Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Stylish Bookworm

I recently read an interview about a stay-at-home mom that started a  monthly subscription business for book lovers. The business is called, The Bookish Box and it is "for the stylish bookworm". I signed up for the February box with the theme being "Galentine's Day". The box includes a t-shirt and 3-5 home, beauty and fashion items. The box was shipped on the 10th and I received mine on the 13th, just in time for Valentine's Day.
I had a t-shirt (unisex or women's cut), a cute book tote, book club notebook, bookmark, magnet (ovaries before bovaries), and a keychain. I liked everything and may re-gift an item or two. Next month, the theme is debut novels. There is also a special edition Outlander box that is being shipped out for April. The cost is about $29.99 plus shipping.

I also enjoy following book lovers on Instagram. I do enjoy all the creative and artsy ways they display their books. Never are the pictures realistic and I wonder how long it takes to set the scene and how many pictures she takes before getting that perfect shot. Here are the ones I follow:
The Bookish Box
Coffee Reading Writing
Writing Explained
Crime by the Book
Cozy Daily
Parnassus, Parnassus Next and Mary Todd Lincoln Coffman

I recently saw this post making fun of all the artsy IG pics and it really made me laugh.

I say he nailed it!

Do you have a monthly book subscription?
What authors or bookworm pages do you follow?

Friday, January 29, 2016

In Defense of Crap

In 2008, the Nashville Public Library honored John Irving with their Literary Award. The morning of the award gala, Irving spoke about books and writing at the Ryman. Near the end of the Q&A session, a teenage girl asked the ubiquitous question: "How do I become a writer?" Irving told her she must read, read, read, and then he said something that became my personal reading mantra: "Being well-read is the best defense against crap."

But folks, today I come to you...in defense of crap. 

Just before Christmas, I was killing time in a San Francisco bookstore while Ken finished his Christmas shopping*, and I saw a book recommended "for those waiting on Downton Abbey to return." What's this? A book for Downton fans? I am a Downton fan. So I bought a copy of Rhys Bowen's A Royal Pain

Y'all. The series is called Her Royal Spyness. Because the protagonist is a down-on-her-luck Lady Georgiana, and she solves murders that keep happening around her. HA! These books are not great literature. They do not have themes or motifs. Each book repeats Lady Georgiana's basic facts (her mother was an actress, her father lost their fortune, her great-great grandmother was Queen Victoria) because as long as you know her general penniless but royal siuation, you can dive right in anywhere in the series. And I know this because I've read ALL BUT ONE of them. That's eight Her Royal Spynesses. I can't stop! They're like book candy. And Georgie (as her friends call her) has a not-quite-solidified relationship with a man named Darcy. Darcy! For Pete's sake. 

You know what makes it worse? I'm on book five of Bowen's Constable Evans series! Constable Evans works in a small Welsh village called Llanfair, and while he's merely a village constable, he solves murders that keep happening around him. And he has a not-quite-solidified relationship with a schoolteacher named Bronwyn. Each book is prefaced with a list of Welsh words and phrases, their meanings, and their pronunciations. Almost everyone in the town is an Evans, so they're called "Evans-the-Law" and "Evans-the-Milk" and "Evans-the-Meat**." I. Can't. Even. 

A few Constable Evanses ago, I decided to let go and let God. And I started Rhys Bowen's Molly Murphy series. 

Maybe "crap" isn't the right term for my new loves. Compared to my usual picks--Jhumpa Lahiri, the Brontes, Eudora Welty***--they are juvenile. But they're well-written stories, albeit kind of see-through and silly. But dang it, there are certain reading times that just call for a murder-solving cousin of the king. 

What are your favorites that fall in the, shall we say, "lightweight" realm? (You have them, right? Please say you have them.)

*He was buying my engagement ring, but I didn't know that at the time, of course.
**Minds out of the gutter, he's the butcher.
***Eudora Welty short stories only. It took me a long time to admit I don't really like her novels. The admission was quite freeing.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

To Be or Not To Be

Hi! Charlie here. Last time, I wrote about the cool interactive fiction called "80 Days." A fantastic little app that I thought built a pretty compelling world using not much more than the written word, it nonetheless may have been a bit too "gamey" for some.

Now, I come to you with a DIFFERENT sort of interactive novel: Ryan North's "To Be or Not To Be." This one is a real-life, honest-to-god book you can buy, OR (and this is what I recommend) you get the much cheaper app version for your phone.

Remember Choose Your Own Adventure books? It's one of those, but as a genuinely hilarious retelling of Hamlet. 

How it works is: you pick your character (Hamlet, Ophelia, or King Hamlet). The plot unfolds then as Shakespeare intended (though paraphrased in hyper-casual modern English) but every so often you're given two or three choices for how to continue. The story can spin out of control from there. And by out of control, I mean out of control. (On one of my reads, King Hamlet's ghost went exploring for sunken pirate treasure on the bottom of the ocean.)

The choices you're given can result in very different endings. For instance: has Hamlet's tragic flaw of inaction always frustrated you? Well, how about you just go kill Claudius from the very beginning? You can do that! Has the somewhat troubling and outdated views of female sexuality made you bristle? Well Ophelia can become a super-smart inventor who doesn't take crap from any man! It's smart, well-written, and really funny. Like, actual laugh-out-loud funny.

I haven't enjoyed a book this much in a long time. And it is an actual book, so if you're not into games at all, still give this a shot!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Literary Character Party: Crowdsourcing my Costume

Please share your ideas of what you would be and what I should be for this event. Details preferred on how to pull off the suggested costumes.

Full disclosure: I might be out of town for this party, but I want to hear from the readers of this blog.

Current front-running ideas from others (based on ease of costume and the fact the party will be full of Millennials):
Fern from Charlotte's Web
Katniss from The Hunger Games 

What say you, Le Book Chat friends?

Friday, January 8, 2016

Reading Challenge Accepted

I was thinking of what my reading goals should be for the new year when I received the latest blog post. Perfect timing! I set a goal for 2015 to read 50 books and surpassed that easily. I wanted something more than just a book total for this year and a goal that may help me clear out the large stack of books I've accumulated.

My plan so far for the Modern Mrs. Darcy reading challenge . . .

A book you've been meaning to read--Pride and Prejudice. I love all things P & P so it is long past time to read this classic.

A book you should have read in high school--Jane Eyre. This book meets about four of the categories but I picked this one because it was required reading and I just could not get through it. Hopefully, I've matured a little since then and will be able to finish and enjoy it.

A book chosen by spouse, best friend, etc--A Walk in the Woods. Two great friends and my husband highly recommend this one.

A book published before you were born--The House of Mirth. Another goal of reading classics.

A book you previously abandoned--The Wind in the Willows. This is listed as a celebrated work of literature but I could not get into it. I want to finish it and hopefully read with my daughter.

A book you own but have never read--The Angel's Game. I loved Shadow of the Wind (Carlos Ruiz Zafon). It was such a beautiful love story to books. This book is a companion to SOTW and not as good reviews which is why it's lingered in the stack so long.

A book that intimidates you--A Voice in the Wind (Mark of the Lion #1). It seems so overwhelming but trusted friends rave about this series. I typically do not enjoy Christian fiction but Redeeming Love and Lineage of Grace were so good that I trust Francine Rivers.

A book you've already read--Crazy Ladies. Obviously, I need to re-read this one. I told a friend that it was so funny. She quickly let me know that so far there was rape, murder and divorce. Hmm. So, I call my Auntie and mention the book and she says, "oh that was so funny". Are we the crazy ladies?

I'm sure the rest of the categories will fill out as the year goes on. I still set a book total goal through Goodreads but definitely more excited about this one.

What about you? What categories have you filled in?

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Reading Challenge...Accepted?

When I was in college, I started writing down every book I read in a notebook. Looking back, I eagerly cataloged every Mary Higgins Clark book that I read outside of school, but it seems I didn't deem books I read for class as worthy of recording. As an English major, that's a...strange oversight. (Although I also distinctly remember not finishing Pride and Prejudice for years after it was assigned in class...a class in which I got an A on my character study of Mr. Bennett. Brilliant writing skills on my part or state-school education? Let's not dissect it.) 

Even though other methods of book tracking are more searchable and less likely to be forgotten about, I've stuck with my old notebook. (I toy with the idea of using an online spreadsheet instead, but then I read The Bone Clocks, which seized me with FOLPFAHNI (fear of losing power forever and having no internet). 

Along with my book tracking, some years I set a reading goal. Lately, I've seen a trend toward reading challenges that are meant broaden horizons. Book Riot started a reading challenge last year, and they've just released the 2016 challenge. The 2016 challenge has some wonky items that range from potentially awkward (read a book aloud to someone) to weirdly specific (read a non-superhero comic that debuted in the past three years).

However, Modern Mrs. Darcy published a reading challenge that is meant to help you succeed--read a book you've been meaning to read...read a book that has been banned...read a book that intimidates you. These, friends, are things we can succeed at. 

Do you set a yearly reading goal? Is anyone interested in following Modern Mrs. Darcy's challenge and sharing what you read for each category? 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

More Holiday Advice, or At Least You Aren't Being Attacked by a Whale

Since my dealing-with-Thanksgiving tactics came a day too late, let's get a jump on Christmas.

First, survival stories. Is your family nosy? Do they disapprove of your life choices? Do they think that Don Lemon is a good reporter? Well, tell that to the guys who escaped from a Siberian gulag and then walked across the Gobi Desert and the Himalayas. Or to the guys who were attacked by a great whale.*

NPR's Book Concierge is pretty amazing. It offers the standard categories--fiction, nonfiction, etc.--but also areas like It's All Geek to Me, Rather Long, and Rather Short.

If you need a short-ish volume to read on the flight home, try this list from Maureen Corrigan. Always, always trust Maureen Corrigan. She will not steer you wrong. while her reviews are rarely out-and-out negative, if she says that a book is "just OK," you have been warned. Her story happens to include my favorite book of 2015, The Tsar of Love and Techno**, and also a few that are on my TBR list: The Mare, No Better Friend, and The Story of the Lost Child.

Ever one to put things into perspective, Sarah Vowell talked about her new book, Lafayette and the Somewhat United States, on Conan. "Do you have feet? Do you shoes? At Valley Forge, that's what we call a Merry Christmas."

And then there's this, from the author of the awesome pop culture book, Slaughterhouse 90210:

My sibling is re-posting Ted Nugent on Facebook, so some of us do indeed need your prescriptive Thanksgiving survival content, thanks.

What are all of you planning to read over the holidays?

*The movie version of In the Heart of the Sea is about to be released. It stars Chris Hemsworth, who I am thankful to for being the only funny part in that new Vacation movie. It is a terrible, terrible, NSFW, NSF People Who Like Movies, NSF People with Working Brains movie. (If you liked this movie, I only ask that you let me know so I can never, never take movie recommendations from you.)

**Anthony Marra, the author of The Tsar of Love and Techno and A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, lives about 30 minutes from me. Who is surprised that I haven't started stalking him? [raises own hand]