Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Book Review: The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton

One day Ray Hinton was mowing his mother's lawn when a police car pulled up. The cops arrested him for murder, and he had not one tiny clue what they were talking about. But he was sure everything would work out--after all, he hadn't done it. In fact, he had an airtight alibi for the time of the murder. But a lovely (and sadly in Alabama for an African-American, common) series of coincidences, incompetence, and racism all came together and Ray was convicted, and spent 30 years on Death Row.

Boy oh boy I wouldn't have been half as sanguine about the situation as Ray is. He's very understanding and calm and forgiving. Perhaps I would have gone mad inside, which he most certainly did not, as his zen-like attitude definitely helped with doing the time.

It's interesting--the men in Death Row in his prison are all on a single side of a hallway, so they never can see each other, even though they can yell to each other. So at one point, after he'd gotten friendly with another inmate, it was shocking for them both to see each other and find out that Ray had become friends with a notorious white supremacist. Ray started a book club on the Row that was inspiring, with all of the men passing around just one copy of the book for weeks so everyone wold read it and then discuss. Life was going on this way with Ray's incompetent/evil attorney exhausting his appeals. And one day, one of the guards gave him Bryan Stevenson's phone number. I have read his excellent book, and I whooped for joy when that happened. But first another attorney was assigned to him, and that dragged things out even more. Finally, when she moved away and Bryan took over, I really had hope, although truly at that point almost every option had been used up. How did Hinton get out? You'll have to read the book! You'll also have to read it to hear his remarkable story of growing up poor and black in Alabama, and through the lens of Bryan's life, we can see the story of impoverished African-Americans in this era and their treatment by society and law enforcement in particular, writ large. It's an inspirational albeit frustrating story.

I got this book for free from the publisher, St. Martin's Press, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Book Review: Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

Oh my God I finished! I finished I finished I finished! Now with a preamble like that, you might think this book was torture which is why I'm so happy to be done with it, but it was the complete opposite. I really, thoroughly enjoyed it--it's just that it's really long, and it's already hard for me to squeeze in many non-work books, particularly loooooong ones that are also dense and therefore can't be read in massive chunks and take some serious time to digest.

Of course, if you're familiar with the musical, the biography is easier to read, as you have already gotten the Cliff's Notes version. As this book is the source material, I suppose ideally it ought to be read first, but I suspect that most people will be like me--first hear the musical. (I then read a book about the musical as well.) So like me, people will probably be looking for deviations, and also might get tripped out about which is the real story. It's much easier to believe the first thing you learn is real and deviations from that must be not right, but of course in this situation that's not the case--Miranda had to make adjustments to the facts to fit with a story arc and with songs and to abridge events and to move the action along and compress characters. But I'd say 80% of it is accurate.

What I did take some issue with is that certain events, such as the Reynolds Pamphlet, did not to me come across with the appropriate level of gravity for the situation. I felt like Chernow occasionally was too even-handed and too wedded to being an impartial fact-teller to give more profoundly impactful events in Hamilton's life, more weight in the book. That said, it is a biography, not a narrative, so I do understand his choice. I just worry that if I hadn't been prepped by the musical, I might have skimmed over some of the bigger events in his life without realizing how big they were. And it's not like Chernow never broke that role--he frequently comments on the humor of a situation, on the audacity of an action, or the astonishment he found upon trying to figure out simply HOW Hamilton wrote even half of what he did in the time allotted to him. (I really liked his conclusion that a lot was dictated and that Hamilton had the amazing ability to think and speak in complete sentences and paragraphs, even for hours at a time, extemporaneously.)

The book is very well-written, the historical era doesn't make anything at all hard to understand, and Chernow writes with aplomb and insight. It's not a wild page-turner or a great beach read, but if you're looking for a fascinating and incredibly well-written biography, you just can't go wrong here.

At first I borrowed this book from the library but after I used up all my renewals, I bought it at the new/used independent bookstore in my town.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Book Review: The Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater by Alanna Okun

I am not a knitter. I might start next year. I did once knit a very plain scarf that was too short, but I was flummoxed by connecting a new skein of yarn.

Alanna is a knitter. In fact, she's a KNITTER, all caps. She knits forever and always and in every situation. She is in her twenties and moving to New York City and getting a new job and dating. And in these series of memoir-essays, she covers all of this, and knitting. And a few other crafts. Her mother is also crafty, which they put to good use when her mother helps decorate her new Brooklyn apartment.

The title refers to an incident I am familiar with, despite my not knitting. See, I do cross-stitch, which is another old-fashioned fabric craft. And not often, but every once in a blue moon, I would make a cross-stitch picture for the guy I was dating. And I mourn those long-gone works, and hope they still have good homes. In the world of knitting, this is known as a phenomenon where as soon as you knit your boyfriend a sweater, he will break up with you. Now, some of the sweaters in question were worth breaking up over (and frankly, I'm not sure I would have followed through with the gifting is they really turned out terribly sized, but whatever.) But it's a literal through-thread in Alanna's young adulthood--all the usual twenty-something angst, with yarn.

I got this book for free from Macmillan, my employer, also the publisher.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Book Review: As She Fades by Abbi Glines

Vale and her boyfriend, Crawford, were hit by a car on high school graduation night and he's in a coma. They've been together since practically kindergarten, and had their lives together all planned out. She spends all day at the hospital, although Crawford's mother is angry with her and will barely let her see him. While there, she meets Slate, a guy from her older brother's fraternity, who is visiting his dying uncle, and they become friends.

In the fall, she reluctantly decides she needs to start college without him, and move on with her life. At college, everyone is shocked that she's friends with Slate, a notorious man-slut with no female friends, just conquests. And her brother of course keeps his eye on them. And then, there's a massive twist. So I'm done with plot description.

This book I didn't love. I am trying to think back to when I was seventeen and decide if I'd have liked it then, and I think I would have liked it more But I'd have liked to see more dimensionality in the characters, more agency in Vale (although that does improve through the course of the book), much more development of Crawford who remains an enigma throughout. And the fraternity is never, ever called "Kappa Sigma." What a mouthful! It's always, always "Kappa Sig" at every college in the country. I know that's a finicky complaint, but it's minor errors like that that bring the reader out of the story.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by Macmillan, my employer.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

My Month in Review: February

The Month in Review meme is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.

I did a lot of driving this month but listened to a ton of podcasts. I also was really busy with work and just didn't have as much time to read, sadly.

I note the non-Macmillan books in this post with a star.

Books completed this month:
The Calculating Stars: A Lady Astronaut Novel by Mary Robinette Kowal
The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal
The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain
The Chaos of Now by Erin Jade Lange
Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong (audio)*
Ellie, Engineer: The Next Level by Jackson Pearce
The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer (audio)*
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (audio)*

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow*
In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson (audio)*
A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts by Therese Anne Fowler

What I acquired this month (non-work books):
After buying almost no new books in 2017, I went a little nuts this month. With the bittersweet knowledge that I will get to read very, very few of these anytime soon.

Euphoria by Lily King
Kindred by Octavia Butler
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahirii
I Let You Go by Claire Macintosh
Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin
The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore
Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman
Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola
A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman                               
Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey
Popular Crime: Reflections on the Celebration of Violence by Bill James
The Woman's Hour: The Last Furious Fight to Win the Vote by Elaine F. Weiss
Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy by Heather Ann Thompson

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Book Review: Camp Austen: My Life as an Accidental Jane Austen Superfan by Ted Scheinman

I am so bummed that this happened in Chapel Hill and I never heard about it before now, even though I lived in Charlotte at the time. I guess that was the year I let my JASNA membership lapse, sigh.

Mr. Scheinman was a grad student at UNC when one of his professors came up with the idea to host what they jokingly refer to as a summer camp for grown ups but what is more of a conference, for academics and laypeople alike, focusing on Jane Austen. It is interesting to mix the two groups. Normally, they don't mix much, aside from the handful of professors who are invited as speakers to JASNA's annual meeting, but they are wildly outnumbered there, and tailoring their topics to a more lay audience, so this did have a different feel. I found one chapter to be too formal in tone, but then Mr. Scheinman settled down and got into the fun of things. Were all the costumes of the people's behavior perfectly accurate to the era? Certainly not. And is he a little full of himself after he's asked to play Mr. Darcy? Yes indeed. But it's easy to forgive these trips as we're all only human, even Austen herself was human, and so at times there are stumbles. However, for a casual Janeite, this was a fun read, and will inspire envy and hope that they'll do it again.

I got this book for free from FSG, the publisher, part of Macmillan, my employer.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Book Review: In Search Of by Ava Dellaira

Angie never met her father. He died before she was born. Sure, life would have been hard with him too, as her parents were still teens when they got pregnant, and her father was black and her mother is white, but still, she'd give anything to have known him. Her mother won't even talk about him—she gets too upset when he comes up.

When Marilyn met James, she and her mother were crashing at her uncle's crappy LA apartment, as her mother's dreams for Marilyn's future as a famous star were pursued. Her uncle is a drunk, abusive, and sometimes scary, so Marilyn gets out of the house as much as she can. She meets James, a neighbor in the complex, and while her uncle warns her to stay away from him, James's nuclear family with even his grandmother living with them, hot home-cooked meals eaten around the family dinner table, and engaged parents and siblings, seems like the dream family Marilyn never had. She can't stay away.

Angie finds out that she has an uncle she never knew about, her father's brother. She wonders about his whole family who she's never met. In fact, she wonders, if her mother kept his family away, maybe she kept him away too. Maybe she lied about him being dead. So she sets out to LA to find out the truth for herself about Marilyn and James, all those years ago.

The book deals a lot with secrets and lies, and Marilyn and James are compelling characters. Angie is a little less-so, as it's fairly reckless to just decide to take off for California as a teenager, and also a little juvenile to believe her father might still be alive. But teens are prone to that kind of magical thinking. The older narrative had a lot more resonance for me. Maybe it's because that time frame was closer to when I was a teen, but I think those characters were just more fully drawn and more alive than the contemporary ones. Well, in a dual-narrative story, you're always going to like one story better than the other. This was a heart-wrenching story and you'll find yourself rooting for Angie, Marilyn and James, all the way.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by Macmillan, my employer.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Book Review: P.S. I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy

This book wrecked me. At fist, I just thought it was a sweet story, albeit around some deeper topics, but the end had me sobbing (and I am not an easy book crier.) Literally, I was reading in bed after my husband had gone to sleep and while I was able to be quiet, I had to get out of bed because I was sobbing so hard I was shaking the bed and I was afraid I would wake him up.

Cilla got pregnant in high school, and her parents sent her away to live with an aunt in Virginia, as they are super-Catholics (I say, having been raised as a liberal Catholic), and it's embarrassing and shameful to her parents. Her little sister Evie, finds her parents' reaction to Cilla's pregnancy, embarrassing and shameful. Who send their child away in her moment of need? Who denies that they have a daughter just because she made a mistake? If this is what their religion tells them to do, maybe Evie doesn't need their religion. And given how they treated Cilla, Evie can only imagine how her parents would behave if they found out about the feelings she's been having for her new friend, June. So instead, she writes to Cilla, first at their aunt's, and then later at the Catholic boarding school where she's going to finish up school after the birth and adoption. Cilla doesn't answer, but Evie persists nonetheless.

Cilla seems like she was a good big sister, and even without her responses, it's nice to see how Evie uses their one-sided communication to help her work out some questions about religion, faith, doubt, trust, love, and grief. And then there's a big twist. And it's the aftermath of that twist that left me so touched that even weeks later, when talking about that point in the book, I still get teary-eyed. It's a powerful and moving book, perfect for older preteens and younger teens, covering some serious topics with a believable main character, written with a deft hand.

This book is published by Macmillan, my employer.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Book Review: The Kevin Show: Love, Mania, and the Olympics by Mary Pilon

Have you seen the movie, The Truman Show? Well, what if your life was like that. I mean, what if you were the center of a hit TV show, and a director was behind the scenes, pulling the strings, making sure everything goes according to plan? What if your ratings were important? How would you change your behavior? Well, as absurd as this thought game seems, Kevin Hall believed exactly that. He has bipolar, and his has manifested in this distinctly unusual manner.

And Kevin doesn't seem like a typical raving hallucinatory. That's what makes his story so intriguing. He was a top sailing athlete who competed in the Olympics and was on an America's Cup team. In fact, sailing is a fairly dangerous sport if one isn't paying 100% attention 100% of the time, so it's a particularly bad sport to have a team member who hallucinates. In fact, the book begins with an America's Cup practice run in which someone dies.

An intriguing look at a peculiar symptom of a mental illness that is more common than most people realize.

This book is published by Bloomsbury USA, which is distributed by Macmillan, my employer. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Book Review: Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

This was the second book I read for my new book club in Montclair, but sadly they had to move the meeting to another date when I was on the road and couldn't attend, so that's a bummer. But it will happen with my job. And I'm thrilled I was goaded into reading this terrific novel!

Set in 2007, Jende gets a job as a chauffeur for Clark who works at Lehman Brothers in Manhattan, to drive around him and his family. Jende's wife, Neni, and their son have just come over from Cameroon and Neni is attending college with the goal of becoming a pharmacist. With a cheap sublet apartment in the Bronx, things are going okay. However, most all of us know what is coming in 2008 and that Lehman Brothers is no more. So you read with this impending sense of doom hanging over each page as the time ticks down.

Life of course happens no matter what and you see Clark's unhappy wife, their older son who goes off to India to find himself, and their young boy named Mighty (I was never clear if that was a nickname or actually his name) who briefly befriends Jende's son. Neni becomes pregnant, and they see an immigration attorney who recommends a particular approach, and they think of the bright future.

But futures almost never turn out as we plan. No matter how diligent or how careful or hopeful we may be. This was an excellent portrayal of the life of an immigrant family, which is extra-important to read about now, I think. Combined with the economic downturn in the US, it showed how that affects people all up and down the strata. Trickle down economics never seems to work in a positive way, only negative.

I checked this book out of the library.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Book Review: Raffie on the Run by Jacqueline Resnick

This story is so cute! An adventure-quest novel where a little rat, Raffie, travels from Brooklyn to Manhattan to rescue his little brother, Oggie, who was rat-napped. I loved the themes (which thankfully aren't hit over the head) of making friends, overcoming fears, trying something you haven't tried before, the importance of family and home, and how if you're helpful to someone that someone might be helpful to you down the road. A famous squirrel wearing jewelry really cracked me up. Raffie's family felt real to me. I liked the ratization of sayings (replacing foot with paw) and the normalization of the rats' life, such as sleeping twice a day during rush hour, when it's loud in their subway station home and there's no point in being awake as they can't forage.

It was sweet and poignant and kept me on the edge of my seat, although not so much so as to make a reader anxious, and make me think fondly of rats, which is a big feat. A great book for younger middle school kids who will love the adventure, soak up the lessons, and probably lobby for a rat as a class pet.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by Roaring Brook, a part of Macmillan Publishers, my employer.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Book Review: #Prettyboy Must Die by Kimberly Reid

I really don't normally read this kind of book, but I figured, what the heck, and I gave it a try. It was fun! Basically, it's a teenage CIA agent in a spy thriller that, aside from the prologue and backstory, takes place in the course of one day.

I know, a teenage CIA agent already makes you roll your eyes (it's called Operation Early Bird, get it?) But hold that aside, and we've got a teenage hacker and orphan, Jake, who was found breaking into the NSA's database, and instead of being prosecuted, was made a part of this program. And we start off in the Ukraine, on the last day of a huge case, where Jake manages to get in the way instead of help and a bad guy gets away.

Fast forward a few months, and he's no longer an active agent, but his boss has helped him get into a fancy prep school in Boulder, CO, where he thinks there might be some activity, in particular where he thinks the hacker the Ukrainian bad guy was using might be hanging out. Without his boss's approval, he's been trying to track the hacker down.

Then one day he's at the track, running, with his best friend, Bunker, when a group of freshmen girls ambush him and take his picture, without his shirt or glasses, which starts going viral on Twitter with the hashtag Prettyboy. So his cover is blown and he can't go back to the CIA. But he doesn't even have time to be mad about that, before a couple of bad guys rappel down through the ceiling into his chem lab classroom (luckily he was getting supplies from the supply closet at that moment.) And he has to go into full-on spy mode and use all his Langley training, to try to save all his friends and classmates from the bad men who have caught up with him.

The action was non-stop, I kept wondering exactly who could be trusted, as there are some other spies and some double-agents, and plenty of red herrings to throw readers off the path. It was just good, old spy thriller fun, and I wish his cover wasn't blown, because I'd like to read another book starring Jake.

This book is published by Macmillan, my employer.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Book Review: Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing, narrated by Simon Prebble

I went to Antarctica last month. Right after I got home, my hold on the audiobook of Endurance came in. Now, you might think (as I initially had) that it would be better to read a book like this before going, in preparation and as research. But I am glad the popularity of the title made me wait until after! Only when you've actually been to the frozen continent can you truly appreciate what Shackleton and his crew went through. They didn't have giant parkas and fancy gloves from REI with little pockets that you could slip one of those heat packs into. They had wool and Burberry and reindeer-pelt boots.

 But let's back up. The South Pole had been achieved by Amundsen already (even though Scott's deadly expedition got more press). So what was Shackleton to do? He strove for a more impressive feat--crossing the entire continent from one side to the other (which wasn't achieved until 30 years later, and with the help of tracked vehicles, not dogsleds.) Having read a book about the harrowing crossing of Australia (a continent 1/3 the size of Antarctica), I was already skeptical the minute he announced this, even if I hadn't already been aware of the outcome of this trip. Shackleton had pretty bad luck at the start of the trip, and his ship got encased by ice quite early on, and well before they got anywhere near land. Luckily his ship was great, he was well-stocked, and even though his interviews were brief and seemed cursory, he hired an excellent and well-balanced crew (with only one stowaway). This had been expected (except for the early and far from land bit) and so they weren't too concerned. They camped out for the winter and planned to escape in the spring and hope to get closer so they could start the actual expedition part of the trip. But it was not to be. The ship never got free, and was eventually crushed into splinters. So the crew (and some dogs) were stuck with three life boats, on a large ice flow, and at that point they had to abandon the original plan, as the only option now was to try to rescue everyone.

Mr. Lansing was the Jon Krakauer of his day. I couldn't believe this book was 50 years old. It didn't read old-fashioned at all, and he managed, like Krakauer, to inject suspense and tension into historic events when I already knew the outcome, which is an impressive feat of writing. The book was riveting and, despite being over 10 hours, I listened to the whole thing in two days. I also had moments, particularly in the beginning, where I almost experienced deja vu and I wondered if I'd already read the book but no, I saw the PBS/BBC miniseries starring Kenneth Branaugh as Shackleton last year, and it was extremely faithful to the book, even pulling large parts of dialogue verbatim. One difference is that the movie was from Shackleton's perspective so when the party was split and he went with the smaller group to find people to come back and rescue the larger group, you didn't know what was happening to the larger group until Shackleton returned. (An excellent movie, by the way.)

Overall, I think the book was a wonderful overview of the events, a great character analysis of Ernest Shackleton, and a harrowing example of how if you fight Mother Nature, she always wins. How they crossed the Drake Passage in small open boats, I shudder to think about. Terrific adventure story.

I checked this eaudiobook out of the library via Overdrive.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

My Month in Review: January

The Month in Review meme is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.

I note the Macmillan books in this post with a star.

Books completed this month:
I was on an Antarctic cruise over the holidays so I was totally off-grid and couldn't update my December post, which is why I have a few December books here. Also, it was weird--like other cruises I've been on it did have a library but ALL of their books (in a dozen languages) were about the Antarctic, the Arctic, Greenland, and Iceland). Nothing else.

So Close to Being the Sh*t, Y’all Don’t Even Know by Retta (actually December)*
Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottoline (audio) (actually December)*
Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate (audio) (actually December)*
30 Before 30 by Marina Shifrin (actually December)*
My Ex-Life by Stephen McCauley*
Cottons: The Secret of the Wind by Jim Pascoe*
South Pole Station by Ashley Shelby*
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson (audio)
How to Argue with a Cat: A Human's Guide to the Art of Persuasion by Jay Heinrichs*
Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing, narrated by Simon Prebble (audio)
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
Wish Upon a Sleepover by Suzanne Selfors*
Bob by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead*
On the Move: A Life by Oliver Sacks (audio)
Dear Rachel Maddow by Adrienne Kisner*
The Lady Astronaut of Mars by Mary Robinette Kowal*

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Underbug: An Obsessive Tale of Termites and Technology by Lisa Margonelli*
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
The Calculating Stars: A Lady Astronaut Novel by Mary Robinette Kowal*

What I acquired this month (non-work books):
I had to wait an hour for a massage the other day and next door is a big used bookstore, so that's where I spent my time (and money!) Three of these four books were already on my TBR list and the fourth one has been on (and off). It's unusual to be able to actually find books you're looking for at a used bookstore. Usually at those stores, you just have to buy impulsively.
West with the Night by Beryl Markham
A Woman of Independent Means by Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Book Review: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

A lot of my friends really love Kristin Hannah but I hadn't read her before. Many of her previous books seemed too cheesy for me, and while The Nightingale certainly wouldn't be, I am still well into Year Two of my WWII moratorium. But then this book came out, and it didn't seem cheesy at all: a young girl and her family move to Alaska which they hope will help her father's post-Vietnam PTSD. Plus I visited Alaska last year!

Wow, this book was really great. It stayed with me for a long time. Leni is 13 when the book starts, an only child, and it's heartbreaking to watch her father abuse Leni and her mother, especially when you know what we do now about PTSD and triggers and alcoholism. But in 1974, much, much less was known, and they were just doing their best to get by. Her dad is a lot better when  he's outside and away from people, so when an army friend leaves him some land and a small house in Alaska, it seems like a great place to heal. But it might be too few people. And for half the year, there's no going outside at all. Instead, you're trapped in your house. Isolated, all alone, without even phone service, trapped in the house with her angry, volatile, out-of-control father.

In the first half of the book, there were times I wanted to stop reading. The abuse and the terrifying situation Leni was in, left me super anxious and emotionally hurting for her—which is a testament to Ms. Hannah's writing. Parts of the book were almost as scary as a horror book. And really, on reflection, it's not all that different (except with no magic) than Stephen King's The Shining in its isolation and terrifying danger. Being that alone is scary in and of itself, without having a drunk enraged bear of a man coming after you.

For me, the ending was a little pat, but it was also interesting how she worked things out. Not for the faint of heart, but a really well-written book on a subject I don't often read about, told by a stand-up teen who has to be far older than her years to get through her own childhood.

This book is published by Macmillan, my employer.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Book Review: The Kings of Big Spring by Bryan Mealer

I heard this book described as if J.R. Ewing was real, and wrote a memoir. And of course, that's incredibly intriguing. Also, it turns out, more than a little misleading. I wish it had been that.

Mr. Mealer's family has long roots in Texas going back over 100 years, and throughout that century, they've gone boom and bust several times, and most of their fortunes and failures have been tied to the oil and gas industry. His family can be a lens through which to see the economic story of America, and certainly of Texas, writ small. And if he stuck to that, it would have been good. It would have been nice along the way to have more national context inserted here and there, but good.

But for me, it went off the rails at the end, where it also wants to be a memoir. Bryan didn't exist for the majority (9/10) of the story. But at the very end, where he does exist, but is a child, he reverts to calling his parents "Mom" and "Dad" instead of by their names, which was disconcerting. If the entire book had been a memoir instead of only the last 10%, that would make sense. Even if it had maybe been bookended or framed out as a memoir with a starting point from his point of view, and ideally a couple of midpoint stops where we get some perspective, that could have worked. It also would have made some sense if the end were at all memoir-like. If, for example, Bryan had been more than 10 years old and understood what was going on.

It wants to be a history of the country told through a single family, a family history, and a memoir, and since the author failed to decide on which one of these three books he was writing, and instead tried to be all of them, he failed at being any of them. Don't get me wrong--it's an interesting story and it does succeed at being a family history, and even in being an example story of the Great American Dream story. It fails at being a memoir, and when the narrative goes off the rails in that last section, it pulls the book down with it. I wish he'd been reined in more by his editor, and made to focus on one structure/goal for the book, as it could have been great. He has wonderful material he's working with here. But by being indecisive and trying to be everything, it ends up just a mess. It's a good read, if you don't mind that.

This book is published by Flatiron Books, a division of Macmillan, my employer, so I got it for free.

Friday, January 26, 2018


Over the holidays, I went on a 2-week cruise to Antarctica with my family. This was a bit difficult to shoehorn into my schedule but you don't turn down a trip like this so we made it work. Unlike previous cruises, this was a VERY SMALL cruise ship with roughly 120 passengers. We were tripling with my sister, so I already spend a lot of time in libraries on ships, but I spent even more in this one. Unlike other cruise ships, this library did not have lots of books that sparked my interest. But that was for a couple of reasons. First, I had 37 books for work downloaded on my iPad. Second, the books in the library were ALL about Antarctica, the Arctic, Alaska, Greenland, and Iceland. And only about 1/4 of them were even in English (Their cold-climate library in multiple languages was impressive.) Oddly, they didn't have the one Antarctic book I read before I got there, Alone on the Ice: The Greatest Survival Story in the History of Exploration by David Roberts. I also might have picked up Endurance, but I didn't see it. And I certainly didn't see the novel I was reading, South Pole Station by Ashley Shelby. My father picked up a book set on Antarctica that he enjoyed, and there were great photography books and books about penguins and other biology and geology topics. Mostly, though, I listened to audiobooks. I found the rocking and rolling, particularly through the Drake Passage, were too much for reading. And then, towards the end of the trip, I panicked, and decided to do something I have never done before. I had read 2 books. I could have read one more. Instead I read the first 10 pages of 35 books. It did help eliminate a couple right out of the gate that are Not For Me. And I certainly easily identified ones I want to get back to if I can. I'm not sure if this will help me to sell these 35 books, but the next 5 weeks will tell.

Meanwhile, here are a bunch of pictures! In the one of my whole family, you will see that 4 of us (not me) are wearing hats with a badge on the front--they were all visiting their 7th continent! (I am on 5.)

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Book Review: Mothers of Sparta: A Memoir by Dawn Davies

I do love a memoir, so even though this is a memoir in a series of essays instead of a straight narrative, I was excited. Even though it was about motherhood, I was still really looking forward to it. And I liked the first few essays a lot. Ms. Davies is not a typical soccer mom and she doesn't make any excuses for that. The story about all the household pets that kept dying was hilarious (yes, also sad. But also funny.) And the story about when she was 20-ish and an accident happened right in front of her, and she helped a man as he lay dying, was riveting. But then there were a couple of lightweight essays, including one about being a soccer mom. From a woman who supposedly wasn't a soccer mom at all! I started to get annoyed, and then the essay "Mothers of Sparta" followed, and it is harrowing.

It turns out that Dawn's son, who isn't mentioned but in passing in the book up to this point (mostly her daughters are talked about), has severe problems. He was born with a cleft palate, he has health issues, and also mental health issues. As he grows up, they only get to be bigger problems. In the media, we only ever see little kids with problems, or old people who have been institutionalized. There is an enormous population of people dealing with people who are physically bigger than them, who can't be locked down, who their families don't want to institutionalize (if there even were institutions that would keep them safe and well cared for which is dubious). What do you do when you have a very large 20-something who does not understand that kiddie porn is a problem? Who is very good with computers and can get around any parental controls and even the removal of electronic devices? Not only could he be arrested, but so could you. And what if he were to try to act on these feelings he doesn't understand, and doesn't understand are wrong?

Personally, I wish that essay had been the entire book. I wish it had been expanded and extrapolated on, and not relegated to being similar in weight to a story about pets or soccer. I do get that having it right after the fluffy soccer essay made the impact greater, but that just wasn't necessary—it has a huge impact by itself. I can see the author's point that she is so much more than her biggest problem, and her family is more than their biggest problem, and her life has both been centered around trying to keep her son safe (and keep the world safe from her son) but also it's been centered around not being centered around that. She doesn't want her son's problems to be the sole focus of her life and her daughters' lives, understandably. And yet. And yet.

In Sparta, when a baby is born, the local priests would come and inspect it. If the baby wasn't perfect, it would be cast into a pit to die. Was that the cruelest thing in the world, or perhaps a brutal kindness? Dawn knows her son would have been relegated to the pit. And she would have fought viciously for him to survive. And yet, to what end? The ethical and moral questions she brings up are almost never discussed, certainly not this honestly by someone in the midst of them, and they really do need to be discussed. As more health issues are diagnosed and more mental health issues come into the open, we need to look them in the face and really deal with them, not sweep them under the rug so long as they are someone else's problem. This essay is a vital and oh so necessary one that everyone should read. It's raw and inspiring and honest to the core. The book overall is quite good, but just wait until you get to this essay that makes everything worthwhile.

This book is published by Macmillan, my employer.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Book Review: Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate, narrated by Kirby Heyborne (audio)

I wasn't so sure about a book about a giant imaginary cat, but audiobook options are limited, the author's latest book has been getting fantastic reviews, and I figured, what the heck. I wanted to listen to a short audiobook, and a middle grade book would never be more than a few hours.

First I should say that the narrator was excellent. While obviously an adult, his voice really fit wonderfully with the book, and I would love to hear more books read by him. His voice was quiet and soothing without putting me to sleep, and conveyed emotion subtly.

Jackson overhears his parents talking about money. About rent. Jackosn and his sister play games in order to drag out eating things like 15 pieces of cereal for a long time. It helps them to not focus on the fact that they only have 15 pieces of cereal. She asks him what it was like when they lived in their minivan, because she was too little to remember. Jackson remembers, but he prefers not to.

And then Crenshaw appears in their bathroom, taking a bubble bath. Cats don't usually like baths, but they also aren't usually as big as a man and don't talk. Crenshaw was Jackson's imaginary friend when he was little. He doesn't understand why Crenshaw is back, since he's older. Crenshaw tells him he's back because Jackson needs him. Jackson disputes this, but Crenshaw doesn't go away.

As an adult reading this, it was heartbreaking. This family was in the situation of so many Americans, where just one thing going wrong will break them. So when on of Jackson's mom's three jobs cuts her hours, they're done for. His father has MS so he's really limited in what he can do. They're too proud to ask family for help which really did needle me, but at the same time, a loan, or even a small gift, won't fix their lives. They wanted to be singer/songwriters and they hung onto that dream for just too long. I don't think kids will pick up on a lot of that nuance, especially if they're not ready for it, but the truth is that a lot of their classmates's families are riding the financial edge, even if the kids don't realize it. And kids often pick up on more than their parents realize. and sometimes, you really need a giant talking cat (with fingers!) around to help out. A beautiful, touching story.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

I downloaded this eaudiobook from the library via Overdrive. It is published by my employer.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Book Review: Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson (audio)

My husband has been listening to podcasts with Neil deGrasse Tyson which reminded me that I wanted to listen to this (I was a very long reserve list) and then we saw him briefly in Batman vs. Superman last week as himself, which was fun. While the topic may seem too difficult for an audio, I really think it was the perfect format. This book is very specifically written to not be too dense or too mathy or too esoteric, so you won't get lost in the audio. And his voice is just so mellifluous! I wish he'd read more audiobooks, other people's audiobooks! Although that would leave him less time for science, which would be a shame.

This is a perfect book for someone like me who is not very sciency and yet likes to know a little bit about everything. The audio also does a fabulous job of conveying Tyson's enthusiasm for his material, which I think helps any non-sciency people with hanging in there. And of course, it has some of my favorite stuff: random trivia! Did you know that the moon is 1/400 the size of the sun, but it is 400 times closer to us, which is why they appear the same size? This rather odd stroke of luck is how we can have total eclipses. Other planets don't have those, because their moon(s) all appear larger or smaller than the sun--not the same size. And before naming conventions had really solidified (you may have noticed all the other planets are named for Roman gods), the guy who discovered Neptune wanted to name it George. That would have been odd. And my favorite, the moon Europa is one of the more likely places we might find living creatures. And if we did, they'd be called... Europeans!

A nice little dash of accessible, fun science, told by your favorite science guy. What more can you want?

I downloaded this eaudiobook from the library via Overdrive.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Book Review: South Pole Station by Ashley Shelby

When I started this job last year, this book jumped out at me, but I didn't have time to read it just then. But when I went to Antarctica myself over the holidays, you better believe I made time!

Cooper is an artist, and she's applied for a position as artist-in-residence at the Scott-Admunsen Station at the South Pole. (Unlike other stations scattered across the continent, this one is actually at the real South Pole. And yes, they have a pole, and yes, they move it every year as the actual south pole shifts.) For this position, not only does your art have to pass muster, but you have to pass a series of psychological tests as it's very important that everyone at the station be well-suited for that unusual kind of environment. It's odd in that you have to be somewhat of a weirdo in order to fit the requirements, but you have to fit in with the other weirdos. (In my defense, all of them are self-proclaimed weirdos.) Cooper is dealing with the recent suicide of her brother, which normally would be a disqualifying event, but her answers persuaded the station's director.

Meanwhile, at the same time a climate-change-denialist "scientist" also appears at the station. Due to political machinations, he has been approved over a number of people's heads, and the scientists on the base all hate the concept of him. Not only is he actively trying to disprove what everyone else is trying to prove, but he's also taking up a very coveted and very limited spot for another "real" scientist. While Cooper fits in with the scientists generally (and one in particular), she's also drawn to the outsider and ends up helping him with some of his research, to her great regret.

After an Event happens, Washington threatens to cut off funding and shut down the station. The scientists and staffers who had planned to winter over revolt. And Cooper somehow seems to be the glue holding everything together.

The story was a little convoluted, had a few too many characters, and seems to have gotten away from the author more than once. But I still really liked it. I think it could have used more tightening, but the scatteredness actually kind of makes sense for where it is. Antarctica is truly so different a place from anywhere on earth that it's hard to even describe, let alone understand by anyone who hasn't been there. The discombobulation one experiences in this book can echo the strange, confusing, unique environment of the South Pole. I am very sad there wasn't even one penguin, but they just don't live in this particular part of the continent. Overall, a faint liking of science helps, and a willingness to put aside preconceptions and to cut the author some slack, but I really liked it.

This book is published by Picador, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Book Review: Ellie, Engineer by Jackson Pearce

What a great middle grade read! Ellie wants to be an engineer and in fact, already thinks she is one. She has her own tool belt, which she straps on over her skirt, and gets to work building things. Mostly she builds with her best friend, Kit, and they start off by building a giant slingshot to shoot water balloons in a group of boys in another yard. Ellie makes sure to write detailed explanations of all her projects (and whether or not they were successful) in her notebook (illustrations included in the book).

Kit invents an amazing hair braiding machine for Kit's birthday and they decide to try it out even though it's a week before her actual birthday. And it's a huge disaster. Kit doesn't end up getting any hair cut off, but adults reading the book will all know how close a call that was. Despondent that her gift is a bust, and with not much time left, Ellie comes up with a new idea. She and Kit overheard that Kit is getting a dog from her parents, so Ellie decides to build the best doghouse ever. And because she's got so little time, she needs help. She first enlists one of the neighborhood boys, and then she also gets help from a group of crafty girls for the interior.

But the boys and girls in her neighborhood don't get along. So she isn't exactly honest about each's involvement with the others. When they find out, they're all mad at Ellie, and all abandon her. But in the end, they pull together to give Kit the most amazing present of all time!

My favorite part of the book is when Ellie says that, as her father says, there aren't "boy things" and "girl things." There are "Ellie things" and "Kit things." As someone who used to do shipping & receiving with long, painted nails, in a mini skirt, I will testify that one can both dress like a girl, and yet do more a traditionally masculine job. This is a great book for STEM programs, for crafty girls who might spill into more building-engineering projects, and heck, boys should read about girls interesting in building things, too.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by Macmillan, my employer.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Book Review: Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottoline

Lisa Scottoline is hugely popular in my neck of the woods (she's from Philadelphia) and when one of my bookstores has an event with her, they often sell more than 100 books, so I figured I ought to give one a shot.

Eric is a doctor at a hospital outside Philadelphia in the psychiatric unit. One day a fellow doctor from the ER asks him to talk with a teenage boy, Max, whose grandmother is dying, as a favor. Eric decides to see Max in his private practice. Meanwhile, his soon-to-be-ex wife turns out to be selling his house out from under him, is pushing their daughter into sports she won't enjoy, and deciding to ramp the divorce up a notch. Then a student files a sexual assault claim against him. And then the teenage girl that Max was obsessed with turns up dead, and when Eric starts looking into it, he becomes a suspect himself.

The events really spiraled. The book's pace was pretty zippy and it was hard to put down. That said, some of it felt like too much and contrived. The whole book takes place over the course of less than a week which was a pretty short time frame for some of the relationships. And at times, Eric felt a little dumb, when I think the author was using him as a mouthpiece for explaining something technical to readers, but it made it seem like he was stupid (could he really not understand what was meant by something not being in the scope of a search warrant that he had to ask about it multiple times? C'mon buddy, watch some Law & Order.) And for me, I felt like the very ending went off the rails. The book was fun, but the last two chapters got rather eye-rolling and even more contrived and hard to believe. If you can overlook that sort of thing for the sake of a twisty thriller, then this is good stuff. Aside from the ending, it was great when I was seasick and didn't want to think too much or do anything.

I downloaded this eaudiobook from the library via Overdrive. It is published by me employer.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Book Review: Stella Diaz Has Something to Say by Angela Dominguez

Stella is 8, going on 9, and her best friend is not in her class this year, so she's having trouble speaking up for herself. But over the year she learns to be herself, she gains a friend or two, and learns an awful lot about fish.

This novel is perfect for kids who feel like they don't fit in anywhere--Stella's Spanish has deteriorated so she can't really talk to her Mexican relatives anymore, but she also still has some trouble pronouncing English words due to her first language having been Spanish. Also, she learns she's a resident alien (with a green card) which makes her feel like an outsider in Chicago.

This was a sweet story. Stella is a great character you'll definitely root for. Anyone who's felt shy will love it, anyone who's struggled with making friends, and anyone who loves crafts. Stella's an adorable little girl and I do hope we'll see her again.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by Roaring Brook, a Macmillan publisher, my employer.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Reading Challenges 2018

It won't make quite as much sense for me to do reading challenges this year, with my job, but I do enjoy them, so I'm going to give it a shot and see if I get through them, or if it's just not going to work going forward.

I will start with my overall number, which does not include picture books or early readers. If a book takes less than an hour is generally my cut-off. Last year I managed 135. This year I want to up a little the work books I read, so I'm going to go for at least 140. And since so many are work books, that really limits what challenges I can do, but they're still fun, so here's what I want to do this year:


Challenge Guidelines:

  • January 1, 2018 to January 31, 2019
  • The books can be anything – novels, short stories, memoirs, travel guides, cookbooks, biography, poetry, or any other genre. You can participate at different levels, but each book must be by a different author and set in a different country – it's supposed to be a tour.
  • WHAT COUNTS AS "EUROPE"?: We stick with the same list of 50 sovereign states that fall (at least partially) within the geographic territory of the continent of Europe and/or enjoy membership in international European organizations such as the Council of Europe. THE LIST: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Vatican City. NOTE: Even after Brexit, the United Kingdom is still one country, in Europe, that includes England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. So one book from any one of these four counts as your one book for the United Kingdom.

Carin says: 
Last year I did 5, and 4 of the 5 were easy. So once again I will sign up for:
FIVE STAR (DELUXE ENTOURAGE): Read at least five books by different European authors or books set in different European countries.

Full House Reading Challenge

Challenge Guidelines:
  • Challenge will run from Jan 1st to December 31st 2018
  • Books may cross over from other challenges that you are doing. However a different book for each square, one book cannot cover two squares.
  • Each review can only be linked up once in the year.
  • There will be a final post to link in a summary post for the challenge for those who have completed a full house. This will close on the 2nd January 2019  and a winner will be chosen using random.org for one U.S. $40 prize which again can be used to buy books at the Book Depository or be received as an Amazon voucher. 
Carin says:
A couple of these might be hard but I think 75% I'll hit without any effort. I do like these kind of random challenges, It's always interesting to see which ones end up being the tricky ones.

2018 New Release Challenge

The 2018 New Release Challenge is a year-long challenge in which we aim to read books released in 2018

The rules for the 2018 New Release Challenge are simple:
  • Books have to be released and reviewed in 2018.
  • Other challenges can be used as well, if you are participating in the Netgalley / Edelweiss challenge or in the COYER challenge, books can count towards more than one challenge, as long as the ones you use for the 2018 New Release Reading Challenge qualify to the other rules.
  • The minimum length for a book to qualify is 100 pages, it can be in any format though, physical, e-book, ARC or audiobook.
  • The New Book Release Challenge is open from January 1st through December 31st 2018, and sign-ups are open until September 1st 2018.
Carin says:
I managed level 2 pretty easily with 37 books for 2017. My big problem is that for 2/3 of the year I'm actually focusing on next year's books. But I think I can do it again. So:
31-60 books per year – New Release Pro

Reading the Books That I Want Challenge

In 2015 I got frustrated with my reading challenges and my book clubs and other reading obligations. And while looking at my end of year post, I was annoyed that I didn't get to read a couple of books from the rather short list of books I was really looking forward to. And then I had an idea. In 2016 I created my own reading challenge, just for me. In the past I've listed 20 books but that's way too ambitious with my job, so this year I'll list 10, and I'll be pretty happy even if I just get to half of them.:
  1. The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home by Denise Kiernan
  2. Women in the Literary Landscape by Doris Weatherford, Rosalind Reisner, Nancy Rubin Stuart, and Valerie Tomaselli
  3. Visual Intelligence: Sharpen Your Perception, Change Your Life by Amy E. Herman
  4. Ask a Manager: Clueless Coworkers, Lunch-Stealing Bosses, and Other Work Conversations Made Easy by Alison Green
  5. Pioneer Girl Perspectives: Exploring Laura Ingalls Wilder by Nancy Tystad Koupal
  6. No Saints in Kansas by Amy Brashear
  7. Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team by Steve Sheinkin
  8. Calvin by Martine Leavitt
  9. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson
  10. Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Book Review: The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

I don't read a lot of women's thrillers but I do read a few, and this one was perfectly satisfying. I don't want to tell too much of the plot, but there's a very troubled marriage at the center of it, and it has not one giant twist, but a couple of twists (almost three) and they were the great kind--you could possibly see them coming if you were paying more attention than me (I did not see them coming and I was trying to guess!) so they didn't feel like they were out of left field, but not so obvious as to be boring and frustrating. \

The different parts of the book are also very different tonally which was a nice thing for the authors to do--one narrator's sections feel very optimistic and young and naive, another's feel very depressed, almost like she's given up, and a third part is very determined and driven. Again, don't want to say too much, but it was fun, fast, kept me riveted and guessing, and had a nicely satisfying ending.

I got this book for free from the publisher, Macmillan, which is my employer.

Monday, January 1, 2018

My Month in Review: December

The Month in Review meme is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. I'm actually out of town and off the grid over the New Year so this isn't 100% complete. I will have read a couple more books than this post is showing by January 1. January's post will have the rest.

I note the non-Macmillan books in this post with a star.

Books completed this month:
I didn't get much read this month due to reading Alexander Hamilton, which is huge and dense. I'm very much enjoying it, and I often end the year with a chunkster, but it does make my last monthly post of the year look kind of lame, compared to my others.
Tulipomania: The Story of the World's Most Coveted Flower & the Extraordinary Passions It Aroused by Mike Dash *
All Summer Long by Hope Larson
Sabrina by Nick Drnaso

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow *
Man I really tried to finish this before my trip! Well, I am bringing a bunch of work books and I'm not sure which ones I'll end up reading, except that South Pole Station by Ashley Shelby is the one I'm pretty sure I'll read.

What I acquired this month (non-work books):
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (I had this checked out of the library but it's taking much longer than I'd through and I want to take it on a long overseas vacation so I had to get my own.)
Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery by Scott Kelly

I am finding it a little ironic that after years of buying books when I couldn't afford them, I finally have a good-paying job, and I've mostly stopped buying books! I can of course get any books from my employer (Macmillan) that I want, that's 95% of what I'm reading these days, and I do get books from the library still (just picked up my next book club book). So this section is occasionally... empty! But that's good because I do still have most of those books I bought and I do have a little debt to pay off so staying in budget is a good thing.

2017: The Year in Review

In 2010 I got this meme, I think from Boston Bibliophile. It was a fun way to summarize the year, so I now do it every year. This year I've added a couple of new categories (how many books for work and how many different publishers). I will be away from computers for the last week of the year so this is through Dec. 19.

How many books read in 2017? 

How many fiction and non fiction? 
88/63. Huh, I thought this was going to be a lot more skewed towards fiction.

Male/Female author ratio? 
42/91. Wow, I've never had my list be so skewed. I don't think even in the year when I was trying to mostly read women writers!

Favorite book of 2017? 
P.S. I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy

Least favorite? 
Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton

Any that you simply couldn't finish and why? 
No DNFs this year.

Oldest book read?  1986, Annie John. I usually have read a classic or two, but this year I only read this modern classic, and otherwise since I was mostly reading for work, very little backlist.
Newest?  Aug 07, 2018. Yep, won't be published for 8 months.

Longest and shortest book titles? (not including subtitles)
Longest:  The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making 66
Shortest:  Rise 4

Longest and shortest books?
Longest: The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati 741 pages
Shortest: Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell 56 pages

How many books from the library? 53, mostly audio.

How many audiobooks? 31, a huge new record.

Any translated books? one

Most read author of the year, and how many books by that author? Rainbow Rowell, I read 4. And what's awesome is that last year I had her listed as a new to me author who I wanted to read the entire works of. I have read all but 1 of hers.

Any re-reads? no. I started listening to A Wrinkle in Time but it expired before I finished it. Ditto for Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim.

Favorite character of the year? Sandra Pankhurst from The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman's Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster by Sarah Krasnostein. Sandra was born a man, had one of the first sex reassignment surgeries in Australia, fought to have an abusive customer prosecuted when she was a sex worker, and eventually went into trauma cleaning, because she's just the most empathetic person alive, given what she's been through. She's a real character, funny and quirky and flawed, but also really inspirational and not pitiful at all. This book comes out in April and trust me, Sandra will stay with you for a long time.

Which countries did you go to through the page in your year of reading? The Netherlands, India, Antarctica (does it count as a country if no one lives there permanently and there's no government?), Australia, South Africa, England, Afghanistan, Germany, Soviet Russia, Antigua, and France.

Which book wouldn’t you have read without someone’s specific recommendation? 
The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati (Jessica)
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda (Nicole's daugher who is obsessed with Lin-Manuel Miranda)
In Harm's Way: The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors by Doug Stanton (Jordan)
Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jeremy McCarter and Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (Amy Cherrix of Malaprop's)
This list is so much shorter this year because of all the pre-pub books I'm reading. Instead of getting recommendations, I'm giving them!

Which author was new to you in 2017 that you now want to read the entire works of? Steve Sheinkin. I read 2 of his YA nonfiction books, and 2 that I didn't count because they're basically early readers (I read each of them in under an hour!) I have another YA one on my shelf that I'm dying to get to and a bookseller was recently raving about another. Basically, when it comes to children's nonfiction, he's the best.

Which books are you annoyed you didn’t read? None really. There are a few that I'll be annoyed if I don't manage to read them by this time next year, but I'm not annoyed yet!

How many books did you read for work?
100. Not counting dozens of picture books. I also didn't count the 3 Macmillan books I read purely for fun that I haven't mentioned more than once in a sales call.

How many different publishers (not imprints) did you read?
11. Unimpressive, but when you consider how many books I read for work, and only 2 publishers count there (Macmillan and Bloomsbury), it's not bad.
Did you read any books you have always been meaning to read? 
If "always" means for the last 3-4 years, then:
This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett
Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

2016 TOP EIGHT Book Events in Carin’s Book Life:
8. Finished my first year as WNBA Immediate Past-President.
7. Read a seriously new record number of books.
6. Visited the oldest bookstore in the United States, Moravian Bookshop in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
5. Finally found a new book club in Montclair!
4. Got my copy of Women in the Literary Landscape, the WNBA book!
3. Celebrated the WNBA's 100th birthday!
2. Met Carla Hayden! (I know, I didn't get a picture with her, but here I am in the background of a picture of her, proving I was there!)
1. Got my new job at Macmillan!