Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Carin's Best Book of 2014

The Martian by Andy Weir 

For once this was an easy decision. This is a book that reminded me of when I was a kid and I'd read while brushing my teeth, while brushing my hair, while eating breakfast, while even pouring my breakfast cereal, every single second I could squeeze in, I wanted to read, read, read! Mark is such an engaging character and the book was so exciting and un-put-down-able. As an added bonus, it's a genre I rarely read, reminding me to keep my options open and not to be close-minded about book recommendations when I really trust the recommenders. Everyone should read this! Now!

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Almost Famous Women

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

Almost Famous Women: Stories by Megan Mayhew Bergman

Synopsis from Goodreads:
From "a top-notch emerging writer with a crisp and often poetic voice and wily, intelligent humor" (The Boston Globe): a collection of stories that explores the lives of talented, gutsy women throughout history.

The fascinating lives of the characters in Almost Famous Women have mostly been forgotten, but their stories are burning to be told. Now Megan Mayhew Bergman, author of Birds of a Lesser Paradise, resurrects these women, lets them live in the reader's imagination, so we can explore their difficult choices. Nearly every story in this dazzling collection is based on a woman who attained some celebrity—she raced speed boats or was a conjoined twin in show business; a reclusive painter of renown; a member of the first all-female, integrated swing band. We see Lord Byron's illegitimate daughter, Allegra; Oscar Wilde's troubled niece, Dolly; West With the Night author Beryl Markham; Edna St. Vincent Millay's sister, Norma. These extraordinary stories travel the world, explore the past (and delve into the future), and portray fiercely independent women defined by their acts of bravery, creative impulses, and sometimes reckless decisions.

The world hasn't always been kind to unusual women, but through Megan Mayhew Bergman's alluring depictions they finally receive the attention they deserve. Almost Famous Women is a gorgeous collection from an "accomplished writer of short fiction" (Booklist).

Publishing January 6, 2015 by Scribner.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Book review: The Prince of Frogtown by Rick Bragg

In All Over But the Shouting, Rick Bragg's father is a demon drunk, a total asshole loser. But after many years have gone by, and after he himself acquired a step-son, he realized he might have judged harshly with partial information from biased sources. His father couldn't be just evil to the core. After all, why would his mother have married him and stayed with him for so long? He regrets that he didn't get to know his father's family, his grandmother in particular, better. But he tries to fix this.

He interviews everyone he can find who knew his father back then. From people who were friends with him as kids, to family, to his mother. His older brother funnily only has one good memory of their father, which is the time he brought Rick a tricycle. Rick says their father never brought him a tricycle. His brother says their father left it in the driveway and then ran over it with the car, so Rick never actually got it.

Rick's father, Bobby, and Rick both grew up poor, but real boys' boys. They grew up hunting, fishing, swimming, getting in fights, and drinking from a very young age. Rick's step-son is the opposite: a spoiled, sensitive mama's boy. It takes Rick a long time to adjust to this boy, and he does have some positive influence on him, but it also makes him reevaluate his own childhood, and how important being "manly" really is.

Bobby had his good points, and towards the end there's even a time when you think everything could turn around for the family, but Rick's mother just couldn't trust him anymore. And I don't blame her, although I was rooting for that to work out.

I think this book would be odd if you haven't read Bragg's two previous family memoirs, but it was the perfect wrap-up to pull everything together. Bragg's writing is brilliant, his research is thorough, and he's open-minded and even-handed about a man he'd spent most of his life hating. I think a lot of us could learn from Bragg, to take a second look at assumptions of the past. A good lesson for the end of the year.

I read an ARC that I got at my old job from the publisher, but it was before I even had a blog so certainly not in exchange for a review.

Book Review: An Empire on the Edge: How Britain Came to Fight America by Nick Bunker

Here's why I hate boring books. Not only are they boring, not only do they take a long time to read, but they prevent me from reading not one, but two alternate (and hopefully good!) books!

The book started off well. It's very readable, unlike the last boring history book I read. But it includes WAY too much detail, and because it is so long and so stuffed full of info, occasionally the author has to give us a recap, which is necessary, but it repetitive, and could have been prevented with more discernment in what to include.

It's a fascinating idea for an American: we know why America went to war with Britain in 1775, but why did Britain? It never occurred to me before to think of that side of things. I figured it was just because we started a fight and so they fought back. But of course there's a lot more to it than that, and a lot more to what started the war. It could have been prevented more than once. A big part of the problem of course, given the era, was the slowness of communication across the Atlantic. And another big part was that almost no one in the English Parliament really saw the American point of view, so there was a serious reluctance to change the legislation that Americans felt were unfair and unreasonable. Of course we know about "no taxation without representation" and the Boston Tea Party, but I never really understood what was going on there. England had imposed a steep tax on tea in the colonies, which the colonies resented, and then they had a huge overstock of tea, which they forced on the Americans. That's not something I learned in history class!

So the information was interesting, but there was entirely too much of it which bogged down the story and also the truly important information was lost among minor details, and extensive editing would have made for a big improvement.

I checked this book out of the library.

Teaser Tuesdays: An Empire on the Edge

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

An Empire on the Edge: How Britain Came to Fight America by Nick Bunker p. 73

"In the years before the revolution, a gradual process of alienation occurred, as even Americans fond of the mother country began to lose their patience with the way it functioned. In the case of the banking crash, it took only six weeks for the news to reach Virginia, where the tobacco growers relied on loans from London and Glasgow."

Yep, there was a big banking crash in London and Glasgow in just 1772, just a few years before the revolution and it was a little bit to blame. Isn't it funny that it took "only" six weeks for the news to reach America?

2015 Reading Challenges

In the past, I've talked about cutting back on challenges, but who am I kidding? I like challenges! I am so rules-following that these really help me to not fall into ruts, to keep expanding my horizons, and to fill any gaps I may have (See the translation challenge below). In 2014, because of a work assignment, I really wasn't sure I was going to finish, but I just had to and I pulled it out in the last week. I will have my work cut out this year!



Chunkster Reading Challenge 

Wondering what’s a chunkster? A chunkster is an adult or YA book, non-fiction or fiction, that’s 450 pages or more.

Here’s the rules for this year’s challenge:
Audio books and e-books are allowed. You want to listen to a chunkster on audio? Be my guest. Essay, short story, and poetry collections are allowed but they have to be read in their entirety to count. Books may crossover with other challenges.
Anyone can join. You don’t need a blog. Feel free to leave your progress on the monthly link-up posts.  You don’t have to list your books ahead of time. Graphic novels don’t count. Reading a chunkster graphic novel isn’t the same as reading a non-graphic chunkster.

Carin says:
I've decided to do the Chunkster every year. The one year I didn't, I really missed it. Plus, when all my other challenges are focusing on quantity, the Chunkster helps me to not just read short books. I'm going for 5 books this year, as you just set your own goal.
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The Southern Literature Reading Challenge

Read a book(s)--non-fiction or fiction of any genre, for any age group--written by an author from the South and set mostly in the South. Definitions of the South are flexible, so I've decided to define it the way I want. That's the fun of hosting your own challenge, right? :-)
The states:
South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Texas, Arkansas, Florida

Please keep in mind that this is a Southern literature challenge. It's possible to find books set in each of these states that are not Southern in nature or feeling. Use your best judgment when choosing your books.

Carin says:
I'm signing up for Level 3--Have a glass of sweet iced tea, honey. Read 5-6 books. I am missing 5 southern states for the State by State Challenge (below): Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas. And I am Southern, and I find that while I like Southern Lit, I don't read it often. Although I do have some issues with Southern Lit, particularly how broad a category that is and how a lot of the books within it don't lump together well. I discussed that here.
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2015 Books in Translation Reading Challenge

The goal is obviously to read translations of books, from any language into the language(s) you're comfortable reading in; they don't have to be in English.

Carin says:
For the last two years in a row, I've read no books in translation. That's just not right. I don't know why I haven't read any translated books recently as I have really liked the ones I've read in the past. I need to rectify this. I'm going to make a list on Goodreads right now, so I know which translated books I have already on my TBR list. I don't want to go crazy so I'm just signing up for Beginner: Read 1-3 books in translation. 
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My Friend Sarah's Reading Challenge
This is a long list of wide variety! My friend Sarah is trying to read more books in 2015 so she found this challenge and has created a closed FB group for discussion. I am thrilled to help her try to read more, and I like these random-type of challenges as I read very randomly and the one I did last year was fun and easy. This one is very long, so it won't be as easy, particularly with categories like a book with antonyms in the title, and a book that takes place in your hometown. Sarah found the challenge here.

A funny book: 
A book by a female author: 
A mystery or thriller: 
A book with a one-word title: 
A book of short stories: 
A book set in a different country: 
A nonfiction book: 
A popular author's first book: 
A book from an author you love that you haven't read yet: 
A book a friend recommended: 
A Pulitzer-Prize winning book: 
A book based on a true story: 
A book at the bottom of your to-read list: 
A book your mom loves: 
A book that scares you: 
A book more than 100 years old: 
A book based entirely on its cover: 
A book you were supposed to read in school but didn't: 
A memoir:
A book you can finish in a day: 
A book with antonyms in the title: 
A book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit: 
A book that came out the year you were born: 
A book with bad reviews: 
A trilogy: 
A book from your childhood: 
A book with a love triangle: 
A book set in the future: 
A book set in high school: 
A book with a color in the title: 
A book that made you cry: 
A book with magic: 
A graphic novel: 
A book by an author you've never read before: 
A book you own but have never read: 
A book that takes place in your hometown: 
A book that was originally written in a different language: 
A book set during Christmas: 
A book written by an author with your same initials:
A play:
A banned book: 
A book based on or turned into a TV show: 
A book you started but never finished: 


State by State in 2014-2016

Ever thought you would like to read your way across America?
The USA Fiction Challenge asks you to do just that.
Read just one book from each state - you choose whether the link is the setting or the author.
You choose whether you confine yourself to a particular genre or not.

Carin says:
I am extending this challenge over multiple years. I am picking setting (I think often where an author's from is wildly irrelevant to a book) and I am not confining myself to a genre. I had hoped to have 35 books done by the end of my first year but I only had 22. I am not confidant I can finish this next year, but I'm going to try. Finishing 2016 is the plan. 2015 is the middle year. I am marking in blue the books read in 2014.

Alabama: Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California: The Longest Date: Life as a Wife by Cindy Chupack
Colorado: 
Columbine by Dave Cullen 
Connecticut: The Heathen School: A Story of Hope and Betrayal in the Age of the Early Republic by John Putnam Demos
DC
Delaware
Florida: The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani 
Georgia: 
Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind: A Bestseller's Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood by Ellen F. Brown and John Wiley Jr.
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois: Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen
Indiana
Iowa: Big Brother by Lionel Shriver
Kansas: 
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn 
Kentucky
Louisiana: 
Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink
Maine: The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
Maryland
Massachusetts: Defending Jacob by William Landay
Michigan: You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know by Heather Sellers
Minnesota: 
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
Mississippi
Missouri: 
Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer's Life by Pamela Smith Hill
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York: The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro
North Carolina: 
My Accidental Jihad by Krista Bremer
North Dakota
Ohio: 
The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania: The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee: 
The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia: 
The House Girl by Tara Conklin
Washington
West Virginia: 
Close to Famous by Joan Bauer
Wisconsin
Wyoming

22/51 in 2014

Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 Reading Challenges Wrap-Up

I couldn't post this wrap-up sooner because I just finished the book that completed two of my challenges on 12/26! Cutting it close. Not sure about 2015 Challenges yet! Except Chunkster. I think I'm always doing Chunkster from now on.


2014 Chunkster Reading Challenge

Wondering what’s a chunkster? A chunkster is an adult book, non-fiction or fiction, that’s 450 pages or more.

Rules for this challenge:
Audio books and e-books are now allowed. You want to listen to a chunkster on audio? Be my guest.
Essay, short story, and poetry collections are allowed but they have to be read in their entirety to count.
Books may crossover with other challenges.
Graphic novels don’t count. Sorry guys but reading a chunkster graphic novel isn’t the same as reading a non-graphic chunkster.

I’ve been thinking long and hard about the levels of participation that have always been a part of this challenge. This year we’re going to try something new: there won’t be any levels. Don’t get me wrong. This is still a reading challenge. Challenge yourself without being locked in to a certain number. If you didn’t read any chunksters in 2013 and want to change that in 2014, come up with a number and try to read that amount.

Carin says:
I really missed the Chunkster Challenge this year so I will certainly be signing up for that one again. Plus, I read 8 books in 2013 that qualify so it's not like when I didn't do the challenge I stopped reading chunksters. For 2014 since I have a lot of challenges and don't want to overextend myself, I'm going to aim for 6. I plan to start either Les Miserables or The Power Broker before the end of the year, but I won't finish them until 2014, to start the year off right!

1. The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro 1344 pages
2. Defending Jacob by William Landay 496 pages
3. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern 512 pages
4. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn 538 pages
5. America's Women: Four Hundred Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines by Gail Collins 576 pages
6. The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly 559 pages
6/6 as of 6/30/2014 DONE!

Wrap-up: Well, I finished this one with half the year still to go! In fact, I read seven books, not six, that are Chunksters this year. This Challenge is becoming my perennial favorite.

2014 What's In A Name Reading Challenge

The challenge runs from January to December. During this time you choose a book to read from each of the following categories (examples of books you could choose are in brackets):

A reference to time (Eleven Minutes, Before Ever After)
A position of royalty (The People’s Queen, The Last Empress, The Curse Of The Pharaoh)
A number written in letters (The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, A Tale Of Two Cities)
A forename or names (Rebecca, Eleanor & Park, The Unfinished Work Of Elizabeth D.)
A type or element of weather (Gone With The Wind, Red Earth Pouring Rain)
Remember the titles I’ve given here are only examples, you can by all means use them if you want to – some are classics after all – but it’s not necessary. There are plenty of other books that will fit the categories and you may have some in mind already or even some on your shelves you can read.

Extra information:
Books can be any format (print, audio, ebook).
It’s preferred that the books don’t overlap with other challenges, but not a requirement at all.
Books cannot overlap categories (for instance my first example, Eleven Minutes, could be used for category 1 or 3 but not both).
Creativity for matching the categories is not only allowed, it’s encouraged!
You don’t have to make your list of books beforehand, you can choose them as you go.
You don’t have to read your chosen books in any particular order.

Carin says:
This challenges has always intrigued and scared me. So I checked the list of categories this year, and against my books from 2013 and 2012 I would have succeeded without trying, so I think I will give it a shot this year. I like the randomness of it.

A reference to time: Making Masterpiece: 25 Years Behind the Scenes at Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! on PBS by Rebecca Eaton
A position of royalty: The Prince of Frogtown by Rick Bragg
A number written in letters: The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, The Horse That Inspired a Nation by Elizabeth Letts
A forename or names: Defending Jacob by William Landay
A type or element of weather: Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink
5/5 as of 12/26/2014 DONE!

Wrap-up: Three of these were easy, but it took me a bit to do the weather one, and the royalty one I only had about 2 options for, and neither was I crazy over, so this one took until the very end.

Full House Reading Challenge 2014

Challenge will run from Jan 1st to December 31st 2014
Books may cross over from other challenges that you are doing.
If someone completes a full house and would like to complete another, that is fine too, and would mean two entries at the end of the year.

The Challenge:
Complete the card below. You can do it in any order you wish. You are allowed "one free exchange", if there is something on the square you really dislike you may change it to something of your choice. Once you have played this free card that is it. Mention the exchange in the final summary post.

Carin says:
I like the diversity here. Some are almost too easy, but that's a nice counterbalance to some other challenges that are more... challenging. I anticipate the "paranormal or SF or dystopian" category as giving me the most trouble although. thankfully, my book club does try to read one SF/fantasy book each year, so I except that's how I'll squeak that category out. Also the "book with an animal in it" isn't something that I seek out, but I think this category can be covered by a minor character, like if I read The Thin Man, I would count Asta the dog. I don't think I need to read an actual dog book to cover this category.

1. From the local library: Big Brother by Lionel Shriver
2. Best read so far in 2014: Love, Nina: A Nanny Writes Home by Nina Stibbe 
3. From your wish list: The Good House by Ann Leary 
4. Set in different country from you: Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo
5: Published in 2014: The Longest Date: Life as a Wife by Cindy Chupack
6. Theme/issue you think is important: My Accidental Jihad by Krista Bremer
7. Setting you'd like to visit: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
8. Suspense or crime: The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
9. Contemporary: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
10. More than 400 pages: The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro
11. Reread: On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder
12: Review persuaded you to read it: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
13: Free Choice: Mennonite Meets Mr. Right: A Memoir of Faith, Hope, and Love by Rhoda Janzen
14. Published before 2013: You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know by Heather Sellers
15. Book with animal in it: The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, The Horse That Inspired a Nation by Elizabeth Letts
16. Won or borrowed: The Perfect Score Project by Debbie Stier
17. Historical fiction: The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell
18. Less than 200 pages: Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores by Jen Campbell
19. Non Fiction: The Heroine's Bookshelf: Life Lessons, from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder by Erin Blakemore
20. Author new to you: The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan
21. Book from a series: The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly (Mickey Haller #4)
22. Free or bought very cheaply: Flyover Lives: A Memoir by Diane Johnson
23. Published in 2013: Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff
24. Paranormal or SF or dystopian: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
25. You love the cover: Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl
25/25 as of 8/14/2014 DONE!

Wrap-up: Because of the random nature of this challenge, and the random nature of my reading, not to mention the flexibility of some categories, I knocked this one out without much trouble.

Mental Illness Advocacy Reading Challenge 2014

About the Challenge:
I started the Mental Illness Advocacy (MIA) Reading Challenge in December 2010 in an effort to raise awareness, knowledge, and acceptance of mental illness. Reading, both fiction and nonfiction, is an excellent way to broaden one’s horizons and expose one to new ideas and ways of thinking and being. I hope reading and reviewing books featuring characters struggling to deal with mental illness, whether their own or another person’s, will help remove the stigma faced on a daily basis by those with a mental illness. They already have to struggle with an illness; they shouldn't have to face a stigma too.

What Books Count?
Any book, fiction or nonfiction, that is either about mental illness or features characters or real people with a mental illness counts for the challenge. However, the book must not demonize people with mental illnesses.
So, for example, the movie Fatal Attraction, which features a character with Borderline Personality Disorder, would not count since she is demonized in the movie. However, Girl Interrupted, which also features a character with Borderline Personality Disorder, would count since that character is presented as a three-dimensional person with good and bad traits.

Challenge Levels:
Acquainted–4 books
Aware–8 books
Advocate–12 books

Carin says:
I read a lot of these types of books already and have a ton on my shelves, particularly regarding addiction. And with Jordan hopefully starting a MSW program next fall, I expect mental health issues will be even more of a conversation topic, so I need to keep up! I read at least 13 books last year that would have qualified, although I don't know how books about sociopaths and psychopaths can't demonize them. But I will sign up for Advocate-12, the top level. I might have bitten off more than I can chew here, but we'll see.

1. You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know by Heather Sellers (face blindness and schizophrenia and alcohol addiction)
2. Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety by Daniel B. Smith (anxiety)
3. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (PTSD)
4. The Good House by Ann Leary (addiction)
5. Columbine by Dave Cullen (psychopathy)
6. The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok (schizophrenia)
7. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn (cutting, Munchhausen's by proxy)
8. The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson (psychopathy)
9. Someone Else's Love Story: A Novel by Joshilyn Jackson (Asperger's)
10. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (Asperger's)
11. Cut Me Loose: Sin and Salvation After My Ultra-Orthodox Girlhood by Leah Vincent (cutting, suicide)
12. The Prince of Frogtown by Rick Bragg (alcoholism)
12/12 as of 12/26/2014 DONE!

Wrap-up: This was the perfect level for me as it was just challenging enough that I was cutting it close to finish, but I didn't struggle as these were pretty much all books I'd have read otherwise, although I did have this challenge in mind while making book selections.

State by State in 2014

Ever thought you would like to read your way across America?
The USA Fiction Challenge asks you to do just that.
Read just one book from each state - you choose whether the link is the setting or the author.
You choose whether you confine yourself to a particular genre or not.

Carin says:
What I plan to do is extend this challenge over multiple years. I am picking setting (I think often where an author's from is wildly irrelevant to a book) and I am not confining myself to a genre. I would be hard-pressed to read 50 books all set in different states during one year, but also some books (nonfiction in particular) just aren't set in any state at all, some states are way over-represented (NY!) so are hard to avoid repeats, and it would decrease the number of international books so much, that it would feel like a hardship. Not to mention that some of the upper Midwest and west states are going to be very hard. I am kicking myself for having already read Bad Land. So I am going to aim to finish this over the next three years. I will start off strong but late in 2017 I expect to be struggling to find states like Idaho. If I get more than 35 done in 2014, then I will aim to finish in two years.

Alabama: Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California: The Longest Date: Life as a Wife by Cindy Chupack
Colorado: 
Columbine by Dave Cullen 
Connecticut: The Heathen School: A Story of Hope and Betrayal in the Age of the Early Republic by John Putnam Demos
Delaware
Florida: The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani 
Georgia: 
Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind: A Bestseller's Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood by Ellen F. Brown and John Wiley Jr.
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois: Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen
Indiana
Iowa: Big Brother by Lionel Shriver
Kansas: 
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn 
Kentucky
Louisiana: 
Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink
Maine: The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
Maryland
Massachusetts: Defending Jacob by William Landay
Michigan: You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know by Heather Sellers
Minnesota: 
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
Mississippi
Missouri: 
Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer's Life by Pamela Smith Hill
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York: The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro
North Carolina: 
My Accidental Jihad by Krista Bremer
North Dakota
Ohio: 
The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania: The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee: 
The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia: 
The House Girl by Tara Conklin
Washington
West Virginia: 
Close to Famous by Joan Bauer
Wisconsin
Wyoming

22/50 as of 12/15/2014

Wrap-up: My goal is to finish this challenge in 2017 and now I think that will be hard. It's amazing how many books are set in NY and CA, and I'm hitting doubles for states I didn't think would be particularly easy like AL and PA. It's also tough because only the American books that I read qualify, and I'm just not that restrictive in my reading. I had hoped to have 25 at the minimum in 2014, but I was just short of that.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
The Prince of Frogtown by Rick Bragg

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
An Empire on the Edge: How Britain Came to Fight America by Nick Bunker

Up next:
The Children Act by Ian McEwan
Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air: An Unconventional History of Ballooning by Richard Holmes
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

Friday, December 26, 2014

Book Beginnings: An Empire on the Edge

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

An Empire on the Edge: How Britain Came to Fight America by Nick Bunker

"In the summer of 1771, the Mississippi River marked the western boundary of the British Empire."

Turns out one cause of the American Revolution that I've never before heard discussed is that the colonists needed help and advice from the British government on what to do about the "western" part of the colony (Ohio), and the word from England was, just ignore it. Well, that doesn't work, particularly when there are displaced native peoples in those areas, and when some colonists are determined to go west no matter what.




Wednesday, December 24, 2014

“Waiting On” Wednesday: A Touch of Stardust

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott

Synopsis from Goodreads:
When Julie Crawford leaves Fort Wayne, Indiana for Hollywood, she never imagines she'll cross paths with Carole Lombard, the dazzling actress from Julie's provincial Midwestern hometown. Although the young woman has dreams of becoming a screenwriter, the only job Julie's able to find is one in the studio publicity office of the notoriously demanding producer David O. Selznick—who is busy burning through directors, writers and money as he begins filming Gone with the Wind.

Although tensions run high on the set, Julie finds she can step onto the back lot, take in the smell of smoky gunpowder and the soft rustle of hoop skirts, and feel the magical world ofGone with the Wind come to life. Julie's access to real-life magic comes when Carole Lombard hires her as an assistant and invites her into the glamorous world Carole shares with Clark Gable—who is about to move into movie history as the dashing Rhett Butler.

Carole Lombard, happily profane and uninhibited, makes no secret of her relationship with Gable, which poses something of a problem for the studio as Gable is technically still married—and the last thing the film needs is more negative publicity. Julie is there to fend off the overly curious reporters, hoping to prevent details about the affair from slipping out. But she can barely keep up with her blonde employer, let alone control what comes out of Carole's mouth, and--as their friendship grows - soon finds she doesn't want to. Carole, both wise and funny, becomes Julie's model for breaking free of the past.

In the ever-widening scope of this story, Julie is given a front-row seat to not one but two of the greatest love affairs of all time: the undeniable on-screen chemistry between Scarlett and Rhett, and off screen, the deepening love between Carole and Clark. Yet beneath the shiny façade, things in Hollywood are never quite what they seem, and Julie must learn to balance career aspirations and her own budding romance with outsized personalities and the overheated drama on set. Vivid, romantic, and filled with Old Hollywood details, A Touch of Stardust will entrance, surprise, and delight.

Publishing February 17, 2015 by Doubleday.