The Best of 2015 (So Far)

JUNE 30TH. Halfway through the year. Holy cats, when did that happen?

It's been a pretty fine reading year in these parts so far; though I had a few weeks of ho-hum reading, I found my groove in recent months and have found some real gems. In no particular order, the best of the best I've read so far this year:

Week in Reading: June 29th

JESUS H. ROOSEVELT CHRIST, it's almost July. (And I've clearly been catching up on more of the Outlander series on audio by my choice of exclamations.)

While I was away earlier this month, I devoured book after book: Stardust, by Neil Gaiman; When the Marquess Met His Match, by Laura Lee Guhrke; The Shore by Sara Taylor; and Saint Mazie by Jami Attenberg. Not to mention, of course, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret for the summer of #BlumeALong.

After a week off of reading (work and household projects consumed almost all of my spare brainspace and energy last week), I'm back with a vengeance.

week in reading: fatal flame, summer sisters, drums of autumn

This week, I'm listening to Drums of Autumn (the fourth of the Outlander series, which is finally moving out of the oh-my-another-bear-attack wilderness of North Carolina and into some more *unexpected* developments). I'm also savoring the last hundred or so pages of The Fatal Flame, the third--and final--of Lyndsay Faye's incredible Timothy Wilde trilogy (seriously, if you like smart, well-researched historical fiction and enjoy 19th-century New York City history, how have you not read these books already??). AND I'm diving into Summer Sisters for the second leg of the #BlumeALong (won't you join us?).

#BlumeALong Linkup: Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret

Gah! Sorry to be a terrible host and forget to get this up earlier today... this week has been HECTIC. I'll update here tonight or tomorrow with my own thoughts about Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, but in the meantime, if you care to link up, let us know:

What did you think of the book? If you're new to Blume, was this a good first experience? If you're a long-time reader of Blume, what was it like to revisit the book?

Link up to your post (or, if you've been actively sharing your thoughts on social media, the social media channel of your preference) below. Or feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below!

Week in Reading: June 15 (the start of #BlumeALong!)

I've got some work travel planned for this week, which means my posts here will be rather sparse. Instead, I plan to use my train time in the best possible way: with a book in my lap. I'll finally be reading Neil Gaiman's Stardust, which I've heard good things about, and I'm finally starting The Shore on my Nook because Shannon said it was excellent. After polling Twitter for recommendations of smart, feminist romance novels, I'm also bringing along When the Marquess Met His Match, the first of the American Heiress in London series by Laura Gee Guhrke (recommended by Jenny from Reading the End).

#BEA15: By the (Cook)books

One last round-up of BEA goodies for those, like me, who believe cookbooks are special part of the publishing world. Because of production costs, cookbook galleys can be limited, so BEA's a great opportunity to connect with cookbook publishers and get a sneak peek of what's coming up:

Crossroads (Artisan, October 2015): I'm as surprised as the rest of you that this vegan cookbook caught my eye, but the publicist promises it's divine--and the brief glimpse I got supports his claims.

The Lost Recipes of Prohibition (The Countryman Press, October 2015): HOW COULD I NOT LOVE THIS.

Sweet, Savory (and sometimes Boozy) Cupcakes (The Countryman Press, August 2015): See above.

Sweet Envy (The Countryman Press, October 2015): Super fancy, super simple. My kind of baking.

The Food Lab (Knopf, September 2015): This looks to be the bible of all cookbooks coming out this year; in-depth coverage to come in Shelf Awareness.

Hartwood (Artisan, October 2015): One breathtaking cookbook (in a world of breathtaking cookbooks), exploring food from the Yucatan (which I'll fully admit to knowing little about).

Making Dough (Quirk, November 2015): Back to basics with the quirkiest of publishers--dough! This is a weak spot in my own cooking repertoire, so I'm intrigued.

The Up South Cookbook (The Countryman Press, October 2015): Southern food, Brooklyn-style.

As with other books acquired at BEA, I'll be covering these closer to publication date, so stay tuned for more depth on each. 

Book Review: Re Jane, by Patricia Park

This review originally ran in Shelf Awareness for Readers. Reprinted here with permission. 

re jane by patricia park book review

The title of Patricia Park's debut novel, Re Jane, is a hint at the cleverness that lies between its covers: Park has taken the classic story of Jane Eyre and recast it at the opening of the 21st century. Jane Re, orphaned daughter of a Korean mother and American GI father, is sent from Korea to live with her aunt and uncle in Flushing, Queens. Her life mirrors Jane Eyre's in many ways: living with family who make her feel like a burden; a job as a nanny for a wealthy family, in Brooklyn, complete with a wife who uses the attic apartment of their brownstone as a home office; and a flight to Korea after a doomed love affair in New York ends poorly. 

Book Expo (#BEA15, Days 2 & 3)

After a day at the BEA Bloggers Conference, my next two days centered on the show floor, the books, and--most importantly--the people. I snuck in a quick trip to the Bookrageous party at Housing Works bookstore Wednesday night, but failed to take any pictures (recap: great event, great people, great bookstore, go if you can!).

jacob javits convention center new york city bea 2015 book expo, glass building, javits basement, javits foyer signs
The Monstrous Glass Building That Is Javits

2015 Releases I Can't Wait to Read

We're nearly halfway through 2015 (yipes) which means it's time to look at what the second half of the year will bring in terms of publishing. In no particular order, nine books coming up in the rest of 2015 that I can't wait to get my hands on (titles link to listings on Indiebound if you're interested in the full summary or pre-ordering any of the books below):

#BEA15: By the Books

BEA is a great conference for many, many reasons (not least of which the opportunity to meet other book people left, right and center), but it is, at the end of the day, really all about the books. I didn't bring too many books home with me--at the end of the day, I'd just as soon request digital galleys as they weigh significantly less on the train home--but here were those I did end up with:

A Window Opens, by Elizabeth Egan (August 2015): From the BEA Speed Dating event, pitched by the publisher as a story about a woman's quest to "have it all."

The Double Life of Liliane, by Lily Tuck (September 2015): I've had Tuck's first novel on my shelf for years; her second promises to be excellent.

Eileen, by Otessa Moshfegh (September 2015): Lots of buzz around this one. I'm intrigued but skeptical.

Scrapper, by Matt Bell (September 2015): I never had a chance to read Bell's earlier novel, In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods, but I heard enough things to be sure to swing by Soho's booth to pick up a copy of this one before I left.

And West is West, by Ron Childress (October 2015): The answer to the, "What book are you most excited about?" question at the Algonquin booth.

The Wake, by Paul Kingsnorth (September 2015): The answer to the, "What book are you most excited about?" question at the Graywolf Press booth; this one promises to be a trip of language and creativity.

Did You Ever Have a Family, by Bill Clegg (September 2015): You literally could not turn sideways at BEA without seeing this book somewhere; I'm a bit skeptical of the hype, but I still can't wait to start it. (Bonus: The local bookstore in my town has already read this and says nothing but good things.)

Dear Mr. You, by Mary Louise Parker (November 2015): Another one with lots of buzz that I'm attempting to go into rather blind--if at all possible.

DC Trip, by Sara Benincasa (November 2015): I didn't get a chance to meet Benincase while she was at the show, but she tipped me off on Twitter that I could swing by her publisher's booth to ask for a spare copy of her upcoming novel. Of course I did just that.

The Mark and the Void, by Paul Murray (October 2015): I loved Skippy Dies and almost jumped for joy when I saw this available at the show. I'll be reviewing for Shelf Awareness.

Black Man in a White Coat, by Damon Tweedy (September 2015): Another one from the BEA Buzz panel that promises excellence.

In a Dark, Dark Wood, by Ruth Ware (September 2015): The first of two novels (the other being the Clegg novel) from a new imprint, Scout Press. I started this on the train ride home. Can't wait to keep going.


Reviews of each of these, as covered, will run closer to publication date. And stay tuned for one more #BEA15 round-up post full of divinely gorgeous cookbooks.

Week in Reading: June 8

It's Monday, which means another weekend behind us. I had a particularly lazy two days that involved several hours of Outlander, several hours of Parks & Rec, and several hours of reading. What's not to love about that? I started--and finished--Newport, by Jill Morrow, a 1920s-era novel about a family contesting their patriarch's will that includes seances and mysticism and all kinds of dirty secrets. While not the type of book I'm usually drawn to, I was caught up in the first few chapters and wasn't disappointed in the end. I also finished At Hawthorn Time, a quiet and slow-building novel about strangers living in the English countryside. Reviews of both will come in Shelf Awareness for Readers next month.

Currently: Accepting the Un-Done

I'm a girl who loves a good to-do list, but lately, that obsession has teetered into an unhealthy relationship. I find I can't relax until my lists are completely crossed off, and let's face it: when has that ever happened?

So this weekend, I made a point of embracing the undone. I made lists of everything that needs to get done in the month of June: household projects to complete before my in-laws visit in July; rooms that need to be cleaned; errands that need to be run; calls that need to be made.

BEA Bloggers Conference (#BEA2015 Recap, Part 1)

Last week was a whirlwind of bookish delight, which I'll be recapping as best I can over the coming days. Up first:

Wednesday: BEA Bloggers Conference

I haven't been to BEA Bloggers (formerly Blogger Con) since its very first year, and then I attended as publishing staff, not as a blogger (though I was technically blogging at that time). I've heard mixed things about the conference in years past from bloggers I know and trust: Florinda (The 3 R's Blog) had a great recap of the mixed success of the 2012 conference, and Shannon and Leah echoed similar thoughts on the 2014 conference. Still, I know that over the years, the conference organizers have tried to encourage more and more input from actual bloggers on the content and format of the conference, so I went into the day cautiously optimistic.

Summer of #BlumeALong: Sign Ups

GUYS. I admitted on Twitter today that I have somehow reached my 28th year of life without ever reading anything by Judy Blume, and apparently I am not alone. Also, those avid readers who grew up with Judy Blume are an excited lot eager to re-read. SO. The #BlumeALong was born (credit to Shaina for the hashtag) and then the Summer of #BlumeALong (credit to Katie for suggesting a second novel).

Looking Ahead: June Books & Paperback Releases

June is the official first month of summer, and I for one am excited to park myself on the back porch and read 'til the sun sets late in the day. Here are a few things out this month that I'm really, really excited about:

Week in Reading: June 1

Holy (hot and humid) hell, it's June. It's June and I'm back to the grind after a whirlwind two weeks of conferences (one for work, then Book Expo the following week). I've got a boat load of day-job work on my plate, and a stack of galleys from BEA calling my name, quite a few July book review deadlines coming up, and several meetings scheduled for this week.