Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Romance Recommendations for Valentine's Day!

Love it or hate it, it's almost impossible to avoid the pink-and-red explosion of goodies that invades our lives every February so why not make the most of it and also treat your shelf  and yourself to some romance?

Romance gets a bad rap for being formulaic and homogeneous but I'm here to tell you that's not the case! Romance has something for everyone and then some. Not sure where to start? Below are some of my favorite romance reads so far:

New to Romance and not sure where to start? Try the Scandal and Scoundrel series by Sarah Maclean?

Sarah Maclean is a great gateway drug into romance. Her series always feature kick-ass feminist characters, a side of sass and are just all-around fun. Not up for a whole series? try the second book in the series: A Scot in the Dark (my personal favorite). You can normally read romance series out of order or as standalones!  

Are you a fan of YA? Try: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh!

This is a YA retelling of 1001 Nights and is actually the first part of a duology. It follows Shahrzad as she volunteers as tribute to be the Caliph's bride, except the Caliph kills his brides one day after their wedding, but not all is as it appears...

Do you enjoy heart-pounding historical fiction adventure stories? Try An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole!

Civil War spies! Adventure! Tension(sexual and otherwise)! and by far one of the most amazing kick-ass heroines I've read in a long time. This story will have you biting your nails until the last page!

Do you like PoC centered narratives and/or westerns? Try the Old West series by Beverly Jenkins!

Well, really try anything by Beverly Jenkins but this is her most recent series and it is as hot as the southwestern setting that her stories take place in.

Do you like suspense/thrillers? Try Radio Silence by Alyssa Cole!

Yes, I am recommending a second Alyssa Cole book because she is just that good! This book is set in a (dystopian?) setting where the US has lost all reception, and wholly mole does Cole put you through the wringer as we follow our protagonists trying to survive in the frigged woods of upstate New York.

Do you like intergenerational family with a good dollop of drama? Try Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai!

Alisha writes more 'angsty' romance than average if you are not into the sugary sweet but like complicated, fully developed characters grappling with deeper issues like family relationships and mental health this is the one for you.

Looking for something to give you the warm and fuzzies? Try Moonlight Over Manhattan by Sarah Morgan!

If angst is not really your wheelhouse try Sarah Morgan's Manhattan series, I have only personally read Moonlight over Manhattan but if it's any indication of her writing the whole series should be amazing. This book follows an overworked ER doctor and the dog-walker turned dog-sitter he hires to watch his sister's dog for a week. It is just adorable.

Looking for something sweet but feeling meh on the sexy? Try Twelve Days of Christmas by Debbie Macomber.

Debbie is a bit of a legend for the sheer number of books she produces especially her Christmas-themed books which she has published each year, pretty much consistently each year since 1986. Although Christmas has passed, I think this one can be read all year around. It centers on Christmas grump whose next door neighbor decides to 'kill him with kindness' and blog about her experience but then feelings happen.

What am I reading next in Romance? I am picking up The Wedding Date by debut novelist Jasmine Guillory! Getting stuck in an elevator and a fake date to an ex's wedding turns into something more? I can't wait to find out! 


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Greenlight Bookstores

It's been a while since I've done a NYC Bookstore Spotlight! Today I want to introduce you to one of my favorite bookstores in NYC: Greenlight Bookstores! There are actually two locations, the original and larger one in Fort Greene and the second branch in Prospect Leffert Gardens (both are in Brooklyn) I am actually closest to the PLG branch but frequent both regularly since they host different bookish events at each location.

Greenlight PLG! 

There are several things that I love about Greenlight and that make these bookstores stand out even among the excellent selection of indies that NYC has to offer: First the curation is excellent, featuring everything from front list literary fiction to a large children's section as well as a selection of journals, postcards and other NYC bookish souverniers. The prices tend to be full-sticker prices but they will have occasional sales and do have a great rewards program. 

Second, Greenlight tends to have some of the best bookish events and book groups in the city. Greenlight draws in big names like Jesmyn Ward and Celeste Ng as well as local authors like Liza Jessie Peterson. Being able to attend author events like these has definitely been a highlight of my bookish life in NYC. They also host a wide range of book clubs and book groups catering to most genre tastes.

At the launch for Sing, Unburied, Sing!

Last, but certainly not least, the staff is one of the friendliest and most knowledgeable that I've encountered. They're always up for a chat about their favorite latest read or ready with a recommendation handy should you need one. My only quibble with Greenlight is the way they shelve their books (you know it's a great bookstore when my only concern is being petty over the shelving methodology!) They shelve all of their fiction together without separating by genre. Which means that I can't go to the mystery section and browse which is, I realize, the most first-world complaint ever. 

In all seriousness, I adore Greenlight for the access to high quality events it gives readers, several of my bookish friends and I have bonded over attending Greenlight events, (like book club) they're always a great time! If you live in the Brooklyn area or are just visiting the area and are interested in bookish events, take a look at Greenlight's calendar, chances are there's an amazing event in the next few days.

Bookhaul for #Smallbuinsesssaturday #shoplocal

Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Silver Gun by L.A. Chandlar

Title: The Silver Gun
Author: L.A. Chandlar
Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Year: 2017
Pages: 334
Genre:Mystery/Historical Fiction
My Rating: 3.75/5


The Silver Gun in the first in the Art Deco Mystery series, a historical mystery series set in 1930's New York City. The story follows Lane Sanders, the 23 year old personal assistant to one of the city's most iconic mayors: Fiorello LaGuardia as she suddenly becomes the target of one of the city's most terrifying gangsters, uncovers a devastating revenge plot orchestrated by the city's crime syndicate and discovers a startling secret in her family's past.

My Thoughts:

This book has been on my TBR since I got it at the Brooklyn Book Fair last year and I don't know what took me so long to pick it because it's so much fun! This book is fast-paced, fun and immersive. The story vividly paints 1930's New York with tons of little details that brings Lane's world to life, like great descriptions of everything from the character's dress to food and pop culture references of the time and place and the inclusion of historical real people and events, like Fiorello LaGuardia, prohibition, and the 1939 World Fair, all of which help ground the story in Depression-era New York. Personally, I'm a bit of a sucker for historical fiction set in this time period so getting to spend some time in Lane's world was an absolute treat.

The story is also a a bit of a love letter to the city with vivid descriptions of the city and city life that will also ring true to the modern day New Yorker even as you are getting a blast to the past (smoking in the subway (!!). I found myself wanting to stroll along the brownstones on the Upper East Side or picnic in Central Park while reading the book and will definitely keep my eyes peeled for all the local establishments and urban details that Chandlar so deftly weaves into the narrative.

The plot itself feels a little tongue-in-cheek in the best of ways. It offers several winks to classic mystery and noir tropes that fans of the genre will recognize and enjoy. It self-consciously plays with these tropes, especially in the side characters: the mysterious rich aunt, the surprisingly capable Mr. Butler, the intrepid reporter, the honorable gangster and the femme fatale all make an appearance. Lane herself is a strong and fearless character who follows in the steps of Nancy Drew and Phryne Fisher. She is just as comfortable outmaneuvering gangsters in the meat packing district as she is dancing the night away in Little Italy in killer heels. If you are looking for a fun, detailed and hold-on-to-your-seat ending make sure to pick this one up!

Check out the book trailer below for a great feel for the book!

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