Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Friday, June 22, 2012

TGIF!!! and author encounters.....

It's TGIF over at GReads!!!   Actually, today, I'm off work, so it is totally a wonderful Friday.....  and I hope you all are enjoying your Friday, as well.  Anyway ....  back to TGIF:  Every week, Ginger hosts TGIF, where we all get to answer a question (and then see what everyone else has to say, too).   This week's question is:

Authors Are Our Celebrities: Have you ever contacted 
an author you admired? How did that experience go?  If not, which author would you love to have a chat with?

I agree with Ginger, that one of the great things about being a book blogger is being able to interact (hopefully) with some of our favorite authors, whether it's via email, or Twitter, or in person.   I'm lucky enough to have an absolutely wonderful indie bookstore near me that hosts all kinds of author signings, so I've met some of my favorite authors, including Maggie Stiefvater, Melissa Marr, and others.   I've also been fortunate enough to meet authors at the various conventions I go to.  Here are a few of my top author-contact experiences:

Carolyn Turgeon:   I had loved Rain Village (which I just re-read and posted about), so when she had a new book published, Mermaid, I grabbed it right away.  And I absolutely loved it.  So much, in fact, that I contacted Carolyn (trying not to be too fan-girl and gushy), and then I made a mermaid necklace for her and sent it to her.  I've never done that before, and I didn't want her to think I was all stalker-y .... but I had just gotten a cool mermaid pendant from Green Girl Studios, and I had some nice flourite beads....   Anyway, she was very gracious about it all (and sent me a book, too!)

Jane Yolen:  I had grown up reading Jane Yolen's books, and one of my favorites was (and still is), a book of stories called The Moon Ribbon.   When I was still in library school, I saw that the American Library Association convention was going to be in Chicago, so I thought I'd get a one-day pass (if nothing else, to just drink in all the librarian vibes there).  I saw that she was on the list of authors slated to be there, so I grabbed my beloved copy of The Moon Ribbon.   When I approached her, sitting quietly in a booth, I thought I'd be all cool ..... and then, for whatever reason, got completely choked up.  I was able to stammer out that I just loved this book, and it meant so much to me growing up ---- and she seemed surprised to see the book (it's been out of print for a long time).  She was really nice, and inscribed my book for me, and I was able to say thank you and then stumble away.  Not the best impression, probably, but I think she could tell I was feeling a bit overwhelmed (and I appreciated she was so nice).  

China MiĆ©ville:  If you read my blog, you know I have a love for this author's books.  I also admit to having a huge author crush on him ..... in my mind, he's perfect (and don't tell me if you know he's not .... I'd rather just imagine that this man, who crafts some of my favorite books, is perfect).   I had actually contacted him a few years ago through his publisher, and got a very nice email back from him (and when I read it, at work, I did a little happy dance right there in the office).  However, I was lucky enough to actually meet him at a convention in Chicago last year.  I actually walked past him first, realized it was him, and my heart started pounding (I had to keep walking, and get myself all calm again).  The next day, when I heard him speak (sitting in the front row, right in front of him ... oh yes, it was awesome), it was great --- but then, I got to stand in line, and have him sign two of my books.  I think the only thing that saved me from fainting dead away was the fact that my husband was there with me (I had told him he had to come with, just in case I did faint ... or make a blathering idiot out of myself, at which point he could physically drag me away).   I think I can die happy now, now that I've met this man that I've had an absolutely huge author crush on for a long time.   And let me tell you ..... in person, he does look pretty perfect.  Not that I was checking him out or anything ...... well, maybe a little bit..... 

There are still authors I would love to have some contact with, and one that I regret never sending a letter to -- I always wanted to write to Ray Bradbury and let him know how much I love his writing, and I always felt a bit too geeky to do it .... and now, he just passed away.   From now on, I'll be braver about contacting authors.    :)

I'm looking forward to reading about everyone else's experiences.  Happy Friday, everyone!

The Car Thief by Theodore Weesner

Summary (courtesy of the publisher):  Described as “one of the best coming of age novels of the Twentieth Century,” Theodore Weesner’s modern American classic is now re-launched for a new generation of readers to discover.

It’s 1959. Sixteen year-old Alex Housman has just stolen his fourteenth car and frankly doesn’t know why. His divorced, working class father grinds out the night shift at the local Chevy Plant in Detroit, looking forward to the flask in his glove compartment, and the open bottles of booze in his Flint, Michigan home. Abandoned and alone, father and son struggle to express a deep love for each other, even as Alex fills his day juggling cheap thrills and a crushing depression. And then there’s Irene Shaeffer, the pretty girl in school whose admiration Alex needs like a drug in order to get by. Broke and fighting to survive, Alex and his father face the realities of estrangement, incarceration, and even violence as their lives unfold toward the climactic episode that a New York Times reviewer called“one of the most profoundly powerful in American fiction.”In this rich, beautifully crafted story, Weesner accomplishes a rare feat: He’s written a transcendent piece of literature in deceptively simple language, painting a powerful portrait of a father and a son, otherwise invisible among the mundane, everyday details of life in blue collar America. A true and enduring American classic.

And here's what I thought: It's always interesting to read a "coming of age" novel from a different time period than my own childhood, so I was intrigued by this story.  I think a good story, however, can transcend any time period -- that it doesn't matter when the person is going through their experiences, but what those experiences are, and how they are changed by them.   Admittedly, other than having some familiarity with the cars from the late 1950's/early 1960s, I didn't have much to relate to in this book; I'm not a young man, I've never stolen a car, I've never been incarcerated ---- but it was easy for me to become drawn into this story.  I will say that at times, it felt a bit uncomfortable -- reading this story is like being a voyeur to your neighbors across the way; you don't always want to know all the details of what is happening.

Truthfully, I didn't always like Alex.  I didn't always feel like I understood him.  Sometimes, it felt like he was just slogging mindlessly through his days, which I found frustrating.   Sometimes, it felt like he was a bit one-dimensional, and a bit boring.  I never did quite relate to him. However, I found myself continuing to turn the pages, just to see what was going to happen to him -- and I felt that if he could just get on the right path, and stay there, with some help and guidance, that he was going to be okay.  I think that's the most timeless element of this story: the hope that is there, throughout the book, even if sometimes, it's a pretty slim shard.  

The author has a simple, straightforward writing style, which I think suits the story.    Whether or not this is truly a timeless story, which will appeal to young readers now, I think really depends on the reader.   I have seen other reviews that compare Alex Housman to the character of Holden Caulfield -- frankly, I really dislike Catcher in the Rye and Holden's character.  However, there have always been readers who respond to Catcher, and who, I think, will also respond to this story.   Personally, I found it an interesting glimpse into the past, and into one person's autobiographical story.  I don't know if I'll re-read it, but it was a worthwhile read, and definitely a book I probably wouldn't have picked up without the publisher contacting me (thank you!).   I'm giving this a 3 --- it's probably more of a 3.5, though

First lines:  Again today Alex Housman drove the Buick Riviera.  The Buick, coppertone, white sidewalls, was the model of the year, a '59, although the 1960 models were already out.  Its upholstery was black, its windshield was tinted a thin color of motor oil.  The car's heater was issuing a stale and odorous warmth, but Alex remained chilled.  He had walked several blocks through snow and slush, wearing neither hat nor gloves nor boots, to where he had left the car the night before.  The steering wheel was icy in his hands, and he felt icy within, throughout his veins and bones.  Alex was sixteen; the Buick was his fourteenth car.
Thanks very much to Astor + Blue Editions for contacting me about this book!   For more information about this book, and the publisher, please click on this LINK.   There is also a current special (until June 24) for the Kindle version of this book, on  

Rain Village by Carolyn Turgeon

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads): In this hypnotic, magically real debut novel, a tiny young woman from the heart of the Midwest overcomes an abusive childhood by following her mysterious and beautiful mentor's footsteps to become a circus trapeze artist.

And here's what I thought:  I recently re-read this book, because I enjoyed it so much the first time I read it (I got it from the library and liked it so much that I bought my own copy).   Re-reading it was just as enjoyable, because I hadn't read it for a long time -- so it was like a new story again.

Our main character, Tessa, is an outcast in her own family, because she's very small -- and in a farm family, she's too tiny to help out with the farm work, or even the housework.  Her own mother doesn't seem to like her very much, and instructs Tessa to hang from a curtain rod for hours at a time (hoping to lengthen her body).  Tessa's life changes completely when Mary Finn arrives in her small town --- Mary's not only exotic-looking, but she's strong and independent.   Mary's presence as the town librarian affects everyone, men and women alike, and even as Tessa is drawn to her, she's a bit afraid of her, as well.   However, Tessa develops a friendship with Mary (against the wishes of her family) and learns that Mary had been a circus performer years before.  It turns out that Tessa's a natural on the trapeze (what will all her arm strength from hanging from that curtain rod), and her relationship with Mary completely changes her life.

One of the things I enjoy about this book, aside from the beautiful writing (which is something I enjoy in all books I've read by Carolyn Turgeon), is that there are a lot of realistic elements mixed in.  I could clearly picture Tessa, and her family, and the small town she is living in when she meets Mary.  I had a clear picture of Mary, and I felt like when I was reading this story, I was there with Tessa and Mary.  When Tessa leaves her family behind, to pursue a life in the circus, the people she meets also feel very real -- and there are realistic details of circus life, as well.

Lillian Leitzel
I have always had a fascination with circuses, and carnivals, and circus life.  I've read nonfiction books about circuses, and circus performers, so Tessa's experiences with the Velasquez Circus were not only interesting, but also seemed very realistically written in parts.  In fact, the particular performance trick that Tessa becomes known for, where she hangs by one arm, from a rope, and flings her body up and over, again and again, is something that was performed by a real circus artist named Lillian Leitzel, who was also tiny (she stood only four feet, nine inches tall).   You can read about Lillian Leitzel in this Wikipedia article --- she was known for her one-armed planges, where she would hang from one arm and flip her body over and over again (basically dislocating her shoulder each time).

One other thing I wanted to mention about this book is that it isn't just about Tessa's journey to become a performer --- it's also about her inner journey to discovery who she is, and how to embrace who she is.  Her life isn't easy, and certainly, the painful trick she perfects isn't easy, either, and it's interesting to see how she embraces that pain to get on with her life (even as she feels herself tied to her experiences with Mary).  

First lines:  "That tramp!  Black-haired Jezebel!"

My mother's voice screeched into the house, from the yard.  Up in my room, I thought a storm had come until I saw the bare windowpane, the butter-colored sun streaming in.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bradbury Speaks: Too soon from the cave, too far from the stars

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads): He is an American treasure, a clear-eyed fantasist without peer, and a literary icon who has created wonder for the better part of seven decades. On subjects as diverse as fiction, the future, film, famous personalities, and more, Ray Bradbury has much to say, as only he can say it.

Collected between these covers are memories, ruminations, opinions, prophecies, and philosophies from one of the most influential and admired writers of our time. As unique, unabashed, and irrepressible as the artist himself, here is an intimate portrait, painted with the master's own words, of the one and only Ray Bradbury—far more revealing than any mere memoir, for it opens windows not only into his life and work but also into his mind and heart.

And here's what I thought:  Like many readers, I've been inspired to pick up and read (or re-read) some Ray Bradbury lately.  This book contains a bunch of essays, written at various times, and on a variety of subjects.  I found I liked a few of them very much -- and I learned some new things.  Like -- I had no idea that Something Wicked This Way Comes started out as a short tale called "The Black Ferris," and then into a screenplay that Bradbury wrote for Gene Kelly (?!?) and then was re-worked by Bradbury into the novel.   That book is one of my all-time favorite stories (not just by Bradbury, but overall all-time favorites), and I've seen the movie several times .... and I would have never imaged in a million years that there would be a connection to Gene Kelly.

This was just one of the essays that I enjoyed.  Some of what Bradbury wrote about is pretty interesting, and some of it is really thought-provoking.  There's a lovely essay from 2004 called "Remembrance of Books Past," where Bradbury talks about a conversation he had with Bernard Berenson about the Wilderness People from Fahrenheit 451, and how interesting it would be if all the great books remembered by those people could be reprinted from memory --- and how those stories would change.    Bradbury writes, "What if you could pick your favorite?  Kipling, Dickens, Wilde, Shaw, Poe.  These, memorized and reborn thirty years from today, how would they, unwillingly, change?"  (p 29) It's fascinating to ponder how the stories could change, depending on how someone remembered them.

Bradbury also wrote essays about technology, and how it has changed how people relate to each other.  In the undated essay titled "I'm Mad as Hell," he discussed how, even though he embraces the future, that he doesn't like how reliant people have become on the Internet, and email, and television.  It's clear that when he wrote this, he was making a point about how technology is good, but that people really lose something when they tune in to technology, and ignore the real world around them.

If you're only familiar with Bradbury's works of fiction, I'd encourage you to seek out this book.  If nothing else, you get some insight into Ray Bradbury, and some of what influenced his fiction.  And if you think you know the man, you might discover something new here (for example, I had no idea of the friendship he had with Walt Disney).   Very cool.  

Some of my favorite writing from this book:  From the essay "I'm as Mad as Hell" --
Internet research?  No!  Step into a real library, swim in the aquarium of time, touch the books, open the books, smell the books, dog-ear the damned wondrous things with your canines.  Wander the shadowed stacks, meet the Wizard and John Carter and Blind Pew coming the other way.  Climb the stacks like an ape.  Meet Verne on his way to the Moon, the first Sherpa on Everest, or Nemo.  What's he doing up here at the bottom of the sea?  Lug ten books home, with their scent of baking break and their bright eyes and lively tongues.  Then dash back to the bakery.  The library, the library, the library.

Let's face it, there was only one place where my novel Fahrenheit 451could have been written: the basement typing room of the UCLA library, where, dashing up and downstairs with a bagful of dimes to feed the typewriter clot machines, I wallowed in the dim tides between stacks, sniffing in Tolstoy, breathing out Melville, then back downstairs to bang the Underwood.

Get a life!

Call your cat to help you kill that laptop mouse.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Orbs of Power by Rob RodenParker

Summary (courtesy of the author): "Join Prince Alorin and his bride-to-be Princess Bellany on their journey to vanquish evil from the three kingdoms of the continent of Aedaria. To do so, they need the Orbs of Power that give their human hosts incredible powers, but they need to find them first. During the Sealing War of years past, the orbs were created to help defeat the demons and devils that threatened to take over the lands and conquer all of the kingdoms. After the war the orbs were scattered throughout the continent, and only a few remain guarded.

With an amusing cast of supporting characters and plenty of villains to battle, Orbs of Power will take you on an exhilirating journey full of romance, politics, and adventure. Along the way you will encounter heroes and sorcery, devils and demons, and fantastical creatures such as centaurs and merfolk. Follow these two unlikely young heroes as they learn to harness their newfound powers while discovering each other on their path to becoming king and queen together and trying to save humankind.

And here's what I thought:  I really feel awful that it's taken me so long to finish this book, and then post a review (since I'm about a month behind my deadline for it).   I had the best intentions to read it, and keep going ..... but I kept getting stuck, and then having a hard time coming back to it.   

I thought this was a good story, and I liked some of the characters, but somehow, I just couldn't sustain my interest in the storyline.    As you can see from the summary, this is a swords-and-sorcery type of adventure, and there is a lot of action throughout the story.   The pacing is pretty even, and the characters are interesting.  The author has a good technique down for writing certain elements of the story, especially the swordfighting (which makes for some pretty exciting parts).  

However, there just was something missing here for me -- I'm not sure if it's because I became a bit disinterested in the main characters, or because I got stuck on a lot of the dialogue.  The dialogue between characters tends to vary between the semi-formal that I read in many high fantasy books, and then veering the other direction.  Example: Alorin is getting to know Tyana, and he's talking about reading with her.  Tyana asks him if he has any "savory" habits, and Alorin replies, "Oh, yeah.  I love reading, especially history books...." (p. 9).   Um....   yeah?   Not quite what I was expecting.  Not that I expect characters to speak formally every single second, but this kind of thing happened frequently, which made the dialogue seem inconsistent.  Also... the other thing that kept giving me pause: the bad guys tend to monologue (basically, they like to go on and on and describe what horrible thing they're going to do, and why).   Not really something I enjoy (in books or in film, actually).

As with any book, my reactions to this story were purely personal.  There were things I enjoyed about the book, and the author has a good, descriptive writing style, and it was clear to me that he really enjoyed writing this book.    However, it just didn't resonate with me.  If I hadn't promised a review, I probably would have just given up about 3/4 of the way through the book.   I think the author is on to some good things, and perhaps with the next book, things will be a bit tighter and more consistent.  If this sounds like the kind of book you might like, I'd encourage you to not only check out the author's site, but also see what other readers on GoodReads had to say.  Just because this wasn't quite my cup of tea right now doesn't mean that other readers won't thoroughly enjoy the book.

First lines:  Alorin was acutely aware of his fatigue, how his muscles and limbs burned as he pressed his practice session into its third hour.  As the prince of the traditionally war-like Nenevah Kingdom, Alorin prided himself in his swordsmanship, or rather he tried to.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

New features / regular type of post: Revisiting the Shelves

Just a quick update about something new I'm going to try.   This last week, I spent time in my personal library (in my house, we have 3 bedrooms upstairs: 1 for me & the husband, 1 for my bunnies, and 1 for our personal library).   Once I did some serious vacuuming and dusting, and some weeding and re-arranging, I discovered I really do have a lot of great books on my shelves.   Which I should revisit and re-read.

So, accordingly, I have created a little graphic (on the right-hand side of my blog), and I'll be doing semi-regular posts where I re-read  & review something I own.   I feel like this way, I'm giving my own books a little love and attention.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Replacement Wife by Eileen Goudge

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):  Camille Hart, one of Manhattan’s most sought-after matchmakers, has survived more than her fair share of hardships. Her mother died when she was a young girl, leaving her and her sister with an absentee father. Now in her forties, she has already survived cancer once, though the battle revealed just how ill-equipped her husband Edward is to be a single parent. So when doctors tell Camille that her cancer is back—and this time it’s terminal—she decides to put her matchmaking expertise to the test for one final job. Seeking stability for her children and happiness for her husband, Camille sets out to find the perfect woman to replace her when she’s gone.
But what happens when a dying wish becomes a case of “be careful what you wish for”? For Edward and Camille, the stunning conclusion arrives with one last twist of fate that no one saw coming.

At once deeply felt and witty, The Replacement Wife is an unforgettable story of love and family, and a refreshing look at the unexpected paths that lead us to our own happy endings.

And here's what I thought:  I like this kind of book for summer reading --- a story where there are relationships, a bit of humor, a bit of drama .... and a happy ending.   I like getting caught up in stories like this, reading about people who are realistically written, but whose lives are nothing like mine (it's a bit of escapism, just like going to a movie).

As you can see from the summary, Camille is a matchmaker who is facing terminal cancer.  Determined to make sure that her husband and children are cared for once she's gone, she sets out to find a potential "replacement wife" for her husband before she dies.  However, this truly is a "be careful for what you wish for" story --- when Camille's medical condition takes a different turn, she has to face up to the consequences of the path she started down with her husband.

I liked that all of the characters seem realistic (even if their lives seem a bit too charmed at times).  What I also liked was that the characters had flaws.  For all of her good intentions, Camille doesn't ask her husband what he really wants before starting down the path of finding him a new match.  Edward's a bit self-absorbed at times.  I didn't always like either of them (and actually, liked one of the supporting characters more than either of the two main people .... even if that character was a bit cliched at times).  However, as I said, I felt these characters were somewhat realistic --- and they have personal growth throughout the book.   The author does really get across her point about being careful about what you wish for, and also, the point that the best laid intentions don't always have the best results.

I don't think this is a really deep story, but it's a good page turner if you like stories about relationships, with some ups and downs, and a bit of romance tied in.  I don't think I'll be re-reading this any time soon, but it made a nice counterpoint read to the other books I'm currently reading (science fiction and nonfiction).  If you're looking for a medium-light summer read, you might want to pick this one up.  

First lines:  "We had a nice time," Kat said.   Camille Harris felt her heart sink and the fizz go out of the celebratory bottle of champagne she'd mentally uncorked.  In her line of work, she'd learned to read nuances and inflections the way a fortune teller did tea leaves.

Please note: I received an e-ARC of this book courtesy of LibraryThing Early Reviewers.  Thus, any direct quotes/page numbers may change upon final publication.  

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):   I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.

That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine — and I will do anything, anything, to avoid SS-HauptsturmfĆ¼hrer von Linden interrogating me again. He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France — an Allied Invasion of Two. We are a sensational team.

And here's what I thought:  I'm going to keep this pretty short, because it's hard to write about this book without revealing a lot of spoilers.   What I will say is that this is a powerful story, and the author brings it to life --- so much, in fact, that it was sometimes a bit stressful to read this book.   I consider that a good thing, though, because it means that the author is making me really care about the characters, and what's happening to them.

The author includes a lot of very realistic details, and she definitely knows her history, and I think that is part of what makes this such a powerful story; there were real girls who served in the WAAF (Women's Auxiliary Air Force), who were in a lot of danger.  There were people who resisted the Nazis, and there were people who were interrogated and tortured.  This isn't a fantasy story, where you can say that the violence couldn't really exist because it's a made-up place, and a made-up time; this is based on real history.
Elizabeth Wein also included a lot of realistic details about flying, and the planes, which I appreciated --- I really could imagine these planes, and how it might be to fly one of them.

The one thing that did throw me off a bit was that at first, I wasn't sure who my narrator really was.  Is it Maddie?  Or Queenie?  Or someone else?   The changing perspectives takes a bit of getting used to, and I found that sometimes, I'd have to go back a few pages to get my bearing.   This was a pretty small thing, however.   The girls in this book are courageous, and smart (and sometimes, have a good sense of humor about things), and real.   I think that might be one of the most appealing things about this book: the people are real, and you feel like you're cheering for them (well, most of them .... not the SS officer, obviously) through the story.

You may have seen other reviews of this book around the blogosphere (and on GoodReads).   Some of the reviews I think are well-written can be found at author Maggie Stiefvater's blog (amazing!), and The New York Times has a great review (in which that reviewer also admits the difficulty of reviewing this book without revealing spoilers .... so I don't feel too bad about my vague review).

This is a great book.   Go find it at your local library (and then, after reading this, if you want to look up information on the planes, and the other details, your friendly librarian can point you in the right direction).

First lines:  I am a coward.  I wanted to be heroic and I presented I was.  I have always been good at pretending.  I spent the first twelve years of my life playing at the Battle of Stirling Bridge with my give big brothers - and even though I am a girl they let me be William Wallace, who is supposed to be one of our ancestors, because I did the most rousing battle speeches.  God, I tried hard last week.  My God, I tried.  But now I know I am a coward.  After the ridiculous deal I made with SS Hauptsturmfurhrer von Loewe, I know I am a coward  And I'm going to give you anything you ask, everything I can remember.  Absolutely Every Last Detail.

Please note: I received this as an ARC courtesy of NetGalley, so any quotes/page numbers may change upon final publication.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Book Blogger Confessions --- choices, choices....

Book Blogger Confessions is a semi-monthly Monday meme hosted by two bloggers: Karen at For What It's Worth Reviews, and Tiger at Tiger's All-Consuming Media.   And here's how it works:

Book Blogger Confessions is a meme that posts the 1st and 3rd Monday of every month, where book bloggers "confess" and vent about topics that are unique to us. Feel free to share, vent and offer solutions. Just keep it respectful - no bashing authors or other bloggers! 

If you want to participate just grab our button and include it in your post with a link to either 
Tiger's All Consuming Media or For What It's Worth
. We will be providing a linky at the end of our posts so people can "hop" to see all the participants answers. 

So, today's question is:   Choosing your next book. How do you decide which book to read next? How do you balance “review” reading with “fun” reading?

Since this is a two-part question, I'll break it down accordingly.   First, how do I decide what to read next?  I wasn't sure if this meant what I chose to read next from the stack of books I usually have in my book bag, or what's waiting for a review, or what I choose from the library when I'm looking for a book.

If I have a stack of books in the house already, along with review requests, I'll usually balance reading one "review request book" with another book.  It's usual for me to have 2 - 3 books at home going at one time (since I read for pleasure, and also have to read 2 books every month for my library book groups - but I'm able to do most of that reading at work).   That way, just in case I'm not loving the book I received to review, I can balance it out with another book.    If I'm doing this, I will deliberately choose a book that's nothing like the other one.

I will admit that sometimes, I accept too many requests for reviews, and then start to feel a bit overwhelmed.  This happened just recently --- I thought I'd be able to whip through a bunch of books, and then I got sick and all I was doing was sleeping, doping myself up on painkillers and antibiotics and going to work, and then coming home and going back to bed.   I was sick enough that I didn't feel like reading (that's how my husband knows I'm really sick ...... I almost never feel like reading).   As a result of all of this, I got behind in my reviewing, and I feel like I'm still scrambling a bit ....   and I'm reading these "review request books" first, and not anything else.

Now, I'm thinking I might only accept 1 - 2 requests per month.   The feeling of not being able to read other books, and concentrate on the review requests has made me feel a bit cranky.  Of course, it is my fault for taking too much on ....  so I'm going to get that under control.

If I don't have anything that's waiting for a review, I will usually start with what's in my book bag (I keep loose library books there .... it keeps them contained, and not roaming through my house), and I'll just choose what I feel like at that moment.   This is actually my favorite kind of reading --- pure pleasure reading.   I usually have a bunch of library books handy, so if I start a book and I'm not wild about it, I can choose another.   If I run out of library books that I want to read, I just go into my personal library and choose something.    As a librarian, I'm surrounded by reading material, so I constantly have a supply of books --- things I've put on hold, or things I've just grabbed off the shelf.  

I'm looking forward to seeing how other bloggers handle the whole "review request books" versus pleasure reading --- I'm hoping for some good ideas!
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