Posts Tagged ‘ARC’

1st March
2012
written by Steph
By now apologies about sporadic postings here seem to be rule rather than the exception, which I truly am sorry about. It was really exciting to hear from so many of you regarding my last post where I outlined our plans for our RTW trip (and I promise I will respond to all of your comments and will certainly be emailing some of you too!), so even though reading has been somewhat sketchy around these parts of late, I am definitely hoping to cobble together some more pre-trip posts where I go into more detail about the various countries we plan hope to visit, as well as keep you all abreast of the less theoretical/research-based elements of trip planning as well. But of course, I know all of your are book-lovers at heart, so when I do have bookish content to post, I certainly will do that too! Now, is one such instance, because even though I have hardly read anything in the past three months, my gig reviewing things over at BookPage has made it so that I still read at least one book a month. In the case of March's issue, two books were simply irresistible to me, so I pulled double duty and covered something for both the fiction and the non-fiction section (a first for me!).

Look! A book! And I read it!

On the fiction front, I read and wrote about Heidi Julavits' trippy new novel called The Vanishers, which you can read here. This was my first Julavits novel, and boy was it weird! Given that I knew it revolved around psychics and astral adventures, I don't know why I ever would have thought otherwise, but this book really did surprise me at every turn. I think I really hit the proverbial nail on its head when I compared this book to the films of David Lynch, so if unusual, mindbending stories that question the limits of reality are your thing, this is the book for you.

I read this one too!

The Vanishers was a very good book, but my other read, I absolutely loved. I absolutely use nepotism to my advantage and put in a personal plea to the non-fiction editor to let me cover Jeanette Winterson's memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? and I have absolutely no regrets on that front. At a time where reading has often felt like a chore, this is a book I could not stop reading. Even though I was reading a completely unfancy galley copy of this book, I would cradle it like it was the most precious thing whenever I picked it up because there were times when I felt like I was staring into the very contents of someone's soul (perhaps my own?) as I read it. I seriously cannot say enough positive things about this book (if I could have its babies, I would!), but if you want to read some of my adulatory thoughts on it, you can check those out here. Ultimately, I may not read very many books this year, but I kind of think 2012 will be known as the year I read this book no matter how many other books I wind up finishing, so there is that. Hurrah for books! I'm desperately trying out many different books on a daily basis hoping to find one that sticks, so fingers crossed that one of these days you see me posting about something that I read for personal, not professional, reasons!
18th November
2011
written by Steph

So, if I had my act together, this is the book I would have lined up to write about for Halloween. It doesn’t really matter that The Radleys isn’t actually all that spooky, because if there is one mathematical equation that always stands true it is this: Vampires = Halloween. It’s just one of those unassailable laws. But, as you all know, life has been chaotic so I instead posted about the Amazon (one day late), which turned out to be a pretty good choice as well. I was actually offered a copy of The Radleys a few months ago, when Giselle from Simon & Schuster contacted me about being on a tour for the book when the paperback was released on September 20. Because being disorganized is my m.o. at the moment, I missed out on the blog tour, but Giselle was still kind enough to send me a copy of the book to read and review here at my leisure. This is a book that I had been curious about, because while I haven’t been part of the latest vampire craze, I was intrigued by the book’s lighter, more humorous tone… I feel like if anyone needs to lighten up, it’s vampires, and this is coming from someone who loved Angel on Buffy the Vampire Slayer! Sure brooding is super hot when David Boreanaz is doing it, but the line between Angel and say, Edward Cullen, is a fine one indeed, and if there is another mathematical principle that has yet to be disproven it is that Edward Cullen = Angsty = Annoying. (There is also the Edward Cullen = Stalker = Creepy equation, but that one is less relevant right now.) Also, apart from the fact that Haig was apparently tackling the whole vampire issue with some much needed levity, I appreciated that The Radleys was purportedly a story that involved vampires without really being a story about vampires. In fact, when the book opens, only half of the Radley family in question is actually aware they are something rather otherworldly. So if, like me, you wish vampires would just die already but you feel like taking one turn around the ballroom with the undead, I am prepared to say that you probably won’t hate The Radleys! Well, not because it involves vampires, at least… (more…)
11th August
2011
written by Steph

I know that I am not the only one out there who has been blown away during a first encounter with an author, vowing to read everything he or she has written, only to then find that nothing else they have written measures up to that first book. And I'm not just saying that the other books that you've read have been good but just not quite up to par with that first dalliance, but rather books that are so not your speed that if they were your first impression of the author, you'd never read him again. For me, that’s been my experience with Douglas Coupland. He was an author I had written off without ever trying, only to finally read Generation A, which I then fell madly in love with. I followed that up with Microserfs last year, which I found really painful and did not really enjoy at all, and now we have Player One. Which I also did not enjoy, but this time it was to the extent that I actually could not even finish it. I frequently pick up books and read a bit of them only to put them down because I’m not in the mood and they’re not gelling at the moment. I don’t really consider these books to be abandoned because I don’t really consider myself to have started them, but I have to say that it’s exceedingly rare these days for me to pick up a book, read a good chunk of it and then set it aside because I just don’t want to finish reading it. But I found Player One so unengaging and lackluster that despite reading about 80 pages of it, when I threw it into my “purge pile” I heaved a huge sigh of relief. (more…)
13th July
2011
written by Steph

I know that I am not the only book blogger out there who is stubborn. I’ve read plenty of posts in which readers proclaim about “refusing to give in to the hype” and steering clear of books that have shot to the top of bestseller lists and set the general public on fire. I like to think that I tend to avoid mass hits in the publishing world because they tend to be directed at readers whose tastes are different from myself, but I do know that part of my avoidance is definitely due to not wanting to give in to peer pressure and jump on the latest bandwagon. Tony is probably the first person who can tell you that I do somewhat pride myself in being difficult and contrary, so it’s no surprise that this aspect of my personality extends to my reading preferences. All this to say that even though I have been told by people for ages that I would love Ann Patchett and that Bel Canto is one of the best books ever, I have resisted reading anything by her until now. I have a copy of Bel Canto that has languished unread for a few years now, but just when I think I’ll give it a try, someone tells me how much I will love it, and I immediately feel like I have to read anything else. When I saw that State of Wonder was being offered up for a TLC Tour, I was mildly interested, but it wasn't until I read the brief summary of the book that I was fully intrigued. I mean, a book that involves doctors and scientists researching medicines in the Amazon sounds like heaven to me, so with that temptation before me, I asked to be part of the tour. And I promise I did so in good faith, or mostly in good faith. I admit that I wanted to like the book, but part of me also sort of hoped that I would hate it so that I could be a lone ornery drummer in a band full of Ann Patchett fans. (more…)
22nd February
2011
written by Steph

Full disclosure: I read this book about three weeks ago, and if absence makes the heart grow fonder, it also makes memory a bit hazy so details on this one might be a bit sparse. In the notes I jotted down on this one, I wrote “In the end, this book probably won’t stay with me forever, but I did really enjoy it in the moment.” Yup, that sounds about right. As someone who legitimately enjoys writing (I feel all of us bloggers must not only enjoy reading the written word, but creating it ourselves as well), I am always interested in books that features writers or that focus on the craft of writing itself. You’ll recall that a while back I read and loved The Writing Class by Jincy Willett, so while the back blurb on The Writing Circle sounded somewhat similar, I was willing to give it a go. Essentially, the story is pitched as following a group of writers who have formed a writing support group that meets to discuss each other’s creative endeavors and provide constructive feedback in the hopes of getting these works published. Unfortunately, not everyone in the group is equally supportive and honest and when certain confidences are breached, each of the individual members face hardships that will throw the entire group into turmoil. (more…)
2nd February
2011
written by Steph
Tony and I both have new reviews up at BookPage that y'all simply must take a gander at!

Regular readers at S&TI! know that my relationship with witches in books is generally circumscribed to the Harry Potter series, so you may be surprised to hear that I recently fell in love with an epic novel that features witches, daemons, and yes, those pesky vampires! For the February issue of BookPage, I selected Deborah Harkness' debut fiction novel, A Discovery of Witches, and I am SO glad I did. Featuring a feisty and intelligent heroine (who just happens to be an academic scholar!), this novel combines fantastical elements with everything I love in my books: academia, libraries, books, science, and a wonderful love story to boot. You know that I tend to shy away from books that are longer than 400 pages, but this book came in at almost 700 pages, and I read it in something like three days and was so despondent when it was over. It is so incredibly rich and absorbing, that even if the fantastical isn't normally your thing, you owe it to yourself to read this book. I actually had the chance to talk to Deborah Harkness about the book (and bonus: she is an absolute delight!) and she mentioned that she loves big chunky books, and one of her favorite novels is Possession by A.S. Byatt, which I think is actually quite evident in this novel. All to say that if you're wary, don't be! Harkness presents the supernatural in a way you've never before experienced it, and it is legitimately thrilling. I loved this book so much! To read more about the premise and why this book is so kick-ass, read my full review here. (P.S. I gushed about this book so effusively that it wound up being BookPage's pick of the month!)

Tony wrote a web exclusive on another debut novel that's getting an awful lot of buzz, that being The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore. Bruno is a chimpanzee who examines exactly what it means to be human. I know some people are not keen on animal narrators (I admit, I initially thought the idea was a bit gimicky), but by all accounts this is a really unique and powerful book that raises a lot of interesting questions in a surprisingly serious way. I haven't yet read Bruno, but I kept our ARC of it because I know I will want to experience this brave and challenging novel for myself. To read the thoughts of someone who actually did read the book, you can read Tony's review here! All in all, two phenominal books that are worth splurging on, if I do say so myself! Do either of these titles appeal to you? Any new releases coming out this month that you're particularly looking forward to?
18th January
2011
written by Steph

Y’all, I have been waiting to talk about this book for soooo long. I think I first saw it posted on TLC tours sometime back in back in SEPTEMBER, so I’ve literally been sitting on this thing for months. Ok, fine, figuratively, since I haven’t in fact been perched on my galley copy of The Weird Sisters like a mother hen for three months, but it kind of feels like I have. I’ve been nursing a great secret, but now I can let it out: The Weird Sisters is a totally fab book and you must read it post haste. I was initially drawn to this book because of the Shakespearean connotation of the name (the weird sisters being the three witches in “Macbeth”). You know I love me the bard, so any book that alludes to the master of the English language is going to pique my interest. As I read the little blurb about the book, I realized the Shakespeare reference in the title was not mere coincidence but intentional, which thrilled me. Add to that the fact that book involves three sisters whose father is a professor of Shakespeare, and who all return home, beaten and bruised when disasters of various ilk strike, and I was sold. If this were a Cosmo quiz about books, my answer would say something to the effect of “If you chose mostly A’s: You are the kind of reader who loves books set in academia that are chocked full of literary references, and feature dysfunctional family drama to round things out.” If this also describes you, then The Weird Sisters is the book for you. (more…)
3rd January
2011
written by Steph
It seems like most bloggers (including myself) have vowed to try to read books they already own for at least the first three months of the year. So clearly the best thing I can do is highlight two new releases to tempt y'all to fall off the wagon post-haste! In the newest issue of BookPage, Tony and I both have reviews up of two pretty great books that it would be a shame for you to miss out on.

First up: The Sherlockian by Graham Moore. Tony reviewed this one because he is a huge Sherlock Holmes fan (who isn't, really?), and the premise of two stories - one involving Sherlock's creator Arthur Conan Doyle, and one in modern times involving a society of Sherlock devotees - that interweave was certainly intriguing. At a time of the year when reading time is hard to find, Tony managed to make plenty of time to plow through this book, which offers plenty of twists and is a lovely homage to one of literature's most beloved detectives. To read more of his (far more eloquent and penetrating) thoughts on this read, read his full review here.

Next: The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly, which I was super excited to snag for review. If comparisons to Jane Austen are my number one kryptonite, than comparisons to Tana French come in a close second, so I knew I just had to give this thriller a whirl when such parallels began to be drawn. This is one of those "murder in reverse" type tales, one where we know what crime has been committed and by whom (or so we think), and the bulk of the novel is spent detailing the events that lead up to the crime in question. I'm a big fan of books that are able to maintain suspense after laying down a high card so early on, and this one works really well, especially because Kelly flits back and forth between past and present. This is one of those books that keeps raising the stakes and picking up speed as it goes on, so don't be surprised if you gulp it all down in a single sitting. For more of the nitty grity on plot and whatnot, check out my full review here! Both really good reads and I wouldn't blame you if you broke your TBR resolve to pick up either of them! I'm just thankful we already have our copies! 😉
1st December
2010
written by Steph

What a beautiful thing it is...

If you're at all like me, you've probably never taken Steve Martin as an author very seriously. I mean, am I really meant to believe that a man who willingly stars in Cheaper By The Dozen is capable of writing quality literature? Actually, as it turns out, the answer is a resounding: Hell yes! I know that many bloggers have been charmed by Martin's previous novella, Shopgirl, but I admit I never felt I needed to read it despite their praise. Now, I'm going to do something I pretty much never do and say that I was wrong. Because while I can't say anything about the merits of Shopgirl as I still haven't read it, I can say that An Object of Beauty, Martin's latest literary offering is a damn good read. More than just a pretty cover, this book is a fascinating (if fictional) trek through the rise and fall of Lacey Yeager and the New York art scene, something I didn't think I cared about, but apparently I do. And you will too if you read this book! Because it is really good! It's definitely got an old-fashioned vibe to it, but doesn't feel dated or stodgy, just like one of those books that's a walloping good read in the great American literary tradition. I liked An Object of Beauty so much that it is actually BookPage's top pick for the month of December! For more gushing, you can read my full review online here. I compare it to The Great Gatsby, and not in a hyperbolic way. This is one 2010 book that you do not want to miss out on!
21st September
2010
written by Steph

Scarlett Thomas is an author who has intrigued me for a while. I’ve heard good things about her last novel, The End of Mr. Y, and my friend Trisha really enjoys her writing, so when I saw that NetGalley had copies of her newest novel, Our Tragic Universe up for review, I hastily requested a copy. I didn’t really know what to expect, but suspected I’d be in for a relatively cerebral but quirky read. I was right. Our Tragic Universe is a novel that’s incredibly difficult to summarize, because it is largely a novel that is filled with ideas, and one that frequently verges into metafictional territory. Loosely speaking, the novel centers around struggling writer, Meg Carpenter. After experiencing some nominal literary success during her early 20s, Meg has since been wrestling with writing a proper, serious novel. Unfortunately, Meg has been much more productive writing pulp fiction, formulaic novels under the name of Zeb Ross, a job that does little to address her creative ambitions but manages to pay the bills. Meg’s boyfriend has no income of his own (volunteering on heritage restoration sites), so in a bid to make ends meet, Meg also writes the occasional book review for newspapers. To this end, Meg picks up a copy of a self-help book called The Science of Living Forever, which claims we are all immortal and that the universe is just a creation meant to allow us to live every possible permutation of the hero’s journey before we finally ascend to a higher plane. Initially Meg dismisses the book as nonsense, but when she begins investigating other self-help books for a larger editorial piece, she finds some unexpected answers to questions she didn’t even realize she had… (more…)
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