Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead


Astonish-Me1Sometimes I love a book so much that I’m afraid to read anything else by the same author. I blame this on my own high expectations, but I hate being disappointed. Sometimes I just avoid reading books by authors I love just in case they won’t live up to my own self-created hype.

Two years ago I fell in love with Maggie Shipstead’s debut novel, Seating Arrangements and I truly mean I fell in love with that book.

I think about it all the time and wish I could read more books just like it, but I also know there is something special about certain books that similar books can’t quite capture. Seating Arrangements just had that…something. I loved the story, I loved the writing–Seating Arrangements is just so perfect.

So, I was nervous to read Shipstead’s second novel, Astonish Me when it finally arrived at my library.

Astonish Me is the story of a professional ballet dancer named Joan and her relationship with a Russian dancer named Arslan. The book begins in the 1970s, when Joan helps Arslan defect from the Soviet Union, and follows her life to present day. We meet an entire cast of unique characters, like the flamboyant artistic director of the ballet Mr. K and his muse, Elaine. All of the characters are evocative and could easily be the main characters of their own books, but in Astonish Me their lives are delicately connected, and every action effects someone else’s life–much like ballet itself.

And it is such a treat.

I really enjoyed Astonish Me, maybe even more than Seating Arrangements. There’s just something so great about Shipstead’s writing. It’s poetic and intricate without being difficult to read or pretentious. And she writes about subjects I would normally find mundane–like ballet–in a way that makes me care about them. I seriously feel the desire to go see a ballet now even though I know I will fall asleep 15 minutes in.

I know a lot of readers don’t enjoy her writing, but I really enjoyed both of her books. Basically I know that I will never hesitate to read another book by Maggie Shipstead.



Reading Slumps and Book Hangovers

Reading slumps are a very real problem for me. So are reading hangovers. Sometimes I read a book that sucks me in so much, that no other books can capture my attention. I’ve discovered that (at least for me) a reading slump is a direct result of a reading hangover. I feel like this has been a pattern in my reading life for a long, long time, but it wasn’t until this past month that I realized how connected the two problems really are.

555186faa9f9f.imageThe book that gave me my most recent book hangover was Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll. My friend Brennan is great at recommending books to me, and this was another one of her great selections. Based on the NY Times best seller list, I know I’m not the only one who couldn’t put this one down and there is a reason–this books is captivating! Luckiest Girl Alive follows Ani, a glamorous magazine columnist who is engaged to marry a wealthy New York businessman. However, Ani has a checkered past, which is revealed through flashbacks throughout the course of the novel. This is a rather vague plot summary, but I really don’t want to give any of this away! This was one of those books I thought I had figured out, but when the real twist was revealed I felt a shiver run down my spine. Luckiest Girl Alive is not the most poignant novel I’ve ever read, but it was hard to put down and I found myself very immersed in the world Knoll creates. When it was over, I couldn’t help but wish for another 20 pages. This book definitely had a Gone Girl vibe to it, and I’m so glad I read it.

However, it ruined me for weeks! Every book I tried to read after Luckiest Girl Alive, simply couldn’t hold my interest. Then, last week, I remembered that my usual cure for a reading slump is always YA. So, I took to the internet in search of some recommendations. I added a few books to my library holds queue, and the first one that arrived for me was Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything.

51R+gtob4RL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_What a charming book this was! Everything, Everything is the story of Madeline Whittier, an 18-year-old girl suffering from an immune disorder. Essentially she is allergic to the world and she isn’t able to leave her house. Life is pretty sweet for Madeline, though. She reads a lot of books, plays fun games with her mom, and takes online classes. Madeline is content with her life until a new family moves in next door and she strikes up an online relationship with Olly, the family’s 17-year-old son. Of course, this is a YA novel so cute romance ensues, but it was really a sweet read. I wouldn’t say it was funny, but there were some really lovely moments. Plus, there were scenes set in Hawaii, and I’m a big sucker for Hawaii.

Both of these books were so enjoyable, but very different. I’m hoping that after finishing Everything, Everything I won’t be so stuck! I’m really working my way through A Brief History of Seven Killings, but it is slow going. The book is simply so intense. Anyway, I hope I’ll get around to posting my Top Ten Tuesday tomorrow, but work may be busy. Thank you for reading!

Top Ten Tuesday: Valentine’s Day Edition

Hey all! Guess what? I’ve never had a Valentine in my entire life, and this year I finally have someone amazing to spend the holiday with. And, while I definitely feel like we should tell our significant others that we love them every single day, I am super excited about our date. We are going to a fondue restaurant and I have a new dress for the occasion–I couldn’t resist. I admit that it’s hard not to be wishing for this week to be over so I can eat a lot of melted cheese with my amazing boyfriend. Haha.

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is all about Valentine’s Day–but it’s a freebie, so I can write whatever I want. I’m half tempted to list my favorite couples in literature, or my favorite romantic books, but I’m going to write about the books I would give my cute boyfriend as a gift!

imagesI won’t torture the poor guy by actually  giving him books for Valentine’s Day, but if I were going to, these would be my top picks. And, the good news is, that I own most of these already so he can simply pluck them from my shelves if he so wishes.🙂

  1. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  2. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  3. Maus by Art Spiegelman
  4. The Periodic Table by Primo Levi
  5. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  6. The Stand by Stephen King
  7. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
  8. Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie
  9. I Am Legend and Other Stories by Richard Matheson
  10. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

I picked most of these books because I liked them and I want to talk about them with Tyler, but I really hated The Periodic Table and I think Tyler’s analytic mind will enjoy it much more than I did. I also think that most of these books would peak his interests–world history and Africa being two of his favorite topics. He’s also a musician, so High Fidelity and Reservation Blues should be right up his alley. I also firmly believe there isn’t a person on Earth who won’t find some entertainment in Ready Player One.

So, I hope Tyler will try some of these books! I am so excited for a fun Valentine’s Day with him and I am also eager to get a lot of reading done this week. I will hopefully have a book review up by Friday if school isn’t too crazy.

I’ve leave you with two more book-related Valentine sentiments.

2114First, I think my favorite couple in literature is Emma and Mr. Knightley…but that can change on any given day. Plus, Tyler and I watched Clueless over the weekend so they are on my mind.  I’d say other Jane Austen couples would be my choice if not those two, but never Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy–as if!

And, second, a quote from Sense and Sensibility, a novel that will always bring out the mushy, romantic side of me. However, I’m rather certain that this quote is only in the Emma Thompson version of the movie and not actually in the book, but I don’t care because it is amazing.

“I come here with no expectations, only to profess, now that I am at liberty to do so, that my heart is and always will be yours.”

When Edward says that to Elinor I cry every time. And now I want to read all of the Jane Austen books. It’s been so long since I’ve delved into the world of Jane.


Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone. I hope it is full of love!


Audiobook Roundup

Oh, hey there little blog. It seems that I have abandoned you once again. School and work and watching Star Wars: The Clone Wars all seem to be a bit more important than blogging.


And I guess it’s going to be harder to keep this blog updated than I hoped I would be. Dang it. I am trying though, I promise! I have five half-written, abandoned blog posts in my drafts folder, but I haven’t been liking my writing lately. Plus, I simply haven’t been devoting too much time to blogging.

But I have been reading a ton! My desire to read has increased so much over the last couple of months and I’ve started to really find pleasure in books again. That is exciting for me! And I’ve finished a few audiobooks, so I thought I’d write a little post about those.

BASSOON KING_ FINALThe Bassoon King by Rainn Wilson

I really enjoyed this book. As a big fan of The Office, I especially enjoyed the chapters Wilson wrote in the character of Dwight Shrute. Wilson’s life is more interesting than I had anticipated it would be–he struggled with drugs for a large part of his twenties, and I was surprised by this. He also talks about his religion, the Baha’i Faith, which I previously knew nothing about and found extremely compelling. Wilson also writes very lovingly about his relationship with his wife, and I really enjoyed his stories about his father. I would recommend this audiobook to almost anyone, as Wilson does write a little bit about Hollywood and his time on The Office, but this is more about personal growth and reflecting on one’s past.

anthony-bourdain-medium-raw1Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain

This is my second Bourdain book. I read his first, Kitchen Confidential last year, and I must say I enjoyed this one much more. As I predicted, Bourdain is snarky, sarcastic, and unapologetic in his observations and I found myself laughing out loud during some of this book. Like Kitchen Confidential, this is a book about the restaurant industry, but it felt like a love letter to food. Bourdain truly enjoys traveling the world and experiencing culture through food and I really enjoyed this book. It made me want to travel!

51Kqm8s-GGL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_Here’s the Stroy by Maureen McCormick

Am I ever going to stop loving celebrity memoirs? The answer is no. I really enjoy listening to them while I work because they don’t require as much focus as, say, historical nonfiction would. I also can’t seem to get interested in fiction on audio, but who knows if that will change. Anyway, I’ve discovered that almost anyone who has been on TV for more than 15 minutes as written a book and I’ve had some fun picking and choosing from these. I simply adored The Brady Bunch as a kid and honestly I still do. While I’ve always related most to Jan Brady, like most girls I envied Marcia and wished very desperately to be her. So, I thought Maureen McCormick’s book would be fun. It was! I mean, it was kind of a sad story and I was surprised about how heavily into drugs McCormick was, but I rally liked the message of this book. I do think McCormick read a bit strangely, and the pace was a bit slow, but overall I liked this one very much.

I am taking a bit of a break from celebrity audiobooks and I’m listening to a historical book. We will see how I like it! I also plan on writing a stand-alone book review of a book I just finished in the next couple of days.🙂



2016: Goals for the New Year

So, honestly I skipped out on Top Ten Tuesday last week because I didn’t like the prompt…oops. However, I am super excited about this week’s post and I figured I would go ahead and post it in conjunction with my 2015 wrap-up. So, this week we are going to do a quick rundown of goals for 2016.

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Bookish Resolutions for 2016

  1. Finish A Brief History of Seven Killings
  2. Do not buy any new books–unless with a gift card to a bookstore
  3. Use my library and return my books on time
  4. Donate/sell books I don’t want
  5. Read The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck
  6. Keep reading out loud with my boyfriend
  7. Read 40 books
  8. Reread A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
  9. Post on my book blog at least once a week
  10. Listen to at least two audiobooks a month

It should be pretty easy right?  I tried not to set any goals that would stress me out or be too difficult to achieve. Because, after all, I read for fun! All of these goals should help make 2016 a wonderfully bookish year.🙂

So Long, 2015!

Ugh. 2015 was such a failure for me as a reader. I’ve talked about it at length on this blog, but I simply didn’t dedicate enough time to reading last year. It’s sad because I was only two books short of my goal of reading 40 books. But, hey, 2016 is a new year and I will not be defined by the amount of books I read. At least that’s what I am trying to tell myself.

Anyway, I have traditionally posted a year-end post reflecting on what I read over the course of a year, where I choose my favorite and least-favorite books, etc. I’m not going to do that this year. Because, despite not reading much, I read many wonderful books in 2015. So, I am going to simply share a few thoughts about each of my favorites. If I gave the book I full review I will include the link.

StationElevenNorthAmericaHiResI read Station Eleven this year! I forgot until I started this post–it feels like 100 years since I finished Emily St. John Mandel’s harrowing apocalyptic tale . At the time I finished Station ElevenI liked it, but I didn’t love it as much as I do so many months after. This was truly one of the most enjoyable books I’ve ever encountered. I truly feel like it’s one of those universal novels that almost everyone will enjoy.

2015 was the year of Gilead. I get a weird, dreamy sensation when I think about this book and just how perfect it is. My review was more than positive and I think it still sums up how I feel about Marilynne Robinson’s exquisite novel. This book has stuck with me and when I drive out on the prairie I can’t help but imagine Reverend Ames and his father searching for his grandfather’s grave. It’s simply a beautifully written and poignant novel that captures all that is good about being alive. 68210

My audiobook obsession reached its peak at the end of 2015. I’ve listened to a few, and my favorite was definitely Rob Lowe’s Stories I Only Tell My Friends, but my review is rather recent and I want to mention another wonderful audiobook: Carrie Brownstein’s Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl. Brownstein stars in Portlandia, which is one of my favorite shows, so I was eager to learn more about her. But this book doesn’t even mention Portlandia! Instead we get an intimate look at Brownstein’s life in the Pacific Northwest playing in punk bands, most notably Sleater-Kinney. The book is about a lot more than that, though. It’s a raw exploration of one’s inner self and what it means to be a young woman. Brownstein’s narration is lovely and captivating, and her writing is intelligent. I can only hope Brownstein tries her hand at another memoir. And soon!

I read a few more wonderful books, and I am saving two reviews for later as I write more about my trip to Europe…and now for what we were all waiting for!

My favorite book I read in 2015 was Lily King’s beautiful, intelligent, and romantic novelEuphoria. I am enamored in this book and I wish it would have never ended. I found King’s writing to be intelligent, sharp, and accessible. I fell in love with the three main characters and the setting of the novel was so unique. The book is about a group of euphoriaanthropologists studying tribes in New Guinea–something I’m surprised peaked my interest. But from the first moments of the novel, when we meet the vibrant Nell Stone, I couldn’t help but care so very much about what happened to her. This book gave me more interest in anthropology and New Guinea, and I wonder if I will stumble on a nonfiction book to help me learn more about the history of the region. I love when books inspire me to learn more about the world!

So, 2015 is gone and I read so many wonderful books. I must say that I am already excited about 2016–my boyfriend bought me A Brief History of Seven Killings! Isn’t he wonderful? Especially since I am not allowed to buy any books for myself this year. I am really eager to delve into the unread books on my shelves, and see what I’ve been missing. I also hope I can spend a bit more time on my blog. 🙂

Santa Baby, Bring All the Books

I tried Top Ten Tuesday a long time ago in an effort to post more. I only participated one time before I forgot all about it. I was shamelessly reading my own blog the other day and saw that original post, so I decided I would try my hand at this (at least) one more time.

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Books I Wouldn’t Mind Santa Leaving Under My Tree This Year

  1. A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
  2. DC Trip by Sara Benincasa
  3. Bird Box by Josh Malerman
  4. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
  5. Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead
  6. Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
  7. The Vacationers by Emma Straub
  8. Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
  9. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
  10. The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway by Ernest Hemingway


Marlon James-A Brief History of Seven Killings

So, this list actually brings up something I’ve been wanting to briefly mention: I am putting myself on a self-imposed book-buying ban for the duration of 2016. Nooooo!!!It’s going to be tough and the struggle will be real, but I know with willpower I can do it.

Because I can do anything.

Why am I doing this to myself? Well, I have a ton of books taking up space in my apartment that I haven’t read. I have about 5 books on my Kindle that I have purchased and not read. And I want to save money because I want to go on fun trips and go out to nice dinners.

So, my plan is to only read books I already own, but if someone wants to buy me books I don’t think that would be a bad thing. Ha.

So, I sort of picked the first 10 books I thought of for this list–trust me, I want hundreds more. However, I’be been longing for A Brief History of Seven Killings for months! I tend to enjoy Booker Prize winners, and the premise of Marlon James’ novel sounds fascinating. And as soon as I finish Cujo (this is proving to be rather difficult because I sort of hate it) I can move on to the net Stephen King book in the chronology.

I am actually excited to peruse my own little library for unread treasures. And, with that being said, I can still check out books from the public library over the course of 2016–those are free! But, I will have t get better at returning books on time. We’ll see about that.