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July Monthly Recap


It’s time for our monthly recap! Find out which books were favorites, which were duds, and which ones we plan to read the following month. We’ll end our wrap up with a calendar of book-related events/facts from the Month of July and we’ll highlight our upcoming August content. This month, one randomly selected follower (email or wordpress follower) will win a $10 amazon gift card. Scroll down to see if you are the winner. The prize is only awarded if you contact us with your email address so make sure to check these monthly recaps each month to see if you won! We also want to hear from you so let us know what you read in July and what you look forward to reading in August. 
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2015 Man Booker Prize Longlist

Today at noon, they announced the books that made it onto the Man Booker Prize longlist. Yesterday we made some predictions. Check out the longlist books and see how we did with our predictions. Read more

Man Booker Prize Longlist: Our Predictions

logo Tomorrow at noon BST, the books on the longlist for the Man Booker Prize will be announced. The Man Booker Prize launched in 1969 with the goal of trying to promote and celebrate the best novel of the year written in English and published in the U.K. The winner gets £50,000 and a nice bump in sales worldwide. Last year’s winner was Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Tomorrow, they announce the longlist. The shortlist will be announced on Tuesday 15 September 2015 and the winner will be announced on Tuesday 13 October 2015. Trying to predict which books make it onto the list is like trying to predict the weather but we’re going to try. According to the rules, the eligibility criteria are as follows:

Any novel originally written in English and published in the UK in the year of the prize, regardless of the nationality of their author. The novel must be an original work in English (not a translation) and must not be self-published.

Here are a few my predictions (in no particular order) for books that may make it on to the list. Full disclosure: my predictions are based largely on the buzz that some of these books have gotten as many have yet to be published and I have not read most of them. Read more

Book – Wine Pairing: Independent People by Laxness

Welcome to our second Book-Wine Pairing: a recurring category that combines two of my favorite things! This month I’m featuring a rather tenuous pairing for the book Independent People by Halldór Laxness — a pairing that is probably based more on my interest for trying a certain wine than anything else. Keep reading to find out more about the book and the wine. Read more

The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead: A Classic of Family Dysfunction

man who loved children

The Man who Loved Children by Christina Stead
Published in: 1940
Reviewed by: Jen
Rating: 4 stars
Find it here: The Man Who Loved Children: A Novel

The Man Who Loved Children is a family saga set in the 1940s. The Pollit family is a dysfunctional one on all levels. Henny and Sam Pollit are trapped in a loveless and unhappy marriage and their discord seeps down to their children. Henny appears mentally unbalanced, unloving, and unsympathetic. At first, she seems to be the villain in the family. She screams and threatens her children and generally behaves in an appalling manner but, as events unfold, we gain a clearer understanding and empathy for Henny who is powerless and trapped by her surroundings. Family patriarch Sam Pollit (who is based on the author’s own father) seems jolly and loving toward his family but, in reality, his childishly patronizing manner and lack of self-awareness reveal him to be far from the story’s hero. He talks to his family in a form of baby-talk, at times singing and rhyming and suppressing any signs of autonomy or independence in his children. Sam is an idealist who can’t see past his own ideals to recognize the squalor and unhappiness of his own family. Read more

Summer Challenge Update #3


It’s time for a Summer Challenge update! Every two weeks we will be posting an update on the challenge along with some ideas for book locations. Still want to join? We will keep the challenge sign up open until the end of this month. You can learn more about our summer challenge here.

In each update, we will give an honorable mention to the reader who posts our favorite book-location pairing since time of last update. Keep reading to find out who is in the lead and to get some ideas for your book locations. Read more

Americanah by Adichie


Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Published in: 2013
Awards: National Book Critics Award for Fiction (2013); International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award Nominee for Shortlist
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by: Jen
Find it here: Americanah

Adichie has become one of my favorite authors. I loved Half of a Yellow Sun (reviewed earlier in the year here), Purple Hibiscus, and We Should All be Feminists. Her writing is always strongly intellectual but easily accessible. Adichie doesn’t just write good stories. She writes good stories with powerful socio-political and cultural messages. So, I guess it is no surprise that I really enjoyed Americanah. Find out why Americanah makes into my list of favorite books read in 2015 (thus far)… Read more

Falling Man by Don Delillo


Falling Man by Don DeLillo
Published in: 2007
Reviewed by: Jen and Book Worm
Find it here: Falling Man

Synopsis (from Amazon): There is September 11 and then there are the days after, and finally the years.

Falling Man is a magnificent, essential novel about the event that defines turn-of-the-century America. It begins in the smoke and ash of the burning towers and tracks the aftermath of this global tremor in the intimate lives of a few people.

First there is Keith, walking out of the rubble into a life that he’d always imagined belonged to everyone but him. Then Lianne, his estranged wife, memory-haunted, trying to reconcile two versions of the same shadowy man. And their small son Justin, standing at the window, scanning the sky for more planes.

These are lives choreographed by loss, grief, and the enormous force of history.

Brave and brilliant, Falling Man traces the way the events of September 11 have reconfigured our emotional landscape, our memory and our perception of the world. It is cathartic, beautiful, heartbreaking.

Book Worm’s Review:
4 Stars

I think this was an easier read for me than it was for Jen, as I am not American and so had a level of distance from the actual events. For me 9/11 was an horrendous news story like the earthquakes in Japan or the 2012 Tsunami. It scared me, it made me sad, but I was removed from it.

What this book offered was a view not of the horrific events themselves, but the perspective of what happens next. DeLillo chooses to do this by concentrating on one family that lives, works, and goes to school in New York City. Through this family, he shows how what happened has an impact for years after the events and probably forever for those affected.

To me this book made the events more real as it bought them down to an individual human level.

Jen’s Review:
3.5 stars
This was a difficult book for me to read. My husband and I had just moved from NYC shortly before 9/11. He worked in one of the buildings right next to the World Trade Center. We got married two days before 9/11 and we had friends and family flying out of Boston that morning. There was a span of several hours when we didn’t know whether any of our family or friends were on one of the planes. We were lucky because we didn’t lose anyone close to us although my husband’s company lost several people in the attacks. It was only until recently that I even could think about reading a book about the days surrounding 9/11.

DeLillo does a wonderful job capturing the emotional and psychological impact of the events of 9/11 on the lives of New Yorkers. The novel is told alternating perspectives of a man who was in the towers at the time of the attack, his estranged wife, and one of the terrorists. DeLillo bounces back and forth between perspectives and, at times, it can be hard to figure out who we are following at any given time. He also moves around chronologically with the beginning and end of the book taking place in the towers and the middle taking place in the months afterwards. Although the man returns to his family after the events, they continue to be emotionally distant. Each member of the family copes with events in their own ways that further alienate them from other members of the family. The book is well-written, using repetition and alternating narratives to thrust the reader into the mindset of New Yorkers during that time.

Despite all the positives, I had difficulties connecting with the characters (perhaps that was the point) and some parts of the novel dragged. However, I think it can be a valuable book for those who want to learn more about how trauma can impact ordinary people.

Want to try it for yourself? Find it here: Falling Man

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Have you read any other works by DeLillo?

Kid’s Corner: Blueberries with Sal

blueberries with sal

July is National Blueberry Month (yes, that’s a thing) so what better way to celebrate than by selecting an oldie but goodie for our July Kid’s Corner? E is four and a half and getting her excited about healthy foods can be a challenge. As an infant and toddler she ate almost everything but at age 3 she started protesting anything that wasn’t a carbohydrate. One thing that has been effective has been to take her to where her food comes from. We are members of a community farm share and, over the summer, we like to take her to pick her own foods. We’ve picked green beans, snap peas, cherry tomatoes, raspberries, strawberries, shell peas, bush beans, husk cherries, and tomatillos. But by far our favorite is blueberry picking. Blueberries are perfect for little fingers and are pretty versatile, thus easily integrated into a variety of foods.

So this month E and I reviewed Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey. Keep reading to find out what E thought of the book. We’ll show you what we made with all the blueberries we picked (with recipe), and I’ll end by recommending some of my favorite books to teach young children about healthy foods. Read more

Go Set a Watchman


Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably seen some of the controversy surrounding Go Set a Watchman. The “sequel,” released last week, was actually written prior to To Kill A Mockingbird and focuses on Scout as an adult. Harper Lee’s editor liked the childhood flashbacks in Go Set a Watchman and encouraged Lee to rewrite the book focusing on Scout as a child and, thus, To Kill A Mockingbird was born.

Rumors and speculation abound around the “newer” novel. The timing of the book’s release along with information about Lee’s ability to provide informed consent — a drastic shift in position after years of stating she never wanted to publish again — is shady to say the least. You can read more about that here. Lack of informed consent in publishing is not new. Kafka requested that his works be destroyed after his death and he was clear throughout his lifetime that he did not want them published. In addition to issues surrounding informed consent, other controversy surrounds Harper Lee. Some have said that Harper Lee didn’t really write TKAM but rather that the book was written, at least in part, by her childhood friend Truman Capote. The Wall Street Journal published a story about data miners who analyzed both books and debunked the idea that Capote wrote TKAM.

Rumors aside, was it any good? Keep reading to see our thoughts.
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