Armchair BEA 2014: An Introduction Post

ArmchairBEA LogoPlease tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging? Where in the world are you blogging from? 

I’m Nicole. I’m from New York City and I have written the blog Linus’s Blanket for 6 years now. I can’t even believe that it has been that long. I fell into book blogging by accident. This blog started out rather generally, and if you look way back in the time machine of my posting, you’ll find the odd restaurant/activity post and a few pictures. You can also see where I blogged about books during a vacation in Italy. The blog never recovered from there and since then it has been mainly about books, though over the next year or so I will be going in more of a general direction. Or so I say.

What genre do you read the most? I love to read because ___________________ . 

I was and have remained a pretty eclectic reader. A well-written book capturing my attention and curiosity can be about anything. Once I was firmly out of board books, basic chapter books, general tween/teen fare, I read a lot of mysteries. I loved Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, and some of the Nancy Drew books. And I read quite a bit of fantasy and some of the classics. Freshman year in college changed the game for me when I was introduced to more contemporary “literature”. Toni Morrison’s Beloved made me think about what book could do and the reading experience in a much different way. Up until then, I thought of reading, when not a textbook, as entertainment. With Morrison I discovered layers and deeper meanings.

Best Books Read in 2013

What was your favorite book read last year? What’s your favorite book so far this year?  

I read so many incredible books that it is hard to narrow it down to just one, so I went with a few. Pictured above are The Maid’s Version by Daniel Woodrell; The Wife, Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon; and Schroder by Amity Gage. My favorite book this year has been The City of Stairs by Robert Bennett Jackson, whose other books I need to track down immediately.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 BOOK CLUB Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung

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PAPER/PLATES Blog: An Interview With Me, Nicole

Paper/PlatesAmina Elahi over at PAPER/PLATES Blog invited me to do her At The Table With interview feature, and of course I jumped at the opportunity. I love her blog and her posts (and her contributor’s) on literature and food, specifically recipes. She is tempting me big time to drag out Literary Feasts. I have been longingly dog-earing food passages again! [Tweet “I chatted about my favorite books and wish to have lunch with Erin Blakemore, among other things. Head over and check it out”]. MAKE SURE you visit the rest of the blog. You’ll come back to thank me, so I’ll be here…waiting for that to happen. Enjoy! 🙂

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 BOOK CLUB   Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung

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Book Selfie: The Intern’s Handbook by Shane Kuhn

I’m Natalie, a new contributor to Linus’s Blanket(and also Nicole’s cousin), blogging about teen reads.It’s been four hours into the Readathon and I’ve basically been reading for four hours. Minus the in between breakfast, booktube video(which will be posted soon enough), and a selfie. Now you may ask, “what does a selfie have to do with the Readathon?” Well it counts if it’s with a book you’re reading in the Readathon. Especially if it’s your kick starter book.

The Intern’s Handbook is about this organization that recruits people they feel don’t have any emotion towards the human race. Namely, orphans. I mean, if you pair that personality with being an assassin, you’re going to get death, death, and more death. I wouldn’t necessarily say this book is about assassins. Well not the movie kind anyway. When I think of assassins I think about ninjas; the assassins in this book dress normal, look normal, and pose as interns. Then when they get emotionally close enough to their target they finish the real task. It’s a good book but kind of a morbid way to start the Readathon. Buuuuut, a selfie can surely remove all the sociopathicness.

WIN_20140426_110313

~Natalie

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Readathon April 2014: Here We Go & Wrap-Up

I went back and checked my posts to see when was the last time that I fully participated in a Readathon and I came up with 2009! That sounds so wrong, but alas is probably right. It’s hard to get that weekend that is completely clear. Especially on a Saturday. But I have always loved my experiences reading in the Readathon, and when the date was announced and I saw that it had not been filled yet, I immediately put it on my calendar, in pen. I am so happy to be here this morning.

I talked my family into participating with me. So my mom, aunt, cousin and I are assembled this morning to read books, eat snacks and have a good old-fashioned slumber party. It is going to be so. much. fun. My cousin and I are also cheerleaders go Teams Hughes and Wordsworth!

The Bought Pile

 Books

I have stacks of books all over the place, so it has been SO HARD to decide what to read! What else is new, right? The one pictured above are a few of the ones I have bought over the last couple of months. That also doesn’t include the small pile I bought this morning.  I have a stack of good books that for one reason or another I haven’t been able to finish, so maybe a few of those today as well.

And now for the hour zero survey.

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

I am reading with my family in New York City.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

I was really looking forward to reading Solsbury Hill by Susan Wyler but I couldn’t find a copy! But also looking forward to getting into Hyde by Daniel Levine.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

My wasabi peas are love. I started on them last night.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I think I haven’t done a Readathon in something like 4 years. Unbelievable.

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?

It’s been awhile, so I am making everything up as I go along!

Updated to include Natalie’s Wrap-Up (Below).

Those of you that checked in and saw my book selfie post know that I participated in the Readathon. I didn’t update anymore after that post which was around eleven o’clock p.m. But I will say that I only finished one book, which was Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen, I wish I had finished it sooner. The main character was so dramatic, and not in a mellow way, but she means well.  I really wanted to finish way more books, also. That’s what happens when you do the Readathon with family. You “read”, talk, and eat. Then when it’s over you look at your finished book pile and there’s only one book there. One book. I blame it on me attempting to read an 800 page book, ahem A Game of Thrones. I was so caught up on when Ned Stark said “winter is coming” for the first time I couldn’t move on. Can I blame it on that? I will.

So the whole point of the Readathon is to stay awake 24 hours, reading. I started at 8:00, exactly, and ended at 1:00. I cannot believe I actually went to sleep at 1:00. I blame it on Edgar Allen Poe in the dark. See, none of this is my fault. There’s always something that prevented me from doing something. See? But, really. 1:00. I’m a night owl. Night owls don’t simply go to sleep at 1:00. We prefer, like, 3:00. When I started the Readathon I was just like “I’m going to be the last one awake” and all this other trash talk. If you do the Readathon with people, it will become a “who stays up the longest” contest. Trust me. Even though, to an extent, I was the last one awake. Everyone else decided to take “naps”, and I was just up, by myself, alone. Then everyone woke up around 12:00 and we listened to Edgar in the dark, which made me fall asleep. You know, since listening to him in the dark was my idea I guess you could say I made myself fall asleep. But we aren’t going to say that.

All in all, I did enjoy the Readathon. Most of my favorite parts included the mini challenges, the trash talking, and the update videos. I’m actually going to say, even though I like reading, I didn’t expect to enjoy reading for 24 hours. I knew there would be 20 minute breaks here and there, and snacks, but it still didn’t change the fact that, for the majority of that time, I would have to read. But hey, I did it(most of it anyway, until Edgar put me in a comatose) and I’m looking forward to doing it again in October. Hopefully, I can stay awake then.

 Macondo Swash Caps Regular

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 BOOK CLUB   Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung

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The Memory Garden by Mary Rickert

The Memory Garden by Mary Rickert

Publisher’s Description:

Nan keeps her secrets deep, not knowing how the truth would reveal a magic all its own.  Bay Singer has bigger secrets than most. She doesn’t know about them, though. Her mother, Nan, has made sure of that. But one phone call from the sheriff makes Nan realize that the past is catching up. Nan decides that she has to make things right, and invites over the two estranged friends who know the truth. Ruthie and Mavis arrive in a whirlwind of painful memories, offering Nan little hope of protecting Bay. But even the most ruined garden is resilient, and their curious reunion has powerful effects that none of them could imagine, least of all 

MemoryGarden_image_AppleBlossomBay.

Reading Mary Rickert’s The Memory Garden is a lovely and rewarding experience. I adore books containing atmosphere and am equally fond of reading about witches. Rickert combines both with a heartwarming and engaging tale about great love, big secrets, relationships, and coming of age – not only for a young generation, but also for the one beginning the process of reflecting and coming to terms with what will likely be their final years. The Memory Garden is filled with lush writing, unforgettable characters, and manages to  immerse readers in the politics of a small town of an earlier time, and in friendships whose strength transcends a painful past.

Another fascinating aspect of reading about witches is how they draw on elements of the natural world in their preparations for cures, charms and enchantments. Rickert adds to the richness of The Memory Garden by prefacing each chapter with an ingredient – fruit, vegetable, herb – and its uses and meaning. I am able to share the APPLE BLOSSOM card with you today. Another clear endorsement of the apple of day philosophy.

 

For more thoughts on this book, and to see the rest of the lovely cards, visit: Royal Reviews /Book Bag Lady / Lesa’s Book Critiques / The Bibliotaphe Closet / Bookalicious Babe / Mirabile DictuStory Matters

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel, Simon Vance (Narrator)  Audiobook Review

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Jessica Levine, Rachel Zoe, and Susan Rieger|Reading Round Up

One of the key things about having less time for one of my great loves (reading!) is that I am much more ruthless about reading what I find to be really enjoyable and/or rewarding. Gone is the time when I can meander through a book with vague feelings of boredom and/or annoyance with a plot. These days if I pick a book up and don’t feel a compelling desire to come back to it, I don’t. The last few weeks have offered up an eclectic mix of reads, but for the most part, I have been happy with my choices.

Jessica Levine, Rachel Zoe & Susan Rieger

The Geometry of Love by Jessica Levine:  Yesterday, I posted my interview with Jessica Levine, and I was fascinated with her discussion of the psychological nature of her books, women having male muses, and the different types or literature and reading that have spurred the creation of her characters and novels.

I have high praise for The Geometry of Love. The novel’s protagonist, Julia, is in a safe, though creatively stifling relationship with her college sweetheart when she has a chance run-in with their old roommate, Michael (a creative soul mate with whom she once shared a steamy kiss). While both men offer an essential element to Julia’s well-being, her attempts to resurrect their damaged relationships, establish agency in her creative life, and determine her path in life, unfolds in surprising ways and brings all involved all but to the brink of ruin. Levine’s characters are thoughtfully rendered and contain a level of nuance that holds the reader hostage in their messy lives. Julia in particular reminded me of that friend whose life is a mess, and though you’ve heard way too much about her problems, too many times, there is something that keeps you from turning away.

Living in Style: Inspiration and Advice for Everyday Glamour by Rachel Zoe: I’m a pretty recent convert to The Zoe Report (Rachel Zoe’s daily beauty, style and fashion newsletter) but I do love a pretty dress, and her astute style curation caught my eye. Though a new devotee, I was fairly excited to find out that she has a new book out. Right off the bat I am favorably disposed to enjoy a coffee table book like Living in Style. There are beautiful photographs of style icons, sneak peeks behind the scenes – at fashion soirees, and practical suggestions for formulating a sense of style, work life maintenance routine and balance. The book is written in a conversational style, and Zoe shares tips from her beauty care routine, and stories about her early days and establishing her career. If you want a more substantive guide for for fashion, make up an style choices, I would subscribe to her newsletter as this is mostly breezy and fun.

The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger: Susan Rieger’s debut novel is instantly memorable to me, if only because I had so much fun  reading it. I loved escaping into Sophie Diehl’s world of long catch-up emails with her best friend, detailed and informative work briefs, and intriguingly accurate representations of divorce documents. The fact that Sophie is a criminal lawyer who has has no interest in dealing with people adds to the comic elements of the novel, which doesn’t lose its poignancy among the humor. Rieger artfully weaves Sophie’s troubled relationship history, tenuous parental bonds, and deep ambivalence about marriage in to the secondary story of divorce negotiations between a privileged heiress (the fabulously charming, intelligent and empathetic Mia Meiklejohn) and and her prominent physician husband. My only complaint is that it felt a tad long in spots, but having the option to skip around in the legal documents remedied any restlessness that I had.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 BOOK CLUB   Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung

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Public Notes to Myself: A Mid April Reading List

Sometimes I need a written reminder for what it is I have committed to reading for the month, and this is one of those times. How is April getting away so quickly? It is the middle of April already, people! I have book club books to read and Bloggers Recommend Picks to pick. I have to get on it! Let’s take a peek at what I’ve got.

Frog Music, The Fever & AmericanahSo this month I have three book club picks in the works.

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue –  I am late to the game with Donoghue, having missed the much acclaimed Room and her follow up of historically based short stories, Astray. Frog Music is promising to be a rich historical novel via 1876, the smallpox epidemic and an unsolved murder. All things that tickle my reading fancy. I’ll be starting on this (hopefully tonight!) to discuss the first few sections with my Twitter Book Club, The Hashtags, on Friday.

The Fever by Megan Abbot – If my Twitter book club is called The Hashtags, then my regular IRL book club should be called The Publicists, since its members comprise my favorite people scattered at Bloomsbury, Little Brown, Viking, Random House and Riverhead. This month we are reading Megan Abbott’s The Fever, and I have started it and I love it. I have no idea what the hell is going on, but I am totally intrigued. This is my third Abbott and she never fails to bring an almost uncomfortably realistic depth to the inner, troubled, lives of teen-aged girls.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – As if I didn’t have enough book clubs of my own, I am guesting at a friend’s book club this month. She has been trying to get me to join, and I have been resisting because, you know, all the things and all the books. However, this month they are reading Americanah, and I adored Half of A Yellow Sun. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to read and discuss it with a group. I also suspect that I will have hard time resisting going back, especially if they keep selecting books that are right up my alley.

A Life Apart and When the Cypress Whispers

My mother has had a lot more time to read this year, so we have been trying to read a book together each month. Way back when, at the beginning of the year, we started with Walter Walker’s Crime of Privilege, but neither of us could really get into. It was strangely light on details despite being a really long book. We went on to Defending Jacob, which we both really enjoyed, me more so than my mom –  she didn’t like the ending. Our favorite joint read has been Rhidian Brook’s The Aftermath.

Two books that we are reading together are:

A Life Apart by L.Y. Marlow – I am looking forward reading Marlow’s latest novel about a navy man whose life is saved during the attacks on Pearl Harbor by a black sailor, who dies in his attempt. He develops a relationship with the sailor’s sister when he travels to visit her, in his own hometown of Boston, pay his respects. My mother has already read it and she thinks that is just fabulous. I read the first chapter and I can attest that it is captivating and has and immediacy that make you want to sink into the story. She made lots of notes during her reading, so I am really looking forward to see where the discussion goes.

When The Cypress Whispers by Yvette Manessis Corporon – Corporon’s novel falls into the “woman returns home to find herself” category. It’s a much used plot device, so while I usually enjoy these types of books, I tend to read them with great care in the choosing. I gravitate toward ones that have an element of surprise for me. In this novel, the heroine does her soul searching while on a rare trip home to visit relative in Greece. That heightened the appeal for me. I also love reading beautiful books – the cover and the luxury of deckle-edge pages is very enticing.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 BOOK CLUB   Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung

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Happy Spring! And. A book list.

And hopefully to a better spring. With more posting. I did a double take to realized that I have posted a whopping 2x in the last three months. Time does fly when you are having fun. So what have I been up to? Busy job, busy life. I have made headway with quite a few books, though you couldn’t tell that AT ALL from around here. I took a look at the list of books I have read so far and thought I would share it here. 

What I’ve Read

Fog of Dead Souls  by Jill Kelly
The subject matter on this one is disturbing, but I loved that the characters were firmly in their 6os, and still vibrant and complex human beings, with the accompanying expertise in their careers, consideration for their sex lives, and a long list of completed goals and lingering aspirations. Though this is a essentially a whodunnit, the bulk of the narrative examines how Ellie deals with the crimes committed against her, and subsequent attempts to put her life together.

The Sound of Broken Glass by Deborah Crombie

I just discovered Deborah Crombie with No Mark Upon Her, and I adore her smart detectives and equally smart writing style. If time allowed, I would read all of her books in the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series. If you can start at the beginning, I would highly recommend doing just that.

Defending Jacob  by William Landay
I read this one with my mother and I can tell why book clubs have been so taken with this one. We debated throughout the book the culpability of parents in raising their children, when sullen teenage behavior should be taken as an indication of something more sinister, and what actions are appropriate to take in protecting your child from society or vice versa . Landay packs in the twists. If you can truly guess the end, you are a better person than I am.

Choice of Straws by E.R. Braithwaite

This was first published in the 60s, and was recently re-published by Open Road Media. What stands out most to me is the oddity of this haunting story. A twin loses his brother while they are in the midst of brutal attacks against black citizens in London, and then he starts to consider feelings for the sister of an unwitting victim. This was an emotionally charged read, and while I’m not sure I felt it was entirely plausible, it gave me a lot to think about.

Moth and Spark by Anne Leonard

I started reading this on the train for a visit to DC and I was enchanted. Let’s see, magic, dragon, and intense alliances and politics, side by side with a romance that by rights should fail. Loved every minute of it.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 BOOK CLUB   Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung

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The Aftermath by Rhidian Brook – Book Review

The Aftermath by Rhidian BrookIn Rhidian Brook’s stunning post World War II novel, The Aftermath, English Colonel Lewis Morgan is tasked with reinvigorating Hamburg and the surrounding territory while also determining the degrees of guilt or innocent of the population and ensuring the prosecution of Nazi war criminals. While carrying out his duties, Lewis is reunited with his wife Rachael and son Edmund, who come to him after a separation of several years, with a brief exception for Lewis to attend the funeral of his eldest son. Allied officers are housed in the residences off the wealthy Germans, while they are re-homed in camps. Faced with evicting the family living in the mansion that has been chosen for him Lewis, without consulting his wife, decides that the two families will share the spacious home. Inevitably, tensions arise as the families try to cope with the new living situations and their own precarious relationships.

It’s easy to be wary of World War II novels. It’s a period that lends itself to dramatization, and it’s easy to feel as if you’ve read certain stories before. At this point, I am pretty selective about the ones I choose to read, but I am willing to take a chance on the novels that I think will offer up a different perspective. The Aftermath caught my attention for that reason. Brook writes eloquently about the devastation of the country, pride and livelihoods of the people, many of whom were near starving in camps. Edmund is befriended by a group of boys who have no one but each other, his German teacher arrives thin, hungry and worried that he will be convicted of crimes greater than the ones he has committed. Throughout the novel questions and degrees of guilt are explored with few satisfactory answers. How can you tell who is good just by appearances? Whom can you trust?

Brook weaves all of these issues seamlessly into this tapestry of family, homecomings, love, redemption and loss. Lewis and Rachael’s uncomfortable relationship and loss of each other, and their failed attempts at regaining a semblance of former intimacy form shape the novel, along with Herr Lubert’s mourning his wife, anger at his reduced circumstances, and lack of control over rebellious Freda. Brook masterfully build impalpable tension as the families struggle to achieve civility toward each other in the face of suspicion, stereotypes, and class tension. Lewis’s ability to have compassion for the community he serves, but being unable to extend that same thoughtfulness and courtesy to his family is thoughtfully explored over the course of the story. There were so many powder kegs that I expected to explode during the course of the novel, but each situation comes to a head in ways that were satisfying, and mostly, surprising. The Aftermath is a wonderful novel – rich in historical detail, impressive in its analysis of the subtle contradictions of human frailty and strength, and a fine example of engaging and compelling storytelling. Highly recommended.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 BOOK CLUB   Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung

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Lies You Wanted to Hear by James Whitfield Thomson – Book Review

Lies You Wanted to Hear

Though it begins in 1990 with a woman named Lucy mourning the loss of her son on his birthday, James Whitfield Thomson’s Lies You Wanted to Hear is essentially the origin story of Lucy Thornhill and Matt Drobyshev’s troubled marriage, and what happens when a relationship built on a faulty foundation collides with an obstacle that cannot be overcome. When Matt and Lucy meet, he is a young police officer from a modest background and means while she is the dilettante daughter of a wealthy businessman. Lucy had recently been deeply involved with the irresponsible and unfaithful Griffin, in a passionate and draining on-again/off-again affair. They never seem able to let go completely, and Lucy feels as if she should be ready to move into a more stable and committed relationship. Matt, for his part, loves Lucy immediately. While he suspects that Lucy doesn’t return the depth of his feelings, he is willing to accept what she is able to offer in the hopes that they can build a strong and loving marriage. There are many lies they tell themselves, but chief among them is that they will be happy together in the long run.

Thomson takes pains to establish Matt and Lucy’s relationship, and after their initial meeting and romance the novel progresses almost too slowly, and in too much detail, about the ins and outs of their marriage. The character’s stories unfold in alternating first person narratives, so while it is very interesting to see how they each view the relationship and each other, it is just as easy to see that they are mistaken in thinking they can successfully build a life together. Thomson bogs down the middle of story unnecessarily, and doesn’t leave much room to develop the end, which is where the novel shines. I knew that something happened to separate Lucy from her children, but it was something I forgot to wonder about as I found myself lost as I was in the tedium of Matt and Lucy’s marital woes and increasing animosity toward each other.

Putting the novel down for awhile ultimately helped me to finish it. I picked it up again, and the final third of the book had me hooked. For my taste, Thomson took too long to get to the meat of the story, but by the time he got there I was well versed in Matt and Lucy. I could see the perspective of both parents in the sad aftermath of their marriage, but I did little wavering between the two – though I felt I should. If you enjoy marital dramas, “he said, she said,”  and don’t mind a little extra filling in the middle, Lies You Wanted to Hear will definitely warrant interest. Thomson clearly communicates how sympathy and righteousness can be granted either aggrieved party, but most readers will stay play favorites with the characters (it’s almost impossible not to), as most of us will think we are as justified in our opinions as do Matt and Lucy.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 BOOK CLUB Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung

Check out this interview where James Whitfield Thomson answers several questions about his writing, what he’s reading and Lies You Wanted to Hear.

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