weekly wrap-up 11/23

I’m a huge fan of Warby Parker. I’m due for a new pair of glasses and decided to go for their free five-pair home try on which is SO much fun! The only issue I have with WP is that the colors in their photos are way more vibrant than the colors in person. My current frames? This pair. Um, yeah.. I’ll post better photos of each one on twitter – calling on you guys for help!

I also chopped off 10+ inches of hair and even shaved some of my head. It’s so fuzzy and soft and I’m kind of obsessed right now! Honestly, I was terrified at first (while I like the idea of being adventurous, I tend to stick to what I know I like), but my sisters convinced me to go for it and go for it I did! I actually love it so much I’m thinking about shaving more off! :D

Uno libro this week: Anne Leonard’s Moth and Spark. It had been on my To Read list for a while and when I was contacted for the release of the Trade paperback, I pounced! High fantasy, dragons, a prince on a mission, mysterious powers. This one sounds like an absolute blast plus it’s from Viking, so I know I’ll love it!

Thank you, Viking!!

In Case You Missed It
Cassie tagged me and I explored my TBR piles. I also cringed a lot and have been itching to do another cleaning ever since!

Jessica Maria Tuccelli’s Glow is a five-star read, y’all. It was powerful and haunting (literally, in some cases) and it broke my heart so many times. While reading I kept thinking back to Steal the North, one of my all-time favorite novels. So, so fantastic.

Weekend Links!

weekend links


Viking Church – Lillehammer, Norway | via

Lilyhammer is back! Netflix is totally owning television right now and every show they bring out is better than the last. I recently fell HARD for Lilyhammer, a show where a mobster snitches in exchange for a new life in Norway, and yesterday the third season was released. You guys know where to find me this weekend!

The history of spectacles was a quick but super interesting read. I’ve been wearing glasses almost my entire life (I got my first pair when I was only 18 months old). My glasses are a part of me and I’m always baffled by how often Matt loses his. I guess when you only need them to read or drive they aren’t as important? ANYWAY. I’d love to read a little more about this.

Chocolate Fudge Pistachio Cake Donuts. Um, yes please.

Ursula K. Le Guin totally stole the show at the National Book Awards. I hope to be half as feisty when I’m her age.

Also from the National Book Awards, Daniel Handler apologized over some pretty insensitive and racist jokes. I applaud his apology though – I believe he is sincerely sorry for his words.

This article is from earlier in the month, but it made me FEEL. A columnist for The Atlantic wants you to stop making excuses and finish the books you start. She says people who abandon books halfway through are lazy and not finishing a book is wrong. Oh honey. No. I’m debating wrting a separate post on this one. Do you force yourself to finish every single book you pick up?

GoodReads Recs: Glow by Jessica Maria Tuccelli

Glow by Jessica Maria Tuccelli
Pub. Date: March, 2012
Source: Library (though we have the gorgeous paperback at work and I think it’s calling my name!)
Summary: October 1941. Eleven-year-old Ella McGee sits on a bus bound for her Southern hometown. Behind her in Washington, D.C., lie the broken pieces of her parents’ love story—a black father drafted, an activist mother of Scotch-Irish and Cherokee descent confronting racist thugs. But Ella’s journey is just beginning when she reaches Hopewell County, and her disappearance into the Georgia mountains will unfurl a rich tapestry of family secrets spanning a century. Told in five unforgettable voices, Glow reaches back through the generations, from the red-clay dust of the Great Depression to the Blue Ridge frontier of 1836, where slave plantations adjoin the haunted glades of a razed Cherokee Nation. Out of these characters’ lives evolves a drama that is at once intimately human and majestic in its power to call upon the great themes of our time—race, identity, and the bonds of family and community.
Genre: Fiction, Southern, Family Saga
Recommended for: fans of sweeping epics, family histories, the American South, readers who loved Steal the North

Last week I started a new feature called GoodReads Recommends where I take a look at the books the site suggests based on other books I’ve read. One of the books mentioned was Glow and it sounded so fantastic, I immediately requested it from my library and bumped it to the very top of my stack. I started reading the moment I got my copy and I’m absolutely thrilled to say it did not disappoint!

Told in multiple voices, Glow tells an incredible tale of a family and spans over a century from a plantation in the 1830s to a Southern town in the throes of racial tension on the cusp of World War II. Although the story opens in a very sweet way with Amelia and her daughter, it soon turns frightening with an act of violence (while Amelia is White and Cherokee, the man she loves is African-American) and it’s that fear that has Amelia packing her daughter’s belongings and sending her off to her brother in their hometown. But Ella doesn’t show up when Buddy comes to collect her and it’s then we learn about this remarkable family from the very beginning.

Glow is one of those novels that’s SO difficult for me to review. I don’t want to say the wrong thing, but I also want to say all the things. This is a beautiful, lovely, wonderful, haunting, heartbreaking novel and I delighted in every word. Every single character shines – from the good to the vile – and the voices were so strong. I had no trouble differentiating between the narrators (though I suppose it helped each chapter was labeled with a name ha!), and I adore any and all jumps in time.

Race is a huge theme in this book and it brought to mind Steal the North, one of my top reads this year. A comparison to that novel is NOT one I make lightly, but while reading, I couldn’t get StN’s characters and story out of my head. No, the plots aren’t similar at all, but the Big Pictures are: religion, race, humanity. Glow met each one head-on and wasn’t afraid to pull back the curtain to tell it like it is. Many atrocities are committed in the name of hate, but Glow shows that love is just as powerful, that one single emotion can be so strong (whether it’s for a child, a parent, a spouse) that it can move mountains and that faith is a force to be reckoned with. Life isn’t clean-cut or fair, but good does prevail and actions are held accountable.

It’s rare that in a novel with multiple narrators I don’t favor one voice over the rest, but here, each one held her own story and brought something to the book the others didn’t. These characters are all connected, either by blood or marriage, and their stories wove together beautifully. I feel as though I keep repeating myself, but Glow is just that good. It’s powerful and raw and it hurt something fierce when I was done. I wanted to race to the end, but the minute I reached that final page, those last words, I wasn’t ready to let go. I wanted more from these characters. I wanted to watch Ella grow just as I got to see Amelia and Willie Mae become women. I wanted to see what the future held for George and if Lovelady ever found peace. The excitement of the biplane, the stark horror of witnessing prominent men in the town come together and hang a man, hanging onto the hope that there will be one more letter from a soldier gone off to fight. Every emotion I felt was real and vibrant. Tuccelli did a fantastic amount of research and it shows.

Glow is the kind of novel I want to shout about, the kind of novel I want to shove into the hands of complete and total strangers. I’m floored that it’s a debut (again, just like Steal the North!) and I’m a tiny bit angry with myself for not discovering it sooner. This is a book written for me. A family deep-rooted in the South, heavy-hitting themes tackled respectfully but without sugar-coating anything, a well of faith, and just a hint of magic. Glow is a phenomenal novel that left me breathless. Not only will I be itching for whatever Tuccelli happens to write next, but you can bet I’ll be pushing this novel on whoever gets within shouting distance! Do yourself a favor, guys. Read this book.

let’s have a little TBR fun!

Last week I was tagged by one of my mostest favoritest people ever, Cassie. This meme was originally created by Dana & Rachel. LET’S DO THIS!

HOW DO YOU KEEP TRACK OF YOUR TBR PILE?

For physical books, well, um, that’s what the floor is for. I ran out of book shelves (need some gift ideas, Matt??) and so they’ve started taking over the floor and the lovely bay window I have in my little office-y/den/reading area. I also have my book jar that I made this summer! It’s a cute + fun way of choosing my next read when I get to be a little overwhelmed.

With e-books I don’t really have any kind of system. I never bothered arranging my nook and ARCs from netgalley are sorted by release date.

For the books I want to read but don’t own, GoodReads is a godsend. Earlier in the year I culled my GoodReads shelves and so far it’s been super helpful! The shelves I now have:

  • To Read
  • To Check Out – ADULT
  • To Check Out – YOUNG ADULT
  • To Check Out – COMICS
  • To Check Out – ADULT UNRELEASED
  • To Check Out – YOUNG ADULT UNRELEASED
  • To Read – ADULT PRIORITY
  • To Read – YOUNG ADULT PRIORITY

Pretty self-explanatory, no? To Read are the ones I for-sure want to read. The ones I want To Check Out are books I’m still not sure about, I’m a little iffy on, but not yet ready to make a pass. These could be brand new that haven’t gained much attention yet and have very few reviews or just books I want to look into more. Unreleased is the same deal; a book might sound interesting now, but when it’s released in seven months, my feelings could change. Priority is just that – I need these books in my life, like YESTERDAY.

IS YOUR TBR PILE MOSTLY PRINT OR E-BOOK?

Print by far! I mainly use my nook for digital ARCs. And crossword puzzles. I am a crossword puzzle fiend ♥

HOW DO YOU DETERMINE WHAT TO READ NEXT?

My book jar has been great! I also am a total mood reader. The cold weather has my heart set on mysteries and thrillers and I’m enjoying it! Prior to blogging I read nothing but thrillers and it’s so much fun returning to an old favorite!

For ARCs I tend to read by release date, especially when a date is getting close! Sometimes, though, if a book sounds SUPER AWESOME or if I’m entirely caught up (aaaahahaha right) I’ll skip around a bit.

A BOOK THAT’S BEEN ON YOUR TBR THE LONGEST

On GoodReads it’s Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother. I added it July 25, 2008. I actually had a copy of this one that I had lent to an ex-boyfriend, but when we broke up I never got it back.. Until I culled my shelves it had been Elizabeth Flock’s Me & Emma, but when I did a little more reading about the book, I decided a plot involving child abuse wasn’t going to work for me.

As for a book I already own, that’s a toughie! Maybe a Redwall novel? I fell hard for that series back in 6th grade and, although I bought every one I could find, there are still a few I need to read. Some of my favorite childhood memories deal with these books – a re-read is definitely in order.

A BOOK YOU RECENTLY ADDED TO YOUR TBR PILE:

On GoodReads: Benjamin Percy’s The Dead Lands. It comes out in the spring and is a post-apocalyptic reimagining of the Lewis and Clark saga. Um, YES.

Recently bought: books one and two in Caroline Carlson’s The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates! Middle Grade Pirates!

A BOOK IN YOUR TBR PILE YOU NEVER PLAN ON READING:

Aaahhh, this is exactly why I went through and got rid of HUNDREDS of books! Maybe Wide Open by Nicola Barker. Not because I don’t want to read it, but because I’m having trouble tracking down a copy! Years ago I found Darkmans at Barnes & Noble and it ended up becoming an all-time favorite. Turns out it’s the third in the Thames Gateway trilogy…and the first two books don’t want to be found. :( WEEPING.

So going through my lists made me realize another round of culling is in order! There were lots of books I added only because they sounded interesting, not because I was actually curious about reading them. Sarah McCarry’s All Our Pretty Songs and Mary Brown’s The Unlikely Ones are on their way to getting the boot.

Y’all know I’m a BIG fan of Imperial Russia. The only reason I’d considered not reading Rupert Colley’s The Russian Revolution: History in an Hour is because it’s only available for Kindles.

Although I enjoyed Surrender to Sultry, the third in Macy Beckett’s Sultry Springs series, the more I think about it, the more I realize I have no interest in going back and reading the first. (Sultry no longer looks like a word.)

I’d like to think I’m pretty good at letting go of books. In the spring I went through my shelves and got rid of a TON of review copies I had no interest in and gave away a bunch of books I had bought on a whim or never planned on reading again. I’m a little more lenient when it comes to GoodReads, but I’d still like to go through those shelves again – going through them for this post made me cringe a little!

AN UNPUBLISHED BOOK ON YOUR TBR LIST YOU’RE EXCITED FOR:

HOO BOY. So I have a review copy of Allison Pataki’s The Accidental Empress (I loved her debut, The Traitor’s Wife) and I’m dying for a nice, quiet weekend when I can hide myself away from the world and read. This one comes out in February!

In January, Rebecca Scherm’s debut, Unbecoming drops and I need it in my life. Although I know nothing about the art world, I can’t get enough of it in novels! Especially art heists! Earlier in the year I discussed my love affair with the art novel and provided links to books I’ve reviewed here as well as others that sound fantastic!

It should come as no surprise that I’m slightly obsessed with historical fiction. Kate Alcott has a new one coming out in February, A Touch of Stardust, that goes behind the scenes of the filming of Gone With the Wind! Another hist fic I’m looking forward to is Kate Lord Brown’s The Perfume Garden (April!). Spain, 1930s. A house untouched for seventy years. A perfume maker with secrets of her own. As if that wasn’t enough to win me over, it’s described as being “perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Tatiana de Rosnay.” SOLD.

& one more (because I could seriously talk about upcoming books all day): finally – FINALLY! – the next Sentinels of New Orleans novel is coming out!! It’s been over a year since I read the third and I’m kind of going through withdrawal. This is my guilty pleasure series: a hot shapeshifter, undead Louis Armstrong and pirates, evil elves, wizards, this series has it all and I love it. Pirate’s Alley comes out in April!

A BOOK ON YOUR TBR LIST EVERYONE HAS READ BUT YOU:

lol where to start. I’m awful at keeping up with what everyone else is reading. Don’t hurt me guys – Liza Palmer’s Nowhere But Home WILL get read someday, I pinky-promise! I have both Angelfall AND World After by Susan Ee and they sound like books I’d absolutely love. Same with The Scorpio Races!

A BOOK ON YOUR TBR LIST THAT EVERYONE RECOMMENDS TO YOU:

Me Before You. I’m working my way through her backlist and I do own a copy of this one, but I have yet to read it. I don’t know if it’s because there’s so much hype (although I know I already love her books) or because I heard it’s soul-crushing (even though every single book of hers has made me cry). Something’s holding me back but it’ll happen. I can’t not read a Jojo.

A BOOK ON YOUR TBR LIST YOU’RE DYING TO READ:

Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo. Cassie has been pushing this series something fierce and it’s totally a Leah read: a serial killer strikes an Amish community.

The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw by Christopher Healy. I tore through the first two books, but I’m scared to read the third. I don’t want to say good-bye to these characters and as much as I want to read this one, I’m also putting it off for as long as I possibly can :(

HOW MANY BOOKS ARE ON YOUR GOODREADS TBR SHELF?

AHAHAHAHA. I’m so jealous of the people who have like 20. All of my to read shelves (excluding the to-check-out shelves) combined total 828.

weekly wrap-up 11/16

Winter has officially descended upon Pittsburgh this week: it’s snowed a few days this week, nothing major just some flurries here and there that didn’t stick, but any snow is too much snow thank you very much. How long until spring?

Also, can I just say I am CRAZY JEALOUS of those of you who have already started all of your holiday shopping. A few days ago my aunt announced she had just wrapped her last present and was done. WHAT. All I’ve managed to do so far is buy some cranberries for Thanksgiving…& Christmas? HA. Let’s not even go there. Please tell me I’m not the only one.

Book-wise it was a quiet week. I grabbed one from the library: Jessica Maria Tuccelli’s Glow. You might remember seeing it mentioned in my GoodReads Recommends post earlier this week. It sounded so fantastic that I immediately grabbed it and it hasn’t disappointed! I’m about halfway through and am loooving it. A family saga set in the South and told from the 1830s-1940s. And there’s a ghost. It’s seriously fab so far.

In Case You Missed It
I started a new feature I’m calling GoodReads Recommends. I absolutely love going through the site’s recommendations based on my shelves and what books I read. For this first edition I chose two pre-2014 novels I loved: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki and The House of Velvet and Glass by Katherine Howe. Then I went through the recs GR gave and decided whether or not I’d be interested in reading the books. The results were a little surprising: out of the nine novels I list, six are novels I gave a want to read vote to (including Glow which I already grabbed!), I gave one book a someday, and two were a pass.

Dangerous Deceptions, the second novel in Sarah Zettel’s Palace of Spies series is now out and it was just as great as the first! I still have a few issues with the targeted audience (there are some pretty mature themes going on in these books), but wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this one.

This week’s weekend links include a Van Gogh-inspired solar-powered bike path (that’s absolutely gorgeous!), videos showing what the post-Jeopardy chats sound like, a cocktail recipe I’ll for sure be trying this Thanksgiving, why Pittsburghers should embrace our ugly accent, and more!

weekend links

The Netherlands unveiled a solar-powered bike path inspired by Van Gogh’s Starry Night. How cool (and gorgeous!) is this? Head over to the site to see a video and some seriously stunning photos. Group flight, anyone??

A skeleton unearthed in a Greek tomb could possibly belong to Hephaestion, Alexander the Great’s childhood friend and possible lover. The elaborate sarcophagus and way the body was preserved leads archaeologists to believe this person was someone pretty important. The history buff in me is doing cartwheels right now!

I love Gordon Ramsay, aka my other, other, other boyfriend (after my boos Bobby Flay and Tom Hardy – sorry, Matt! ♥). His youngest daughter, Matilda, will be starring in her own cooking show! The video clip is ten kinds of adorable and seems super laid back and sweet moments with her family abound. Matilda and the Ramsay Bunch doesn’t air until next year, but when it does, I know where I’ll be!

R. L. Stine posted this one on twitter earlier this morning and I thought it was lovely: The History of Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Books! Last week, the series’ original author, R. A. Montgomery, passed away and this article is not only a lovely tribute, but also pretty darn interesting. Choose Your Own novels are still in high demand – customers are constantly asking for them!

Another Mental Floss article, but just as interesting: What the Jeopardy Post-Game Chat Sounds Like. I adore Jeopardy and this is something I’ve always been curious about: just what goes on as the credits roll? Turns out Trebek is WAY chattier than I had expected!

The Kitchn makes my heart skip a beat. They recently posted a recipe for The Amber Rush Cocktail and I just might have to give it a try this Thanksgiving!

This article on 4 Things to Keep You Going When You’re Stressed at Work came at just the right time. Anyone who works retail knows the joyspain of the holiday season. As a bookseller my job might not be nearly as stressful as places like Walmart or other big box stores that see thousands upon thousands of customers a day, but we definitely see an influx in sales. People want what they want and they aren’t afraid to let us know – especially those last-minute shoppers who are outraged when we don’t have The #1 Bestseller three days before Christmas. As much as I try I’ve certainly fallen victim to stress and have let it affect my entire day. Hopefully with these ideas in mind (and some, like listening to certain songs, I already do) I’ll be able to tackle the extra load without wanting to claw out some eyes. :)

Last month Gawker held a contest to determine the ugliest accent in America and Pittsburgh won. Instead of being outraged, this article says Pittsburghers should embrace it.

It was forged in industry, in mines, in mills, in blast furnaces, in diners and around the family dinner table after a long, hard day at work. It represents the harshness of our past. It represents hard work — building a world-class city out of nothing but the materials found in the ground and the waters that embraced it. It represents an unflinching sense of self-worth. It represents not caring what others think. It represents Saturdays in the Strip and Sundays on the North Side. It represents calloused hands and weathered eyes. It represents seasons and bridges and chipped chopped ham and pierogies and church. It represents steel and rivers and passion and above all . . . REALNESS.

Dangerous Deceptions by Sarah Zettel

Dangerous Deceptions (Palace of Spies #2) by Sarah Zettel
Pub. Date: November 4, 2014
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, HMH Books for Young Readers!!)
Summary: As a lady in waiting in King George’s London court, Peggy has survived a forced betrothal, royal scandals, and an attempt or two on her life. And now she has a new problem: her horrible fiancé has returned to claim her! To save her neck, or at least her hand in marriage, Peggy joins forces with her cousin Olivia and her sweetheart, Matthew. But if she doesn’t play her cards right, her career as courtier and spy might come to an end at the bottom of the river Thames.
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Mystery
Recommended for: Fans of historicals looking for a break from the Regency- and Victorian-era novels

THIS IS A REVIEW FOR THE SECOND IN A SERIES – THERE MIGHT BE SPOILERS!

In Palace of Spies, we were introduced to Margaret Fitzoy – Peggy, thank you. Begrudgingly raised by an uncle who cares not one bit for her, Peggy is surprised when she receives a marriage proposal instead of her beloved, highborn cousin Olivia. A rather disastrous first encounter leaves Peggy wanting nothing but a way out of the arrangement and she readily accepts a position at court posing as another girl. Court life doesn’t turn out to be as glamorous as she thought however, and soon she’s thrown into a world of murder, spies, and secrets.

Picking up right where Palace of Spies left off, Dangerous Deceptions hits the ground running. Now that her true identity has been revealed, Peggy’s dealing with the repercussions while trying to start a relationship with Matthew, end her betrothal to Sebastian, and find out if her father is really still alive. When Sebastian appears at court and starts to become overly friendly with Sophie Howe, another lady in waiting and an equally vile person, Peggy realizes she must act – and quickly.

As Peggy finds herself deeper into the depths of the Jacobites’ inner circle, she uncovers some pretty major family secrets involving not only her parents (court spies themselves) but also her Uncle Pierpont and she learns the real meaning behind her betrothal.

The year-long wait between these books is a killer, but the moment I began reading I had no trouble jumping back into the story. All of my favorite characters have returned (including a very pregnant royal pup!) and I got to meet some new faces, both good and bad. I will say that I was a bit frustrated that the majority of the reveals were discovered by little more than a stroke of good luck on Peggy’s part.

Again, just as in Palace of Spies, there are some very mature – and even triggering – themes. Dangerous Deceptions expands upon those themes and once more I’m a little surprised by the targeted audience. On HMH’s website, Dangerous Deceptions is listed as 7th grade/12-years-old and up. Sexual assault and multiple f-bombs (no matter how cleverly disguised) abound in this novel and it’s Sebastian’s attempted rape that provides the entire basis for Peggy’s repulsion and desire to find a way out of the marriage. While things with Matthew have yet to go beyond a few kisses, their relationship is definitely becoming more serious and while I’m sure there are some 12-year-olds who are mature enough to understand, I’m not convinced that this series should be targeted to such young readers.

While the young demographic has me raising my eyebrows once again, I still thoroughly enjoyed Dangerous Deceptions. It doesn’t leave the reader hanging from the events that happened in Palace of Spies (though it’s entirely possible the year-long wait in between these novels will do that on its own!) and Peggy’s uncovering answers for her questions. This series provides a refreshing change from my usual 1800s-era Historical Fiction and I’m loving the closer look at the Jacobites! Although I’d be hesitant to recommend this series to a younger reader, older teens and adults are sure to be pleased!