What I’m Reading Monday, October 19

Happy Monday, booklings! Can I take a moment to talk about how glorious the fall weather is around here? It’s chilly but not cold, the leaves have turned the most beautiful colors, the afternoon light has the most glorious golden quality, and the biggest sartorial choice I have to make each day is which flannel shirt I want to layer over a tee. I want it to stay like this always.

It was another fairly slow reading week for me, despite the fantastic quality of my books. I finished up The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra, which was really wonderful; as with A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, I just wanted to start the whole book over again as soon as I finished.

I also read The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, and you guysssss. It was so beautiful. I think I loved it even more than Interpreter of Maladies.

I unofficially participated in Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon on Saturday, but the day was pretty much a lost cause; I only spent four hours reading and passed out at 12:30. I didn’t even manage to read the insanely short The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Alas, I can’t win every time, and I can’t say I’m too disappointed with how I spent my day.

Next up is This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper!

What are you reading this week?

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Four Favorite Fall Releases

Although I’ve stepped back from reviewing new releases in the last few months, the fall books I have managed to read so far have been excellent! Here’s a quick look at four of my favorites:

Fortune Smiles by Adam JohnsonFortune Smiles by Adam Johnson

Publisher: Random House
Release Date: August 18, 2015
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher

Fresh off the heels of his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Orphan Master’s Son, Anthony Johnson is back with an excellent short story collection. In “George Orwell Was a Friend of Mine,” a former warden of an East German Stasi prison denies the crimes of his past and tries to convince tourists that no wrong-doing was committed. In “Dark Meadow,” a pedophile grapples with his desires while using his computer skills to fight child pornography. Mixing humor with darkness and despair, Fortune Smiles is sometimes deeply uncomfortable to read but compelling nonetheless.

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Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill CleggDid You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg

Publisher: Gallery/Scout Books
Release Date: September 8, 2015
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher

The night before her daughter’s wedding, June Reid loses everyone she cares about in a horrific gas explosion. Devastated, she sets off across the country to heal and start anew. Although this story alone would make for a beautiful, gut-wrenching book, Did You Ever Have a Family isn’t just a portrayal of a woman dealing with tragedy; using a rotating cast of memorable characters, Clegg paints a portrait of a small Connecticut town with it’s tangled relationships, unique social dynamics, and racial tensions. One of my favorite books of the year, this novel is heartbreaking, poignant, and ultimately uplifting.

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Fates and Furies by Lauren GroffFates and Furies by Lauren Groff 

Publisher: Riverhead Books
Release Date: September 15, 2015
Pages: 392
Source: Publisher

One of the biggest books of fall, Fates & Furies is a dazzling portrait of a marriage. When the novel opens, Lotto and Mathilde are newly married and passionately in love — but as the decades pass, the cracks in their relationship, the secrets and resentments roiling beneath the surface, are revealed. Although the first half of the novel, told from Lotto’s perspective, is less than spectacular, the second half, presenting Mathilde’s point of view, blows it out of the water. Wildly inventive and poetically written, Groff’s newest novel takes on a legendary feel with its vibrant characters, unique format, and and mythological allusions.

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Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye WatkinsGold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins

Publisher: Riverhead Books
Release Date: September 29, 2015
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher

In a near-future California devastated by drought, Luz and Ray squat in an abandoned mansion, avoiding evacuation to a camp for as long as possible. Living on love and rationed cola, the couple are content eking out a meager living until they cross paths with a baby with strange blue-gray eyes and translucent skin. To give the child a better life, they set out across the desert in search of greener pastures. Emily St. John Mandel‘s post-apocalyptic vision meets Karen Russell‘s sparkling sentences to make Gold Fame Citrus a stunning work of fiction. Although the ending doesn’t quite hit the right note, this is a gripping novel with heart-stopping twists and a hearty dose of environmentalism. It’s totally bonkers and crazy good.

What’s the best new book you’ve read this fall?

What I’m Reading Tuesday, October 13

Hello booklings! Columbus Day totally threw me off, and I didn’t manage to get my “what I’m reading” post up yesterday, but better late than never, right?

I’m still in a bit of a reading slump, but it has nothing to do with the quality of the books I’m reading. The books are wonderful, but I’m having trouble finding the motivation to sit down and read them. I finished up The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood, which was really excellent. Nearly a week later, I still have a lot to mull over. I also made it halfway through The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra, which is every bit as fantastic as I had been hoping. He somehow manages to deliver pithy one-liners while also tugging at all of my heartstrings as he writes about the ravages of war.

On audio, I’m slowly making my way through The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. It’s great, but possibly not the best thing to listen to while running in the park on gorgeous fall days; I keep getting distracted by shin splints and pretty fall foliage, and I miss important parts of the story.

Here’s hoping things pick up a bit more next week!

What are you reading this week?

Audiobook Mini Reviews

I have been in a pretty major blogging slump for the last few months, and the number of books I have read but neglected to review is frankly embarrassing. To close that gap a little bit, I’d like to share mini reviews of some of the fantastic audiobooks I’ve listened to lately!

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste NgEverything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
Publisher: The Penguin Press | Blackhouse Audio
Pages / Hours: 292 pages | 10 hours, 1 minute
Source: Audible

When the body of Lydia Lee, the favorite daughter of a mixed race couple in 1970s Ohio, is discovered at the bottom of the local lake, her already fractured family is shaken to its core. Long-buried secrets rise to the surface and hidden tensions are revealed as her parents and two siblings grapple with the tragedy.

Written in beautiful prose, Everything I Never Told You is an intimate portrait of all the things that go unsaid within a family, from racial tensions, impossible expectations, to pressure to succeed in particular ways.

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Modern Romance by Aziz AnsariModern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg

Narrator: Aziz Ansari
Publisher: The Penguin Press | Penguin Audio
Pages / Hours: 277 pages | 6 hours, 14 minutes
Source: Scribd

Aziz Ansari has incorporated romance into his comedy for years, but in Modern Romance, he teams up with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg to take an analytical approach to dating in the age of Tinder. Narrated with Ansari’s trademark humor, this book looks at how dating and marriage have changed in the past 50 years, the experiences of modern daters, and the romantic cultures of different cities around the world.

Funny, informative, and thought-provoking, this was an oddly comforting book to read in the wake of my breakup a few months ago.

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The Engagements by J. Courtney SullivanThe Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan

Narrator: Kimberly Farr
Publisher: Vintage | Random House Audio
Pages / Hours: 528 pages | 16 hours, 50 minutes
Source: Scribd

When advertising copywriter Frances Garety scribbls the phrase “A diamond is forever” on a slip of paper in 1947, she has no idea the slogan will change the way Americans think about diamond engagement rings. The Engagements tells Frances’ fascinating story, as well as the tales of four couples whose lives are linked by a single ring: Evelyn is struggling to accept her low-life son’s divorce; James can’t live up to the expectations of his wife’s family; Delphine takes revenge on her unfaithful fiance by destroying the things he loves the most; and Kate, happily partnered but vehemently anti-marriage, helps her cousin prepare for his wedding.

With compelling details and vibrant characters, The Engagements explores the history of the diamond engagement ring and the complexities of romantic relationships.

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Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeerAnnihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Narrator: Carolyn McKormick
Publisher: FSG | Blackhouse Audio
Pages / Hours: 195 pages | 6 hours
Source: Scribd

For decades, Area X has been cut off from the rest of the world by a nearly impenetrable border. The first exhibition sent to explore reported a landscape completely reclaimed by nature; the second exhibition committed suicide; and the members of the third exhibition turned on each other. Now, the Southern Reach has assembled a twelfth expedition team, made up of a biologist, a psychologist, an anthropologist, and a surveyor. Narrated by the biologist, Annihilation takes readers (and listeners) through a mysterious land complete with dangerous creatures and unreliable characters.

Annihilation is intriguing and suspenseful, but too little is resolved in the end for it to be satisfying. This isn’t entirely surprising, considering it’s the first book in a trilogy, but after listening to (and being entirely bored with) more than half of the second book, Authority, I gave up on the series.

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Circling the Sun by Paula McLainCircling the Sun by Paula McLane

Narrator: Katharine McEwan
Publisher: Ballantine Books | Random House Audio
Pages / Hours: 384 pages | 12 hours, 16 minutes
Source: Scribd

Growing up in colonial Kenya, Beryl Markham has a rather unusual childhood. She fearlessly rides the racehorses her father trains, plays with the native Kipsigis children, and rebels against her governess’ attempts to turn her into a proper young lady. But when everything falls apart, she is forced to grow up too quickly and enters a disastrous marriage — the first of many doomed relationships. Struggling to retain her independence and sense of self, she makes a name for herself as a racehorse trainer and falls in with a decadent crowd of European expats, including Karen Blixen (author of Out of Africa) and Denys Finch Hatton, who helps her realize her desire to become a pilot.

Glamorous, spirited, and heartbreaking, Circling the Sun is a stunning portrait of a trailblazing woman and the colorful expat community of 1920s Kenya.