother and his parrot as well).
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? I probably won't do anything differently. The last couple of years I've taken it easy. No pressure. If I want to sleep...then I sleep. If I want to run out for something...then I do that. The goal is to simply get a lot more reading in than usual.

So here's hoping for a productive read-a-thon. I hope everyone enjoys their day!

Friday, October 17, 2014

ON MY RADAR (10/17/14 edition): Books that have hit my radar

Here are some books that have recently hit my radar and set off my alarm bells...

Mr. Bones by Paul Theroux

A dark and bitingly humorous collection of short stories from the “brilliantly evocative” (Time) Paul Theroux   A family watches in horror as their patriarch transforms into the singing, wise-cracking lead of an old-timey minstrel show. A renowned art collector relishes publicly destroying his most valuable pieces. Two boys stand by helplessly as their father stages an all-consuming war on the raccoons living in the woods around their house. A young artist devotes himself to a wealthy, malicious gossip, knowing that it’s just a matter of time before she turns on him.

In this new collection of short stories, acclaimed author Paul Theroux explores the tenuous leadership of the elite and the surprising revenge of the overlooked. He shows us humanity possessed, consumed by its own desire and compulsion, always with his carefully honed eye for detail and the subtle idiosyncrasies that bring his characters to life. Searing, dark, and sure to unsettle, Mr. Bones is a stunning new display of Paul Theroux’s “fluent, faintly sinister powers of vision and imagination” (John Updike, The New Yorker).

Hardcover, 368 pages
Published September 30th 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2014)
ISBN 0544324021 (ISBN13: 9780544324022)


Malice by Keigo Higashino

Acclaimed bestselling novelist Kunihiko Hidaka is found brutally murdered in his home on the night before he’s planning to leave Japan and relocate to Vancouver. His body is found in his office, a locked room, within his locked house, by his wife and his best friend, both of whom have rock solid alibis. Or so it seems.

At the crime scene, Police Detective Kyochiro Kaga recognizes Hidaka’s best friend, Osamu Nonoguchi. Years ago when they were both teachers, they were colleagues at the same public school. Kaga went on to join the police force while Nonoguchi eventually left to become a full-time writer, though with not nearly the success of his friend Hidaka.

As Kaga investigates, he eventually uncovers evidence that indicates that the two writers’ relationship was very different that they claimed, that they were anything but best friends.  But the question before Kaga isn't necessarily who, or how, but why. In a brilliantly realized tale of cat and mouse, the detective and the killer battle over the truth of the past and how events that led to the murder really unfolded. And if Kaga isn't able to uncover and prove why the murder was committed, then the truth may never come out.

Malice is one of the bestselling—the most acclaimed—novel in Keigo Higashino’s series featuring police detective Kyochiro Kaga, one of the most popular creations of the bestselling novelist in Asia.

Hardcover, 288 pages
Published October 7th 2014 by Minotaur Books (first published September 1996)
ISBN 1250035600 (ISBN13: 9781250035608)

The Lesser Dead by Christopher Buehlman

As much F. Scott Fitzgerald as Dean Koontz” (#1 New York Times bestselling author Patricia Briggs), Christopher Buehlman excels in twisting the familiar into newfound dread in his genre-bending” (California Literary Review) novels. Now the acclaimed author of Those Across the River delivers his most disquieting tale yet...

The secret is, vampires are real and I am one.
The secret is, I’m stealing from you what is most truly yours and I’m not sorry...

New York City in 1978 is a dirty, dangerous place to live. And die. Joey Peacock knows this as well as anybody—he has spent the last forty years as an adolescent vampire, perfecting the routine he now enjoys: womanizing in punk clubs and discotheques, feeding by night, and sleeping by day with others of his kind in the macabre labyrinth under the city’s sidewalks.

The subways are his playground and his highway, shuttling him throughout Manhattan to bleed the unsuspecting in the Sheep Meadow of Central Park or in the backseats of Checker cabs, or even those in their own apartments who are too hypnotized by sitcoms to notice him opening their windows. It’s almost too easy.

Until one night he sees them hunting on his beloved subway. The children with the merry eyes. Vampires, like him…or not like him. Whatever they are, whatever their appearance means, the undead in the tunnels of Manhattan are not as safe as they once were.

And neither are the rest of us.

Hardcover, 368 pages
Published October 7th 2014 by Berkley Hardcover
ISBN 0425272613 (ISBN13: 9780425272619)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran


What do you do in your teenage years when you realise what your parents taught you wasn’t enough? You must go out and find books and poetry and pop songs and bad heroes - and build yourself.

It’s 1990. Johanna Morrigan, 14, has shamed herself so badly on local TV that she decides that there’s no point in being Johanna anymore and reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde – fast-talking, hard-drinking Gothic hero and full-time Lady Sex Adventurer! She will save her poverty stricken Bohemian family by becoming a writer – like Jo in Little Women, or the Brontes - but without the dying young bit.

By 16, she’s smoking cigarettes, getting drunk and working for a music paper. She’s writing pornographic letters to rock-stars, having all the kinds of sex with all the kinds of men, and eviscerating bands in reviews of 600 words or less.

But what happens when Johanna realises she’s built Dolly with a fatal flaw? Is a box full of records, a wall full of posters and a head full of paperbacks, enough to build a girl after all?

Imagine The Bell Jar written by Rizzo from Grease, with a soundtrack by My Bloody Valentine and Happy Mondays. As beautiful as it is funny, How To Build a Girl is a brilliant coming-of-age novel in DMs and ripped tights, that captures perfectly the terror and joy of trying to discover exactly who it is you are going to be.

Paperback, 352 pages
Published July 3rd 2014 by Ebury Press (Fiction)
ISBN 0091949025 (ISBN13: 9780091949020)

About the Author

Caitlin Moran had literally no friends in 1990, and so had plenty of time to write her first novel, The Chronicles of Narmo, at the age of fifteen. At sixteen she joined music weekly, Melody Maker, and at eighteen briefly presented the pop show 'Naked City' on Channel 4. Following this precocious start she then put in eighteen solid years as a columnist on The Times – both as a TV critic and also in the most-read part of the paper, the satirical celebrity column 'Celebrity Watch' – winning the British Press Awards' Columnist of The Year award in 2010 and Critic and Interviewer of the Year in 2011. The eldest of eight children, home-educated in a council house in Wolverhampton, Caitlin read lots of books about feminism – mainly in an attempt to be able to prove to her brother, Eddie, that she was scientifically better than him. Caitlin isn't really her name. She was christened 'Catherine'. But she saw 'Caitlin' in a Jilly Cooper novel when she was 13 and thought it looked exciting. That's why she pronounces it incorrectly: 'Catlin'. It causes trouble for everyone.

Check out the author's website
Follow the author on Twitter

My Thoughts
I am lying in bed next to my brother, Lupin.
Johanna Morrigan is a fourteen-year-old overweight “nothing” who recreates herself over the summer as Dolly Wilde, adventurous and fun-loving music critic.
I want to be a self-made woman. I want to conjure myself out of every sparkling, fast-moving thing I can see. I want to be the creator of me. I’m gonna begat myself.
She is desperate to find a way to save her family after their government assistance is reduced and devises a plan to become a music critic to make money.

She is also obsessed with the idea of sex and losing her virginity, and begins to work hard at resolving this situation.
Rich’s mouth is so huge and billowy-- it’s like an endless feast, a banquet of man that I have finally been invited to.
She builds herself, then rebuilds herself, and rebuilds again.
But it’s okay-- I’ve got plenty of time...When you’re seventeen, the days are like years. You’ve got a billion lifetimes to live and die and live again before you’re twenty...You’ve got plenty of time left to make things right.
Johanna lives at home with her dysfunctional parents and siblings. Her father is an alcoholic dreamer who supports his family on government assistance while he drunkenly awaits his big break into music. Her mother appears to have given up on life, suffering from post-partum depression after the unexpected birth of twins. And she finds herself at an awkward stage with her brother Krissi, where he is pulling away into adulthood (and away from her oafish behavior), and Johanna finds she misses him.

The story starts when Johanna is fourteen, but fairly quickly it jumps a few years to Johanna at seventeen as her recreated self Dolly Wilde. I appreciated the idea of recreating yourself in this image of who you wish to be-- especially for a young person who hates themselves.

However this book felt annoyingly juvenile at times. It was a little too "YA" for my taste. I found myself being simultaneously amused and somewhat bored by both the characters and the story. When trying to put my finger on the the feeling, I thought, "It feels like laying around in a hammock on the weekend, bored with nothing better to do, and watching a bunch of pre-adolescent kids being obnoxious and entertaining themselves. If there were something better to do, I'd get up and leave."

The story was very crass and childish. I'm not saying that it was "offensive", as I'm not easily offended, and I in fact love a little crudity in my characters. However this story was just crass and juvenile, and I found myself mentally shaking my head as I would if this girl were talking to me in person, wishing she would mature, because despite her embellished accomplishments, she was very immature. Perhaps that is part of the problem for me. My mother always told me that I was "born to be 40" when I was a kid. I was always mature for my age. So while I "get" aspects of this novel and can see my juvenile-self in certain moments, overall I was never this immature and couldn't identify with much of it.

But I do issue a heavy warning to those who are easily offended. The book is full of vulgarity, distasteful references, coarse behavior, and sexual situations. So tread carefully.

I would like to thank TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. Check out the full tour schedule on their website:

Monday, September 29th: BoundbyWords
Tuesday, September 30th: The Scarlet Letter
Wednesday, October 1st: Fourth Street Review
Thursday, October 2nd: Lit and Life
Tuesday, October 7th: The Steadfast Reader
Wednesday, October 8th: Luxury Reading
Thursday, October 9th: Snowdrop Dreams of Books
Friday, October 10th: Bibliophilia, Please
Monday, October 13th: A Bookish Affair
Tuesday, October 14th: Bibliotica
Tuesday, October 14th: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Wednesday, October 15th: guiltless reading
Thursday, October 16th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Friday, October 17th: Books à la Mode
Monday, October 20th: Consuming Culture
Tuesday, October 21st: Drey’s Library
Wednesday, October 22nd: The Whynott Blog
TBD: Book Addict Katie

My final word: This book actually consisted of some decent writing which had the ability to move the story along at a steady pace. And it was a peculiar story, which gave it a little interest, but I found it essentially lifeless. It was just "okay" for me-- a momentary distraction that I will quickly forget.

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble

My Rating:


I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours and the publisher, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ from the final release.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Mailbox Monday (10/13/14 edition)

 Image licensed from
Copyright stands

Mailbox Monday is hosted here. I've received a couple of new books recently:

The Forgotten Girl by David Bell
The past has arrived uninvited at Jason Danvers’s door…

…and it’s his younger sister, Hayden, a former addict who severed all contact with her family as her life spiraled out of control. Now she’s clean and sober but in need of a desperate favor—she asks Jason and his wife to take care of her teenage daughter for forty-eight hours while she handles some business in town.

But Hayden never returns.

And her disappearance brings up more unresolved problems from Jason’s past, including the abrupt departure of his best friend on their high school graduation night twenty-seven years earlier. When a body is discovered in the woods, the mysteries of his sister’s life—and possible death—deepen. And one by one these events will shatter every expectation Jason has ever had about families, about the awful truths that bind them and the secrets that should be taken to the grave.

The Ploughmen by Kim Zupan
A young sheriff and a hardened killer form an uneasy and complicated bond in this mesmerizing first novel set on the plains of Montana.

Steeped in a lonesome Montana landscape as unyielding and raw as it is beautiful, Kim Zupan's The Ploughmen is a new classic in the literature of the American West.

At the center of this searing, fever dream of a novel are two men—a killer awaiting trial, and a troubled young deputy—sitting across from each other in the dark, talking through the bars of a county jail cell: John Gload, so brutally adept at his craft that only now, at the age of 77, has he faced the prospect of long-term incarceration and Valentine Millimaki, low man in the Copper County sheriff’s department, who draws the overnight shift after Gload’s arrest. With a disintegrating marriage further collapsing under the strain of his night duty, Millimaki finds himself seeking counsel from a man whose troubled past shares something essential with his own. Their uneasy friendship takes a startling turn with a brazen act of violence that yokes together two haunted souls by the secrets they share, and by the rugged country that keeps them.