Friday, April 24, 2015

UPDATES: Dewey's Readathon!

Update: I had a terrific time! I started with Hello from the Gillespies, since I'd enjoyed reading it so much and was hoping it would get me through my April reading slump - it did, and then some.  This also meant that I finished my first book for the ReadingMyLibrary Challenge, thank goodness.

I'd been thinking of reading The Marco Effect next, since Adler-Olsen has been a favorite Nordic crime novelist of mine in the past, but decided to read The River of No Return instead, since it sounded so incredible.  I really loved the first 300 pages, and then thought: Am I getting tired, or is the plot getting more confusing? I finished it on Sunday, and it wasn't just the fatigue.  

Overall, I'm so glad I joined.  I got a ton of reading done, and it felt great.  Throughout, I almost wanted more Saturdays to be like that one - more time reading, more time connecting with others, more time eating snacks :)

Thanks Team Popper for stopping by and cheering me on - I can't wait till next readathon.

Dewey's Readathon is tomorrow, April 25th! It's a chance for readers and bloggers to come together and honor the memory of one blogger, Dewey, who started the readathon, and to read as much as possible for 24 hours.  I'm joining in for the first time - while I'm nervous about how much I'll actually be able to finish, I feel so good about reading alongside fellow book lovers.  Almost all of the joint activities that I've been a part of in this book-blogging world have been so, so fun.

Getting down to it - while I won't be able to post updates or join in the twitter chats until Saturday evening, I will be reading! I'm excited to dedicate my day to eating, reading, and standing around waiting for the bus with a book.

Below are the ones I'll have in rotation, linked to Goodreads.  Will I get through all of them? Nope.  But I like a little variety in my life, and who knows what I'll actually be in the mood to pick up!

Hello from the Gillespies by Monica McInerney (e-book)
Percentage before: 32
Percentage after: 100 

Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris (e-book)
Percentage before: 14

The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway
Pages read: 346

Labyrinth by Kate Mosse

How Children Succeed by Paul Tough

The Marco Effect by Jussi Adler-Olsen

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

My Mother's House and Sido by Colette

Are you joining Dewey's Readathon? What's on your list? 

Can't wait to check out everyone's reading tomorrow :)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Review of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich

Nickel and Dimed is a book I've been wanting to read for ages (see: here), but I didn't realize that as soon as I picked it up from the library that I'd devour it in one day - almost in one sitting.  It was compelling, devastating, heartbreaking, and funny all at the same time.  If you're looking for a (nonfiction) book that will make you seriously think about how to change the world, go now and read this one.

Okay.  Phew! Now down to it.

Basic plot: (from Barnes and Noble) Millions of Americans work full time, year round, for poverty-level wages. In 1998, Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them. She was inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised that a job -- any job -- can be the ticket to a better life. But how does anyone survive, let alone prosper, on $6 an hour?

To find out, Ehrenreich left her home, took the cheapest lodgings she could find, and accepted whatever jobs she was offered. Moving from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, she worked as a waitress, a hotel maid, a cleaning woman, a nursing-home aide, and a Wal-Mart sales clerk. She lived in trailer parks and crumbling residential motels. Very quickly, she discovered that no job is truly "unskilled," that even the lowliest occupations require exhausting mental and muscular effort. She also learned that one job is not enough; you need at least two if you [intend] to live indoors. 

Nickel and Dimed reveals low-rent America in all its tenacity, anxiety, and surprising generosity -- a land of Big Boxes, fast food, and a thousand desperate stratagems for survival. Read it for the smoldering clarity of Ehrenreich's perspective and for a rare view of how "prosperity" looks from the bottom. You will never see anything -- from a motel bathroom to a restaurant meal -- in quite the same way again.

On a scale from 1 to Cripplingly Depressing: Oh, man.  I would say that the realism - the reality of the situations she describes in this book - is what makes it a serious read.  I found myself asking: How do you build community or a positive outlook in these situations? How do you in any way get out?  If I were working in one of the places she worked, I don't know that I could have read this book.  That said, Ehrenreich is tremendously funny and honest, which kept the book buoyant.

Thoughts: Ehrenreich wrote this book over ten years ago, and it doesn't seem as though (minimum) wages have gone up very much - from 1998 to 2008 to 2015.  So what happens when the job market, even for low wage jobs, tanks? For years? Ehrenreich used the word "shameful" to describe what's been going on - and it is.  The middle class bubble she talks about was something I'd never thought of in that way, and it seems very, very true.  Additionally, one of my favorite things about the book was how beautifully she captured the interactions and relationships between co-workers.  You really get a sense of people in the workspace, not case studies.

Teeth-gnashing: There aren't really any resolutions to the problems she presents.  I don't think that the point of the book was to solve the problems, since they are so huge, but it would have been nice to know what I could do when I finished reading.

Memories from reading: Got home from the library and couldn't even wait to put everything away before I started reading.  Green gingham chair all the way.

Weapon of Choice: Paperback!

Other titles by this author:
Living With A Wild God: A Non-believer's Search for the Truth About Everything
Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America
Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream

Have you read anything by Barbara Ehrenreich? What have you read recently that's been all-consuming, or left you thinking about it long after you were done?

(If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Top Ten All Time Favorite Authors

Good gravy.  How do you pick just ten of your favorite authors?

I decided to make rules, because otherwise it's impossible (impossible!) to narrow it down.  There are too many. I asked myself: which books have I picked up and read and re-read (and haven't already written about ad nauseam on this blog)? How many of those authors have written other books that I've picked up and read and re-read?

And then I chose.  Eurgh.

So, yes, JK Rowling and Zora Neale Hurston should be on this list, as well as Hans Fallada, Frantz Fanon, Leo Tolstoy, and Diana Gabaldon.  But here we have it, cut down to a mere ten.  Three ladies, seven men, all white, five from Western Europe, five from these United States, nine out of ten deceased.  If you want to read something (potentially) life-changing, go pick up one of their books/letters/essays/poems.  My favorites? Linked in their names.

From left to right!

Top Row: 
Bottom Row: 

Also, whenever I see that picture of John Steinbeck I think: You old cad, you.

(If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.)

Who are your ten all time favorite authors? Would you be able to narrow it down?

Friday, April 17, 2015

April is the cruelest month

If I'm being completely honest, I haven't been feeling the book love in April.  I don't know what it is - I flew through the first few months of the year, but at last it seems to have slowed.  I didn't continue most of the books I had checked out from the library, and didn't feel like reading anything.  I started and stopped, started and stopped (which is a bit what life feels like right now).  I'm not even gonna tell you what I'm reading now, I'm that ridiculous worried it won't stick.

My one reading relief has been National Poetry Month.  I love poetry - at its best, I think it can help cure almost any melancholy feeling, and it captures so much of what is beautiful in life.  I've been discovering new poems and poets through the Poetry Foundation, and have forged ahead with Yehuda Amichai and W.H. Auden, old favorites.

There is Walt Whitman too, a dog-eared companion, who so captures America (and life) for me I can't stand it.  Below is an excerpt from a poem he wrote after Abraham Lincoln was killed, called When Lilacs Last in Dooryard Bloom'd:
Lo, the most excellent sun so calm and haughty,
The violet and purple morn with just-felt breezes,
The gentle soft-born measureless light,
The miracle spreading bathing all, the fulfill’d noon,
The coming eve delicious, the welcome night and the stars,
Over my cities shining all, enveloping man and land.

Go read the rest here - and have a beautiful spring weekend!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

March in Review

Oh, gosh.  It's only the second full week of April, so I don't feel as though I've procrastinated too much for a month in review.  Let's get to it.  Outside of the blog, March was filled with a lot of travel, some fantastic events, a few tough decisions, and a lot of library time.  Inside the blog, I thought about what I wanted from this space, how I could make it happen, and got down to do a bunch of hard (but good) work.

So what went on?

Reviews (2):

I had a goal of posting two reviews per month, which I did! I also created a posting schedule, blogged ahead, and made changes to the way I engage with the book blogging community (aka, became less of a scaredy-cat about tweeting and commenting) - and I feel really good about all of it.

Finished (4):

Nonfiction was at the head of the line - it was one of my reading goals for 2015, and I'm proud of myself for making progress on it.  Through Everyday Reading, I discovered Laura Vanderkam's books, and then finally got to Nickel and Dimed, which was on my TBR for ages and ages.  Also, unplanned but pretty neat - all of the books I finished this month were written by women.

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam
All The Money In The World: What the Happiest People Know About Getting and Spending by Laura Vanderkam

Begun (2):

Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett
Blanche Among The Talented Tenth by Barbara Neely

Added a Reviews and a Benefits (of reading) page
Edited the New Here page
Fixed mobile issue

Overall, I'd say it was a good month. How was your March? Better still, how is your April coming along? If you do Month In Review posts, share in the comments below - I'd love to hear your take on them!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Oh, The Books!

Happy Friday!

Today I'm doing my first-ever guest post over at Oh, The Books! with Asti and Kelley - I'm excited, I'm nervous, their site is fantastic, has a great voice, and their weekly recaps are *beyond* detailed (seriously, if you want to get an incredible spread of what's been going on in the book blogging world, that's the place) - so go check them out!

Monday, April 6, 2015

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

This weekend, I was able to take advantage of some down time to finish up one of my very first NetGalley books, Blanche Among The Talented Tenth by Barbara Neely.  It was exciting for me (dorky but true), and is a mystery that I've been reading for a few weeks.  I really enjoyed getting to know the main character, Blanche White, and was surprised by the author's style and approach.  I'll have a full review up soon, but for now let's say it was a good read.

I decided to crack open Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris next, as part of the Reading My Library Challenge for the month of April.  There's a certain edge to Harris's books that I hadn't picked up on, but so far I like it.  It's part of her "food trilogy," which also includes Chocolat (which I haven't read, but did see the movie, yum).  This scratches both my travel bug and my magical realism itch - double win.

What are you reading this week? Anything juicy? Or are you still recuperating from the holiday weekend?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Reading My Library Challenge

First of all, Happy April!! Spring is here, I can feel it.  Daffodils are blooming, the wind has kicked in full gear - it's time.

Second! Today is the first day of the Reading My Library Challenge, hosted by Stefani at Caught Read Handed, and I am so excited to be participating.  The rules are: for the whole month of April, read free books - aka, any book you want from your local library.  You only have to read one book to participate, but the book blogiverse is large, contains multitudes (WW reference, you betcha), and I know so many people are going to read, like, 37 books and be casual about it.

Not so here at Small Hour Books.  I'll probably read one or two.  We keep our books free and our reviews short here, as you can tell.

You can tweet about your books using the hashtag #ReadingMyLibrary and check out all sorts of cool links from other bloggers as well as giveaways (!!) over at Stefani's blog.

Here is what I'll be reading:

Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett - I know, I know, I've already been reading this one for a while.  Nutt and Glenda!

The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco - old school audiobook disks for this one, a book club read for April 19th.  Pray for me that I'll actually be able to get through all 12 disks by the meeting.

and then, some either/ors:

Prince of Persia by Jordan Mechner, A.B. Sima, LeUyen Pham and Alex Puvilland - my first ever graphic novel, based on a video game I played in the early 90's.  So far, meh.  Long.  We'll see!

The Girl Who Owned A City by O.T. Nelson, Dan Jolley, Joelle Jones and Jenn Manley Lee - another graphic novel, which looks either silly or like zombie apocalypse with kick-ass girl protagonists.

Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse - this was a desperate grab as I was leaving the library when it was closing.  I'm always on the lookout for a good mystery, and I panicked, so here we are.  I may take this one on the plane with me for some chilled British humor during takeoff.

Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris - I loved (loved) Peaches for Father Francis, and thought I'd try this one.  I've never read any of Harris's books, only listened to them, so we'll see how this goes.

Alright.  Sheba's giving me that look, so I'm off.  Read along this month! Use your library! E-books are great, and there are so many neat resources available through your library.  What else are you gonna do this month??

Happy reading, and happy spring :)