summer reading

Review and Blog Tour: One True Loves

onetrueloves Happy June, everyone!  I’m so thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for One True Loves, the latest book from Taylor Jenkins Reid. Last year I read (and adored!) Maybe in Another Life, and I reviewed that here.  So thank you, Atria, for giving me the chance to read One True Loves!

Stick around after my review: there’s a link to a giveaway at the end of this post!

Emma Blair lives a cozy life in Massachusetts. She works at her family’s bookstore and she has a wonderful fiance named Sam. One night when she is sitting down to dinner with Sam and her parents she gets a phone call she could not have expected to get in a million years. On the other end of the line, she hears the voice of her first love and her husband, Jesse Lerner. He tells her he is coming home.

Three years prior, on the eve of their first wedding anniversary, Emma said goodbye to Jesse before he boarded a helicopter on an assignment. The helicopter went down, leaving no survivors, as the authorities and family were lead to believe.

But somehow, Jesse survived all of this time. Jesse, who Emma grieved for, is coming back home, and he wants to pick up their marriage where they left off.

Emma, who mourned and suffered and drastically altered the circumstances of her life, is a new person, promised to another man.

“Do you ever get over loss? Or do you just find a box within yourself, big enough to hold it? Do you just stuff it in there, push it down, and snap the lid on it? Do you just work, every day, to keep the box shut?”

What follows is a intricate story about relationships, choices, and personal identity. Emma is not only caught between two men; she’s caught between the life she had built for herself before Jesse’s accident, and the life she is building for herself now.

When Emma was married to Jesse, the two lived in California and traveled the world extensively – together as well as separately – and they were always up for a new experience.

Emma’s life with Sam is rooted in their Massachusetts hometown. It is a calm and cozy life, full of domesticity, and owning cats, and having dinners at home. Both of Emma’s lives are appealing for their own reasons.

The supporting cast of characters – Emma’s parents and sister, Marie – are complicated in their own way, but fiercely dedicated to the rest of the family. Scenes between Emma and her sister are especially poignant.

Taylor Jenkins Reid is a master of tugging on the heartstrings. If you’re looking for a book to make you swoon and/or cry this summer, I highly recommend picking up One True Loves.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Taylor Jenkins Reid is an author and essayist from Acton, Massachusetts. She is the author of Forever, Interrupted, After I Do and Maybe In Another Life. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Alex, and her dog, Rabbit. You can follow her on Twitter @TJenkinsReid.

ONE TRUE LOVES by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Atria/Washington Square Press Paperback | ISBN: 9781476776903 | On sale: June 7, 2016 | 352 pages | $16.00

eBook: Atria/Washington Square Press | ISBN: 9781476776910 | On sale: June 7, 2016 | 352 pages | $11.99

RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY:

2 COMPLETE SETS OF SIGNED TJR BOOKS

5 SIGNED COPIES OF ONE TRUE LOVES

Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway HERE.

Thanks to Atria Books for supplying me with an advanced e-copy for review purposes!

Danielle Villano is the editor of BiblioSmiles, and she is really glad you’re here. Learn more on the About page.  Tweet @daniellevillano.

Summer Book Challenge 2015

Oh look, it’s summer! Is it totally silly that I still feel like there might be a snowstorm somewhere around the corner here in the Northeast, like Mother Nature is waiting on one more prank?

Last year, I wrote up a summer book challenge reminiscent of the ones I used to do at my town library when I was little. Back then, reading books under the summer sun let me rack up points to earn knickknacks like erasers shaped like ice cream cones and posters of kittens hanging onto trees. Quality stuff for a kid.

I challenged us all to read 10 books last summer, and this summer, I’m going to attempt it again! That’s 3.3 books a month. I believe in you, BiblioSmilers. I managed nine of the books last year, and to be honest, The Brothers Karamazov by Doystoyvesky was a lofty goal.

So here are my rules for the Summer Book-It List of 2015. I hope you’re inspired to join me. Or check out the summer challenge from last year for those parameters. Have fun!

1. A guilty pleasure book
We all need beach reads. Pure enjoyable fluff to entertain our minds and let all the other stresses drift away as we thumb through pages. So go on, even pick up Fifty Shades of Grey. I won’t tell.

2. A book written by a woman
But please do a little something more literary for this category than Fifty Shades of Grey. I think during my middle school and high school education, we read three (THREE!) books by women. Let’s have some love for lady authors. (Editor’s Note: I recommend Jhumpa Lahiri, Alison Bechdel, or Margaret Atwood!)

3. A banned book
Books get banned for all sorts of silly reasons–Charlotte’s Web was once banned, because the idea of talking animals was clearly blasphemous. Check here for some frequently challenged books, or here or books banned by entire governments.

4. A book you own but never read
We all have them. Back when Borders was my second home, my shelves were filled with books I couldn’t keep up with. And even know, because of my love of BookBub, the books have been piling up again.

5. A book that won a prize of merit
Look at what smart people think are are worth reading. National Book Award, Pulitzer Prize, and the Man Booker Prize are good places to start. I mean, I’ll probably be using the Newbery Award or the Hugo Awards to choose mine, because nerd life forever.

6. A book by someone from a different culture than yours
It can be written by someone in a foreign country, or by a different culture within your own and anything goes – authored by someone of a different ethnic background, different class, a book in LGBT culture if you’re not, etcetera. 

7. A collection of something
Whether it’s poetry, short stories, or one-act plays. There’s something lovely about the way flash fiction captures emotion in such a short span of words. As Shakespeare said, brevity is the soul of wit. 

8. A book that takes you through time
Whether it was written in 1850, or just takes place then, read a book that lets you time travel. And don’t limit yourself to historical fiction. You can go forward in time too. Read some crazy space adventures. 

9. A book that you would’ve picked out as a kid
Not going to lie, I definitely judged books by their covers as a kid. Find a book that gets you excited, that you would’ve loved to grab when you were little. It can be about magic and fairy godmothers, like a fairytale retelling. Or superheroes or the wild, wild west. Hey, maybe it’s even a comic book. It’s summer. Enjoy it.

10. A book someone picks for you
This was on the list last year, but I love it as a category. The books that resonate with people are revealing. Ask someone with different tastes than you, or your best friend. The recommendation may surprise you. 

11. Bonus! A book about where you’re vacationing this summer (or where you wish you could go!)
Because we should all be on a beach this summer. Or scaling Mt. Everest, or wrestling big cats in South Africa, or drinking tea in a busy Istanbul market. Take a vacation with the written word. 

So there’s the list! Do you think you’ll read with us this summer? Let us know what your choices are.

Gabriele Boland is an aspiring grown-up. She enjoys pretending she’s in a Disney movie, letting her dork flag fly, and writing stories that will never see the light of day. The other ramblings of her mind can be found at Brilliant Buckets.

The Classics Club

[Editor’s Note: Did you see Gabriele’s post on how to read classic literature? Today, Jennifer is here to talk about The Classics Club! Thanks, Jennifer. Get reading, bookworms!]

I’d be willing to bet that when people think about classics, some of the first words that come to mind are “eventually” and “someday.”  I can’t count how many times I’ve heard people say that they want to read Anna Karenina or Bleak House or One Hundred Years of Solitude – at some point in the future when they have both the time and the inclination.  Which, if you’re like me, is scheduled for the Twelfth of Never.

Last year I found a way to get out of this mindset: joining The Classics Club, an online community of people who read and blog about classics.  Becoming an active member of the Club takes only four steps:

  • Come up with a list of a minimum of 50 classics (no maximum) that you will commit to reading within the next five years.
  • Go to The Classics Club and submit your blog information (see step #4) by clicking on “Join the Club/FAQs” (under “About the Club”).
  • Read the classics on your list in any order you choose.
  • Review each classic you read on your blog. If you don’t currently have a blog, you can create one just for this purpose (I didn’t have a blog before joining).  Your reviews don’t have to be extensive or professional – just post whatever thoughts you have about the books you read.

This whole process might just seem like a lot of extra work, but the key thing is that the CC community provides inspiration to actually wade through your list.  “Spins” are its primary method of support.  Every few months, the Club moderators publish a message to let readers know that a Spin is coming up, and those who feel like participating post a list of 20 classics from their complete list before the Spin Date.  The usual suggestion is to include five books that you’re dreading, five that you’re excited about, five that you’re neutral about, and five free choice.  Then, on the predetermined Spin Date, the moderators post a number between 1 and 20 (using a random number generator, I think), and you read whatever classic falls under that number on your list.

The Classics Spins are often the catalyst necessary to read Moby Dick, or Les Misérables, or anything else that seems too daunting to pick up for no specific reason.  By participating, you now have a specific end date to shoot for (normally several months away), and, when you’re finished reading and writing your review, you can submit your review to the massive Member Review List (side note: this list in itself is a great resource, whether or not you end up participating in the Club).  You can also reply to “Check-in” posts at any time, letting everyone know what you’re reading and how you’re enjoying (or not enjoying) the experience so far.

Basically, the site provides a community setting for an otherwise solitary activity.  It’s inspired me to start a literary blog, Insert Literary Pun Here, gotten me in contact with other passionate readers, and ensured that sometime in the next four and a half years I will have read War and Peace – not a bad deal for someone who lived on “eventually” before.

Jennifer H. is a Comparative Literature major who believes in the subjunctive mood and loves George Eliot in a way that’s probably unhealthy.  She recently lost her battle against mediocrity.  You can follow her book reviews at Insert Literary Pun Here.

Kids Rule: Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge

I am very, very proud of the youth of today.

I may not like their fashion sense, their newfangled Urban Dictionary vocabulary (remember when all we had to deal with was “LOL?”), or the fact that they never had to suffer through the agony of dial-up internet, but there is one thing I like:

They’re reading. A lot.

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The Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge is a free, worldwide challenge for children and schools. Between May 5th and September 5th, children can sign up on the Scholastic website (younger children can get help from their parents!) and log the minutes they spend reading. They can also participate in weekly challenges, enter giveaways, and unlock special messages. There are also resources for teachers and parents, including helpful tips and book lists to keep kids motivated.

In the summer of 2013, kids read a total of 176,438,473 minutes. That’s a lot, right?

Top10InfographicWell, this summer, all those young bookworms broke that record by the end of July. On July 28th it was announced that Summer Reading Challenge participants had already logged 200 million minutes! And they’re still going!

This year, the theme of the challenge is “Reading Under the Stars.” When kids log their minutes on the website, they can unlock special constellations to find videos and other surprises. The theme also encourages kids to get out of the house and spend time outside. Between lots of reading and fresh air, who has time for television or the internet?

I remember when I was younger and I participated in my local library’s summer reading program. We would be given printed sheets that we would fill out with the titles of the books we read that summer. For every five or ten books, we’d get a small prize like a pencil or some stickers. These little incentives were a thrill, but what really made me excited was watching the title spaces fill up!

I think that technology and social media are a blessing in this case, because children are able to see how their minutes spent reading really add up. And to know that they’re contributing to a record-breaking statistic? It’s very, very cool.

The Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge is in its eighth year. It was originally created to help prevent the effects of “summer slide,” the learning losses that can occur when kids are out of school for the summer months. Parents and teachers – don’t despair – I’d say the kids are doing alright. They’re record-breaking readers now, and the summer’s not even over yet!

Do you remember participating in summer reading programs? Do you have any children in your life who are participating in the Scholastic Summer Challenge or a similar program? I’d love to hear about different experiences.

Danielle Villano is the editor of BiblioSmiles, and she is really glad you’re here. Learn more on the About page.  Tweet @daniellevillano.

Help! How to Read Classic Literature

So. Confession. I’m a little worried about hitting all of my summer reading challenge books. Mainly because of one long, arduous, Russian reason. The Brothers Karamazov. I know I told all of you to pick a classic to read too, and that could be anything; the term is subjective. But me picking Tolstoy’s thousand page tome? I might have been overreaching, just a tad.

Still. I am the lady who managed to read a 900 page biography of Henry VII while on my downtime as a camp counselor one summer. So anything is possible!

As the great Beatles sang, “I get by with a little help from my friends,” and struggling through a mountain of a book doesn’t have to be a solo task. Maybe you’re in the post-grad world and literature is not part of your job. Maybe you’re majoring in Accounting. Or maybe your high school won’t respect your immense need to read Gone With the Wind and get your Scarlett O’Hara on NOW.

It’s okay. We’re going to tackle this together.

Free Online Courses
Who said you had to be physically enrolled in a school to take a course? Online education is booming, and even better – free online education for those who want to dapple in everything from coding to art history to biology. (Disclaimer, please do not dapple in brain surgery after a free online course. That may end poorly). OpenCulture has aggregated a great list from universities like Yale, Berkeley, and Oxford.

Study Guides
Now that you’re not working on seven different classes mashed into one hectic school day, you can actually use cliff notes for more than passing your pop quizzes on Macbeth. SparkNotes especially, now has No Fear Shakespeare, which provides modern English translations side-by-side with the original prose.

Adaptations
Face it, sometimes you have to see it, to get it. I know that watching the BBC America miniseries of Pride and Prejudice greatly helped my understanding when I read it. And I enjoy Twelfth Night so much more when I imagine cross-dressing Amanda Bynes as Viola, like in the modern version, She’s the Man. And hey, there’s always Manga Shakespeare too!

Immerse Yourself
Grab your imaginary time machine and become a tourist in the time your classic was written. Go to Wikipedia. Watch a couple documentaries or videos about the setting or your author’s life. Even if it’s a classic written in your own language, it’s likely to be from a significantly different culture.

When I read the Canterbury Tales it made much more sense when I learned that going on pilgrimages to shrines for Mother Mary, was the English medieval equivalent of going road tripping to a Beatles concert in the 60s. Likewise, while The Hobbit is already an enjoyable story, it’s much more fun when you realize Tolkien wrote it to poke fun at heroic epics like Beowulf.

Book Club
Are you an extrovert? Is going it alone, just not going to work for you? Meetup.com has a good collection of local book clubs, and your library might have more too. If you can’t find one devoted to reading the classics, then maybe start your own. Plus, you’ll make more literary-inclined friends, which is never bad. One of us, one of us!

Or, if leaving your cave seems daunting, there’s the Classic Clubs community. You’ll join an incredible group of motivated readers who make it their mission to choose, read, and blog about 50+ classic works in under five years.

What classics are on your literary bucket list? I want to read EVERYTHING.

Gabriele Boland is an aspiring grown-up. She enjoys pretending she’s in a Disney movie, letting her dork flag fly, and writing stories that will never see the light of day. The other ramblings of her mind can be found at Brilliant Buckets.

Summer Book Challenge 2014

When I was little, every summer my town library would have a summer book challenge to keep our young brains from turning to mush from all the sunshine and lack of schooling. Or video games. It might have been video games.

For every book you read, you logged it, and you accumulated points, earning little trinkets like those erasers in the shapes of ice cream cones, or wacky pencils, or puntastic posters. Being the little budding lit nerd I was, I was all over that.

Now, as a grownup, there are less challenges in life. I mean sure, you can strive for a promotion, or a better holiday bonus. You can challenge yourself to finally lose that freshman fifteen from five years ago. Or you can make your own challenge. From taking a photo everyday, or the Couch to 5K program, there are plenty of challenges out there. But here, on BiblioSmiles, we care about challenges of the literary nature.

So, for summer 2014, here’s the 10 Book Challenge that I’m going to attempt to accomplish between June and August. Ten books has us at 3.3 books a month, which may be ambitious depending on the sort of books we choose. But that’s why it’s a challenge! Based on what books you pick, this can either be really difficult or fairly whimsical and easy.

1. A book you always meant to get around to
Ugh, if you’re anything like me, this list is MILES long. Maybe even going across the globe, several times over. Recently, I read both The Book Thief and The Time Traveller’s Wife, which were books that had been sitting on my to-read list for years.

2. Reread a childhood favorite
Another impossible decision. It seems like during our crazy scrambling adult years of struggling for stability, it’s hard to find time for the vestiges of our childhood. So treat yourself. Pick up one of the books that first made your young imagination soar. Last year, I reread The Giver quartet, and prior to that, The Little House on the Prairie series. I’m rereading Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt this summer.

3. A book someone else picks for you
As Danielle wrote in her post about Book Con’s book swap, giving someone a book to read is like giving them a glimpse into your soul. The books we adore echo the words that are written on our own hearts. So ask your mother, your boyfriend, your bestie, if they could choose any book for you to read what it would be. My recommendation for you is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, if you don’t know who to ask.

4. A book in a genre you don’t usually read
I love love love fantasy, YA dystopian novels, and historical fiction. Still, I acknowledge that everyone needs a palate cleanser time to time. If you only ate sushi for a month straight, you’d get pretty sick of it. So I’m going to switch it up with a mystery, philosophical fiction, or historical fiction in an era I wouldn’t usually pick.

5. Something originally written in another language
Bonus points if you read it in the original language! I’ve always wanted to read Dante’s Inferno, or Hesiod’s Theogony. It could be a classic like one of those, or you could choose something totally modern. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s A Hundred Years of Solitude, or 19Q4 by the quirky Haruki Murakami are more recent bestsellers written originally in Spanish and Japanese, respectively. I’m reading Le Petit Prince, or the Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

6. A book in a different format
If you usually read prose, try a collection of poems or short stories. Maybe a play (and not one assigned by your English teachers, where you have to listen to totally bored students botch iambic pentameter in class). A graphic novel, a comic, or a manga. I have been procrastinating getting around to Watchmen. And my bestie, who’s usually not one for poems, has been devouring the works of Rainier Marie Rilke.

7. A classic
This also counts as a book you always meant to get around to, but probably one that’s going to be a bit more of a challenge. Maybe one of those books you can name drop at parties and sound like a snobby prat. Or just something you’ve heard referenced a million times and want to know what the fuss is all about. I’m going to attempt The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky.

8. A book by your favorite author that you haven’t read yet
Because shame on you if you haven’t fully worshipped all the works by your literary idol. For me, I’m going to finally read either The Graveyard Book or the rest of the Sandman series by Neil Gaiman.

9. A nonfiction book
Although we’re usually fiction-focused here, there are great books being published all the time of the nonfiction variety. How about a biography, a history book, or a theological text? Since my background is in journalism, I can vouch that there are great books by journalists. There’s the classic In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, to The Year of Living Biblically by AJ Jacobs, where he tried to literally follow all the rules of the bible.

10. A book either published or a bestseller from the year you were born
Because, why not? Every list needs a wildcard. You can check Wikipedia or Goodreads for lists for your birth year.

Bonus book! 11. A book you haven’t read that was adapted to a movie/TV show
For ideas, check out my post on TV shows based on books. Pick one of your favorite movies and read the source material – there are endless choices. Fight Club? Pride and Prejudice? The Shining? My pick is The Secret Life of Bees by Susan Monk Kidd, which I also have yet to see the movie for.

So, are you going to try the challenge with me? Tell us your book choices in the comments! Happy reading!

Gabriele Boland is an aspiring grown-up. She enjoys pretending she’s in a Disney movie, letting her dork flag fly, and writing stories that will never see the light of day. The other ramblings of her mind can be found at Brilliant Buckets.