Reader confessions

Since we're among friends here, I'm gonna tell you some things I normally wouldn't cop to.

Yep, we're talking shameful, embarrassing reader confessions here today. 

These are things I actually do. (They're actually things I always do.)

  • I look at the photo sections of nonfiction books before I actually start reading.

    • If there are no photos, I do the severe Unruly internal frown. (Nonfiction books: ya gotta have photos!)

  • I totally judge books by their covers.

  •  I check out a spare audiobook that I know I won’t get to for a while, because what if I don’t like the one I’m listening to first?   [seriously: almost twitching at the thought]

  • I hardly ever buy books for myself, because: libraries!

  • I don’t like receiving books as gifts, because I’m hella picky about what I read.  

So, yeah. Some of that stuff ain't pretty. 

Anyone else got any bookish weirdness you wanna share on the interwebs?

That time the authors roamed the Earth

BEA was crawling with authors, and they were gracious toward us mortals.
It was fantastic.

At BEA, there are 3 types of author experiences:
Observation: Listening to author interviews & panel discussions
Interaction (organized): Book signings
Interaction (random): Encountering an author in the wild

The first two are super common. The third happens through pure serendipity.

Dude, I got the trifecta. 

Here’s how it went down...

Author panel: Women of Fiction (Robyn Carr, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Gayle Forman)

I’m completely convinced that the best way to experience BEA is to become some amazing person’s wingman. I got to hang out with Katie of Words for Worms (that lady knows the books) and Marisa of The Daily Dosage (that lady knows the publishers)*, and one of them had this event on her radar.

So Robyn Carr and Susan Elizabeth Phillips are my two favorite romance authors. Actually, they might be the only romance writers I really read. Anyway, they had the Big Names on this panel.

And of course, they were warm and witty and altogether lovely. And Robyn Carr gave one of the finest definitions I’ve heard of the difference between women’s fiction and romance: 
Romance is about finding perfect love. Women’s fiction is about a woman finding herself.

I really like that.

And then Robyn Carr signed books and talked with us, and I'm pretty sure I overshared.

Here's me and Robyn Carr. (I'm the overexcited nutjob. Anyone else think she looks scared? I have that effect.)

Author interview: Amor Towles

Sometimes, when authors are interviewed, they tell secrets. 

Such as this: In his new book A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles completely invented the scene in which the electrical grid is powered up in segments throughout the city. (I totally can’t wait to read this book, and only partly because it takes place in a luxury hotel. But mostly because Rules of Civility rocked my world.)

Interaction (organized)
Book signings 

This can be scary, my friends. 

Authors. I know they’re people just like us, but seriously: scary. 
I tend to either be dumbstruck or I ramble. There’s never any normal.

So, thank you, authors of BEA 2016, for your kind forbearance.

My favorite book signing experience was when Jane Hamilton -- such a gracious and lovely human! -- signed a copy of The Excellent Lombards. I adore her books, and I like her every bit as much. Since she is a remarkably nice person, we had a normal human conversation (though it lasted too long for her assistant, who started hustling the line along. Sorry, Katie! I’m still feeling bad about that.) Years ago, Jane Hamilton had spoken at the library where I worked, and we were reminiscing, I was gushing, it was maybe a little weird on my part.

Interaction (random)
Encountering an author in the wild

So here we’ve got the wild card: the random author encounter in an unexpected place.

And it happened only because I am the world’s worst navigator. (On Day 1 of BEA, anyone else get on a bus heading in the wrong direction, resulting in a 70-minute detour? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Not to brag or anything, but I’m seriously talented at getting myself lost.)

So heading home, heavy laden with books, I was concerned that I was gonna repeat that snafu.
I was meandering around in search of the bus stop, when a man asked if I needed some help.

We ended up walking to the El station, which was nearer than I’d realized. I asked him what brought him to BEA, and he said he was a journalist.
We talked books.

Then he said something that made me realize he was also an author, and I asked his name.

Charles Finch.

I had been directionally rescued by a bestselling, award-winning mystery author. 

I did a mild freak-out, then calmed down and requested photographic evidence of this episode (because that’s normal behavior; see “authors freak me out,” above).
He was most kind.  
So here’s what we all can learn from this experience:
  1. At BEA, not only are there authors all over the exhibit floor, but they’re also unleashed on the wider world to wander at will. You May Encounter Them In The Wild.
  2. Charles Finch: not only an excellent writer, but also a thoroughly nice human being
  3. The random author encounter: pure serendipity

So I know when we think of BEA, we think: books. 

But I gotta say: it’s all about the people. 

The book bloggers who are now friends in real life, the librarians who swapped stories and tips, the authors who withstood the onslaught of our nervous admiration, and back again to the bloggers and librarians who understand exactly what we mean when we say, “I met [famous author person] and it was amazing, even though I made a complete fool of myself. I think I’m gonna go hide somewhere now.”

We’re right there with ya.

*and also Julie of JulzReads, but I think she was off on one of her marathon autographing sprees that made us all marvel

That time I carried my weight in books

The BEA recaps rage on...

Today we're talking about the books.

Oh my land, people. The BOOKS!

Here are photos of my haul, at various stages of the event.

(Moment of silence, as we gaze upon their splendor...)

Partway through Day 1
Day 3, Hour 1

End of Day 3

So yeah... that last photo, of the Day 3 books. Uffda, people. I hauled those puppies ¾ of a mile to the El station, which required a peanut M&M purchase en route to stave off crankiness in this here pack mule. It was not pretty. 

But I did it. 

My thoughts during any given day of BEA:
Morning: Look at all these free galleys!   [snarfs them up like candy]
Noon: Thank goodness I get to set down these book bags while I eat, because this ain’t good.  
Afternoon: What was I thinking?

But I kept seeing books that I knew my colleagues would be interested to read, and I really didn’t want to let them down. I was a woman on a mission of bookish mercy, doggone it.

And then there were the books I was aching to read, like these…

So, yeah. I was like a one-woman library, stumbling down the road from McCormick Place with my usual grace (I have no grace), very thankful for all the beautiful books. 


Side note: Thank goodness for eGalleys. They Weigh Nothing

(NetGalley: you guys make my world a more beautiful thing.)

That time I met the bloggers

Book Expo. OMG. 

At least 3 times a day, I had Bliss Moments. That's how good it was. 

Here's why:

Book bloggers and librarians and all the other book people are some of the loveliest people in the world. They're my tribe. And I got to hang out in their midst for Three Whole Days. 
So much fun! Daily Dosage, JulzReads, Words for Worms, Unruly Reader

Most exciting: got to meet -- In The Real World -- book bloggers whose work I adore.

These ladies are smart & funny & generous of spirit. 

I can't imagine BEA without 'em.

Big shoutout to...

Katie of Words for Worms
Marisa of The Daily Dosage
Julie of JulzReads
Florinda of The 3 R’s Blog 

You made Book Expo the best! 

Y'all also made my TBR grow to massive proportions. (Not sure how I feel about that...)*

We got to tramp around the miles of McCormick Place together & talk books & give each other reading suggestions & laugh a lot. 

And then they wrote amazing wrap-up posts like this (Katie, we're looking at you!) and this (Julie: so doggone organized, it's freaking me out!) and this (Marisa, who fully captured the joy of the shared BEA experience).

OK, so this is just Part 1 of "why BEA was so doggone amazing." Stay tuned for more.

*just kidding -- I'm all about the mammoth TBR

Unfeathering the nest

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

3 words: character-driven, warm, ensemble cast

Is it just me, or is everyone else hearing tons of buzz about this book?

After it popped up for about the 50th time, I decided to give in and give it a try.

Though I gotta tell you: I was a little bit concerned that, based on the plot summary I'd heard, I wouldn't be able to like any of the characters.

The book’s set-up is this: four siblings, once they reach middle age, are to inherit a princely sum of money from their parents.

And all of them have set up their lives so they're completely dependent on this big cash infusion for their future happiness.

Or so they think. (Or maybe they're right?)

And then: Guess what??
Since they're all set on inheriting the money, of course one of them messes up in a big way, so their mother decides to bail him out using the vast majority of the funds… thus ruining the lives of his siblings.

Or so they think. (Or maybe they're right?)

Given that these people had all counted their chickens before they hatched--or put all their eggs in one basket--or whatever other obvious metaphor you'd like to use--I expected to feel little sympathy for these characters.

And this is where the author’s genius comes through.

She made me care about these people, even the ne'er-do-well brother whose irresponsible actions set the whole mess into motion.

So maybe I didn't exactly like many of the characters, but I cared about them. 

A big cast of characters, all fully developed and quite real -- and with an author whose warmth toward them infuses an unexpected level of humanity into a story about the ways money can infest family life.

Book Expo super fast post

Good morning from Book Expo America

We're in lovely Chicago today, and we're living and breathing books. 

And while I'm public transit-ing into the city, I'll be reading other stuff about books, like this list of books to dive into this summer.  

Let the games begin!

Karma at the Little Free Library

So there I am, walking along to warm up for a run, and guys! Little Free Library!

Right here in my very own town.

And it’s hella cute.

So I stopped and peeked in there to see what-all they had.

It was actually a decent mix of fiction and nonfiction, stuff for grown-ups and stuff for kids.

So now it’s become kind of a ritual. As I’m warming up, I swing by and peek into the Little Free Library.

So then, on a recent day off, I decided to dash down there to add a book to the Little Free collection. I placed the book in the Library, and was closing the door when I saw it: a book I wanted to read.

A book that hadn’t been there 7 hours earlier when I took a look before my run.

 Reader, I borrowed that book.

Proud new borrower here, of Shabby Chic by Rachel Ashwell.

I’ll be perusing it while sipping tea. (Total lie. I don’t drink tea.)

I’ll peruse it while belting down some super-charged black coffee.

Fish story

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

3 words: somber, melancholy, empathetic

I’ve always wanted to like Hemingway, but have never gotten there till now.

And the only reason I read (listened to) The Old Man and the Sea is because Book Bingo made me do it. (Hello, “Embarrassed to Admit” [I’d never read it])

And then I strapped myself in for the ride. (Literally. I listened to this audiobook in my car, so: seatbelt.)

It was surprisingly eventful, the experience of reading this book. I was stunned by my emotional engagement with the thing.

It started with the narrator.

Donald Sutherland.

I just don’t like ’im.

He’s lispy when he talks, and I don’t like the way he looks, either (not that that has any bearing here; I’m just being petty).

So I began listening in a state of mild annoyance, because: The Donald.

But then the story took over, and I (sorta) got past the voice.

And I was truly surprised by the way I was rooting for the old man, yearning for him to catch that fish. I was actually leaning forward in my seat, urging the fish to be caught.

But then I slumped back, as Hemingway described the way the fish’s mate would trail along as the fish died on the line. The fish’s mate would mourn the loss. (Who knew?)

So then I was all mixed emotions.

And that made me delighted, because: how many books can do that?

So I was left marveling at Hemingway’s enormous sympathy for the characters he had created, but also marveling at his easy brutality toward them. Made me realize why he’s considered one of the greats. I get it now.

It's a mystery

Mysteries have filled the news this past week. 

The Edgar Awards were announced, and that always gets me all excited. 

Each year, I look at the winner (and nominees) of the Best First Novel award, because usually that signals we got some up-and-comers to track. 

This year, you didn't have to look far to find out which novel won that one. 

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen, recently all over the news for having won the Pulitzer, also won the Edgar for Best First Novel.

And then some other books won awards, too.  

In other news... Book Expo is almost here, and I'm gonna be there! Completely excited about meeting other bloggers amidst the book-laden frenzy. If you see me, say hi. And then tell me what you're reading; can't wait to hear.


Truly Unruly

I, too, abhor a vacuum
Nature abhors a vacuum, and I abhor a lack of structure. 

(I know: "Unruly Reader" is a total lie!)

I’m currently genre-study-free for the first time in over a decade.

For years now, my reading has looked like this:
  • Genre study > at least one assigned book per month, but usually more than one
  • Book club > one assigned book per month
  • Library book discussion > approximately four assigned books per year

So now… I’m not participating in a genre study. So I’ve got only the book club assigned reading, which feels like nothin’. 

So, of course, I’m feeling completely freaked out, like I’m forgetting something crucial on my to-do list.

And I’m creating other assignments for myself, because I crave structure! And: I crave challenges!

Here’s what’s happening as a result:

I’m on track to finish Book Bingo Blackout in the first half of the year. (Once that’s done, I might actually feel like I’m gonna go hurtling off into space because Earth has lost its gravitational pull. Just to give you a sense of how untethered I’m gonna feel.)

Popular authors project
I started working my way through the list of most popular authors at my library. This is proving tougher than I expected. I’m afraid of JoJo Moyes, because I don’t want to cry. And Elin Hilderbrand didn’t agree with me particularly. (I tried two books, and I just couldn’t bring myself to care.) And then there was that thriller author who nearly caused an allergic reaction. So I’m kind of failing on that one. I’ll keep at it, though. 

Last week I announced my new reading goal. Still all aquiver. 

It’s possible I’m kind of a little bit too excited by the prospect of boxing myself into some boundaries.

(I know: Not Normal)

But dang, I love me a good goal.