5.31.2016

Top 10 Beach Reads


Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature of The Broke and the Bookish.

I love going to the beach; I also just love sitting by the water in general. If I could safely have a kiddie pool in my apartment, I would lay out by it (but unfortunately, kicking up my heels with the sink full of soaking dishes just isn't the same!) I can pretty much read anything poolside, but here are some of my favorites:


1. Jaws, by Peter Benchley. 
Yes, seriously. I'm already semi-terrified of going in the water, so this one really doesn't do anything to make that worse. 

2. Dave Barry Slept Here: A Sort-Of History of the United States, by Dave Barry
Apparently Dave Barry is not for everyone. This is not a concept I understand. He's the kind of writer that I find funnier every time I pick him up. So if you don't mind looking like an idiot cracking yourself up, this is (probably) for you.

3. The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, by Lauren Willig
I've only read the first book in this series, but I have no doubt that Willig's historical flair runs through its entirety. I have to say, though, I'm a little concerned about her running out of color and flower names. Book 10 in the series is The Passion of the Purple Plumeria which just sounds awful, but then it's followed (Book 11) by The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla, which sounds like something the Brontë teenagers made up. 

4. Actually, while we're on that subject - Charlotte Brontë's juvenilia (e.g. The Secret, Tales of the Islanders, etc.) which is fantastical and perfect for reading on and off while you doze by the water.  

5. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
But then, I recommend The Princess Bride for all kinds of locations. It's an awfully fun book to just lose yourself in when you're laying out. 

6. The Princetta, by Anne-Laure Bondoux
A children's epic with adult appeal. It's perfect when you're by the water. 

7. Mariel of Redwall, by Brian Jacques
You don't *need* to have read the first three books in the Redwall series to appreciate this one, but I strongly recommend doing so. Mariel is great for the beach, though, because we first encounter the title character in a shipwreck, and pirates (naturally) follow. 

8. On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwan
McEwan is always a bit dark, but it's a great vacation read.

9. The Pirates of Barbary - Corsairs, Conquests and Captivity in the 17th Century Mediterranean, by Adrian Tinniswood 
While it's a fair distance from the classically romantic notions of pirating, it's a great non-fiction read for your beach bag. 

10. Persuasion, by Jane Austen
Thought I was going to leave Jane out, did you? Foolish mortals. Of course not. Persuasion is my favorite and, as such, I can read it just about anywhere. But the nautical undertones make it an easy to ones' beach reads. 

5.29.2016

Collected Book Reviews (5/22 - 5/28/16)

In addition to TLG's review of Bruce Wagner's The Empty Chair, be sure to check out more from the critics in this week's collected reviews:

The Thank You Book, the 25th and final book in Mo Willems' "Elephant and Piggie" series, and which Maria Russo acknowledges as a sort of "sacramental" experience. Willems is launching a new imprint "Elephant and Piggie Like Reading" later this year. 


Smoke, by Dan Vyleta which Jason Heller cites as being Dickensian in a way, but as also managing to avoid "anything remotely resembling cliché."


Brenda Janowitz's The Dinner Party - based on Marion Winik's review ("fun premise...hilariously precise") this one sounds like it'd make a great beach read. 


Finally, rather than another review, check out this report from The Guardian on two new papers that analyze the spells in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, and their likelihood of realistic use. (Seriously, science? It's magic. Back off. Let us have our nice things.)


5.26.2016

Review: The Empty Chair: two novellas, by Bruce Wagner

I'm warning you right now - there are some recent Game of Thrones spoilers ahead.

I know - that's not what you came here for. I'm sorry for that. The fact is, when I sat down to write this review, I had no plans of bringing up Game of Thrones. I was simply trying to work out how best to explain Bruce Wagner's compellingly difficult work. Suddenly it came to me - this week's episode "The Door" is the perfect companion piece to this book's backbone. So if Game of Thrones is not your thing, or it is but you still haven't watched this week's episode - sorry - you can skip this review if that's going to spoil something for you. Come on back later. For everyone else, let's dive in (after the break)

5.24.2016

Top 10 Books About Which I Feel Differently Now That Time Has Passed

Top 10 Tuesday is an original feature of The Broke and the Bookish.
This week's theme: Top 10 Books about which I feel differently now that time has passed. (less love, more love, complicated feelings, indifference, thought it was great in a genre until you became more well read in that genre etc.)
This is a tricky one. I feel like most of this is going to be an "it's complicated" situation...

1. The Tin Drum, by Günter Grass - Yeah, starting with some heavy stuff here. Sorry, not sorry. This was required reading for one of the courses I took in college for my English minor, called "The War Novel." The professor chose to focus on the World Wars, so it was full of O'Brien, Grass, Hemmingway, Celine, Barbusse and - god help us - Proust. Of the ones that I actually read (because I definitely didn't trouble myself with half of them), The Tin Drum is one of the ones I hated most. But nine-ish years on, it's grown on me. You can't make me re-watch the film (LOL nope) but the style and the voice are more appealing now. 

2. Save Me the Waltz, by Zelda Fitzgerald - In high school, I was obsessed with the Fitzgeralds. Ob. Sessed. In 2003, I managed to acquire a disintegrating 1968 paperback of this, the only novel attributed to the wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald. I keep it squeezed on a shelf tightly, between two other books in the hopes that it will keep it from deteriorating further. I love it more with every read. It's clumsy and human in a way that Scott's novels strive to be but almost never achieve.

3. Lester Higata's 20th Century, by Barbara Hamby - I loved it when I read it in 2010. But now I can't remember why. Almost nothing from it has stuck with me, aside from Hamby's inherent poetry.

4. Angels and Demons, by Dan Brown - I know. I know. Dan Brown. Dan Brown was once the crown prince of popular fiction. He couldn't write those historical thrillers quick enough for the populace's hunger for them (or Tom Hanks' for that matter). I read The DaVinci Code overnight - in about 6 hours. But Angels and Demons I read over the course of a college semester. I just didn't have the option of not sleeping one night to try and get through it. I think, for that reason, I liked A&D more - because it lived with me longer. But now I honestly could barely tell you what the difference is between the two. Blame Tom Hanks and that awful hair he has in those movies.

5. The Echo-Maker, by Richard Powers - Another one from college that I'd rather forget. This was for a Contemporary Fiction class (and it was very contemporary, as the book came out the same year as the class) and I thought it was wretched. And something about just the memory of reading it makes me angry. It won awards! It was a Pulitzer finalist! And it was a waste of my time.

6. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by JK Rowling - As the release of the 7th and final Harry Potter book approached, I re-read all of them. I had done this for the last four books. Up until that time, Goblet of Fire had been my favorite. And then something changed. I honestly can't tell you what it was, but a switch flipped as I re-read Order of the Phoenix that summer, and it was like re-discovering something you'd lost in an old house when you were a kid, that has suddenly turned up in a desk drawer 2,000 miles away. However many years later, still my favorite.

7. The Color of a Dog Running Away, by Richard Gwyn - When I first read this book, I was sooo into it. But, looking back, it's kind of like The DaVinci Code Lite.

8. Auraria, by Tim Westover - Loved this book when it came out, still love it, and I wish that more people knew about it!

9. Mystery on the Moors, by Barbara Michaels - I picked up this 1967 paperback at a Books-a-Million in probably 1999? 2000? It was my first introduction to the gothic novel (Jane Eyre hit my desk about two years later) and I pretty much thought it was the best thing ever. In retrospect, it's not that great. However, I still have my poor (like Save Me the Waltz) disintegrating copy (the cover is now completely gone), and it's another one of those books that I *know* no one else has read, and that makes me a little sad.

10. Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen - Of all the Austen novels, this one took me the longest to come around to. Fanny is kind of a push-over as far as Austen heroines go, and she's in love with her first cousin which, you know, is weird. Frankly, the damn thing bored me. But when I gave it a second go, I noticed the subtle bite of the narrator's tone, the quiet judgement falling from Austen's pen, and the sweetness of its simplicity. I find that I like it much more now.


5.22.2016

Collected Book Reviews (5/15-5/22/16)

Our next review will be along shortly! In the meantime, be sure to check out more from the critics in this week's collected reviews:

LaRose, by Louise Erdrich
which Mary Gordon praises as "superb." 

Girls on Fire, by Robin Wasserman
which Michael Schaub says is "nearly impossible to put down."

Jade Sharma's Problems, which
the author discusses with Devin Kelly over at 

And finally The Bridge Ladies, a memoir by Betsy Lerner, 
about mothers and daughters, and their struggles to get along.