Posts Tagged ‘self-pimps’

29th July
2012
written by Steph
Well, I still do that from time to time, though I've been very bad about keeping S&TI! readers up-to-date on that front. I full-on admit that the past two months have not been as relaxing and full of reading as I would have liked (rather, they have been filled with stressful moves and mad-dash planning as we prepare to head off for Japan... just 1.5 weeks to go at this point!), but I have managed to keep up a steady stream of reviews for BookPage (and plan to continue to review for them while we are on our big trip... though I will be taking the month of August from professional reviewing as I adjust to life on the road in Asia!). As we finish up the tail end of our time here in North America, I am hoping to rediscover the joys of personal pleasure reading (need to get back into the swing of it before our 12 hour flight to Tokyo on Aug 8...), but for now, I'll bring you up to speed with my BP reviews for the months of June & July.

Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes

Maybe it's a hold over from the days when I had summer holidays, but for me, the summer is the perfect time to indulge in books that are unadulterated fun to read. We all know I have the tendency to gravitate towards highbrow literature, but sometimes you just want a book that will entertain and thrill you. If you find yourself on holiday this summer and need a book that you can read for hours by the pool and late into the night, then I highly recommend that you check out my review of debut author, Elizabeth Haynes' novel Into the Darkest Corner. It is the ultimate "relationship gone wrong" story, and despite its length, this was a book I stayed up reading even when it was far past my bedtime. I particularly enjoyed the attention Haynes paid to the psychological trauma that can result following an abusive relationship, which I personally felt helped set this book apart from your standard run of the mill thrillers. Terrifying and utterly absorbing, this is a book that will hold you rapt from beginning to end.

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

If massive doorstops are your preferred beach reading material, then you could do no better than the second installment in Deborah Harkness's wildly popular "All Souls Trilogy", Shadow of Night. This book hardly needs a review given that it is the hotly anticipated sequel to A Discovery of Witches, which readers have been breathlessly waiting for since 2011, myself being no exception! Shadow of Night sees Diana & Matthew traveling back to the 1590s in order to give Diana a chance to master her burgeoning magical powers and also give our favorite vampire-witch duo the opportunity to intercept the elusive Ashmole 782 before it is enchanted. Fans of the first book will know that Harkness is not afraid to tell her story on an epic scale, and Shadow of Night is no different. Even the most voracious readers will likely need a few days to fully digest this massive story, which manages to address many of the pressing questions that were left dangling at the end of the first volume while still setting up a set of new questions for the final book in the series. I'm not normally a fan of historical fiction, but this book is just so much fun! You can read my full review here.

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

I also had the extreme pleasure of reviewing a stunning debut novel, Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. I have no idea why this book is not getting more buzz, because quite honestly, it had me in tears within the first 10 pages. I was not exaggerating in my review when I said that "Tell the Wolves I’m Home is not only one of the best debuts of 2012, it’s one of the best books of the year, plain and simple." It really, truly is. It manages to be moving without being maudlin, not an easy feat when you've got a teenager as your narrator, and was just such a lovely, heartbreaking novel. One of those books you hardly want to write about because you feel your own words can't do it justice. As much as all of these books I've reviewed are fantastic, if I could only pick one of them to read again, it would easily be Tell the Wolves I'm Home. Do not miss this book, or you will feel like a complete fool!

Broken Harbor by Tana French

Finally, although the August issue of BookPage isn't out for a few more days, I figured my loyal readers deserved a treat for bearing with me over these past few months, so here is a sneak peak of my review of Tana French's latest Murder Squad novel, Broken Harbor. Like many fans of the series, I was dubious about Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy taking the reins in this book, but: OH. MY. GOD. So deliciously creepy and twisted. This may be French's best book yet: Kennedy winds up being a wonderfully nuanced character (hardly surprising given her track record) and his fate at the novel's end is honestly like a swift kick to the gut. Perhaps the most compelling thing about the book is how terrifically atmospheric it was, the ghostly tendrils of the Brianstown housing estate deftly entangled themselves around my brainstem. This novel haunted me both during and after reading it, so make sure to clear your reading schedule to make room for this one! So although 2012 continues to be something of a reading drought for me, I can't complain about the quality of the books I've been reading thus far. All of these books would likely make it onto my "best books of the year" list, even if I were plowing through double the number of books, so they're definitely well worth your while! But, please tell me: what book(s) have you read in the past 2 -3 months that you think is absolutely unmissable? I'm definitely looking for something to kick-start my personal reading engine and need suggestions! I feel like all of my trip planning has thrown me squarely out of the book blogging loop!
12th May
2012
written by Steph
Hallelujah! Months of programming experiments, running experiments, analyzing data, reading papers, writing and re-wring have finally paid off. On Thursday morning, I did one last proof read through my dissertation and then I attached a PDF version of it to an email and sent it off to my committee! (For those interested, the final page count was 102 pages). In two weeks, I'll give a public presentation of my dissertation experiments, and then I'll undergo my final graduate school oral defense, and I will finally be Dr. Steph! It's hard to believe that after years of ups and downs, that my time as a student is finally drawing to a close. I haven't quite parsed the enormity of that just yet, but I've found through this whole process that I'm best off just focusing on getting through one day at a time, so that's what I'll keep doing.

Home by Toni Morrison

Of course, immediately after submitting my dissertation, I began to show signs of a horrible cold. I have felt awful for the past two days, and while I am definitely on the mend now, I am still not back in full fighting form. But I am well enough that I can finally write my monthly BookPage post, where I tell you about what I've reviewed in the latest issue. In the May issue of BookPage, I had the great good fortune to review Toni Morrison's latest masterpiece, Home. I'm a huge Morrison fan, so it was a huge honor to review one of her books in a professional capacity. It also didn't hurt that Home is her shortest book to date; in a time when my pleasure reading time has been severely limited (and I've had essentially no attention span), it was nice to have a book that needed my attention but didn't need a huge time investment. If, like me, you've been eagerly awaiting Morrison's latest slice of literary greatness, you can read my full review here. Obviously, I'll still have dissertation brain for the next few weeks, but despite being super ill, I've felt a lightness come over me this past week that has long been absent, and I'm optimistic that I'll soon recapture my full book-blogging mojo. In truth, writing this dissertation hasn't been nearly as awful as I thought it would be (though I'm totally fine with never doing this ever again), but I am still so looking forward to reclaiming my life. For at least a month, that is, since Tony and I are officially leaving Nashville at the end of June. We'll be moving up to Toronto for a couple of weeks to get our dogs settled in with my parents, and then we'll be heading off on our big world tour! (Don't worry though, we're bringing our e-readers so we'll have plenty to read on the myriad planes, trains, and buses we'll be taking!) So life will be busy for the foreseeable future, but with one of the biggest stressors finally stripped away, I am looking forward to refocusing on those things that enrich me and nourish my spirit.
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!
4th January
2012
written by Steph
What is it that they say about the best laid plans? Something about how they never work out? That sounds about right... Despite my intentions to catch up on blogging while Tony and I were up in Canada, I wound up not even bringing my laptop and was hardly online at all. Instead I slept in late every day, played tons of Mario Super Sluggers on the Wii, tried my hand at NHL 2012 on the PS3 (never making it past the rookies), played some non-video game bowling (and finally broke triple digits!) and watched lots and lots of Mantracker (everyone outside of Canada is missing out, because Mantracker is possibly the best reality show ever made). I managed to read the bulk of one book (but not finish it) while we were away, so I was only marginally better at reading than I was at blogging. I feel slightly guilty about this, but mostly I'm just happy I got some time to completely relax and hibernate. I'm still not feeling entirely recharged, but I'm feeling quite a bit calmer than I did before the holidays. Given that I wrote not a single thing while I was away, I still have four books that I read last year that I still need to write about. AND I need to write one of those fun summary posts in which I recap 2011. Already I am behind the times! Before I do any of that, however, I am instead going to direct your attention to the January 2012 issue of BookPage, in which I reviewed Penelope Lively's newest novel, How It All Began. I did actually read this book a few months ago, so while it's a 2012 book for most, it was actually a 2011 book for me. I've only ever read one other Lively novel, Moon Tiger, but she made a wonderful first impression on me and I'd been wanting to read more of her works ever since. Despite being published 25 years after Moon Tiger, How It All Began is still clearly a Penelope Lively novel. It is perhaps less experimental than MT, as it does largely focus on telling a briskly paced story filled with a dynamic cast of characters, but it still has a soupçon of metafiction, which I really love. The thing about Lively's fiction that always seems to resonate with me is that she unabashedly loves stories and actively uses her work as a means of promoting the idea that we as humans are drawn to storytelling and the written word because of the closure and permanence they provide. Anyone who loves books like I do can't help but feel that one has found a kindred spirit in an author who so unabashedly espouses this view in her books. Fellow readers will also get a kick out of the main character, Charlotte, as she herself is an ardent bookworm (and adult literacy teacher) and large swaths of her storyline are devoted to musings on how reading enriches one's life. The novel as a whole is incredibly engrossing and touching, but that thread in particular really spoke to me. Rather than read my inelegant ramblings here, check out my review at BookPage for the full scoop. In the interim, I'll get to work on putting the rest of 2011 to bed!
8th November
2011
written by Steph

Before I know it, it's going to be the middle of the month... and then the end of the month... so before I forget, I'd better remind you that the November issue of BookPage is out AND, after having taken a few months off, I actually have a review in it! As you have likely gathered from the title of this post, I read David Guterson's newest novel, Ed King, which is actually a modern day retelling of the classic Greek play, Oedipus The King. The original source material is quite a yarn, so you can imagine just how fun and zany this book was! Although knowledge of the original play is by no means necessary, familiarity with Sophocles' version will certainly add to one's enjoyment. It was really fun to see how Guterson chose to modernize certain elements, and one of my favorite bits was how he re-envisioned the Greek chorus. But regardless, however you read this one, whether it be with fresh eyes or through the lens of what came before, this is a book that hooks you right from the start and is full of juicy scandals. Although this isn't Guterson's first novel, it was actually the first book of his that I've read and I really enjoyed it. It was the perfect blend of smart and playful, and even though it was certainly quirky, I never felt like Guterson was trying too hard to be clever at the expense of the story. If I were reviewing it solely here on the blog, I would give it a 4 out of 5. For more of my thoughts on Ed King, you can check out my review here.
12th September
2011
written by Steph
Along with not being a very good book blogger of late, I've also not been a very good food blogger for even longer. I'd hate for you guys to think that part of why I've not been updating often is because I've stopped eating and have wasted away into a husk of my former self. So not the case! While my cooking has backslid a bit due to the combination of stress and exhaustion related to school and life, I do still try to cook a few big meals each week. You guys know that I tend to eschew recipes, so as much as I loved sharing what I was making here on S&TI! it was always a pain for me to write my meals up like recipe posts. Instead, I'd much rather just snap a picture to document a meal well-made and share links to recipes that inspired the dish and maybe jot down a few notes about things I did to make the food my own. So, I've started up a Tumblr food site where I'm going to document my culinary adventures without the pressure of being useful to anyone but myself! However, the pictures are pretty (thanks Tony!) and as much as I'm doing this to create a little visual compendium of things I should remember to cook more than once, I'm hoping other cooks and eaters out there will find it inspiring and maybe even a little helpful. To me cooking isn't about rules or following the leader, so I'm hoping this more free-form approach will be a better fit for me. Anyway, continuing our trend of starting blogs inspired by things that are said on The Office (trivia time: the UK version inspired the name of this blog!), you can now check out what Tony and I have been stuffing our faces with over at You Should Put Your Mouth On This. It's still a bit anemic and I have no idea about how to comments work over on Tumblr, but I suspect these things will develop in time. [Edited to add that I decided to stop being lazy and figured out how to use Disqus to enable comments over at YSPYMOT. So now you can comment on individual meals should you so choose! Let us all bow down to my mad blogging skillz! 😉 ] Image of Put your mouth on that
10th September
2011
written by Steph

I promise y'all, I am still alive and indeed, I am even still reading (haphazardly) and writing (even more haphazardly!). I've just had so much school stuff to wade through at the moment (did anyone else know that PhD programs are devilishly time-/life-consuming?), that by the end of the day I'm often too exhausted to muster up the energy to read anything above and beyond celebrity gossip websites (If someone wanted to volunteer to weed through my feedreader, which has never been as abundant with unread posts as it is now, I'd love you forever!), and writing is pretty much out of the question. Unless, of course, I'm getting paid some ducats! Money is a powerful motivator after all... It doesn't hurt that the fiction editor over at BookPage also happens to be a good friend, so Trisha lets me comb through the books each month and pick out ones that appeal to me so that I have a halfway decent chance of actually liking the books that I'm reading for them (hurrah for nepotism!). For September, I elected to try Ali Smith's latest novel, There But For The, despite having reviewed one of her books way back when I first started this blog and not having (m)any kind words for it at all. I probably would have been fine living an Ali-Smith-free existence, but her new book did sound intriguing and I quickly flipped through it to make sure it didn't have any poetry before picking it! Thankfully for all of us, I liked There But For The loads more than I did The Accidental, and found it the right kind of quirky with the kind of word games that I could really get behind. It's certainly intellectual and absurd, so it's good that I tackled it before my brain got overloaded by school work and turned to goo, but at the same time, it wasn't a book I felt I had to work at to read so don't let the fact that it's a smart book be a turn-off. After all, I love nothing more than a smart book or a smart woman (hence the PhD program)! For more coherent thoughts on There But For The, check out my full review at BookPage here. Also, I have something like 6 books that I've been meaning to review, only writing has been soooo hard of late. Honestly, using one's brain to think about abstract scientific problems for, like, 50 hours a week is really exhausting. I am going to try my best to get this back-log cleared up as soon as a I can, but please understand that if my posts are less frequent than either of us would like, it's not for lack of love, but really lack of neuronal firing power.
6th June
2011
written by Steph
June is a pretty kickass month for new books, if I do say so myself. For this month's issue of BookPage, I got to read a fabulous debut novel AND a stunning sequel by an author who is much loved by book-bloggers, so to say that I was pretty spoiled with the books I got to review is an understatement.

Simply put, The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai is something that no book lover should miss. It may sound weird to say that a book that essentially revolves around an unintended kidnapping is both funny and sweet, but that's exactly what you get with this book. It features a children's librarian named Lucy who has the best of intentions, even if her life is kind of a huge mess. The icing on the cake occurs when she accidentally absconding with one of her favorite library patrons, Ian, who has an overbearing and extremely religious mother who would rather he spent his time playing sports instead of reading, especially when his book selections tend to veer towards those more appropriate for girls or devil worshippers. Together, Lucy and Ian embark on an unexpected adventure that will have you both smiling as well as reaching for your tissues. Especially delightful were all of the literary references that are scattered throughout The Borrower and I defy any book lover to read this book and not find yourself somewhere in these pages. If you've ever felt that books are so powerful that they can save lives, you must read this book! But for now, read my full review here!

Existing fans of Lisa See will probably not need to hear my thoughts on her latest novel, Dreams of Joy, before rushing out to buy the sequel to See's immensely popular novel, Shanghai Girls, but in case you're new to the See bandwagon (sit next to me! This was my first book by her!), or are just looking for a little taster to whet your appetite, you can read my review here. See does a great job of realizing the alien nature of China for her readers, but still manages to make the country and its people accessible to Western readers, which is no small feat. This is one of those pieces of fiction where you feel like you've learned more than any textbook or piece of non-fiction writing could impart, and is definitely a great way to armchair travel. As an added bonus, I also did a Q&A with Lisa See about her new book (amongst other things), so for those of you looking for some "behind the scenes" insights, look no further!
3rd May
2011
written by Steph

Sorry for the recent spate of blog neglect, faithful readers. Real life has been rather hectic as I spent much of April preparing to present a proposal for a series of studies I intend to carry out in pursuit of my doctoral degree to my committee, a task I completed (successfully!) yesterday. It turns out that graduate school is a rather time-consuming and mentally exhausting endeavor at time, so I apologize for using my spare time for little more than movie watching and video game playing. Now that writing a 60 page document is out of the way, I hope that I'll find the vim and vigor to resume my duties here at S&TI! To kick things off this month, I reviewed Siri Hustvedt's newest novel, The Summer Without Men, over at BookPage. This was my first Hustvedt novel, but I can assure you, it shan't be my last. I was blown away by the intellectual depth that is present in her writing, and I loved the complex female dynamics and innerworkings that she explored in this novel. I tore through it due to my looming review deadline, but truly this is a book meant to be read slowly and thought about deeply. I will very much need to read it again, in part because Hustvedt's prose is so deceptively simple that it's all too easy to chug it down when you really should be sipping. If you're at all interested in fiction that features women so real it's like looking in a mirror, then get yourself a copy of this book posthaste! For more details, you can read my full review here.
6th April
2011
written by Steph
For the April issue of BookPage, I pulled double duty and reviewed two new releases, one a debut novel (written by a septuagenarian!), and the other by one of those authors who perpetually finds herself on a the top of the NYT bestseller list.

First up: The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew. I fully admit that I wasn't convinced that I would like this novel when I agreed to review it, but I'm really glad that I kept an open mind because I ultimately found it to be a really powerful evocation of race relations in the South. I worried it would be too derivative of other similar titles, but there is no denying the strength of the narrative Mayhew has created, and it definitely stands on its own two feet (provided book have feet...). Fans of Southern fiction, or those who have enjoyed books like The Help or The Secret Life of Bees definitely need to check this one out. For more info, read my whole review here. And as an added bonus, I did a Q&A with the author which is pretty fascinating if I do say so myself!

As for the heavy-hitter author, I also covered Luanne Rice's latest novel, The Silver Boat. Featuring three sisters who come together to pack up their family summer house in preparation for its sale, this one is great for people who love family sagas filled with rifts and secrets. Check out my full review here!
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