What to Read for a Readathon

24 in 48 readathon

This is exactly as heavy as it looks! TBR stands for To Be Read and mine is varied and mostly fun fluff. The dots on my sweater and all the writing was done in the Litsy app, which is like Instagram and GoodReads had an adorable baby that’s impossible to put down.

Even if you’ve never heard the term before in your entire life, you can probably infer what a readathon actually is. It’s a glorious time where you pledge to read for a certain amount of time on a particular day or days. Participants are encouraged to take to their social media streams to share what they’re reading, favorite quotes, beverages they’re consuming to help get them through any reading slumps, etc. I’ll be participating in the 24 in 48 Readathon this weekend, which just means that in the 48 hours of Saturday & Sunday I will read for 24 of them. I can break it up however I like, and break it up I shall.

While it’s true I’ve never participated in a readathon before, I have researched enough to (hopefully) know what I’m doing. The key to everything, I’m told, is to have a variety of reading material at hand so if I start to get burnt out on one format I can switch it up and give myself a second wind. With that in mind, I present to you some stellar examples of each preferred readathon format.

Graphic Novels
You already know about my love of comics and graphic novels. As I reported last month I had a giant stack of single issue comic books at home that I just hadn’t gotten around to reading. I’m happy to say I have plowed through most of them, but some of the larger story arcs and single release graphic novels remain. Nimona is on the very top of the list, partially due to Alan’s recommendation last year and also since it was a National Book Award finalist. It’s by Noelle Stevenson, one of the creators of Lumberjanes (I love Lumberjanes!). Hot Dog Taste Test by Lisa Hanawalt gets into foodie culture with witty observations and hilarious illustrations. I’ll probably use the graphic novels as a segue from one book to another, though due to having a pretty hefty backlog of some Marvel comics I might read a whole series run in one go. We shall see!

Poetry
I recently learned that poetry doesn’t have to be boring. Yes, I know I sound like a 12 year old but thanks to an education that forced me to find obscure (and often manufactured) meaning in poems I pretty much have avoided them as an adult. All of that changed when I read Milk and Honey which is written and illustrated by Rupi Kaur. This extremely personal collection of autobiographical poems takes you deep into Rupi’s soul as she rips her heart out and lays it bare for all to read. There’s love, loss, family, heartache, sex, and what it means to be a woman. If you’re looking for something lighter, try Quarter Life Poetry: Poems for the Young, Broke, and Hangry by Samantha Jayne. While these poems also seem to burst forth from the poet’s life, there’s a decidedly different tone. Colorfully illustrated, these funny and irreverent poems will resonate with adults young & not-so-young.

Essays
I recently discovered the book that changed my reading life. Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by local author Lindy West turned my world upside down. You see, much like poetry, I had the gigantic misconception that feminist works had to be dry, dull, or just not written well. Shrill changed it all for me and led me down the road to Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay. I had mistakenly assumed that Bad Feminist would be a book entirely about feminism. It’s more like a look at life — feminism included — through someone else’s eyes. I just checked out The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley. It promises to combine the two biggest parts of me — nerd and feminist — and I can’t hardly wait to dive in. Plus, there’s a dinosaur on the cover. I can’t pass up a good dino! I’ve also got all of Mary Roach’s back catalog that I purchased when she was in town in April. She autographed them all, and I felt guilty telling her I’d never read her books. However, I did immediately follow that up with how excited I was to read them and now is the perfect opportunity.

mary roach and the ellisons

My husband and I got to chat with bestselling author Mary Roach when she visited Everett in April as part of EPL’s Ways to Read. Did you get to meet her, too? Our library is the best!

Short Stories
A few months back I had the (surprise) pleasure of reading and falling in love with Warlock Holmes by G.S. Denning. While I knew it was going to be a crazy retelling of Sherlock Holmes with magic and beasts, I didn’t realize (although I should) that it would be more of a collection of short stories, just like the original Sherlock Holmes books were. You can read a story, move to another book, and come back to Warlock Holmes and read the next story. You can pretty much read them in any order you want after the first story that sets up the world. I have also checked out Chainmail Bikini: the Anthology of Women Gamers. It’s in graphic novel format but it’s truly short, autobiographical stories of girl geeks I can’t wait to read.

Novellas
I confess I had forgotten that I owned Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley. It came in one of those literary subscription boxes and I didn’t know what I had. Someone just told me it’s about a bookmobile, which, hello wheelhouse! I usually don’t go for novellas because I tend to want more when I’m finished: more characterization, more plot, more everything. However, I’ve been told this one is perfect the way it is and so I will go into it with that in mind.

Bookshots
If you’ve been following us on social media and/or been to a grocery store in the last few months you’ve heard about and/or seen Bookshots. Bookshots are the newest James Patterson creations that are taking the reading world by storm. Bookshots’ aim is to change people’s minds and habits by convincing them that their excuse, “I’m too busy to read an entire book!” isn’t true at all. These books are short and I would consider them novellas. Multiple Bookshots titles are published each month so there’s always a variety to choose from. Be sure to check out the Quick Picks collections when you’re at the library as most of the Bookshots titles are going into that wonderful grab-and-go, no-holds-allowed collection.

You’ll notice most of the books I’m writing about aren’t featured in my readathon TBR photo above. That’s because I’ve already read them and wrote this just for you, to encourage you to sign up and join the reading fun. A few people have told me that they really want to participate but are pretty sure there’s no way they can fit 24 solid hours of reading into their weekend. That’s totally okay! The whole point is to schedule some reading time into an otherwise hectic life and maybe connect with some other readers along the way. You can follow along with me if you like. I’m on Twitter & Instagram as bildungsromans and on Litsy as Carol. Ready? Set? Readathon!

Warlock Holmes: A Study in Brimstone

warlock holmes a study in brimstone by denning

Oh em gee, this cover is gorgeous! Here’s another straight-up book review all thanks to the power of advance reader copies from our publishers. Thanks, publishers!

Let me just start this review by saying that Warlock Holmes: a Study in Brimstone by G.S. Denning is one of those books that Sherlockians will either love or hate. Spoiler alert: I completely loved it!

Our story begins in a way that will seem familiar to most Sherlock fans: Watson is back in London after being injured during the war in Afghanistan and is desperate to find a place to live. Through a chance meeting with one of his old connections he learns about a man who needs a roommate. His name is Warlock Holmes and he is a consulting detective who sometimes works with Scotland Yard. Thus the literary world is gifted with another first meeting of Watson and Holmes.

Things start out pretty normal for Dr. John Watson. He feels lucky to have landed a roommate who only asks for a one-time payment of just one sovereign for the rent. Things get even better for Watson when Holmes chooses the smaller of the two bedrooms as his own. So now we have a war veteran staying with a successful, if eccentric, consulting detective. Their companionship slowly evolves into a friendship, but even so, Watson is initially clueless as to what he’s gotten himself into by handing over that sovereign.

From the beginning though, it’s clear to the reader that this Holmes is unlike any other Holmes we’ve met before. It’s not just the fact that his name is Warlock and we highly suspect (especially after reading the blurb on the book cover) that magic flows through this Holmes. It’s more like we’re realizing for the first time in literary history that Watson is the one well-versed in deductive reasoning and investigative expertise, especially when it comes to handling evidence correctly at a crime scene. Holmes, on the other hand, seems a bit…distracted. Easily distracted by things that Watson cannot or will not notice, things that seem to have very little if anything to do with the crime being investigated.

Soon enough Watson discovers Holmes’s not-so-well-kept secret: he’s got the magic touch. The spirit of Holmes’s nemesis, Moriarty, is trapped inside his head. And Holmes can command demons to do his bidding. This would normally be a shocking scandal worthy of the penny dreadfuls, but in this Victorian society there are certain creatures that, though not embraced by society, live among them. For example, here’s our cast of characters:

warlock holmes character blurb

Yup! Inspector Lestrade is a vampire, aided by an ogre. Most of Scotland Yard is uncomfortable around Lestrade and Grogsson, if not downright terrified of them. But their record for closing cases (with Holmes’s help, of course) keeps them on the payroll despite others’ misgivings.

I’m laying all this out there to illustrate a point. While this could easily be some weird standalone parody of one of the most famous friendships in literary history, it is instead a faithful retelling of Sherlock Holmes–just a little twisted. And sometimes smoking. Because, ya know, brimstone and stuff.

True to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original format, Warlock Holmes: a Study in Brimstone is composed of several short stories. The first is the longest by far, but it kind of needs to be since it’s setting up the world and the characters. Despite the length, that story flew by for me, as did the others. I actually pouted when I was finished, and was a little bummed out to leave that world behind. Luckily for me this is just the first book in what I hope is a very long series, with Warlock Holmes: the Battle of Baskerville Hall  heading our way in May 2017.

So take a chance on something new! Let me know if you want to read this or not, and definitely get back to me if you end up actually reading the whole thing. I am desperate for people to talk to about this book that will be published May 17th.

A Study in Charlotte

a study in charlotte brittany cavallaro cropped

I am notoriously bad at straight-up book reviews, but I’m going to try my darndest with this one, dear Reader, because it’s so far the best book I’ve read all year.

No joke.

First of all, you need to know a little secret about the publishing world. Publishers sometimes provide advance copies (read: still need some editing and might differ slightly from the final published version) to reviewers in exchange for generating some buzz about that title. Their hopes are that if you like the book, you’ll write about it or tell your friends, and that will increase sales. And while it’s true that we’re just barely beating the publication date on this one–it’s out in libraries and bookstores everywhere tomorrow–I knew you would appreciate hearing about it before your friends.

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro is another spin on Sherlock Holmes, but one that is both a unique and fresh turn from all the others in recent memory. This YA book takes place in a world where Holmes had a child, who then went on to start a line of Holmeses that eventually gives birth to our Charlotte. Watson’s great-great-grandson, James (please don’t call him Jamie) follows in his ancestor’s footsteps as the narrator of this story. He’s an aspiring writer who happens to be good enough at rugby to get a scholarship to the Connecticut boarding school where Charlotte Holmes attends.

James has been kept apart from Charlotte his whole life, but that hasn’t stopped him from becoming somewhat obsessed with the idea of her. After all, their predecessors were world-famous detectives who were also best friends and flatmates, made household names thanks to a novelist by the name of Arthur Conan Doyle. But their families don’t always see eye-to-eye, so James has been left to his imagination when it comes to Charlotte. All that changes when he starts the new term at Sherringford and immediately comes face-to-face with the girl of legend…who doesn’t really seem to want anything to do with him. In fact, she is livid when he punches a classmate in the guise of defending her honor. She can defend herself, thank you very much. And it turns out punching the guy wasn’t such a smart move, anyway, when he’s found dead the next day and all eyes are on James.

The police are called, and James’s estranged father tries to get himself involved in both the case and James’s life. Neither effort is appreciated. But it’s just the impetus our heroine Charlotte needs to join forces with James and discover who the real killer is.

Charlotte mirrors some of her great-great-grandfather’s mannerisms and habits. She has her own chemistry lab in a storage closet, a condition of her attendance at Sherringford. She is seriously antisocial, only mingling with peers during the weekly underground high-stakes poker games she runs out of her dorm’s basement. She doesn’t appear to process regular emotions the same way most of us do, forcing bystanders to sometimes suspect her of being aloof, snobby, or uncaring.

And just like her predecessor, Charlotte occasionally turns to drugs for the heightened senses that can help her focus, though she’s since traded in the heroin for prescription pain pills. The darker side of our heroine was well-written, portraying an addict who hasn’t quite kicked the habit but does rub her healed track marks reflexively whenever she’s faced with something particularly challenging. There was a lot of effort put into her backstory, showing us how she dealt with working with Scotland Yard from a very young age and how that’s shaped her development.

I won’t give it all away. You’ll have to pick up a copy and read for yourself what I am calling a totally rad retelling of the world’s most favorite detective. It’s a story of secrets, betrayal, and friendship you won’t soon forget.

We’re hoping to start reviewing more books in advance of their publication dates, so stay tuned for more book buzz from your favorite bloggers here on A Reading Life.

Crazy Fall Publishing Part 3: September 15th

Hey, hey! We are halfway through the month of September and, incidentally, halfway through the absolute busiest time of the year for the library’s basement dwellers, aka cataloging staff. If summer is known as the time when all the blockbuster movies come out, fall is known in the publishing world as the origin of some of the most incredible new bestsellers. So sit back, relax, and get ready to fall in love with my top picks of books being released this week!

appearance of annie van sinderenThe Appearance of Annie van Sinderen by Katherine Howe
Summary: It’s summertime in New York City, and aspiring filmmaker Wes Auckerman has just arrived to start his summer term at NYU. While shooting a séance at a psychic’s in the East Village, he meets a mysterious, intoxicatingly beautiful girl named Annie. As they start spending time together, Wes finds himself falling for her, drawn to her rose petal lips and her entrancing glow. But there’s something about her that he can’t put his finger on that makes him wonder about this intriguing hipster girl from the Village. Why does she use such strange slang? Why does she always seem so reserved and distant? And, most importantly, why does he only seem to run into her on one block near the Bowery? Annie’s hiding something, a dark secret from her past that may be the answer to all of Wes’s questions
Why I’m stoked: IS SHE A GHOST?! I need to know, and that need to know is going to drive me to reading this one quickly.

DumplinDumplin’ by Julie Murphy
Summary: Sixteen-year-old Willowdean Dixon wants to prove to everyone in her small Texas town that she is more than just a fat girl, so, while grappling with her feelings for a co-worker who is clearly attracted to her, Will and some other misfits prepare to compete in the beauty pageant her mother runs.
Why I’m stoked: Any book to come along with a larger-than-average and confident heroine who is comfortable in her skin, who thinks that it’s society that needs to wake up and smell the coffee…well, how can I say no? Ever since I read Jane Green’s Jemima J. 15 years ago (OMG 15 years?!) I’ve been drawn to books where the protagonist either works on acceptance of her body or works on dealing with how everyone else responds to her. Reading strong female characters act with grace and humor when faced with the same type of adversity I myself have sometimes faced just gives me that much more determination to be the best me I can be.

lock and moriLock & Mori by Heather W. Petty
Summary: In modern-day London, two brilliant high school students, one Sherlock Holmes and a Miss James “Mori” Moriarty, meet. A murder will bring them together. The truth very well might drive them apart. Someone has been murdered in London’s Regent’s Park. The police have no leads. Mori and Lock should be hitting the books on a school night. Instead, they are out crashing a crime scene. Lock has challenged Mori to solve the case before he does. Challenge accepted. Despite agreeing to Lock’s one rule–they must share every clue with each other–Mori is keeping secrets. Sometimes you can’t trust the people closest to you with matters of the heart. And after this case, Mori may never trust Lock again.
Why I’m stoked: Another series featuring the world’s greatest detective, and this one sounds absolutely thrilling. Like many Holmes fans I have been utterly SHERLOCKED by Bennedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Mr. Holmes and so I have very high hopes for this modern-day tale. And series. Did I mention it’s a series? New series alert! *fangirl Kermit arms*

tonight the streets are oursTonight the Streets are Ours by Leila Sales
Summary: Seventeen-year-old Arden, of Cumberland, Maryland, finds solace in the blog of an aspiring writer who lives in New York City, but when she goes to meet him, she discovers that he is a very different person than she believes him to be.
Why I’m stoked: As someone who grew up in the dawn of online chatrooms, I sometimes found more camaraderie and acceptance with strangers through a computer than I did IRL. If there had been blogs then like there are now, I’m sure I would have had a really crazy one, stupidly confessing all to the world and hiding behind the faux security of “online anonymity.”  My point is that I am a sucker for the whole mysterious protagonist trope, and I am super-curious how this story twists when the heroine meets the blogger.

weight of feathersThe Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie Mclemore
Summary: For twenty years, the Palomas and the Corbeaus have been rivals and enemies, locked in an escalating feud for over a generation. Both families make their living as traveling performers in competing shows—the Palomas swimming in mermaid exhibitions, the Corbeaus, former tightrope walkers, performing in the tallest trees they can find. Lace Paloma may be new to her family’s show, but she knows as well as anyone that the Corbeaus are pure magia negra, black magic from the devil himself. Simply touching one could mean death, and she’s been taught from birth to keep away. But when disaster strikes the small town where both families are performing, it’s a Corbeau boy, Cluck, who saves Lace’s life. And his touch immerses her in the world of the Corbeaus, where falling for him could turn his own family against him, and one misstep can be just as dangerous on the ground as it is in the trees.
Why I’m stoked: Family rivalries. Traveling shows. Star-crossed lovers. Magic! What’s not to love? This book is being billed as “magical realism,” something I’ve often heard but never truly understood. I can’t wait to get some first-hand experience with this genre.

How’s your TBR looking right now? Is it getting taller than you? Tell me what you’re reading now, and what you’re looking forward to reading. There’s always room for more books on my list!

Sherlockmania!

He is one of the most recognizable names in literature. Hundreds of pastiches by copious authors have been written about his character. Movie and TV series abound. Parodies aimed at all ages proliferate. And a multitude of quotes which never issued from his fictional lips are attributed to this British detective, Sherlock Holmes.

Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories are undoubtedly brilliant, introducing (or at least popularizing) a new genre, a new style of detection. The hero is not a particularly likable or sympathetic chap, but his skills are remarkable. It’s no wonder that he has maintained such a high level of acclaim for more than a century.

Sherlock Holmes originally appeared in 4 novels and fifty-six short stories set between 1880 and 1914. His character apparently died in a story written in 1893 (but set in 1891), but fan outcry led to his resurrection in 1901 (in a story set in 1894).

Technology has changed since Holmes’s introduction and Everett Public Library carries Sherlock Holmes books on CD, eBooks and AudioEBooks in addition to plain ol’ books printed on paper.

Perhaps it is comforting to know that Sherlock’s adventures did not end with the death of Conan Doyle. Numerous authors, many alive today, have written stories about Holmes’s exploits during the same period that Conan Doyle chronicled.
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(The Italian Secretary is also available as an AudioEBook)

Other authors have dared to speculate on Holmes’s life after his apparent retirement.
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Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes titles by Laurie R. King are available as books, large print books, eBooks, books on CD, and AudioEbooks.)
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A Slight Trick of the Mind is also available as a book on CD)

In some cases, Holmes has even been thrown into the present, through a series of mysterious occurrences, of course.

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One can also find series aimed at young adults featuring Sherlock as a teenager.
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(Death Cloud is also available as a book on CD and AudioEBook)

One series, which focuses on the young boys who make up the Baker Street Irregulars, is aimed at younger readers.
Fall of the Amazing
(Set in the Victorian era)

Another format aimed at young adults and juveniles is graphic novelizations of Conan Doyle’s stories.
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Murray Shaw graphic novels
(These juvenile books include explanations of Holmes’s deductive reasoning and the clues that helped him arrive at a solution)

Perhaps the biggest buzz currently centered around the famous detective is the BBC series Sherlock. This take on Holmes has him living in present-day London, not a man somehow removed from Victorian times but simply a brilliant investigator born near the close of the 20th century. This ingenious show delivers unto us a Holmes who has all of the 21st century’s miraculous technology at his fingertips. The stories are based in the Conan Doyle canon, but include abundant updating and fast-paced dering-do.
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And when you finish this superlative series, be sure to look into some of the other big and small screen depictions of England’s most brilliant detective.
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And if that’s not enough to keep you busy, there’s always Agatha Christie

Ron