Monday, January 22, 2018

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Title: The Secret History
Author: Donna Tartt
Publisher:  Ballantine Books
Publication Year: 1992
Pages: 503
Genre: Literary Fiction
My Rating:4.5/5

The Secret History is one of those books that I've held off reading even though so many people have raved about it and recommended it and the subject matter sounds right up my ally (I LOVE psychological thrillers and campus novels). I think that hype tends to scare me off books at least for a while, but this Winter felt like the time had finally come to sink my teeth into this beloved novel.

The plot is essentially a reverse whodunnit. It starts off with a murder and informs you of the murders (the narrator is involved) on the first page and then we backtrack to find out the circumstances that lead to that moment, essentially a why-dunnit. The book is told through the perspective of Richard Papen a transfer student from California to a Vermont Liberal Arts College. Richard soon becomes intrigued by a small group of close Classics students and the Professor who teaches them exclusively. Richard reinvents his working class suburban background and finds himself admitted to this elite circle of students. He soon discovers that there is a dark secret that these students share and slowly but surely he gets sucked into their lives with deadly consequences.

I ended up loving the book and in trying to organize my jumbled up thoughts on this book several things occur to me: People who enjoy complex characters, literary fiction, don't mind ambiguity, love to dig into a text's layers and love beautifully crafted language and slightly stream-of-consciousness style will love this book. If you dislike any of these you might find the book pedantic or dull. For me personally it was just perfect. The characters are generally unlikeable, the scenarios improbable and the ending a bit ambiguous yet Tartt's incredible strong narrative voice manages to transform this story into a haunting, chilling and memorable read.

This is not a small book: my mass market paper back is about 500 pages, but something about Richard's narrative voice kept me hooked the entire way and made the pages fly by. Tartt has such a strong grasp of character, dialogue and emotion that is absolutely bananas that this is a debut. Something about the narrative also makes me with I was in a college literature class dissecting the symbolism in this book with my peers and a professor in an ivy-windowed room. It just oozes that liberal arts collegiate vibe which I am admittedly fond of. It is a book that is self-consciously and unashamedly academic in the best sense of the word.

I am generally not a re-reader except for a very small and specific list of books and I think I will add this book to that list. I would love to re-visit this text (maybe with a highlighter and a Greek dictionary) in the future. I would not recommend this book to everyone but to the people who would enjoy it I can guarantee it will stay with you for a long time after you are done.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

New Year, New Borough, New Books!

Looking back at 2017…

This past year was a such a whirlwind of change and bookish fun that I’m still trying to wrap my mind around it. Some of the highlights were attending BookCon, Joining the Book Riot Insiders and making new bookish friends, discovering a new favorite genre and the biggest one: moving to Brooklyn.

Moving to Brooklyn has changed my bookish life in several ways: for one I have both a library and bookstore within walking distance and many more bookstores and bookish events a short ride away. It is both exhilarating and a bit overwhelming: too many great events and too little time! At the same time I moved from a one bedroom apartment into a studio, which, while nice for my wallet has limited my capacity to keep books. The library and e-books have become closer friends and my attitude towards giving away books has become more lax. Overall last year was a great bookish year. I met some bookish goals (82/65 books on my Goodreads challenge and fell short of others but I

For a quick summary of my favorite books check out my ‘Best of 2017’ post on Instagram!

Why yes they are
Books are Magic in Brooklyn 

Looking forward to 2018…

I learned a lot of things about myself as a reader this past year that informed me on changes I want to implement in 2018. For example, I learned that I am mainly a mood-reader and thus struggle sometimes with long-predetermined reading challenges. On the other hand, I also learned that I love read-a-thons and reading sprints. I learned to be open to new styles and genres but also learned that it’s ok to DNF a book you’re really not into.

In the spirit of taking these lessons an implementing them I decided to try a different approach to reading challenges this year: I decided to begin two long-term challenges but not give myself a hard deadline. This way I can still make progress towards these goals while participating in other book clubs without the extra pressure. The two long term challenges I’ve decided to start this year are: Book Riot's 100 Must-Read New York City Novels Challenge and The Agatha Christie Canon Challenge. Click on the links to find out more about each one and keep an eye on more post to come!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Agatha Christie Canon Challenge

I am SO excited for this challenge: Read the Christie Canon. That's right all 66 novels and 14 short stories. This project was partially inspired by Audrey and Emily's amazing blog The Year of Agatha. Its is so much fun and has a ton of other great content, definitely go check it out!

It goes without saying that I love Agatha Christie and Golden Age Crime writing it is my comfort zone all the way. I have read many of her works and watched some of the movie and series adaptations of her work. It has been one of my big bucket list items to read all of her works in publication order. I will be following the list provided by the official Agatha Christie website and reviewing each one as I go down the list. I will also be providing bonus content about the film adaptations and other extras. Each title will become a link as the review is posted.

Without further ado let jump into the Queen of Crime's canon:

The Mysterious Affair at Styles
The Secret Adversary
Murder on the Links
The Man in the Brown Suit
Poirot Investigates (short stories)
The Secret of Chimneys
 The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
The Big Four
The Mystery of the Blue Train
The Seven Dials Mystery
Partners in Crime (short stories)
The Mysterious Mr Quin (short stories)
The Murder at the Vicarage
The Sittaford Mystery
Peril at End House
The Thirteen Problems (short stories)
 Lord Edgware Dies
The Hound of Death (short stories)
Murder on the Orient Express
The Listerdale Mystery (short stories)
Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?
Parker Pyne Investigates (short stories)
Three-Act Tragedy
Death in the Clouds
The ABC Murders
Murder in Mesopotamia
Cards on the Table
Dumb Witness
Death on the Nile
Murder in the Mews (short stories)
Appointment with Death
Hercule Poirot’s Christmas
Easy to Kill
And Then There Were None
The Regatta Mystery (short stories)
Sad Cypress
One, Two, Buckle My Shoe
Evil Under the Sun
 N or M?
The Body in the Library
Five Little Pigs
The Moving Finger
Towards Zero
Death Comes as the End
Sparking Cyanide
The Hollow
The Labours of Hercules - containing:
Taken at the Flood
Witness for the Prosecution (short stories)
Crooked House
A Murder is Announced
Three Blind Mice (not UK)
They Came to Baghdad
The Under Dog (short stories)
 McGinty’s Dead
They Do It with Mirrors
After the Funeral
A Pocket Full of Rye
Destination Unknown
1955 Hickory Dickory Dock
Dead Man’s Folly
4.50 from Paddington
Murder She Said
Ordeal by Innocence
Cat Among the Pigeons
The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding (short stories)
The Pale Horse
Double Sin (short stories)
The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side
The Clocks
A Caribbean Mystery
At Bertram’s Hotel
Third Girl
Endless Night
Hallowe’en Party
Passenger to Frankfurt
The Golden Ball (short stories)
Elephants Can Remember
Postern of Fate
Poirot’s Early Cases (short stories)
Sleeping Murder
Miss Marple’s Final Cases (short stories)
Problem at Pollensa Bay (short stories)
The Harlequin Tea Set (short stories)
While the Light Lasts (short stories)

Book Riot's 100 Must-Read New York City Novels Challenge

NYC has long been the setting of many an iconic book and continues to be featured in contemporary works from romance to sci-fi. With so many to choose from how do you even begin to narrow them down? Enter Book Riot. Book Riot publishes some amazing 100 Must Read Novel lists on a crazy variety of topics on every things from middle-grade fantasy to the history of medicine. Luckily they have one on novels set in NYC too! I will link the original one here.

I will be reviewing each one and will occasionally include bonus content too! Once the review is posted the title of each book will become a link leading to the review. I will not be reviewing them in order since I will probably start out with the ones I already own but will re-read the ones I have read before.

Without further ado lets dive in to a big-apple themed pile of books!

1876: A Novel by Gore Vidal
A History of New York by Washington Irving
A Little Life by Hanya Yanigahara
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
Another Country by James Baldwin
Ashes of Fiery Weather by Kathleen Donohoe
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
Billy Bathgate by E.L. Doctorow
Bread Givers by Anya Yezierska
Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney
Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín
Brown Girl, Brownstones by Paule Marshall
Christodora by Tim Murphy
City of Dreams: A Novel of Nieuw Amsterdam and Early Manhattan by Beverly Swerling
Daddy Was a Number Runner by Louise Meriwether
Dissident Gardens by Jonathan Lethem
Dreamland by Kevin Baker
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
Fever by Mary Beth Keane
Forever by Pete Hamill
Fury by Salman Rushdie
Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
Going Down by Jennifer Belle
Half-Resurrection Blues by Daniel José Older
Heyday by Kurt Andersen
How the García Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
Jazz by Toni Morrison
Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr.
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCan
Lowboy by John Wray
Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid
Lush Life by Richard Price
Maggie, a Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane
Manhattan Transfer by John Dos Passos
Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk
Modern Lovers by Emma Straub
Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem
My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
Native Speaker by Chang-rae Lee
Netherland by Joseph O’Neill
Nevada by Imogen Binnie
Open City by Teju Cole
Passing by Nella Larsen
Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish
Push by Sapphire
Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow
Re Jane by Patricia Park
Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam
Rules of Civility: A Novel by Amor Towles
Seize the Day by Saul Bellow
Sex Wars: A Novel of Gilded Age New York by Marge Piercy
Sima’s Undergarments for Women by Ilana Stanger-Ross
Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins
Small Mercies by Eddie Joyce
Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
Speedboat by Renata Adler
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
The Alienist by Caleb Carr
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
The Ask by Sam Lipsyte
The Assistant by Bernard Malamud
The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaVelle
The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Chosen by Chaim Potok
The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud
The Ex by Alafair Burke
The Godfather by Mario Puzo
The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Negro Plot: A Tale of Conspiracy and Murder in Eighteenth-Century New York by Mat Johnson
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos
The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
The Prince of West End Avenue by Alan Isler
The Street by Ann Petry
The Thieves of Manhattan by Adam Langer
The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett
The Unpossessed by Tess Slesinger
The Warmest December by Bernice L. McFadden
Time and Again by Jack Finney
Underworld by Don DeLillo
Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
Washington Square by Henry James
Watchmen by Alan Moore
Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin
Zone One by Colson Whitehead

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

Author: Brandon Sanderson
Publisher: Tor
Publication Year: 2008
Pages: 748
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating: 5/5
Spoilers for Mistborn: The Final Empire & The Well of Ascension 


To end the Final Empire and restore freedom, Vin killed the Lord Ruler. But as a result, the Deepness---the lethal form of the ubiquitous mists---is back, along with increasingly heavy ashfalls and ever more powerful earthquakes. Humanity appears to be doomed.

The conclusion of the Mistborn trilogy fulfills all the promise of the first two books. Revelations abound, connections rooted in early chapters of the series click into place, and surprises, as satisfying as they are stunning, blossom like fireworks to dazzle and delight. It all leads up to a finale unmatched for originality and audacity that will leave readers rubbing their eyes in wonder, as if awaking from an amazing dream.


WELL that was...quite something! It's been a couple of weeks since I've finished this book and the ending still gives me shivers. This book makes it easy to see why Sanderson is a titan among his peers. He has managed to create an intricate world, complicated characters, and as always an epic cinematic ending. This books wraps up old story arcs, expands and explains the magic system and introduces us clearly for the first time (although there are hints in his previous books) at the larger intertwined universe and mythology  of the Cosmere. Some peripheral characters like Spook and Ten Soon get their own story arcs as seemingly small or peripheral scenes or issues become of crucial importance to the resolution.

The one thing that really stood out to me about this particular books was just how much the scale of the story had changed from the start of the trilogy; the close knit heisty narrative of the gang of thieves which made me so love the first book has been replaced by a broader narrative that touches upon morality, good and evil, and whether or not an individual has agency. Problems and solutions have become more abstract and the focus on Vin and Elend is less prominent. It’s as though throughout the course of the three books Sanderson has taken his story about a small band of elite thieves and zoomed out to give us a meta view of their context.

He has done so in a way that is subtle and skillful, this is clearly a masterful trilogy. My only concern is that at times this zoom felt too fast which is a bit of a strange thing to say since each book is hefty at over 500 pages each, however I enjoyed the first book so much that the loss of the camaraderie aspect of the first was felt in the other two. It says a lot about just how good this book is that my only quibble is that I wanted more.

The story wraps up in a way that is both emotionally satisfying and wrecking. It is an emotional gut punch which leaves you blinking in a daze after you have turned the last page. The only balm on my battered soul is knowing that we will revisit this world again in a new trilogy and that our time in the Mistborn world is not yet over. 

Here's Sanaa's take on the Hero of Ages:

Friday, June 30, 2017

Take a Virtual Walk through Literary New York!

So this is super cool! According to Time Out New York, Harper Collins is celebrating it's 200th year this year and has released an audio walking tour of places around NYC where some of the most renowned Harper Collins authors used to frequent. There are eight audio clips in total, each about 7 minutes long. The featured authors are James Harper, Mark Twain, Zora Neale Hurston, Betty Smith, Harper Lee, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Richard Wright and Maurice Sendak.

You can find the link to the audio tours here! 

Happy Listening! and Walking!

Book Con 2017 + 5 Tips for Making the Most out of Your Book Con Experience

So this year I got to attend my first Book Con ever and it. was. crazy.

Crazy amazing that is! I haven't felt that much collective bookish energy since I attended a midnight Harry Potter releases. Just being around so many people that shared a common love for books and being able to embrace my book nerdiness unabashedly was wonderful. It was certainly an event worth experiencing. If you are curious about Book Con or wondering if you should attend, here is a break down of my Book Con experience:

Before Book Con

I found out about Book Con late last year when researching bookish events around the city and it was close enough to my birthday that I though, why not treat myself and go? I purchased Saturday and Sunday passes for myself and a friend early February 2017 and as the date approached I checked on the Book Con website as they released more guest speakers, authors and events. I received my passes in the mail about a Month in advance.

Passes? Check! Metro Card? Check!

Prep Time

Being the type A book nerd that I am I spent couple of days before Book Con researching everything from the floor layout of the Javits center to MTA delays and best practices as explained by Book Tubers who had previously attended Book Con. I'm definitely glad I spent some time researching before hand otherwise I wouldn't have know to activate my pass, print my tickets for ticketed signing and what signings required purchases vs gave away free books, and the difference between a Main Stage event and panels and how to line up for one.

Needless to say it's a lot of information so I am glad I had everything ready to go beforehand including a map, my tickets and my schedule printed before hand and  my tote bag(s) ready which made the day of the convention run much more smoothly.

I love spreadsheets!

Book Con!

I live in NYC which is great because I didn't have to worry about hotels or flights. I do however live in Queens which means an early start. On Saturday I woke up at 4:00am and left my apartment at 4:30am. My book buddy and I arrived at the Javits center at around 5:30am to find it closed and a small line of about 30 sleepy bookworms already lined up around the corner. We took turns doing Dunkin' Donuts runs for breakfast and coffee. I was glad I had brought a mass market paper back to keep me entertained through the long waiting lines although chatting with my friend and other people in line made the time go back faster.

At around 7:00am the line began to move and go through a security check still set up out side the Center. We were then corralled into another waiting line closer to the Center doors. At 8:00am the doors were open and we were lead to a large room in the bottom floor of the center where you could choose to line up for a Main Stage event or for the Show Floor. My friend and I chose the latter and we joined more book fans in a corral like line for 2 more hours. At 10:00am we were lead to the show floor. It was madness! People were power walking and cheering as we flooded the Show Floor, snapping up ARCs and forming lines within the first 15 minutes like there was no tomorrow.

Despite the best laid plans, being flexible was key since some events started early, lines filled up and there would be spontaneous arc drops or giveaways. Some of the best experiences I had were unplanned interactions with booksellers, publishers and of course fellow fans. I spent most of the time on my feet on the show floor between attending panels and signings. The vast majority of the time I spent in line waiting for an event or signing and by the end of the day I was exhausted but happy and somehow managed to drag myself out of bed on Sunday as well to do it all again. 

SFF Resist Panel

Attending Book Con for the first time was a surreal and awesome experience. There was also a lot of things I learned about making the most out of your experience! After some thought, here are the

 5 Tips for Making the Most out of Your Book Con Experience:

1. Check the Book Con website and social media constantly for updates!

Things change last minute. Events are switched, new panelists and events are announced or canceled and the lining up system changes every year. Following the official Book Con website, social media pages and downloading the Book Con app will keep you updated of any changes. It's definitely to check in with these sources once in a while as you get closer to the event date.

2. Bring a Buddy with you!

If possible go with a fellow bookworm! There are so many ways that going with someone makes the experience better. Having a buddy makes the hours you spend waiting in line fly by,  it lets you coordinate for bathroom/coffee runs, it means you have someone to gush with and share the excitement with and some one to hold your totes while you need a break.

3. Make a schedule...

There is just WAY too much going on at Book Con to do it all (as much as we might like to!) Events, signings, panels and meet ups overlap and you would do well  to schedule at least 30 minutes of waiting time if not more for popular events. This means that making a plan is crucial to get as much out of your day as possible. You don't have to have a color coordinated spread sheet like some crazy people (me) but knowing how you want to prioritize your time, which events are most important to you and having a plan B and C is worth your time.

4. But be flexible

You would be hard pressed to find anyone whose Book Con schedule went completely according to plan and that's ok! Some of the best experiences I had were attending unplanned meet ups and running across random book drops. Lines are long and your time is limited and sometimes things just don't work out. Take it in stride and have fun because ultimately that's what we're here for!

5. Talk to your fellow Book Nerds!

Mingling with Book Nerds is really what made my experience at Book Con great fun. It can feel daunting for an introvert but everyone is there because they all love books too! You already share a common interest and almost everyone is incredibly friendly so talk to everyone! Please standing in line with you, attend meet ups, talk to book sellers and publishers they have incredible insights, anecdotes and advice. If you're extra nice they'll let you know when their next book drop will take place. You also don't know who you might run into! I stumbled into Gabby Rivera the author of Juliet Takes a Breath and of the new America #1 Marvel comic in the bathroom. Of course I just melted into a blubbery mess of awkward admiration but she was super nice about it.

All in all it was a wonderful experience! I can't wait for next year, I hope you get a chance to go too!

Bookish Bonanza!