To anyone still awaiting new content on this site: I’ve headed over to my new home, www.erinreads.com! You can click on the site name to be taken there, or you can use the subscription links to the right on either site to update your subscription. I hope you’ll join me over on the new Erin Reads!
I posted yesterday about a top secret project on which I’ve been hard at work. Well, today is the day that surprise is unveiled:
Erin Reads has moved!
Please update your subscriptions! To make it extra easy for you to do:
To celebrate the move, I’m currently hosting a giveaway for a book of your choice, up to $15, from The Book Depository. Please join me over on the new Erin Reads for details!
This Sunday, I have two fun things to tell you about: a giant book and a secret project.
The Giant Book
I recently discovered that my sister and I have both been thinking about reading A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. After a brief discussion, we decided to read it together so we can provide moral support for one another along the way. We each requested a copy from our respective libraries.
I knew going in that the book was rather hefty. But when my copy came in at the library, I felt an irresistible urge to break out my ruler. Behold, the 1474-page, 2.75-inch-thick book I will soon attempt to read:
I’m actually looking forward to tackling this tome. I think having my sister to hold me accountable will keep me going. Though, I’m thinking I may have to buy my own copy, just in case the library wants theirs back, you know, sometime this year.
Here’s what the back of the book says:
“Vikram Seth’s novel is, at its core, a love story: Lata and her mother, Mrs. Rupa Mehra, are both trying to find–through love or through exacting maternal appraisal–a suitable boy for Lata to marry. Set in the early 1950s, in an India newly independent and struggling through a time of crisis, A Suitable Boy takes us into the richly imagined world of four large extended families and spins a compulsively readable tale of their lives and loves. A sweeping panoramic portrait of a complex, multiethnic society in flux, A Suitable Boy remains the story of ordinary people caught up in a web of love and ambition, humor and sadness, prejudice and reconciliation, the most delicate social etiquette and the most appalling violence.”
Has anyone read A Suitable Boy? Is it worth the fear it inspires? What’s the longest book you’ve ever tackled?
The Secret Project
When not (a) working up the nerve to tackle the behemoth pictured above or (b) frantically trying to finish the books I’m supposed to have done by the end of the month, I have been hard at work on an exciting secret project. It’s not quite ready, so I won’t be sharing it today. But! Do check back tomorrow, when the secret project shall be unveiled!
Happy Sunday, everyone!
Welcome to a new Saturday feature here at Erin Reads that I’m calling:
My plan is to highlight what new books have entered my life, what I’ve been reading, and what’s happened on Erin Reads over the past week. Please let me know if you like (or hate) this new format!
I’ve had some books arrive this week about which I am extremely excited. Two showed up in the mail, and one came in at the library.
The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
This new novel from Kate Morton, out on November 9th, arrived in the mail yesterday. I’ve not yet read anything by Kate Morton, but her books have been recommended to me over and over again. Here’s what GoodReads has to say:
“A long lost letter arrives in the post and Edie Burchill finds herself on a journey to Milderhurst Castle, a great but moldering old house, where the Blythe spinsters live and where her mother was billeted 50 years before as a 13 year old child during WW II. The elder Blythe sisters are twins and have spent most of their lives looking after the third and youngest sister, Juniper, who hasn’t been the same since her fiance jilted her in 1941.
“Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother’s past. But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Milderhurst, and Edie is about to learn more than she expected. The truth of what happened in ‘the distant hours’ of the past has been waiting a long time for someone to find it.”
American Rose by Karen Abbott
By the author of Sin in the Second City, this one is a biography of Gypsy Rose Lee, who inspired the musical “Gypsy.” Somehow I missed that she was an actual person, so I am thrilled to read more about her! The book will be published at the end of December. From the back of the book:
“America in the Roaring Twenties. Vaudeville was king. Talking pictures were only a distant flicker. Speakeasies beckoned beyond dimly lit doorways; money flowed fast and free. But then, almost overnight, the Great Depression leveled everything. When the dust settled, Americans were primed for a star who could distract them from grim reality and excite them in new, unexpected ways. Enter Gypsy Rose Lee, a strutting, bawdy, erudite stripper who possessed a preternatural gift for delivering exactly what America needed.
“With her superb narrative skills and eye for compelling detail, Karen Abbott brings to vivid life an era of ambition, glamour, struggle, and survival. Using exclusive interviews and never-before-published material, she vividly delves into Gypsy’s world, including her intensely dramatic triangle relationship with her sister, actress June Havoc, and their formidable mother, Rose. Jazz- and Depression-era heavyweights make appearances as well, from Lucky Luciano and Harry Houdini to FDR, Fanny Brice, and the Minsky brothers–scrappy, savvy showmen who forever changed the face of American entertainment. Karen Abbott weaves their story into her rich narrative of a woman who defied all odds to become a legend–and whose sensational tale of tragedy and triumph embodies the American Dream.”
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
I’ve known about this book for a while, but it was Jodi’s review over on Minnesota Reads that prompted me to request it from the library. I’m hoping it will be a relatively quick read that I can squeeze in over the next few weeks! From the jacket flap:
“It’s not that far from Evanston to Naperville, but Chicago suburbanites Will Grayson and Will Grayson might as well live on different planets. When fate delivers them both to the same surprising crossroads, the Will Graysons find their lives overlapping and hurting in new and unexpected directions. With a push from friends new and old–including the massive, and massively fabulous, Tiny Cooper, offensive linesman and musical theater auteur extraordinaire–Will and Will begin building toward respective romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most awesome high school musical.”
Read This Week
I spent this week frantically reading my first-ever challenge book as well as the book for my first-ever (voluntary) readalong, both of which are supposed to be done by the end of the month:
- Yesterday I finally finished The Portrait of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde for the Dueling Monsters readalong. I liked it quite a bit, except for chapter 12, which took me forever to get through! Once I finish listening to The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde I’ll be posting thoughts on both.
- I’ve just started A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini for the World Party Reading Challenge. This month’s country is Afghanistan. I was unimpresed with The Kite Runner, but many people have told me they liked A Thousand Splendid Suns better.
On audio, I’ve just about finished up David Sedaris’s When You Are Engulfed in Flames. I’ve read Sedaris’s books before, but listening to him read them is a completely different experience!
Erin Reads Recap
- I started the week with a Sunday Salon post in which I asked how different readers cope with awful books. There were lots of interesting replies as people chose sides: completionist or abandonist?
- On Monday I shared an overdue review of The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, which I read for Banned Book Week but couldn’t quite figure out how to write.
- Next up was my long-awaited look Daniel Pennac’s splendid little volume, The Rights of the Reader. It’s one I think just about every reader will thoroughly enjoy perusing!
- Wednesday’s post was a plea for help from world literature lovers; I needed suggestions for my World Reading Challenge books for the year. I was thrilled that so many people offered recommendations. If you have any to add, I’d be quite glad to hear them!
- I reviewed The Girl Next Door by Selene Castrovilla on Thursday. It’s a young adult novel about two friends, one of whom has terminal cancer. Just one minor quibble, and the rest I quite liked.
- Finally, yesterday, I began a Friday miniseries discussing audiobooks. I quite love them and, over the next few weeks, will be highlighting some of my favorites in different genres.
How was your reading week? Do tell!
I’ve listened to 25 audiobooks so far this year. I just checked. Frankly, I’m a bit blown away by that number.
What prompted me to look at my list was a post by Melanie at Reclusive Bibliophile, who just finished her first audiobook and is looking for suggestions for what to pick up next. As I scanned my LibraryThing collections for recommendations I could pass along, I found myself thinking about the first audiobook I finished and the impact it had on me.
I only started listening to audiobooks in 2009. Before then, I didn’t really “get” them. I’d heard bits and pieces of various productions, all of which I hated. They came across as phony, overdramatic, and sometimes even painful to listen to. I didn’t understand that, just as there are good writers and not-so-good writers, there good audiobook readers and their not-so-good counterparts.
At Book Expo America in 2009, I had the pleasure of meeting Barbara Rosenblat and Cassandra Morris, the readers for Muriel Barbery’s bestselling novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog. I picked up a signed copy of the audiobook, figuring I could always give it away if I hated it.
But oh. I did not hate it. I loved it.
I listened to The Elegance of the Hedgehog almost nonstop one weekend, driving a total of 6 hours to and from Boston to visit a friend. I was enthralled. I could not wait to get back in my car and start driving again. The way the readers breathed life into their respective characters was unlike anything I’d ever heard. I was hooked.
After finishing The Elegance of the Hedgehog, I began seeking out other well-done audiobooks. Initially I always borrowed them from the library, as my early experiences with audiobooks had taught me to try each one before committing. Now that Audible.com offers free online samples, feeding my semi-addiction has gotten much easier. I always have an audiobook loaded up on my iPod shuffle. When I cook, clean, knit, walk, even drive, I’m always listening to an audiobook. (Though, um, not with headphones while driving.)
Personally, I’ve found I prefer audiobooks told by rather than about the characters. Pair a first-person narrative with an outstanding reader and it’s like having someone telling you her story. I’ve tried fancy productions like the Harry Potter audiobooks, but they’ve never done anything for me. I prefer the intimacy of having one or two characters talk to me. Any memoir or first-person fiction is fair game.
Over the next few Fridays, I’ll be featuring some of my favorite audiobooks by group: fiction, classics, nonfiction, and young adult. These are all productions I’d recommend to anyone, whether you are new to audiobooks or have been listening much longer than I have.
Of course, I’ll be asking for your recommendations on future posts. But for now, I’m curious: Do you listen to audiobooks? If so, are there certain genres or styles you prefer as audiobooks over others? If not, are you interested in trying them?
I won a copy of The Girl Next Door by Selene Castrovilla during Book Blogger Appreciation Week last month. It arrived in the mail last week, and I started reading right away.
About the Book:
“While most seniors at her high school are worrying about prom and final exams, seventeen-year-old Sam is desperately trying to save her best friend Jesse’s life. He has a rare, treatment-resistant form of cancer, and his odds of survival aren’t good–he may have only ten months to live. Through every bit of his pain and anguish, Sam has been by his side–through the grueling, aggressive treatments and their awful aftermath, to sleeping in his room at night when he’s afraid to be alone. Best friends and neighbors since preschool, Jesse and Sam’s friendship is changing–now they’re falling in love, and the bond between them grows stronger even as Jesse weakens. Will they have a happy ending…or will their story end in heartbreak?”
(From the jacket flap)
As a young teen, I devoured Lurlene McDaniel’s tales of heartbreak, a phase which I have most definitely outgrown. So, when I read McDaniel’s endorsement on the cover of The Girl Next Door, I worried it would be either cheesy or overwhelmingly heartbreaking. I was pleasantly surprised to find that neither was true.
Sam, the novel’s narrator, was warm and strong and real. I liked her from the beginning. The other characters, though less dynamic than Sam, were also believable, if a touch cliched. The writing was good about 95% of the time, with just a few spots that made me cringe a little. Hey, it happens.
The story is as much Sam’s as Jesse’s. Yes, Jesse is the sick one, and time is given to his feelings. But I would say that more emphasis is placed on Sam and her struggle to deal with Jesse’s illness. I am thankful never to have been in a situation like Sam’s, so I’m not in a place to judge accuracy, but her reactions and thoughts felt very genuine to me. I found myself rooting for her to work through her issues just as much as I was rooting for Jesse to get well.
The one thing that bothered me, that kept jarring me away from the narrative, could be considered spoiler. If you are particularly spoiler-sensitive, please skip the next paragraph!
**POTENTIAL SPOILERS**Early on in the book–like, page 45 out of 237–Sam addresses the problem that Jesse doesn’t want to die a virgin. How does she address it? By climbing into bed with him herself. Which is fine. Except that AFTER they start sleeping together is when they admit they have “fallen in love.” Why couldn’t it have been before? It would’ve made their love seem more realistic, I think. The constant references to sex just seemed…unnecessary. I would be immersed in Sam and Jesse’s relationship, in the issues they were each struggling with, and then all of a sudden Sam would casually mention how much they’d been making love. I can see where they’d want to do it–a lot–but the mentions kept pulling me out of the story. A relatively minor quibble with a generally good book.**END OF POTENTIAL SPOILERS**
If you enjoy books along these lines, I think The Girl Next Door would be a great choice. If books like these make your toes curl and provoke involuntary shudders, best to stay away. I fall somewhere in between, and my reaction was correspondingly neutral: I didn’t love the book, but I didn’t hate it either. I think illness can be a tough topic to tackle in a novel, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed with Castrovilla’s execution.
How do you feel about books that deal with illness? Are there any particularly good ones you’ve read? Do you find them difficult to read?
Okay, readers, I need your help.
The challenge site offers suggestions for each month, which is a wonderful resource. Or, I could always turn to trusty old Google. But I really like having people who know and love a book tell me, “Hey, this one would be perfect!”
The challenge is to read one book each month from the assigned country. Books can be fiction or non-, print or audio. I’d especially love to read books not only set in the specified country (as the challenge requires), but also by an author from that country. Here is the list of countries by month:
- October 2010: Afghanistan – I’ve got this one covered with A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
- November 2010: Turkey
- December 2010: Greece
- January 2011: Iran – I’m thinking Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi, unless someone has (a) reasons why I shouldn’t, or (b) other, awesomer recommendations
- February 2011: England
- March 2011: Ireland
- April 2011: Jamaica
- May 2011: Pakistan
- June 2011: Russia
- July 2011: Spain
- August 2011: Thailand
- September 2011: India – I have some ideas, but would love suggestions too!
Do you have a favorite book set in (and possibly by an author from) any of these countries? Or maybe one you’ve heard great things about and are dying to read? I would love to know about it! Feel free to gush in the comments, or even leave a link to your review, if you’ve written one. Thank you!