Tag Archives: Fiction

2013 TBR Pile Challenge Fail & 2014 Attempt

I failed miserably in my second attempt at Roof Beam Reader’s TBR Pile Challenge in 2013, even worse than I did in 2012. To meet this challenge, I had to read and review twelve books that had been on my TBR (To Be Read) list for over a year. Two alternates are allowed in case you really hate a couple of the books.

My 2013 TBR Pile Challenge List

The Master Bedroom by Tessa Hadley
An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England by Brock Clarke
The House on Fortune Street by Margot Livesey
The Whole World Over by Julia Glass
Map of Ireland by Stephanie Grant
The Air We Breathe by Andrea Barrett
All Is Vanity by Christina Schwarz
Codex by Lev Grossman
Third Girl from the Left by Martha Southgate
The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst
Wish You Were Here by Stewart O’Nan
Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth

Two Alternates
Great House by Nicole Krauss
Family Album by Penelope Lively

As you can see, I managed to read only ONE of the twelve older books that I’ve been meaning to read. Nine out of my ten favorite books of 2013 were published in 2013, so I read a lot of new releases instead of books I already owned.

For my 2014 attempt, I’m changing out about half the titles from last year’s list to include more books that I actually own:

badge for 2014 TBR Pile ChallengeMy 2014 TBR Pile Challenge List

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England by Brock Clarke (Own)
Codex by Lev Grossman (Own)
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (Own)
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
The Tenth Muse by Judith Jones (Own)
Third Girl from the Left by Martha Southgate (Own)
The 27th Kingdom by Alice Thomas Ellis (Own)
When Tito Loved Clara by Jon Michaud (Own)
Wool by Hugh Howey (Own)

Two Alternates
How It All Began by Penelope Lively (Own)
The Whole World Over by Julia Glass

This challenge was founded and is being hosted for the fifth year by Adam at Roof Beam Reader. Anyone who posts reviews online (GoodReads, LibraryThing, Amazon, B&N, etc.) can sign up for this challenge. You don’t have to have a book blog! Reading and reviewing 12 books enters you in a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift card. Visit Roof Beam Reader for more info and to sign up.

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Do the Right Thing: A Thousand Pardons by Jonathan Dee

cover imageMost of the way through A Thousand Pardons by Jonathan Dee I was thinking Jonathan Dee’s previous book was The Imperfectionists, but finally realized The Privileges was the book I should have been comparing it to. This made more sense, since A Thousand Pardons is more like The Privileges than The Imperfectionists in tone (snarky/sympathetic), subject (family/marriage breakdown and drastic life changes), characters (unhappy privileged New Yorkers and/or narcissists), and theme (self-destructive behavior and forgiveness).

At the start of the book, Helen and Ben have been married for eighteen years; have a twelve-year-old daughter whom they adopted from China as an infant; and have been in doomed marriage counseling for a while. Everyone in the family is tightly wound in his or her own way; it’s clear that something’s got to give. And, boy, it sure does, launching Helen, Ben, and Sara into completely changed lives – Helen into the world of public relations, Ben into rehab (actual and metaphorical), and Sara into the New York City public middle school scene.

Here’s an excerpt about Helen from very early in the novel, after Helen and Ben have driven home in silence to their tony New York suburb after a painfully revealing marriage counseling session:

She knew what the right thing to do was. Dismantle it together: help him find a new place, work out the money, sign whatever needed to be signed, put on a united front for poor Sara, who’d already had two parents abandon her, after all. But for once in her life Helen didn’t want to do it. Why should she make even this easy for him? She’d made everything easy for him for eighteeen years, and he repaid her by making an explosive, weepy public display of his horror at the very sight of her. Screw the right thing. If he hated her so much, if life with her was such a death sentence, then let’s see him be a man about it, for once, and devise his own escape.

If you’re a reader who can gleefully appreciate a truly spectacular marriage break-up, complete with public scandal, but feels sympathy for all parties involved and wishes there could be news stories how each of them picks up the pieces and go on, you’ll love the nuances of this sharply observed, very funny but ultimately humane, modern New York novel. Or – if you just like novels by authors named Jonathan (e.g. Franzen, Lethem, Tropper, Evison) you’ll probably like this one.

A Thousand Pardons
Dee, Jonathan
Random House
March 12, 2013
978-0-8129-9321-9
224 p.
$26.00

Disclosure: I received a free advance reading copy of A Thousand Pardons from the publisher through NetGalley.

2012 TBR Pile Challenge Fail

2012 Challenge BadgeI failed miserably in my first attempt at Roof Beam Reader’s TBR Pile Challenge this year. To meet the challenge, I had to read and review twelve books that had been on my “To Be Read” list for over a year. Two alternates are allowed in case you really hate a couple of the books.

As you can see, I failed the challenge, only reading two of the twelve older books that I’ve been meaning to read but that kept getting nudged aside by newer titles.

My 2012 TBR Pile Challenge List

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Snow by Orhan Pamuk
The Master Bedroom by Tessa Hadley
An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England by Brock Clarke
The House on Fortune Street by Margot Livesey
The Whole World Over by Julia Glass
Map of Ireland by Stephanie Grant
The Air We Breathe by Andrea Barrett
All Is Vanity by Christina Schwarz
Codex by Lev Grossman
Third Girl from the Left by Martha Southgate
The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst

Two Alternates
Great House by Nicole Krauss
Family Album by Penelope Lively

Since this challenge was supposed to help me with an unofficial goal for 2012 – to read more of the Massachusetts Book Award winners and Honor books from recent years – I’m going to try again in 2013! For my new list, I’ve swapped out the first two books on the original list with two at the end that I bought to read and actually have sitting on a shelf. I have a new strategy, too – to work harder on the list at the beginning of the year because from September on, life gets too busy.

My 2013 TBR Pile Challenge List

The Master Bedroom by Tessa Hadley
An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England by Brock Clarke
The House on Fortune Street by Margot Livesey
The Whole World Over by Julia Glass
Map of Ireland by Stephanie Grant
The Air We Breathe by Andrea Barrett
All Is Vanity by Christina Schwarz
Codex by Lev Grossman
Third Girl from the Left by Martha Southgate
The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst
Wish You Were Here by Stewart O’Nan
Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth

Two Alternates
Great House by Nicole Krauss
Family Album by Penelope Lively

The two books I read and reviewed from my 2012 list – Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese and Snow by Orhan Pamuk – were both very good, but they didn’t make my list of favorite reads from 2012.

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