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I feel sorry for Ms. Morgenstern.  What, you say, that’s crazy!  She got an almost obscene advance for her very first novel  with nary a writing credit to her name.  The movie rights have already been sold (were sold before the book was published) to the makers of the Twilight movies.  Rumor has it Harry Potter’s simply magical David Heyman will produce.  What’s to feel sorry for?

Two reasons: 

A) According to the Wall St. Journal, publishers, book sellers, movie producers, marketing gurus everywhere, and (not incidentally) readers, all think that The Night Circus will be the next  Harry Potter!


B) I’ve read 49 pages of  Night Circus.  It’s not Harry Potter.

Hold up, wait a minute (put a little boom in it. . .).  This is not a bad thing.  Or a good thing.  It’s just, well, a different thing. 

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I can’t remember if I’ve previously read The Catcher in the Rye, and therefore I’m not sure if I cheated when I put it here in “Books I Should Have Read Before.” When I opened it for what I thought was the first time, I vaguely remembered some details as if I’d dreamed them: Pencey Prep, the phonies, some ice skating. Maybe everyone was right when they answered my, “I”ve never read it!” claims with, “That’s impossible — they force you to.” “They,” of course, are our teachers, the ones who have made this assignment fiction for as far back as anyone can remember. I wonder if that’s why I can only remember fragments. Did I never finish it? Did I get bored halfway through because Holden, that prissy dip, couldn’t just man up and do his homework like I was every day? Whether I made it through to the end or not, it’s obvious why the book failed me then and why it probably fails so many other kids: it’s not a book for kids.
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If you’re going to write a book about Beefeaters in the tower of London, it doesn’t hurt to be named Stuart.  For the uninitiated, Stuart is the illustrious (infamous?) last name of James I of England (son of Mary Queen of Scots).  And even though the author is likely no relation (she makes absolutely no such claims) it lends a certainly legitimacy to her story.

Which is funny because I really did believe everything she wrote in this book, though the rational side of my brain kept reminding me, as the title drives home (der, it’s “a novel”).  Her snippets of Tower “history” were just kooky enough to be true.  The scientist in me is eager to go read a history of the tower to check, but the reader in me wants to let sleeping ravens lie.

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 As regular readers of this blog know, I’m contrary about a lot of things, but particularly when my ‘non reading’ friends recommend a book.  I resist, I balk, I dig in my heels until either one of two things happens a) someone literally puts the book in my hands and says “READ IT!” or b) a ‘real’ reading friend recommends it.  If neither of these two things happen I simple become of those people who appear behind the times, but is secretly sitting smugly and patting myself on the back for not following the crowd.  Of course, as I’ve acknowledged before, this kind of thinking is potentially dangerous, since I would miss some amazing reading.   And really, who am I to judge what other people are reading?  At least people still are reading, even if it is on an e-reader (don’t get me started there. . .).  Sometimes, like now, when I’m too tired and dazed to concentrate, easy reading, good reading, fun reading is exactly what is needed.

Like the rest of the world I’d been hearing about Sarah’s Key everywhere.  Lots of people I knew had read it and were lauding it, but these were all the same people who read Water for Elephants (full disclosure, I read that too, but in hardcover, before everyone was mad about it and before that Twilight guy made a movie of it).  My mother, the mother-of-all-readers, brought it over and put it on my shelf without so much as a comment (apparently option c to get me to read something).   I found it after I spent three days enthralled with The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and needed some fiction.  However I wouldn’t call this book, a story about the Holocaust, easy nor fun, but it was in so many aspects, very very good.

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My mother’s reading habits are less like Jesse’s and more like mine.  She reads quickly, broadly and plentifully (is that a word? spell check says it is).  This, in addition to our generally similar test, and our always similar distaste in fiction make us especially good reading partners. 

She and I exchange books so often that we don’t always remember whose book it was originally.  We also share with many others in the family and with select friends, so it can get confusing.  For instance she recently recommended a book to my sister-in-law that my sister-in-law had given to me which I then passed on to my mom. 

Further, sometimes we want the books back, sometimes we don’t care where they end up.  So we have a system.  Anything we want back we put our address label inside.  Anything we don’t want is blank.  Apparently though, somewhere along the way, we needed some improvements on this system.  I went to my mom’s house the other day and saw a familiar book on the table.  I picked it up and read the back and thought “Hey, this sounds like a good read.”  I looked inside and found a post-it note in my own handwriting:

“You have read this book before.  And yes, you need the reminder.”

I laughed so hard I had tears in my eyes.  The funniest part is, that neither she nor I can remember who the note was for.  Clearly we’ve both read the book before and at least one of us (if not both) has attempted to read it again.  So it’s entirely possible she is currently reading it for a third time – and enjoying it.  I might even take it from her when she’s done.

What does this have to do with A New Mom’s Guide to Reading?   Rereading!

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I forgot my book in the other room earlier this morning.  Not a problem for a normal person, but a huge problem for a new mom.

Now that I have a newborn, my world has diminished substantially from as recently as a month ago.  My world, in its entirety, consists of three rooms in my house.  As such, I have come to realize the importance of having things at arm’s length (yes, one arm, because the other is holding the baby).  Not just things such as burp cloths, tissues, a glass of juice (I do think it is possible, like  Tantalus, to die of thirst within sight of refreshment), but other things like this laptop I’m writing on, or, for those brief moments when the baby is finally asleep and I can’t move from my position, a book.

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I’m reading a French novel.

Just writing that conjures up all sorts of fantasies I’ve often had about my alter ego.  This girl  majored in English (instead of Science) and spent her college days sitting in the courtyard of an old, New England, brownstonish, liberal arts college.   She drank coffee (something I really do detest), read obsessively (something I actually do) and discussed the relative merits of Russian versus British authors (even in my wildest fantasy she hates those darn Russians, she is me after all. . .) with her equally pretentious but brilliant friends (my real friends are indeed brilliant, but hardly pretentious).  This alter ego of mine, incidentally, was taller, thinner, had red hair and wore glasses due to an affected sense of fashion rather than out of actual need.

But fantasies aside, it’s a New York Times bestselling French novel.  In other words, just a book like any other. Read the rest of this entry »

51q1ZdQ0YGL__SL500_AA240_“I love this book,” I said to Tim while attempting read in a moving car, something that, to my intense frustration, I have never quite managed to do without wanting to vomit (thankfully I can read on a moving train, which makes my long commute more bearable). 

 “Listen to this,” I said, quoting page one (yes, page ONE!!).

Hours later, not long after the genesis of Francis Wells’ idea, the party would meet a premature death with a cloud of plaster dust covering the Gardner’s guests, as well as a dessert table graced with spun-sugar Giacomettis and the life-sized sculpture of Michelangelo’s David, whose penis had all evening been dripping syphilitically.


“And this!” I raved.

By ten p.m. there had been three slideshows – one of which, “Hop Art: A  Portfolio,” projected photos of Bunny’s own work onto the ballroom walls, interspersed with a  series of dinner courses as carefully presented and unsatisfying as Francis’ wife.

“I didn’t want to love it, but there it is, how could I not?”

“Don’t you want to love all books?” he asked, confused.

I pondered his question; certainly its a valid one.   When it comes to reading, as with the rest of life, I’m total cynic. I certainly don’t expect to love all books – an inordinate amount of what is published is trash, or boring, or overdone (or pleasant and inoffensive, but forgettable).   But there are those who allege that cynics are disappointed idealists.  Maybe.  If it were not true that a vast majority of published works are just plain mediocre, if we did live in an ideal world, would I really want to love every book I read? 

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King Arthur may well be the ur-fantasy story.   The ur-hero story even.  This story has been told countless times, in many forms including, quite notably, Monty Python’s version (you can’t expect to wield supreme executive power just because some watery tart threw a sword at you!), one of my personal favorites.  There is even much academic debate about whether a real Arthur or Merlin existed. While that is mildly interesting, and I have been known to read a treatise or two about what might have happened, I’d much rather read pages and pages (and pages and pages) of stories about what could have happened.

The Arthurian legends were certainly my first foray into “fantasy” and it’s the one story I never tire of, no matter what the medium.  I daresay I’ve read them “all” – The Mists of Avalon, the Sword in the Stone, The Once and Future King, even Tennyson’s Idylls of the King.  I have a grand copy of Le Morte d’Arthur, almost too beautiful to read (or at least that’s my current excuse for not reading it). 

I love this story (or should I say stories) so much that I took an entire class in college about King Arthur (me, a science major!), in which we read the older texts based on the oral legends (where Gawain was the hero, not some pretty French dude).  They aren’t as flowery as the Lancelot versions with their courtly love, chivalry and the round table, but it is those gritty older texts that, in my humble opinion, have spawned the best modern Arthurian works.  As my high school English teacher always told us “Arthur was a peer of Beowulf.”  Which means, though he likely carried a sword, his armor was made of leather instead of metal, and he probably didn’t joust.

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Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan: Book CoverI admit the title got me on this one.  And I still think the title is good, probably the best part of the book.

In the beginning this book promised a lot:  mysteries & conspiracies, action & adventure, love and even a little sex (it is a YA novel after all).

In the end I was left unsatisfied and totally disappointed.  None of the promise was fulfilled.

I don’t have a huge problem with zombie stories, though as a germ-phobe I always get distracted about where such epidemic zombie infections come from.  I think that lately though, zombies are a bit overdone.  I mean look at some recent movies: 28 Days Later, I am Legend, and even Shaun of the Dead.   These are just some mainstream movies, I haven’t even delved into the “horror” movies.  Basically the undead are everywhere. 

Still this book could have capitalized on the current (and probably persistent) zombie-philia. 

It didn’t. 

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Jessica’s Reading

Jesse’s Reading

Jesse and Jessica are Both Reading

Devin’s Reading