Sign Up for Septemb-Eyre: A Jane Eyre Readalong

Earlier this week, I confided to Twitter that I despite owning three copies (yes, three) of Jane Eyre, I'd never actually read the book.
The responses were swift and urgent: I MUST READ THIS NOW. Some called it their favorite classic. Others urged me to read it IN ALL CAPS. Some gave tips on how to best approach it, how to view it in context, how they first came to the novel as a child or adult or some age in between.

It's pretty phenomenal, this Twitter thing, isn't it?

The moral of this story is that one must always read Jane Eyre as soon as possible, yes? And what better way to do it than a readalong? As a somewhat-slacking member of the Classics Club who has recently learned of the fervor and passion with which many readers approach Jane Eyre re-reads, I'm thinking I might not be the only one thinking a Jane Eyre readalong is in my future. If you're interested, simply sign up with the link widget thingamabobber below, and get reading to start reading in September!

(I will be reading the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition, so the schedule below breaks out into about 110 pages per week... totally doable, guys):

(EDITED to avoid postings on Saturdays, which tend to be less than ideal for most people):
September 2nd: Kick-off post, introductions, why you're reading, etc.
September 9th: Chapters I-XI
September 16th: Chapters XII-XXI
September 23rd: Chapters XXII-XXIX
September 30th: Chapters XXX-End

More details and logistics available here.

First update: GIFs, images, and other creative uses of the interwebs to express love and/or disappointment with this book are of course more than welcome.

Second update: But of course, GIFs, images, etc. are not required.

Third update: I've changed the schedule above as most people prefer not to post on Saturdays. New start date: September 2nd.

Reading Recap: July Highlights

Whoa, dudes. HOW IS IT ALMOST AUGUST ALREADY!? I'm not really ready to be entering the final month of summer, though I'll admit that the 90+ degree temperatures with 1,000% humidity levels here have been getting to me lately. Luckily, I was able to read through most of the worst weather, and I'm happy to report that temperatures have been holding at a steady mid-80s for the last few days, so the air no longer feels quite so much like pudding.

Here's a recap of some of my highlights from July:

How Should a Person Be?, by Sheila Heti: I finished this in early July, and I still haven't reviewed it because I still haven't decided what I think about it. I love it. But I also hate it. I've never felt quite like this about a book, which is interesting in and of itself (at least to me). Either way, I think everyone should read it because we all need to talk about it, so get on that, will you?

The Deep Whatsis, by Peter Mattei: Another novel that deals with the big questions of life and work and meaning and love and thought and happiness, though beyond that, this is nothing like How Should a Person Be? The novel, short and clipped in both length and tone, centers on the most objectionable, unlikeable creative director working in an up-scale advertising agency in New York where his main objective is to fire half of his staff in order to get a huge bonus. The man is thoroughly despicable, but as he comes to realize this about himself, he finds his shell of uncaringness (yes, that's a word) crumbling around him until he no longer knows how to function. If you're questioning the absurdity of the bureaucratic workplace, the dog-eat-dog nature of high-stress industries, and/or the bizarre thinking that goes into advertising, this will scratch some of those itches.

The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer: Dudes, I could gush about this for hours, so there's no way I'm going to keep it to one little recap paragraph unless I forgo any kind of analysis or intellectual thinking and instead opt for "WHY HAVEN'T YOU READ THIS YET!?"

Fin & Lady, by Cathleen Schine: If you've heard a few scattered things about this and passed it up for other, splashier books this summer, stop, turn around, and reconsider. Schine's story of two half-siblings, both orphaned, living together in 1960s New York is the kind of steady, poignant novel that I love for summer, capturing two people struggling to live a life of freedom and choice in an era toying with freedom but not yet truly embracing it. I gobbled this up on audio, and the narration is excellent if you're looking for a good audio pick.

The Art Forger, by B.A. Shapiro: I'm about halfway through this now and absolutely tearing through it. Another audio pick, the first-person narration of the story lends itself well to listening, and the narrator captures the voice and personality of Claire Roth so perfectly that there are times I almost feel I'm watching a movie in my head. The first half of the novel was compelling and intriguing, and now I'm curious to see how that mystery plays out for another 4 hours of audio. I sense a lot of headphones in my near future.

Book Review: Chocolates for Breakfast, by Pamela Moore

This review originally ran in the Friday, July 5th issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. If you don't already subscribe, sign up here to receive a bi-weekly dose of readerly goodness in your inbox.

Long before Gossip Girl and its gaggles of precocious alcoholic teenagers, there was Pamela Moore's Chocolates for Breakfast. First published in 1956, the novel centers on 15-year-old Courtney Farrell, just pulling out of a failed crush on a teacher at her boarding school in New York. She then moves to Los Angeles to live with her movie-actress mother, where she spends her days with her mother's adult friends who pour her vodka drinks at 11 a.m. "To Courtney," they toast, "May she always rise late to find a drink awaiting her... and amusing men around her." This toast becomes something of a prediction for the rest of Courtney's high school years, as she bounces between Los Angeles and New York City, drinking highballs and smoking cigarettes and starting and ending love affairs and friendships.

Chocolates for Breakfast is a coming-of-age novel of the most interesting variety. Courtney faces the adult world as little more than a child, but as she fakes her way to sophistication, confronting sexuality and alcohol and high society and depression and suicide, she starts to grow into the adult she is pretending to be. Though the writing can feel forced at times, Moore ultimately captures the essence of the teenage struggle to be recognized as an adult. Perhaps this is what makes the novel feel as relevant today as it did when published nearly 60 years ago, proving as shocking and important to today's world as it did in the 1950s.


As an added bonus, don't miss the stellar forward from writer and bookseller Emma Straub. It's the best kind of foreword, too: one that makes you salivate over what's to come without giving away the story before you've read it. Gold star for foreword-ing, Emma.


Chocolates for Breakfast | Pamela Moore, intro. Emma Straub | Harper Perennial | Paperback | June 2013 | Buy from an independent near you

Why I Can't Quit Goodreads... Yet.

In case you live under a rock and hadn't heard the news, Goodreads is now owned by Amazon, that behemoth of a bookseller/tax evader/price cutter that everyone in the book world loves to hate. Following the acquisition, there was a lot of talk of what would happen over at Goodreads: would the platform change? What would Amazon do with all our DATA (probably use it to sell more things)? Would anti-Amazonians quit the platform? What are the alternatives?

Bookriot ran a lot of great coverage on the acquisition, how readers reacted, what it means for readers, for publishers, and for the world of social book networks, and the current alternatives to Goodreads (a list that has changed even in the last few months), and I'm not going to re-hash that all here. I'm going to admit that I contemplated deleting my Goodreads account, for a variety of reasons, but in the end, I just... can't.

I'm hooked. Not to the book-tracking aspect of Goodreads; my nerd-self has created a spreadsheet that tracks all the reading stats Goodreads tracks for me and then some, including my progress in my yearly reading goal, pages read, books abandoned, author gender, pub year, and more. And though I check the little "want to read" button on approximately 1 million titles a month, I rarely, if ever, go back to my "want to read" shelf when selecting my next read or browsing a book store (I prefer a much more organic method of organizing my TBR, in that I don't organize my TBR list really at all).

No, I'm hooked on the social aspect of the reviews, the prioritization of reviews by those I know versus those I do not. Though the star rating system has its downfalls, the beauty of stars and reviews on Goodreads is that I can read these reviews in the context of a friend or fellow blogger's preferences. If I know a friend likes light, beachy reads and hated Cloud Atlas... well, that's not really much of a surprise now, is it? And if a blogger I follow reads mostly literary fiction and narrative nonfiction, but recommends a romance novel as worth genre-jumping for, that recommendation is going to mean more for me and my tastes than a recommendation from a die-hard romance reader.

There are millions--literally--of books out there that I will never, ever get a chance to read. I cannot possibly read fast enough to keep up with the onslaught of new books I want to read each year, not to mention all the old books I learn about each day.

Other websites, including, have rating systems, but a rating without knowing the rater tells me nothing other than that a stranger may or may not have liked a book. While reviews from people I know can never guarantee that I will like a book, they at least up my chances. That is, after all, why all us book bloggers do what we do, isn't it?

Man Booker Prize Longlist

This year's Man Booker Prize longlist has been announced, and -- surprise! -- Hilary Mantel did not write a single contender. Not that I've been particularly good about reading books from lists of prize contenders, but I still find them incredibly interesting, so here's this year's list (links go to the book's profile on the Man Booker site):

A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki
Five Star Billionaireby Tash Aw
Almost English, by Charlotte Mendelson

The Kills, by Richard House
The Lowlandby Jhumpa Lahiri

The Luminariesby Eleanor Catton
Harvest, by Jim Crace

The Spinning Heart, by Donal Ryan
The Testament of Mary, by Colm Tóibín

We Need New Names, by NoViolet Bulawayo
Unexploded, by Alison MacLeod
TransAtlantic, by Colum McCann

Of these, I've read exactly 0, though I do currently have A Tale for the Time Being checked out from the library per Nathan Dunbar's recommendation. As admitted above, I don't generally get around to reading as many award contenders as I'd like, though the longlists do open my eyes to books I'd otherwise not have known; The Harvest, above, looks particularly interesting and is one I'd never seen before, and Almost English is on my ever-growing to-read list as well.

Does anyone try to read award contenders? Any particular award you'll read the whole longlist for? I find this endlessly fascinating, so please share!

Audiobook Review: Red Moon, by Benjamin Percy

This review originally ran in the Tuesday, July 2nd issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. If you don't already subscribe, sign up here to receive a bi-weekly dose of readerly goodness in your inbox.

The world of Benjamin Percy's Red Moon is eminently recognizable as our own and yet entirely another, resulting in a story that succeeds as a work of science fiction, a thriller and a political allegory all at once. Percy (Wilding) reimagines the world as steeped in werewolf, or "lycan," mythology. The United States is still conducting a war on terror--except it is a war on lycans, a population that has been colonized, subjected to mandatory medication that prevents their transformation and required to register with the government. While this may seem too much to pack into one novel, Percy pulls it off--and his own gravelly narration of the audiobook makes his story all the more chilling as it unfolds.

Red Moon weaves together the stories of Patrick, the only survivor of a lycan attack on a passenger jet, Claire, a lycan on the run after her parents are brutally murdered by government officials, and Chase, a politician who has sworn to defeat the lycan "threat," giving listeners a diverse set of perspectives from which to take in this complex alternate reality. Percy's narration is slow and steady, offsetting the fast-paced plotlines in such a way that listeners can practically feel the charge in the atmosphere Percy has created, bound to explode with the strike of a match. Explode it does, pulling these three key characters together before sending them out to fight in battles, aid in revolutions and change the world they know--for better or for worse.


Red Moon | Benjamin Percy, nar. Benjamin Percy | Grand Central | Unabridged Audio | 18 discs, 22 hours | Buy from an independent near you

Book Review: Love All, by Callie Wright

This review originally ran in the Friday, July 19th issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. If you don't already subscribe, sign up here to receive a bi-weekly dose of readerly goodness in your inbox.

Love All, Callie Wright's debut novel, begins when Joanie Cole dies in her sleep. Bob, her husband of more than 40 years, moves in with his grown daughter, Anne, and her husband and two teenagers. Now three generations of one family are living together under one roof, and without the glue of Joanie's acceptance, patience and forgiveness to hold them together, the family begins to come apart at the seams.

Bob must fend for himself for the first time in his adult life, no longer able to rely on Joanie for company, conversation or even a late-night sandwich. Anne is forced to relive her father's multiple affairs and infidelities as she begins to question her own husband's mysterious late-night activities. Julia, Anne's 15-year-old daughter, is caught in a love triangle with her two best guy friends and finds inspiration for gossip-mongering in a battered old novel she finds among her grandmother's possessions.

At its heart, Love All is a novel about family, but it touches, too, on the challenges of marriage and loyalty and fidelity and the complexities of relationships at any age. With incredible skill, Wright's narration alternates between each member of the family to give readers a complete, if sometimes biased, view of events as they unfold. Though transitions from third to first person are not always seamless, Wright's ability to convey the thoughts and motivations of each of her characters, from widower to working mother to high schooler, is both compelling and impressive.


Love All | Callie Wright | Holt | Hardcover | July 2013 | 272 pages | Buy from an independent near you

#24in48 Readathon, Redux

Image from A Home Between Pages
I participated in Rachel's #24in48 readathon last summer, and relished the opportunity to read for a solid weekend. My librarian cousin joined me for the weekend as a reading buddy, and together, we curled up on the couch with book-themed bottles of wine (having a librarian/bookworm cousin is good for those kinds of things), snacks, and stacks and stacks of books.

It was so lovely that I'll be joining again this year, and you should too!

The goal: Read for 24 hours in a 48 hour window (specifically,12:00am on Saturday, Aug. 3rd to12:00am on Monday, Aug. 5th).

My pledge: As with previous readathons, I'll be donating $0.05/page to a literary charity. This time, I've selected First Book, an organization dedicated to providing access to new books for children in need.

I'll post my reading stack closer to the date of the event, and it will inevitably be far too ambitious and large and overwhelming but also wonderful.

Looking Ahead: July Highlights

It's hot, friends. It's hot and I'm moving and all I can think about right now is my countdown to vacation, and I can't wait to be curled up in a beach chair sipping a Wachusett Blueberry (only the greatest blueberry beer of all times) and reading some of these great books. Because after the slow reading month of June, I need some great books:

How Should a Person Be?, by Sheila Heti (Picador, June 25th): While technically a paperback release of a 2012 book (and a June release at that), I can't let this one fall off the radar. Hailed as an impressive overlap of fiction and autobiography, the novel is a compilation of transcripts of conversations, "real emails," and fictional narrative, and I'm intrigued by the approach if nothing else.

The Light in the Ruins, by Chris Bohjalian (Doubleday, July 9th): Would you believe I've never read any of Chris Bohjalian's work? Maybe it's because I don't know how to pronounce his last name (not a joke, that; I recently read in Drunk Tank Pink that unpronounceable names are more likely to be ignored or skipped over unconsciously). Whatever the reason, this seems like a good book on which to change this statement. Promising Italian countryside, multiple time periods, and secret histories, The Light in the Ruins is already receiving rave reviews from other bloggers and I'm excited to dive in. This one will likely come on vacation with me.

The Deep Whatsis, by Peter Mattei (Other Press, July 23rd): I've written before about my love of Other Press titles, and this one promises to fall into step with others before it in that vein. Plus, as one who spends her 9-to-5s working for an advertising agency, I can't pass up anything described as "a gripping and hilarious satire of the inherent absurdity of advertising and the flippant cruelty of corporate behavior."