Tag: tournament of books


Sunday Salon: Getting Motivated

Posted 5 February, 2017 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in musings

sunday salon books

Hello, friends. I know it’s been a minute since I showed up here. I want to thank all of you for the kind words you sent in response to my Dear Friend post. It was a difficult post both to write and to decide to keep it live. (I apologize for the insane punctuation in it.) I work in a public job where I deal with many different types of people. Some of which might like to use my mental illness against me. I might also harbor thoughts of running for public office one day. Though honestly, in this current political climate and the more I realize about myself as a person, the more I realize my talents may be better used in a non-profit, like NAMI, Freedom from Religion, or the ACLU, rather than elected position. ANYWAY.

I’m trying to psych myself up to prepare for jury trials next week. I have three cases that may possibly go to trial and currently my preparation has been less than wonderful. There are still plenty of hours between now and Monday morning though.

I finally broke my running streak on Friday. For 38 days I ran at least a mile a day, most days more. I feel like my joints are thanking me for it. I think I might go back out today, I need to stay motivated. The endorphins help me, but unfortunately, they’re just not enough. Registration for the 2018 Disney marathon opens up in nine days, I plan to register.

Finally, the most interesting and relevant part to this blog, my reading has been better and more motivated than it was at the end of 2016. I’m working my way through the Tournament of Books titles at a semi-decent pace. I even have some thoughts in the back of my mind on reviews. I just finished Grief is the Thing With Feathers and absolutely adored it. Katie, my maybe, perhaps guest reviewer/future blog partner is working through the titles too – I’m hoping I can peer pressure her into writing some reviews.

That’s the status of things here in the beautiful state of Georgia, Reader. How are you? Are you motivated? How’s your reading? Exercise? Mood? 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Three for One Thursday: Tournament of Books

Posted 24 March, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

 mini

Bats of the Republic by: Zachary Thomas Dodson

Mini-Synopsis: A historical fiction/dystopian fiction crossover bound together with a beautifully illuminated text.

Mini-Review: This book is clever and manages to straddle two very different (seemingly incompatible) genres at the same time. But first, a word of warning. This book absolutely must be read in the hardcover edition.  No Kindle or other ePub versions, no ARCs. I also have my doubts about how well a library copy would hold up. The story is enough to hold it’s own – but believe me this book is a thousand times more enjoyable if you read it as Dodson (who incidentally is both the author and ‘illuminator’) intended it to be read.

Other Trusted Reviews: Shannon @ River City Reading

Rating: 4 stars

The Sellout by: Paul Beatty

Mini-Synopsis: A satire of epic proportions about an African American man sitting in front of the Supreme Court on some very… interesting charges. Touches on different facets of modern American life such as the United States Constitution, urban life, the civil rights movement, and the father-son relationship.

Mini-Review: Look, this book is hardcore laugh out loud funny. But being a middle class white lady there are points where I felt uncomfortable with the laugh out loud nature of it. As Catherine from The Gilmore Guide to Books put it so eloquently:

“There is a cognitive dissonance in seeing the n-word over and over and over. As In ‘I should NOT be reading a book that uses this word like a comma” but I know it’s a satire.”

YES. EXACTLY THAT. This book is highly enjoyable but sometimes I feel like I’m not really allowed to be laughing at it. Despite that, I have to recommend it.

Other Trusted Reviews: Heather @ Bee’s Book Buzz

Rating: 4.5 stars

A Spool of Blue Thread by: Anne Tyler

Mini-Synopsis: Cradle to grave story about Abby and Red, family life, and growing older.

Mini-Review: This book is pretty well… meh. I really disliked Abby for the majority of the book and quite frankly I just didn’t care about most of the characters. This isn’t to say that Tyler doesn’t do a decent job in fleshing them out – quite the opposite. I just really didn’t care for them. The writing itself is done well enough – but it’s not enough to bump it up into ‘enjoyable’ range for me.

Other Trusted Reviews: Catherine @ The Gilmore Guide to Books

Rating: 2.5 stars

Bring it in, Reader. Thoughts or feelings on any of these? How have your selections been faring during the Tournament of Books?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Sunday Salon: Working Edition

Posted 28 February, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in blogging, musings

sundaysalon-200-pixshark

Time // 12:20 PM EDT

Or it could be named: “It’s Sunday so why not work, edition.” Just got off the phone with a victim who said to me,”I can’t believe your working today.” Yeah. Well. At least I’m working from home. Then I took a phone call from a defense lawyer. The fun never ends.

Hubs is refinishing the doors to the fireplace so it looks less eighties-fabulous. We’ll see how that turns out.

Reading // my way through the Tournament of Books Shortlist. Let’s look at how it’s going. Watch your Instagram.

Tournament of Books 2016 Short-List

  • The New World by Chris Adrian and Eli Horowitz – review
  • The Sellout by Paul Beatty – Currently in DNF status. Trying to revive.
  • Bats of the Republic by Zachary Thomas Dodson – Read
  • The Turner House by Angela Flournoy – review
  • Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff – review
  • Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf – review
  • Ban en Banlieue by Bhanu Kapil – I’m worried about the availability of this one.
  • The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli – Owned and on the list to read.
  • The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra – Read
  • The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen – Read
  • The Whites by Richard Price – review
  • Oreo by Fran Ross – Semi-DNFed
  • The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard – Read
  • The Invaders by Karolina Waclawiak – review
  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara – review

Play-In Round

  • Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving – Just bought the audio, let’s face it… I was going to read this anyway.
  • A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler – Zero interest. Might read it if it actually gets in.

I’m pretty amped at my progress, but also a little disappointed with the selections this year. I haven’t found nearly as many that have blown me away the way they did last year.

I also started The Man in the High Castle after finishing the first season on Amazon Prime. The series appears to be only related to the book in the loosest sense. We’ll see.

Ruffled Feathers // yesterday with my coloring post. I didn’t mean to and in retrospect I wrote it because I really felt alone in not getting the coloring fad. Now I know I’m not. 🙂 Still, good for the colorists! Just not for me.

Edit // Oh! I almost forgot! We went to the circus yesterday (husband’s idea). We all know that among my causes animals and the environment rank pretty low on things that concern me, but I had to stop and think about the absolute hubris of man, of (hu)man(s) in the 21st century that we train wild and majestic animals like tigers and elephants to entertain us by doing parlor tricks. It’s disconcerting to me. Perhaps I think too much. The dogs, horses, and camels don’t bother me… why not? My only guess is that they’re domesticated. I knew there was something else I wanted to put out there. Okay, more working.

I thought I had more to say, but I have a pile of cases that have to be reviewed before arraignment on Wednesday not to mention motions to prepare for tomorrow. What are you doing with your Sunday, Reader?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Magnificent Monday: The Invaders (A Tournament of Books Selection)

Posted 8 February, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Magnificent Monday: The Invaders (A Tournament of Books Selection)The Invaders by Karolina Waclawiak
Published by Simon and Schuster on July 7th 2015
Genres: Fiction, General, Literary
Pages: 240
Format: Kindle Paperwhite
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Over the course of a summer in a wealthy Connecticut community, a forty-something woman and her college-age stepson’s lives fall apart in a series of violent shocks.
Cheryl has never been the right kind of country-club wife. She's always felt like an outsider, and now, in her mid-forties—facing the harsh realities of aging while her marriage disintegrates and her troubled stepson, Teddy, is kicked out of college—she feels cast adrift by the sparkling seaside community of Little Neck Cove, Connecticut. So when Teddy shows up at home just as a storm brewing off the coast threatens to destroy the precarious safe haven of the cove, she joins him in an epic downward spiral.

The Invaders, in a word, is magnificent. It’s a modern day rendering (I suspect intentionally…) of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening.

I love the parallels that it brings out in modern society (and U.S. politics) Lori, the neighbor in the upper-upper middle class neighborhood with more money than sense erecting a fence the keep ‘the Mexicans’ out. The idea that being poor is equivocal with being dangerous and the upsetting idea of people pooping in the ocean. Despite touching on points of white privilege, isolationism, and class politics it’s also a story about family and marriage.

Told through the voices of Cheryl, the second wife of a man who has lived his life behind the walls of white country club money and privilege, and Teddy, the son from his first marriage. Both voices are equally heartbreaking and at times, equally unlikable.

Despite having been married to Jeffery for ten years, Cheryl is still an outsider and wonders how these people who seemingly have nothing to be unhappy about — as they have everything — are.

I wanted to know which of these women were still having sex with their husbands. I wanted to know if I was pathetic of if this was just how it turned out for everybody.

As Cheryl’s isolation becomes more palpable, a hurricane moves in.

At the same time we have Teddy, who should be an ‘insider’ being born and raised in the country club enclave, but still somehow ends up as an ‘invader’. He has his own demons to conquer and ways of battling them that drag out in the open the idea that we can literally give our kids everything and despite that (or perhaps because of it) they will still have their problems and there’s nothing that we as parents can do to help.

For sure, The Invaders is a dark book, but it’s highly readable, with fully fleshed out, complex characters. What I don’t understand is the poor ratings that The Invaders has on Goodreads and Amazon. My only guess is that it was badly marketed as ‘women’s lit’, which I think that if you pick it up with that mindset, of course, you’re going to hate it.

What do you think, Readers? Has anyone out there read this one? I obviously think that it’s highly underrated… what about you? How do you think it will fare in the Tournament of Books?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Mmmmkay Monday: The Only Ones

Posted 1 February, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Mmmmkay Monday: The Only OnesThe Only Ones by Carola Dibbell
Published by Two Dollar Radio on March 10th 2015
Genres: Dystopian, Fiction, Literary, Science Fiction
Pages: 344
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Inez wanders a post-pandemic world, strangely immune to disease, making her living by volunteering as a test subject. She is hired to provide genetic material to a grief-stricken, affluent mother, who lost all four of her daughters within four short weeks. This experimental genetic work is policed by a hazy network of governmental ethics committees, and threatened by the Knights of Life, religious zealots who raze the rural farms where much of this experimentation is done.When the mother backs out at the last minute, Inez is left responsible for the product, which in this case is a baby girl, Ani. Inez must protect Ani, who is a scientific breakthrough, keeping her alive, dodging authorities and religious fanatics, and trying to provide Ani with the childhood that Inez never had, which means a stable home and an education.

The Only Ones for Carrolla Dibbells’ first novel is actually quite good. I want you to think of a cross of The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night meets clones and dystopia.

Inez’s first person prose reminds me very much of what I have come to expect from authors attempting to recreate voices from the autism spectrum. The way that The Only Ones is unique is that it takes that sub-genre of mental health literature and catapults it into a near future scenario where  pandemic flus and diseases are common and ‘dome’ communities are typical.

Quite frankly, I found The Only Ones is an interesting commentary on parenting, the way Inez refers to herself as ‘I.’ feels highly symbolic (maybe as parents we’re all struggling to do the best we can and should stop judging the way each one of us does it?)

On motherhood and other mothers:

So that’s it. They just wanted to watch what I do and tell me what is wrong with it.

C’mon, who among us with kids hasn’t felt that way in the presence of ‘superior’ moms?

The Only Ones is very different from your standard dystopian/epidemic/apocalypse novel. It’s about a society that is functioning, if barely and the grit, determination, and sacrifices that it takes for one poverty stricken woman to subsist in it, with a child no less.

Science minded readers might also be interested… or infuriated. I don’t know enough about genetics or cloning to know how viable (ha! get it?) the science behind it is.

Surprisingly, I found that I really enjoyed this book, Readers. There were points where it lulled just a bit but for the most part it is extremely readable. Has anyone else read it? Anyone else interested?

April

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Whatever Wednesday: The New World (A Tournament of Books Selection)

Posted 27 January, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Whatever Wednesday: The New World (A Tournament of Books Selection)The New World by Chris Adrian, Eli Horowitz
Published by Atavist Books on August 12th 2014
Genres: Fiction, Psychological, Technological, Thrillers
Pages: 158
Goodreads
two-half-stars

What is the purpose of life? If you could send a message to the future what would it be? Why do you deserve, not desire, to live forever?

Acclaimed author Chris Adrian (The Children’s Hospital, The Great Night) joins the award-winning creators of The Silent History – Eli Horowitz and Russell Quinn to create an innovative digital novel about memory, grief and love. The New World is the story of a marriage. Dr. Jane Cotton is a pediatric surgeon: her husband, Jim, is a humanist chaplain. They are about to celebrate their eighth wedding anniversary when Jim suddenly collapses and dies. When Jane arrives at the hospital she is horrified to find that her husband’s head has been removed from his body. Only then does she discover that he has secretly enrolled with a shadowy cryogenics company called Polaris.Furious and grieving, Jane fights to reclaim Jim from Polaris. Revived, in the future, Jim learns he must sacrifice every memory of Jane if he wants to stay alive in the new world. Separated by centuries, each of them is challenged to choose between love and fear, intimacy and solitude, life and grief, and each will find an answer to the challenge that is surprising, harrowing, and ultimately beautiful.

I wanted The New World to be so much better than it was. For the first half I was absolutely entranced by the idea. It was complex and beautifully written. I liked the alternating viewpoints between Jim in the future and Jane grieving in the past. The world building was done well and the idea of cryogenics as something real and sustainable – eventually to the point where people are able to be ‘resurrected’ was even believable to a point.

The anger that Jane felt towards the Polaris Corporation was palpable and extraordinarily well done. I loved the attempt she made at suing the company and the subsequent consequences. I enjoyed Jim as a ‘humanist chaplain’, this naturally appealed to my atheist side – seeing how Jim handled people grieving with faith as an atheist and how he handled grieving in the future in the same way.

About …. ‘eh … 60 to 70 percent of the way through the novel it seems like something gets lost. All the interesting and compelling plot points kind of fall to the floor and the authors of The New World just seem to lose interest. It meanders for awhile before ultimately taking a nosedive and leaving me wondering what the hell just happened to what was such a gorgeous little novel to begin with.

I felt the way that many Goodreads reviewers seemed to feel that this novel(la) would have been better off as a short story because it was only towards the end that things got bad. Sometimes a quick and mysterious ending is better for me.

Anyone out there read this one? It’s a contender for Tournament of Books 2016, how do you think it’s going to do?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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It’s Monday… Tournament of Books 2016 is ON!

Posted 25 January, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in blogging, books and publishing, Reading

tournament of books 2016 rooster

I don’t often participate in the ‘It’s Monday…’ posts, but it’s the most wonderful time of the year! I have the Tournament of Books 2016 short-list in hand and am readying myself for battle. Unfortunately all the books I decided to read from the long-list failed to make the cut, but I enjoyed most of them heartily so really there’s nothing to complain about.

So let’s take a look at the work ahead of us:

Tournament of Books 2016 Short-List

  • The New World by Chris Adrian and Eli Horowitz – review
  • The Sellout by Paul Beatty – Currently in DNF status. Will be revived.
  • Bats of the Republic by Zachary Thomas Dodson – Read
  • The Turner House by Angela Flournoy – review
  • Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff – review
  • Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf – review
  • Ban en Banlieue by Bhanu Kapil – I’m worried about the availability of this one.
  • The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli – Owned and on the list to read.
  • The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra – Read
  • The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen – Read
  • The Whites by Richard Price – review
  • Oreo by Fran Ross – Probably the next one I’ll read.
  • The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard – Read
  • The Invaders by Karolina Waclawiak – review
  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara – review

Play-In Round

  • Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving – Just bought the audio, let’s face it… I was going to read this anyway.
  • A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler – Zero interest. Might read it if it actually gets in.

Updated 28 February 16

Taking Stock…

Out of the fifteen definite books I’ve read three, I own twelve, plus the John Irving in the play-in round. To make any of it count I need to get to reading! A little sad that Look Who’s Back from the long-list didn’t make it but, c’est la vie, this gives me more books to read! I also may still review Mort(e) from the long-list because, man, that book was weird.

Anyway, Reader… are you taking part in the fun? What books from the Tournament of Books 2016 short list look like they appeal to you? 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Wicked Wednesday: Slade House

Posted 23 December, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Wicked Wednesday: Slade HouseSlade House by David Mitchell
Published by Hachette UK on October 27th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, General, Horror, Literary, Occult & Supernatural, Science Fiction
Pages: 240
Goodreads
four-stars

Born out of the short story David Mitchell published on Twitter in 2014 and inhabiting the same universe as his latest bestselling novel The Bone Clocks, this is the perfect book to curl up with on a dark and stormy night. Turn down Slade Alley - narrow, dank and easy to miss, even when you're looking for it. Find the small black iron door set into the right-hand wall. No handle, no keyhole, but at your touch it swings open. Enter the sunlit garden of an old house that doesn't quite make sense; too grand for the shabby neighbourhood, too large for the space it occupies.A stranger greets you by name and invites you inside. At first, you won't want to leave. Later, you'll find that you can't.This unnerving, taut and intricately woven tale by one of our most original and bewitching writers begins in 1979 and reaches its turbulent conclusion around Hallowe'en, 2015. Because every nine years, on the last Saturday of October, a 'guest' is summoned to Slade House. But why has that person been chosen, by whom and for what purpose? The answers lie waiting in the long attic, at the top of the stairs...

As stated in the synopsis Slade House takes place in the same universe as Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks and I picked it up for precisely the same reason, Slade House has been chosen on the Tournament of Books 2016 long list. (The Bone Clocks was a short list pick for 2015).

It’s worth noting however, that it wasn’t until at least halfway through the book that I realized we were hanging out with some of Holly Sykes good friends. Slade House is written in Mitchell’s unique style, a series of vignettes that at first are seemingly unrelated, until finally the picture comes into a very sharp focus.

Not as long as The Bone Clocks or as esoteric as Cloud Atlas, I think this is a great pick for people just starting to dabble in Mitchell’s work. Slade House gives a great sampling of some of Mitchell’s greatest strengths, his character development (even in a remarkably short period of time), his ability to develop exceedingly creepy and uneasy environments, and just the general beauty of his words.

I’m also intrigued by the synopsis that Slade House was born out of short story on Twitter. I want to know more about that!

Highly recommended to David Mitchell fans, haunted house lovers, and those that love creepy atmospheric novels.

Other Reviewers Thoughts…

Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books

Karen at One More Page

Read More Books

What do you think, Reader? Appropriate review for the day before Christmas Eve? Have you read Slade House? Any other Mitchell?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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YA Wednesday: Vivian Apple at the End of the World

Posted 16 December, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

YA Wednesday: Vivian Apple at the End of the WorldVivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on 2015
Genres: Action & Adventure, Christian, Dystopian, General, Religious, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 272
Goodreads
four-stars

Seventeen-year-old Vivian Apple never believed in the evangelical Church of America, unlike her recently devout parents. But when Vivian returns home the night after the supposed "Rapture," all that’s left of her parents are two holes in the roof. Suddenly, she doesn't know who or what to believe. With her best friend Harp and a mysterious ally, Peter, Vivian embarks on a desperate cross-country roadtrip through a paranoid and panic-stricken America to find answers. Because at the end of the world, Vivan Apple isn't looking for a savior. She's looking for the truth.

Vivian Apple at the End of the World is a little bit different than your average YA dystopia novel. First of all, it packs some very interesting political and social commentary into a pretty readable package. Second, it takes on one of my favorite topics, the issue of the giant American mega-churches. Third… well, third it’s just good reading fun.

This novel addresses the very scary, unprecedented relation between corporate power in America and the manipulation of its citizens.

But one shouldn’t dismiss this novel for just atheists or agnostics, it (admittedly towards the end) clarifies the position that not all Believers should be lumped together.

But let me tell you this: you can’t go through life distinguishing the Believers from the Non-Believers and divvying up your love and trust accordingly. It’s more complicated than that, Viv, and you know it.

But I think that the subtext of not lumping people together goes further than religion though. Vivian Apple tackles parentage and to a lesser extent, race.

I read the first of this series? trilogy? because it’s on the Tournament of Books long list, but it was good enough that I might seek out the second Vivian Apple novel in the series to see where it goes.

What do you think, Reader? I know a lot of us are tired of YA dystopia, but does this sound like a new spin on an old genre?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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