April TBR and Readathon Sign-up

I finished four books in March, which is huge as I only read one book in January/February. I think I have a bit of my reading mojo back and I ready to read.

I’ve assembled a stack of books for April:

On April’s Audio TBR:

 

April’s Poetry Collection:

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Fiction on the TBR pile:

This TBR does not include my books for Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon. Readathon is happening on 04/29 and I’m participating as much as my schedule allows that day. I plan on stocking that pile with plenty of graphic novels. Shoot me your graphic novel recommendations!

Portrait of the Alcoholic by Kaveh Akbar

                                                                 “It can be difficult

telling the size of something

when it’s right above you – the average

cumulus cloud weighing as much

as eighty elephants. The things I’ve thought I’ve loved

could sink an ocean liner, and likely would if given the chance.”

~ “Portrait of the Alcoholic with Home Invader and House Fly”

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On January 19th of this year I celebrated 19 years of being methamphetamine clean. I would say that this is my sobriety anniversary, but one learns that sobriety is more than abstaining from the one vice. In the past my addiction has fed through other avenues that I’ll refrain from discussing so publicly, but for the past several years I have been completely sober from all of my vices. As a sober-anniversary gift to myself I purchased Kaveh Akbar’s Portrait of the Alcoholic.

Reviewing poetry is tricky for me. I love the concept of each reader reading a poem in their own way and illuminated by their own path in life. Post-reading discussions are helpful, but that first glimpse should be as unsullied as possible by the reviewer’s interpretation and experience. I’m attempting this review and fully expecting that I can in no way relate the intimacy, cadence, and power of these poems. To me, reading a poem is as intensely a personal experience as writing one, it feels prayerful, and reviewing poems can have the potential to disrupt that personal reading and sully the sublime with artificial conjecture.

Prayer is a predominant presence in Portrait of the Alcoholic. Akbar describes learning to pray by watching his father and admiring him as if he were “the long faultless tongue of God.” There is the earnest prayer of apology for mistakes made that is also resentful of the intrusion of God seeing all of one’s true and vulnerable self. Akbar recalls ripping out the pages of his Qur’an that concern Hell and his fear and resiliency is raw and real and holy.

In “Every Drunk Wants to Die Sober It’s How We Beat the Game” Akbar writes, “…in Islam there are prayers to return almost anything even / prayers to return faith I have been going through book after book pushing / the sounds through my teeth /       I will keep making these noises / as long as deemed necessary until there is nothing left of me to forgive”. The desire for forgiveness hums through each poem, but what is most present in this collection is the specter of hungry addiction. Always there, addictive hunger is a bruising presence that reverberates through each poem. That hunger is both familiar and comfortable and offers nothing but oblivion and loss. At the same time there is another hunger, a tangible hunger for hope, survival, love, and poetry. Addictive hunger and hopeful hunger are twin energies that pull and push and tangle through each poem.

The poems in Portrait of the Alcoholic examines what makes us lovable and worth saving and tempers that with the damage humans can inflict. When one battles addiction there comes a reckoning of all the mistakes, hurts, and embarrassments and there is a decision to be made: drown it all and give up or to see that “the ladder / you’re looking for starts not on the ground but several feet below it” and then you decide to pull yourself up.

~~~~~~~

Portrait of the Alcoholic is a chapbook from Sibling Rivalry Press and Akbar’s first full length collection, Calling a Wolf a Wolf, will be released in September from Alice James Books.

I’d also like to mention that Kaveh Akbar is an absolute cheerleader and champion for all things poetry. I really enjoy his interviews with fellow poets at Divedapper. You can listen to Akbar read one of his poems here.

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

“A handful of heartbeats. That was what life was. A heartbeat followed by a heartbeat. A breath followed by a breath. One moment followed by another moment and then there was a last moment. Life was a s fragile as a bird’s heartbeat, fleeting as the bluebells in the wood.”

~ A God in Ruins, by Kate Atkinson

On January first I began this year’s reading adventure. I brewed a pot of coffee, helped myself to a pumpkin spice biscotti, plugged in my electric blanket and settled in with Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins. I envisioned a winter holiday binge reading of this book, but I didn’t finish this novel until February 24th. 50% of my slow reading pace was because I began this book the week I started graduate school and a solid 40% was due to a family member’s extended illness. A 10% chunk of my slower than molasses reading was due to this book hitting me emotionally in a way I had not expected.

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This companion novel to Life After Life follows Ursula’s brother, Teddy, through his time in World War II, his courtship and marriage to Nancy, his dealings with his obnoxiously selfish daughter, Violet, and his special relationship with his grandchildren.

While Life After Life is magical realism throughout, A God in Ruins is a much quieter book, but reflects on many of the same things: the horror of war and loss, loneliness, and how little we are able to really read the people we love. I cannot say much else without ruining the book as there is a twist and turn here and there. I think Life After Life is a finer novel and more of a page turner, but I keep this book close to my heart as well. I sobbed through the last 20 pages of the novel because it reminded me of my grandfather dying last July. I felt like the wind was knocked out of me and I hadn’t expected that.

If you enjoy WWII historical novels with quality character development and introspective and lovely writing, then this is a book for you. While Atkinson has stated that this is more of a companion to Life After Life rather than a sequel, I certainly think you should read Life After Life first.

 

March Book Haul

I should be writing a discussion post for grad school, but my brain is fried. So here I am… not doing homework… and talking about my vice. No, not coffee, THE OTHER VICE. Book buying.

I’ve always felt really guilty about buying books. For goodness sake I work in a library SURROUNDED by books and I can ILL nearly anything and then there’s the whole spending money thing that makes me feel so ding-dang guilty.

That all changed this year. There were some practical changes that meant I was paying less for daycare and I have a little bit of spending money now and then there was the election fallout. With the government poo-pooing on artists, writers, libraries, and a million other things, I decided to use my money to support books, authors, and bookstores. I’m not going to feel guilty for spending $20 here and there for books. I mean, there are worst vices.

I do tend to cull with some regularity and some of my books this month were purchased with store credit. Yay! Now enough with the justifications and on to the books.

In early March Sam and I had an afternoon date and he knows the best way to woo is to take me book shopping.

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The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor was a gift from Sam that he bought me at Books-a-Million. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith was a Goodwill find and in pristine condition. Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd, Summer and Bird by Cat Mull, Night Film by Marisha Pessl, and Ghostly by Audrey Niffenegger were all very inexpensive purchases at a bargain store called Ollie’s.

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There is a rad bookstore called Avid about 45 minutes away from my home town. I don’t get a chance to shop there as often as I like, so I decided to do a 6 month subscription to their curated subscription service. Talk about winning! I’ve had my eye on this Dutton book since I saw the gorgeous cover on the interwebs several months ago. Avid sent me this book based on my personal tastes – I had to send a little about me write-up – and because this is a small press book and March is small press month. I wonder if I’ll get poetry next month for poetry month!!!

I had an especially tough day due to some family issues that have broken my heart. Sam and I were in Atlanta and I was sad, so he took me to A Cappella Books. Apparently some poor soul had broken up with Virginia Woolf and ditched her at the used book store, so I bought a bunch of rad vintage Virginia Woolf novels along with the first three volumes of her diary. I bought Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter by Simone de Beauvoir because I adore that book and cannot find my copy, A Month in the Country was my NYRB classics score of the day, and I nabbed a used copy of Anne Sexton’s The Death Notebooks. Not pictured, Sam got book of Robert Rauschenberg art and a book on graffiti font (yes, seriously he did).

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Next up, a bookish shopping trip with mom. I used my store credit, a $5 off coupon, and my 20% educator’s discount at 2nd and Charles to rack up The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins, Arthur and George by Julian Barnes, The Belly of the Beast by Emile Zola, The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham, and – a blind date with a book pick – Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire.

At Barnes and Noble I used some coupons and my discount card to purchase Vanessa and her Sister by Priya Parmar, The Vegetarian by Han Kang, the Penguin Deluxe version of The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, and Heresy by S.J. Parris.

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My last haul is from Avid Reader’s Musings. She sent me some goodies (including that rad mug and a Sylvia Plath finger puppet magnet!). A vintage copy of an Edith Wharton story, a Persephone Modern Classic copy of The Montana Stories by Katherine Mansfield, Can you Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope, and David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks.

Whelp… that was March. I could tell you that I will not be buying books for ages, but, honestly, that would be an absolute lie. April is my birthday month! 😉

Classics Club Spin #15

I’m late to the game by over a week. Once again the Classics Club has challenged readers to make a list of 20 books on your Classics TBR, then a random number is issued, and one is to read that work by May 1st. I checked the blog and spoiled the number surprise for myself. Below I’ve listed 20 classics I’d love to read and then I’ll use a random number generator to pick a number and assign myself a book. Here we go:

5 NYRB Classics:

  • Stoner by John Williams
  • Loving by Henry Green
  • Chocky by John Wyndham
  • Beware of Pity by Stephen Zweig
  • A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr

5 Persephone Classics:

  • Mariana by Monica Dickens
  • Every Eye by Isobel English
  • They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple
  • The Crowded Street by Winifred Holtby
  • To Bed with Grand Music by Marghanita Laski

5 Victorian Novels

  • The Small House at Allingham by Anthony Trollope
  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
  • Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
  • No Name by Wilkie Collins

5 Virago Classics

  • South Riding by Winifred Holtby
  • A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor
  • Our Spoons Came from Woolsworth by Barbara Comyns
  • The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim
  • All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West

AND THE NUMBER IS…

#2 – Loving by Henry Green!

 

Readerly Rambles: 3/19/17

What I read: Last week I finished Lynn Shepherd’s Murder at Mansfield Park. It was an enjoyable read and just the right amount of fun I needed.

Currently Reading: I’m just over 100 pages into L.P. Hartley’s The Go-Between. It is the story of a young boy who summers with another boy from his school and ends up getting in the middle of a muddle. I’m really enjoying it.

What’s Up Next: I’ve downloaded an audiobook of The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen. I have Kavah Akbar’s chapbook collection Portrait of the Alcoholic and the latest New Yorker on my nightstand. After I finish my current novel, I plan on reading The Mothers by Brit Bennett.

What’s on your TBR for the week? 

Coffee Talk: A Return to Blogging

At the close of last year I coffeetalkdecided to quit blogging. My blog of almost ten years had become an absolute chore. I had moved from being mostly a book blogger to a life blogger. For a while this worked. Until it didn’t and I don’t really need to go into those details. Cool! I’ll just go back to book blogging… oh blast… I cannot … I’m not reading a damn thing.

I knew that 2017 would be full of some family challenges and I was starting graduate school for my Masters in Library and Information Science. Oh well, no time for blogging. I shut it down my blog.

My reading at the beginning of the year was s l o w… I didn’t finish a book until the end of February and right now I’m only on my fourth book. But I began to notice something… I was super craving bookish everything. Bookstores, libraries, bookish print dresses, Instagram feeds with lovely stacks of books accompanied by mugs of coffee, and podcasts. While I wasn’t reading, I was listening. Primarily to The Readers. Simon and Thomas have a way of making me crave some solid reading time and I always end up adding books to my TBR on their recommendations. I listened to all of 2016 – I was behind on episodes – while at work. Then it hit me. I missed having bookish friends and gushing over books. I mean, I have tons of bookish friends, but we don’t really share out bookishness on the daily. I missed my community.

My first thought was to start a vlog. I get tired of typing after computer work for most of the day and then doing homework at night. Several friends warned me that vlog editing can be time-consuming and while I’d like to think that I could keep it low-key and not care about lighting and editing … ummmm… let’s just say I think I would end up a frustrated perfectionist who never posts. Oh yeah, and then there’s the fact that Thomas of Hogglestock hates vlogs and he is one of my favorite book bloggers (and an all round swell guy).

Okay, so how about I just really jazz up my Instagram! Or do Litsy! Really pump up books on social media. Cool! Except, I cannot really do long form reviews and lists easily or I’ll have to use several platforms to accomplish those goals. OH YEAH… and Thomas HATES Instagram. Ugh. What other cool book bloggers will I not meet if I’m just chillin with the millennials on Instagram (for the record, I love millennials)?

So Thomas, thank you, you gave me that push to go back to blogging.

Returning to blogging and focusing on books has been on my brain for ages (as in, as soon as I quit I missed blogging). I’m not sure how often I will post here. I have great intentions, but I also have a literature review due in April. We’ll see how my non-graduate studies reading goes.

In this space I plan on

  • writing book reviews when the fancy strikes
  • chatting over cups of coffee on bookish subjects
  • sharing the too many books I’ve bought the past few months
  • sharing the books my kids are reading
  • showcasing some of my graduate studies and work moments because I’d like people to know that librarians do NOT get to read all day
  • lists… lots of bookish lists
  • poetry and poets because they give me life
  • shelfies
  • shoutouts to my favorite bookish folks
  • TBRs and monthly wrap-ups
  • the occasional unboxing
  • wishlist books
  • general reading updates

Whelp. There we are. I’m glad to be back. Now to work on the reading mojo…