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March Monthly Recap


Time for our March recap. Find out which books were favorites, which were duds, and which ones we are most looking forward to in 2016. We’ll end our wrap up with a a list of books due out in April and a glimpse of our upcoming content. We also want to hear from you so let us know what you read this month and what you look forward to reading next month.

We are taking a brief hiatus from awarding gift cards since last month someone attempted to steal the card from the true winner (by creating a fake email account with that person’s name and emailing me to request the gift card to that fake account). We will restructure this make it more difficult for this to happen and should be up and running again next month.   Read more

The Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America


We have a new contributor to our blog: Kate. Kate will be writing occasional reviews of non-fiction books in addition to a recurring feature dedicated to travels through Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. She starts us off with her first review but we will be seeing much more from her in the future. You can read her bio on our “about” page. Read more

On the Road – The Secret Chord – Geraldine Brooks


Mount of Olives, Israel

I was fortunate enough to get to visit Israel this past November, and as I was standing in front of King David’s Tomb I realized I didn’t really know anything about him.  A friend posted a review of The Secret Chord and I knew it was the perfect book to educate me.  (I love Biblical fiction, but struggle reading the actual Bible.)

It wasn’t long before it clicked that this was David of “and Goliath” and “and Bathsheba” fame.

I love ancient history and I think that’s one of the reasons Biblical fiction is so appealing to me.  I learned so many interesting things about David, which most of you probably already know, but which were news to me.  Like, he wrote a bunch of the Psalms.  I won’t say too much about him because I don’t want to ruin the story for those not in the know, but let’s just say, he was a maniac.  He is also the first man in “literature whose story is told in detail from early childhood to extreme old age.  Some scholars have called this biography the oldest piece of history writing… ”  Kind of makes me want to read the bible.  Kind of.

Read more

Non 1001 Book Review: The Noise of Time Julian Barnes


The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes is one of the books on our March Book Madness Bracket and was ranked number 1 in the “fiction by non-U.S. born authors. Did you pick it to go all the way? The book doesn’t come out in the U.S. until May but it has been out in the U.K. for a few months. Here’s my review: Read more

Kid’s Corner: Finding Winnie by Lindsay Mattick

finding winnie

Our daughter is at the age when she is constantly asking us for the story behind things and whether things are “real.” Is Santa real? Unicorns real? Fairies? I haven’t quite figured out how to respond. Do I destroy her sense of wonder and fantasy or do I help her distinguish between fact and fiction? Usually I just mumble some noncommittal answer and try to change the subject. So imagine my pleasure when she asked if Winnie the Pooh was real and I actually had an answer for her — based on a book that had just been released.  Read more

1001 Book Review: Hangover Square Patrick Hamilton


Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton
Published in: 1941
Literary Awards:
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Rating: ★★★
Find it here: Modern Classics Hangover Square

Synopsis from Amazon:

A pitch-black comedy set in London overshadowed by the looming threat of the Second World War.

London, 1939, and in the grimy publands of Earls Court, George Harvey Bone is pursuing a helpless infatuation. Netta is cool, contemptuous and hopelessly desirable to George. George is adrift in a drunken hell, except in his ‘dead’ moments, when something goes click in his head and he realizes, without a doubt, that he must kill her. In the darkly comic Hangover Square Patrick Hamilton brilliantly evokes a seedy, fog-bound world of saloon bars, lodging houses and boozing philosophers, immortalising the slang and conversational tone of a whole generation and capturing the premonitions of doom that pervaded London life in the months before the war.

Book Worm’s Review: Set in Earls Court London in 1939 this is the story of George Harvey Bone a mild mannered, pathetic drunkard who is obsessed with the beautiful but contemptuous Netta.

George seems to suffer from either split personality disorder or schizophrenia as he has 2 very distinct modes of life which he describes as he brain flicking a switch. In his normal life he is the stooge to Netta and her group of admirers while in his “dead mood” real life becomes like a silent film and George’s only purpose is to kill Netta, each life is separate and when inhabiting one he cannot remember the other until late in the book when things begin to cross over.

George is an unlikeable character because he is a drunk, because he is desperate for someone to love him and because he allows Netta and her group to walk all over him, however he is more likeable than every other character (with the exception of one) and so as a reader I found myself routing for him to allow the “dead mood” to take control and for Netta to get what is coming to her.

I enjoyed being inside George’s mind when he was in his “dead mood” and there are humourous moments where he views things that he has arranged as coincidence. I was curious as to how George would rationalize murder and how he would come up with a method as well as being confused by his belief that if he did kill anyone if he got to Maidenhead it would be alright.

This will appeal to those with a dark sense of humour as well as those who enjoy an insight into a single character’s state of mind.

Want to try it for yourself? You can find a copy here: Modern Classics Hangover Square

We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think? 

March Book Madness Update


It’s time for our first update in what has been one of the craziest March Madness Tournaments in a while. Yesterday effectively killed any chance I had in winning. Scroll to the end for the scoreboard. Since books were matched to teams, here are how the books fared in the first round. Read more

Non 1001 Book Review: The Widow Fiona Barton


The Widow by Fiona Barton
Published in: February 2016
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Rating: ★★★
Find it here: The Widow

This ARC was provided by Random House UK (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis from Goodreads: For fans of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, an electrifying thriller that will take you into the dark spaces that exist between a husband and a wife.

When the police started asking questions, Jean Taylor turned into a different woman. One who enabled her and her husband to carry on, when more bad things began to happen…

But that woman’s husband died last week. And Jean doesn’t have to be her anymore.

There’s a lot Jean hasn’t said over the years about the crime her husband was suspected of committing. She was too busy being the perfect wife, standing by her man while living with the accusing glares and the anonymous harassment.

Now there’s no reason to stay quiet. There are people who want to hear her story. They want to know what it was like living with that man. She can tell them that there were secrets. There always are in a marriage.

The truth—that’s all anyone wants. But the one lesson Jean has learned in the last few years is that she can make people believe anything…

Book Worm’s Thoughts: This is an interesting character study of one woman, Jean Taylor, and how she stands by her husband when he is accused of a terrible crime. Years later, her husband dies and Jean finds her ordered world falling apart. She is once again the centre of attention and this time she has no one to protect and no reason not to talk.

The novel has multiple narrators and shifts in time from the present to the past.  We get to see events from Jean’s point of view, her husband’s point of view, a reporter’s point of view, a victim’s point of view, and the police point of view. Each new chapter gives a new perspective on events and piece by piece they come together to build up a cohesive story.

I liked the shift in narratives and timeframes and how the story was built up slowly as links were revealed. My problem with the book was that I didn’t find Jean convincing as a real person and as she is the central character, that was a real issue for me.

I would also say the comparison with Gone Girl is wrong. This is a much slower narrative and one with very few real plot twists.

So who would like this? I think those who enjoy crime fiction and those who like fiction about relationships with hidden secrets will be drawn to this book. Content warning: This book features child abduction and abuse and although it is never actually explicitly described. However, those who are uncomfortable with these themes should probably avoid this book.

Want to try it for yourself? You can find a copy here.

We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think? Does it sound like a book you would want to read? Which are your favorite crime fiction writers and/or novels?

Last few hours to sign up!


Last chance to sign up for our book bracket challenge (full rules here)! I’ve created a pool over at CBS for anyone who wants to play along. You can find that here. Password is: book madness. Brackets lock around noon today so make your picks this morning or you will be shut out. Please note that only about half of our participants have created CBS brackets (some have emailed their spreadsheets directly to me) so the list of participants over at CBS represents about half of the entries.

The grand prize requires that you read books you pick from your bracket but one prize involves predictions only with no reading.

When you are picking your brackets, please note that Basketball teams are paired with books in the following way:

South (non-fiction)
1. Between the World and Me = Kansas
2. The Boys in the Boat = Villanova
3. Maus: A Survivor’s Tale = Miami
4. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks = California
5. H is for Hawk = Maryland
6. Into Thin Air = Arizona
7. The Warmth of Other Suns = Iowa
8. The Hot Zone = Colorado
9. The Year of Magical Thinking = UConn
10. The Snow Leopard = Temple
11. See you Made an Effort = Wichita St
12. In Other Words = South Dakota State
13. Dark Money = Hawai’i
14. = Charles Bukowski = Buffalo
15. Archive Fever = UNC Asheville
16. The Great Spring = Austin Peay

East (fiction non-U.S.)
1.  The Noise of Time = North Carolina
2.  Half of a Yellow Sun = Xavier
3. Rebecca = West Virginia
4. Room = Kentucky
5. A God in Ruins = Indiana
6. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki = Notre Dame
7. I Capture the Castle = Wisconsin
8. The High Mountains of Portugal = USC
9. The Illegal = Providence
10. Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend = Pittsburgh
11. Snow = Michigan
12. The Heather Blazing = Chattanooga
13. Shylock is my Name = Stony Brook
14. Bone and Bread = Stephen F. Austin
15. Minister without Portfolio = Weber State
16. What Lies Between us = FGCU 

West (science fiction/fantasy)
1. The Martian = Oregon 
2. The Lions of Al-Rassan = Oklahoma
3. Neverwhere = Texas A&M
4. The Fifth Season = Duke
5. Station Elevan = Baylor
6. Never Let me Go = Texas
7. The Dispossessed = Oregon State
8. Hild = Saint Joseph’s 
9. The Bazaar of Bad Dreams = Cincinnati
10. Ancillary Sword = VCU
11. The Library at Mount Char = Northern Iowa
12. New World Fairy Tales = Yale
13. All the Birds = UNC Wilmington
14. Uprooted =  Green Bay
15. The Beautiful Bureaucrat = Cal St Bakersfield
16. The Traitor Baru Comorant = Holy Cross

Midwest (Fiction U.S.) ranks
1. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena = Virginia
2. Epitaph = Michigan State
3. Night Film = Utah
4. City on Fire = Iowa State
5. All the Light We Cannot See = Purdue
6. Lonesome Dove = Seton Hall
7. The Queen of the Night = Dayton
8. We Are Water = Texas Tech
9. Did you Ever have a Family? = Butler
10. Turner House = Syracuse
11. Euphoria = Gonzaga
12. Fates and Furies = Little Rock
13. Infinite Jest = Iona
14. The Edge of Lost = Fresno State
15. The Sellout = Middle Tennessee
16. Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist = Hampton

Featured Author: Ian McEwan

ian mcewan.jpg

This month’s featured author is an author who has 8 books on the 1001 list (across all editions): Ian McEwan. Keep reading to see our thoughts and let us know which are your favorite McEwan novels.

McEwan was born in 1948 in England to Scottish parents. His father worked his way up the army to rank of major and as such Ian and his family lived all over the world including East Asia, Germany, and North Africa. McEwan’s early works were characterized by their dark quality and as a result he was given the nickname Ian Macabre. The British Literature Council had this to say about his early works:

McEwan’s early pieces were notorious for their dark themes and perverse, even gothic, material. Controversy surrounding the extreme subject matter of the first four works, which are concerned with paedophilia, murder, incest and violence, was exacerbated by their troubling narrative framework, the way in which conventional moral perspectives are disrupted or overturned, the reader frequently drawn into prurient involvement with the characters. McEwan’s perpetrator-narrators draw us into complicity with their crimes, whilst his victims seem strangely collusive in their own exploitation and destruction.

His later works are considered to be considerably less dark but many explore the impact of extraordinary events in the lives of ordinary people.

His novels have received much critical acclaim. The Times featured him as one of the top 50 British authors since 1954 and he has won more awards that can fit in this brief bio. His books have been nominated for the Man Booker Prize six times, wining the prize in 1998 for his novel Amsterdam. The Comfort of Strangers, Black Dogs, Chesil Beach, and Atonement were all shortlisted for the Man Booker Award and Saturday was longlisted for the award.

You can read more about him on his website and in this Paris Review article.

List of published novels (as of March 9, 2016):
First Love, Last Rites (1975)
In Between the Sheets (1978)
The Cement Garden (1978)
The Comfort of Strangers (1981)
The Imitation Game (1981)
Or Shall we Die? (1983)
The Ploughman’s Lunch (1985)
The Child in Time (1987)
Sour Sweet (1988)
The Innocent (1990)
Black Dogs (1992)
The Daydreamer (1994)
Enduring Love (1997)
Amsterdam (1998)
Atonement (2001)
Saturday (2005)
On Chesil Beach (2007)
For You: The Libretto (2008)
Solar: (2010)
Sweet Tooth (2012)
The Children’s Act (2014)

Jen’s Thoughts: I have only read two books by McEwan: Atonement and Saturday. I had been wary of his books precisely because I don’t love the macabre and I was turned off by some of the reviews I’d seen of books like The Cement Garden. However, I loved Atonement. In fact, I was the love it reviewer for a love it or hate it feature that we did on this book about a year ago. Unfortunately, I did not love Saturday. While brilliantly written and an excellent concept for a book, I personally found it somewhat dull. There were moments that were great but my main reaction to the book was one of boredom. Since I have only read two of his books, I don’t feel overly qualified to guide you through which books to read. So I will leave it to Book Worm to be your guide.

Book Worm’s Thoughts: I have read 6 books by McEwan and I can honestly say they have all been completely different from each other in terms of style and content. That is the sign of a gifted writer. Of the 6 I have read, my favourites were Atonement (just thinking about that ending still brings a tear to my eyes) and Enduring Love closely followed by The Child in Time and Amsterdam. Unlike Jen I actually enjoyed Saturday yes some sections dragged (how many pages do you need to devote to a game of squash) but overall I liked the concept of following a person for 24 hours to see what happened to them and how they reacted to it. My least favourite book is On Chesil Beach. I found the storyline to be slightly weird, the relationship to be unbelievable, and the ending just miserable. This is not one I would recommend.

McEwan has a real gift for storytelling and for capturing all the different aspects of a character and what it is that drives them and makes them who they are. He is also happy writing from multiple perspectives including different sexes and social backgrounds as well as different points in time.

As each of the books I have read are so different to the each other my advice to readers would be if you have read 1 McEwan book and not liked it try another one as you might love it.

We want to hear from you! Which books of his have you read? Which were your favorites and least favorites?