Goodreads Book Awards Winners (and my challenge)

In case you haven’t noticed, the delightful website of bookish glory has announced their winners to the 2013 Book Awards. I’ve read a few of them, which is always lovely, but not the vast majority of them.

So here is the plan. My challenge (to myself) for 2014 is to read (re-read) the books that the good users of Goodreads chose as their top books of 2013. And to also read various other books that won awards this year (Costa, Waterstones, Man Booker, National etc. If you think of another one let me know and I’ll tackle the winner!)

I’ll have to come up with a list and post it here to keep myself honest.

But! Here are the winners of this year’s Goodreads book awards:

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Surprise! A Bookstore!

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I’ve spent a decent amount of my life traveling as Sara will tell you. And over my travels I’ve found that inevitably I’ll find a bookstore. I was going through my photos and found this!!

While on spring break during my semester abroad spring 2007 two friends and I went to Amsterdam and got horrendously lost every time we tried to go so where. To the point that we have taken to calling it the trip of ‘Let’s go that way’. I loved it because I’m weird and really enjoy getting lost in new places. My friends, not so much.

So when we happened across this American Book Center, my friends were all for exploring the store. And it was HUGE!! Like seriously massive and I just adored it. My friends were less excited when they realized how long I could spend in the store. They ultimately tempted me out with coffee and the fact that we had a canal tour booked.

Hilariously, I don’t actually seek out bookstores when I travel. I generally have books with me and don’t really feel the need to find local bookstores. So the fact that I found one, by accident and it was an English language store was kind of awesome. I know some people go out searching for bookstores when they travel, but there is something so much more fun about coming across them organically. There is a sense of wonder when you find a bookstore out of the blue. You can walk in and take a breath and just know you’re home, which can help especially when you’re in a foreign country, or even a different city in your own country.

Bookstores are magical places, why not let them find you while you get lost in a foreign place?

Mostly I wanted to share a photo of a bookstore in Amsterdam called The American Book Center, which I thought was fun.

❤ Alissa

Goodreads Is Doing It Again!

The delightful Goodreads is holding their very own “Best Book of 2013” vote-athon!! This I love. I really REALLY do. Because, while I have great respect for book awards, very often they are not always the books that everyone reads over the year.

Goodreads Candidates

They’re generally books we all pick up after it wins or is put on the short list, but I don’t know that we all generally

go out and pick up some of these books before they make it on to  that list.

So, to have Goodreads hold an annual “Best of” for it’s members to vote in makes me all ten kinds of happy. Voting is going to last all month, with three rounds of voting:

  • Opening Round – Nov. 4-9
  • Semifinals- Nov. 11-16
  • Finals- Nov. 18-25

Now, the initial 15 books in each category were chosen by Goodreads, but after that, we the readers! Get to pick the winners in each of the 20 categories, which is just all ten kinds of cool!

If you are a Goodreads member you should definitely go vote for your favorite. You only get to vote once in each round, but it’s so worth it to be able to be apart of choosing a book award.

Happy Voting!

❤ Alissa

Romance Novels, A Study

Now, this isn’t so much a book review as it is a thought on a book genre. So, most of what I’ve read this year has been young adult novels, which are generally fantastic and I love them. But over the course of the  year I’ve found that I have sporadic bursts of romance novels. Where in I read anywhere between three and six romance novels in a row. And clearly I’m having one of the bursts now, I’m on book 3.

This isn’t a bad thing per say, but it does put me in a rather awkward position of desperately wanting someone to share my life with in a relationship-y kind of way. So, it doesn’t help when Army-Dude shows up and is moderately fantastic in the knee weakening kind of way.

BUT, this is not for my own personal feelings.

Over the summer, I posted a list of 10 things I’d learned about romance novels after a 5-book binge. I originally posted them on my tumblr, but here they are for easy reads:

1. They are decidedly unfair.
2. They give you unrealistic expectations in life.
3. Men are never how they are in the books.
4. They are extraordinarily addicting.
5. You fall in love every time.
6. There is always a moment of heartbreak, but they always manage to fix it.
7. A meddling family member/friend is always on hand to help them realize their love.
8. Happily ever afters are the norm.
9. That moment when you realize ‘love at first glance’ isn’t a thing in real life and your heart breaks a little.
10. You read, safe in the knowledge that the pairing you want will always happen no matter what and that restores, at least somewhat, your faith in love.

The thing about romance is you really get sucked into them and, well, the romance of the situation. And I for one, find it difficult to come out of it, which is why I probably spend a week binging on regency romances or cowboy heros.

Honestly, the list pretty much says everything I need to about romance novels, but I feel the need to defend them as well.

The tendency to dismiss the Harlequin novels as drivel and ridiculousness is moderately insulting, because regardless of what you think of them, someone put the time into writing them and coming up with a plot, no matter how… lacking they might seem. I imagine it’s similar to how I feel about “50 Shades of Grey” – which yes, I’ve read under my own volition.

To me, romance novels are an escape when I feel like I’m alone. Reading in general is always an escape, but when it comes to romance novels I can find love and feel in love and I just love that.

It’s a weak argument for sure, but there it is. I love feeling loved and romance novels make it happen for me as I continue my adventures in single-hood.

So, there you are. My study into romance novels. Any more thoughts? Let me know in the comments!

❤ Alissa

Publisher’s Weekly Best Books of 2013

Publisher’s Weekly Best Books of 2013

Some of these are fairly interesting picks. I like looking at Publisher’s Weekly every so often to see what they’re thinking. I don’t always agree with them, but I like reading them.

Have you read any of these so far this year? Anything you really enjoyed thats not on the list?

❤ Alissa

An Open Letter to Rainbow Rowell

Dear Ms Rowell,

Was it your goal to rip my heart out and make me pain when writing ‘Eleanor and Park’? Did you intend to make me want to read a series that could never possibly hope to exist except in ‘Fangirl’?

I hope you realize Ms Rowell that you have successfully scared me with your written emotions and feels. I’m fangirl_eleanor and parkbattered and bruised from the reading of your stories and I hope you can handle knowing that. And yet, I find that my life would have been very much not the same had I not endeavored to read your books.

Because regardless of the pain and suffering that occurred while reading ‘Eleanor and Park’, I was able remember what it felt like to be in high school love. I felt awful for Park and even worse for Eleanor and desperately wanted there to be an epilogue to tell me that they’d found each other again somewhere. Because mostly, Eleanor deserved it.

Park deserved it too, since he put as much of his emotion into the relationship as she did, but OMG does Eleanor need to be loved better than she was. I want to know what happens to her evil Stepfather and her siblings and mother.

Beyond that, my heart ached with every page and I loved it. Beyond words

As for ‘Fangirl’. WHY CAN’T I READ SIMON SNOW IN REAL LIFE? I’d have devoured his world like I did this book. I read this book in minutes practically. I loved it beyond words.

You, Ms. Rowell, are clearly one of us. You captured our fangirl-ness to a T and I found it hilarious to relive my own freshman year through Cath.

I mean, I didn’t have an older man wanting me or a twin sister or a father clearly in the throws of depression, but I lived that life of freshman not knowing how to live in college and make new friends.

So thank you, Ms Rowell, for reminding me of my high school love and helping me to remember what it was like being on the outside of a group and unsure how or even if I wanted to be a part of it.

Yours, emotionally scarred and loving it,

Alissa ❤

Podcast: Sherlock And His Fandoms

Our very first official podcast has been posted!

We still can’t figure out how to embed an audio player into this blog, but please go listen to our podcast HERE!Our logo

Show notes:

Most story information was gathered from the special edition leather bound “The Complete Collection of Sherlock Holmes” by Sir Arthur Conan Dolye and published by Barnes and Noble.

Some historical information was gathered from the ever wonderful Wikipedia.

WE ARE NOT BEING PAID BY ANYONE TO TALK ABOUT ANY PRODUT OR WEBSITE. We thought we should say that again.

For information about the BBC show Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman go here.

For information about the film duo with Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr. go here.

The two fanfiction stories we talked about you can find here, Two Two One B Baker and Performance In A Leading Role.

Don’t forget to subscribe on iTunes or Podbean, follow us on Twitter, Tumblr and like us on Facebook!

Like in fanfiction, we thrive on comments, questions and suggestions. Please make sure you review us on iTunes or leave us a comment on Podbean and here!

National Book Awards 2013 Announced

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The above are the fiction books that have been longlisted on the National Book Awards list.  And we want to congratulate those who have been nominated for this year’s list!

If you don’t know, The National Book Awards are given to a fiction, non-fiction, poetry and young readers. As with the ManBooker shortlist, we find that we haven’t actually read any of these. Which makes us feel slightly inadequate and silly. But then Alissa looked at her Goodreads shelf and realized she’d spent this year reading YA. There will have to be a challenge to do something different next year…

BUT! The NBA awards. We’re looking forward to picking up some of these books, most probably “The Flame Throwers” by Rachel Kushner.  Also (in line with Alissa’s apparent history this year) we’d like to read the YA book “Two Boys Kissing” by David Levithan, VERY good things have been heard about this book.

Here are the other books long-listed for the NBAs:

Non-fiction

  • T.D. AllmanFinding Florida: The True Story of the Sunshine State (Atlantic Monthly Press)
  • Gretel EhrlichFacing the Wave: A Journey in the Wake of the Tsunami (Pantheon Book/Random House, Inc.)
  • Scott C. JohnsonThe Wolf and the Watchman: A Father, a Son, and the CIA (W.W. Norton & Company)
  • Jill Lepore, Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House, Inc. )
  • Wendy LowerHitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
  • James OakesFreedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865
    (W.W. Norton & Company)
  • George PackerThe Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Alan TaylorThe Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832 (W.W. Norton & Company)
  • Terry TeachoutDuke: A Life of Duke Ellington (Gotham Books)
  • Lawrence WrightGoing Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House, Inc. )

Poetry

Young People

  • Kathi AppeltThe True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp (Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster)
  • Kate DiCamilloFlora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures (Candlewick Press)
  • Lisa Graff, A Tangle of Knots (Philomel, A division of Penguin Group USA)
  • Alaya Dawn JohnsonThe Summer Prince (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic)
  • Cynthia KadohataThe Thing About Luck (Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster)
  • David LevithanTwo Boys Kissing (Knopf Books for Young Readers/Random House)
  • Tom McNealFar, Far Away (Knopf Books for Young Readers/Random House)
  • Meg RosoffPicture Me Gone (Putnam Juvenile, a division of Penguin Group USA)
  • Anne UrsuThe Real Boy (Walden Pond Press/an Imprint HarperCollinsPublishers)
  • Gene Luen YangBoxers & Saints (First Second/an imprint of Roaring Brook Press/Holtzbrinck)

The Circus Arrives Without Warning, A Review

the night circus, book cover

I have very few words to explain how I feel about this book. Most of them consist of incoherent  noises and screams and “AMDIOWA;MEIAO” type responses.

The very basis of my existence – being able to read and enjoy the words written on the page and explain why I enjoy them – seems to go away with in seconds of my attempt to explain my love for Erin Morgensern’s debut novel “The Night Circus”.

First, yes, I’m aware its been out since 2011 and that it’s currently 2013. Yes,  I’m aware I’m coming a bit late to the game of reviewing it. I realized that I never actually wrote one in Nov. 2011 when I read the book for the first time, at least, not one I shared on Goodreads.

I recently decided to read it again, which is why I’m posting this now, and the reread solidified my love.

What I think I love most about this book is the prose. It’s just beautiful and truly transports the reader into this world of magic and intrigue. We follow the lives of Celia and Marco as they learn how to use their magic and then how they participate in the game their mentors have created for them.

With out spoiling too much, Le Cirque des Reves is the game and Celia and Marco are both competing and working together to create this circus that appears out of nowhere in the middle of the night and is only open at night. Not to forget that the circus is all in black and white and various shades there of. Very little color exists in the circus until you walk inside one of the many tents that make up the circus.

One of the other things I really loved about this book was at the start of each part, there is a brief clip and a quote. The clips are generally written by a character named Fredrick Thiessen, who is a German clock maker and he created the black and white clock that sits at the front gate of the circus. And the clock deserves a post all its own. But the clips are parts of essays or short briefs that he has written over time as he gets to know the circus better.

But to the story. With Ceila and Marco we have other characters tied to them and the circus. And essentially the book follows their lives as they revolve around Celia and Marco’s competition. Part of the problem for everyone involved is how to keep the circus going once the competition ends – and how they do that would give too many spoilers which I’m simply not going to do because EVERYONE SHOULD READ THIS BOOK.

Outside of Celia and Marco, my favorite of the cast of characters are the Twins. Both are “cat people” they work with the big cat kittens in the circus and are tied to the circus in a way that they really shouldn’t be. You know. With magic and such, it all relates to when and where they were born, but to explain would again give spoilers I don’t want to give.

It ends with them finding away to keep the circus (not telling you how :P) and an unexpected choice made.

Needless to say, I love this book. I adore it. It’s up there with my favorite books of all time. I desperately want Morgenstern to write a new book so I can find new ways to love her.

Rating: 5 of 5

❤ Alissa