Ahhh... (imagine me stretching and heaving a huge sigh of relief in front of my computer)
...after an incredibly chaotic and stressful week, I am finally able to decompress and unwind. In fact, as soon as I hit "publish" on this week's post, I will be heading to my bed (covered in my new IKEA bedding!) to dive into some  books I downloaded to my trusty nook in the past few days. Oh, and a discarded ARC of The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer that I discovered at my local coffee shop's book exchange, which my book club will be reading together during the month of July. Score! (The wait list for this one is still pretty good at the library - way to go Ms. Orringer!)

See last week's post for information on Steplings by CW Smith, which I will continue to read (and hopefully finish) this weekend between the various gatherings we will be attending around town.
I have two books on tap for the weekend, sending The Sparrow and Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children back to the to-read shelf for the time being. (Just for awhile! I was really getting into MPHfPC!)

First up - I will be continuing with Attachments by Rainbow Rowell, which I first heard about in BookPage magazine (you know, the free newspaper-style book review publication offered at your library?). The protagonist in Attachments is incredibly likable and the entire novel has such a fun air to it - I am finding myself smiling a lot as I read. I have a feeling that this might become one of my favorite books of 2011.

Here is some more information for the curious, taken from Goodreads:
Beth and Jennifer know their company monitors their office e-mail. But the women still spend all day sending each other messages, gossiping about their coworkers at the newspaper and baring their personal lives like an open book. Jennifer tells Beth everything she can't seem to tell her husband about her anxieties over starting a family. And Beth tells Jennifer everything, period. When Lincoln applied to be an Internet security officer, he hardly imagined he'd be sifting through other people's inboxes like some sort of electronic Peeping Tom. Lincoln is supposed to turn people in for misusing company e-mail, but he can't quite bring himself to crack down on Beth and Jennifer. He can't help but be entertained-and captivated- by their stories.

But by the time Lincoln realizes he's falling for Beth, it's way too late for him to ever introduce himself. What would he say to her? "Hi, I'm the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you." After a series of close encounters and missed connections, Lincoln decides it's time to muster the courage to follow his heart . . . even if he can't see exactly where it's leading him.

Written with whip-smart precision and charm, Attachments is a strikingly clever and deeply romantic debut about falling in love with the person who makes you feel like the best version of yourself. Even if it's someone you've never met.

The second book on my nightstand's to-read-this-weekend-stack  is Steplings, the debut novel by author CW Smith. The author sent me a PDF galley to review, but the book won't be available until September 2, 2011. Look for more information to come. For now, a summary from Goodreads:

Nineteen-year-old Jason is lost. The rush of graduation parties has subsided, the ubiquitous discussion of college departures dimmed to a dull roar. His former classmates have made elaborate plans, but the only date on Jason’s calendar is a court appearance next Monday. Jason, who dropped out of high school just two months shy of graduation, finds himself stuck in the well-worn grooves of his hometown. But when his over-achieving girlfriend Lisa departs for UT Austin to study medicine, Jason finds Mesquite a place he can hardly recognize.  

Jason’s family can offer him little direction.  After his mother Sue’s unexpected death a few years back, his father Burl, fifteen years sober, slipped into old drinking habits. Jason watched the once clockwork-perfect routine of his family life descend into chaos. When Burl marries Lily, a high-strung, high-powered attorney, she brings a daughter into the house: Emily, eleven years old and a self-described know-it-all whose very existence is enough to irritate Jason.

Three days before Jason must appear in court, he receives a “Dear John” letter from Lisa. Heartbroken and determined to convince Lisa of his worth, Jason decides to hitchhike to Lisa’s dorm in Austin—but Emily, desperate to return to her father, a UT professor, overhears Jason’s plans and demands to accompany him. When Burl and Lily return home to find their children missing, Lily puts out an Amber Alert for Emily, accusing Jason of abducting her daughter. The frantic search effort that ensues threatens to destroy the tentative household that Burl and Lily have just begun to establish.

Smith’s gift for creating three-dimensional characters, abundantly demonstrated in his previous TCU Press titles including Understanding Women and Purple Hearts, lends this coming-of-age tale an unexpected quality of honesty and sophisticated narrative rarely seen in contemporary young adult fiction. Mary Powell, author of the TCU Press books Auslander and Galveston Rose, describes Smith’s prose as “rich and sophisticated, yet accessible, and the dialogue is right on.”  Steplings doesn’t romanticize the misadventures of its protagonists. Though Jason and Emily grapple with universal teen issues—Emily searches for acceptance in her new middle school, while Jason balks when confronted with new adult responsibilities—their troubles feel like uncharted territory when expressed through pitch-perfect narrative voices. “Watching Jason self-destruct,” according to Powell, “is akin to watching someone in a horror film go down into the basement.”

The authentic quality of Smith’s prose extends to the Texas setting; readers will recognize their neighbors in the characters that populate Mesquite and Austin. Kate Lehrer observed that Smith also “draws subtle distinctions among social classes.” Smith invokes tension between Jason’s no-frills lifestyle and Lisa’s country-club upbringing, and paints a widening gulf between Burl’s small-town mannerisms and Lily’s cosmopolitan tastes.  

Powell called Steplings “a friendly, hopeful, humorous, and thoughtful book about growing up.” Growing up, however, doesn’t belong exclusively to the young, and Steplings is a story that can’t be shelved neatly in the young adult category. Both teen and adult readers will see themselves in this multifaceted narrative of self-discovery.

I downloaded this to my nook when it became available to me through the local library, and I have a hard time putting it down each time I dive back into the story. I even took my ereader into the gym with me this afternoon to read while on the treadmill. Yes, that good. Even if you're not a fan of Hemingway, don't pass by this engrossing take on the man and the marriage as presented by his first wife, Hadley.

from goodreads:
No twentieth-century American writer has captured the popular imagination as much as Ernest Hemingway. This novel tells his story from a unique point of view — that of his first wife, Hadley. Through her eyes and voice, we experience Paris of the Lost Generation and meet fascinating characters such as Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and Gerald and Sara Murphy. The city and its inhabitants provide a vivid backdrop to this engrossing and wrenching story of love and betrayal that is made all the more poignant knowing that, in the end, Hemingway would write of his first wife, "I wish I had died before I loved anyone but her."

review from Bookmarks Magazine
Critics praised The Paris Wife for rounding out the portrait of Hadley Hemingway, often overlooked in scholarly treatments of Hemingway and, in fact, in Hemingway’s own works. In McClain’s deft hands, Hadley, who narrates her love, confusion, struggles, and wavering support for her husband, comes alive amidst evocative, excellently researched descriptions of Left Bank cafes, culture, and artistic life. A few reviewers commented that Ernest’s artistic and literary coterie often overshadows the more plainspoken Hadley, but only the New York Times voiced serious complaints about a plodding narrative and a dull protagonist. But in this nuanced, balanced portrait of a marriage, McClain reclaims Hadley’s place as both a wife and a woman in history.
4 out of 5 stars

I have devoured all of Sarah Addison Allen's creatively magical novels, and I am sure her latest, The Peach Keeper, will not disappoint. Selected as a group read for May by my book group, I am finally getting to it after an incredibly lengthy wait at the local library.

Taken from goodreads.com:
The New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Chased the Moon welcomes you to her newest locale: Walls of Water, North Carolina, where the secrets are thicker than the fog from the town’s famous waterfalls, and the stuff of superstition is just as real as you want it to be.

It’s the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam—built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather during Walls of Water’s heyday, and once the town’s grandest home—has stood for years as a lonely monument to misfortune and scandal. And Willa herself has long strived to build a life beyond the brooding Jackson family shadow. No easy task in a town shaped by years of tradition and the well-marked boundaries of the haves and have-nots.

But Willa has lately learned that an old classmate—socialite do-gooder Paxton Osgood—of the very prominent Osgood family, has restored the Blue Ridge Madam to her former glory, with plans to open a top-flight inn. Maybe, at last, the troubled past can be laid to rest while something new and wonderful rises from its ashes. But what rises instead is a skeleton, found buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree, and certain to drag up dire consequences along with it.

For the bones—those of charismatic traveling salesman Tucker Devlin, who worked his dark charms on Walls of Water seventy-five years ago—are not all that lay hidden out of sight and mind. Long-kept secrets surrounding the troubling remains have also come to light, seemingly heralded by a spate of sudden strange occurrences throughout the town.

Now, thrust together in an unlikely friendship, united by a full-blooded mystery, Willa and Paxton must confront the dangerous passions and tragic betrayals that once bound their families—and uncover truths of the long-dead that have transcended time and defied the grave to touch the hearts and souls of the living.

Resonant with insight into the deep and lasting power of friendship, love, and tradition, The Peach Keeper is a portrait of the unshakable bonds that—in good times and bad, from one generation to the next—endure forever.

For further reading, check out the other books by the author - they would all make for great pool or beach books!
The Sugar Queen
The Girl Who Chased the Moon
Garden Spells

Who doesn't love a long weekend to hang out with family and friends, grill outside, and relax with a good book? This chica sure does! I just finished a fantastic debut novel by Sara J. Henry called Learning to Swim (review to come!) and a pretty good novel about love and cooking by Jael McHenry called The Kitchen Daughter.

This weekend, I am planning to start this book for my group's summer reading list:
So far, my fellow Busy Bees (the group is Busy as a Bee Books) haven't said too many great things about it, but I hear it is a quick read and it meets the criteria for one of the tasks I need to complete for my year-long reading challenge.

What will you be reading this weekend?
I spotted 100 Cupboards as I was trolling for available ebooks on my library's website, and while I don't read a great deal of YA or Juvenile Fiction (or fantasy, for that matter)  the summary grabbed my attention:

(taken from goodreads)
Twelve-year-old Henry York wakes up one night to find bits of plaster in his hair. Two knobs have broken through the wall above his bed and one of them is slowly turning . . .Henry scrapes the plaster off the wall and discovers cupboards of all different sizes and shapes. Through one he can hear the sound of falling rain. Through another he sees a glowing room–with a man pacing back and forth! Henry soon understands that these are not just cupboards, but portals to other worlds.

I work with many families through teaching, tutoring, and my duties as a nanny/babysitter and am always looking for books to recommend as read-alouds before bedtime. I still have about one hundred pages to go in this fun story, but I think the tale of Henry and the doors in his bedroom will soon be on that list. I was disappointed to see that it IS part of a series (can't any author for children and young adults write stand-alone books anymore?) BUT I can't say I am going to continue when I finish the first.

I am also a little behind in my book group's reading of Anna Karenina, so I need to catch up on that. However, with all of the family festivities this weekend and How I Met Your Mother season 3 out from the library, this could pose a bit of a problem.

Have a great holiday weekend!

If you haven't noticed yet, on the Read This, Read That homepage you can view the books I am currently reading. This updates itself as I add and remove books on my goodreads account. As you can see, I am currently in the middle of six COMPLETELY different books right now so I think I am having a bit of an identity crisis that is revealing itself through my reading choices. It started with needing a "side-book" to accompany my reading schedule for Anna Karenina and blossomed into something somewhat out of my control. This weekend, I will be focusing on The Black Echo by Michael Connelly, an author that many of my reading friends adore. He writes a good mystery/crime thriller at a literary level superior to many other books I have read in this genre, although I did cringe last night when he used the old "caterpillar eyebrows" in his description of a detective. WHY DO ALL MYSTERIES AND CRIME THRILLERS DESCRIBE PEOPLE IN THIS LINE OF WORK AS HAVING CATERPILLAR EYEBROWS?!?!? I swear, I have seen this in just about every mystery I have read. Perhaps an unspoken rule among authors? An inside joke? I'm on to you!  If I ever write a mystery (doubtful) I will make a conscious effort to describe the thin, over-plucked eyebrows of my police chief. Consider it my promise to you.

Enjoy your weekend!
This is a guilty pleasure reading weekend. Even though I am still winding my brain through both The Invisible Bridge and The Name of the Wind, I am taking a break to read the co-authored book of love by husband and wife team Guiliana and Bill Rancic.During an extended illness that is also being billed as a time of an embarrassing line-up of shows on the DVR, I fell in love with this couple's reality program on the Style Network. I couldn't even help myself. Seriously.

If you're afraid to diversify your to-read shelf, don't be. Embrace the books you would otherwise read in the privacy of your home. Take them to the coffee shop. Haul them to the doctor's waiting room. Read them on public transportation. Sometimes, a guilty pleasure read is JUST what the doctor ordered.

Many of my reading friends have devoured The Invisible Bridge and awarded it the highest ratings and best reviews on Goodreads, so it has been on my "virtual to-read stack" (meaning, hold at the library) for quite some time. I guess everyone else has been waiting anxiously for it as well, since my holding period was almost over one month. This book has heft, and I was concerned about reading two chunksters at once (also still working on The Name of the Wind); however, once I got about twenty pages into this story while waiting for the husband's car to get an oil change, I was hooked. HOOKED. This book is already worth all of the attention it received in 2010 and I can't wait to continue reading. The story is so fantastic and the writing is really good. Here's hoping I can wind up the remaining 450 pages before I must turn it back over to the library for the next patron playing the waiting game. Here's a summary of the plot, taken from www.goodreads.com:

Julie Orringer’s astonishing first novel—eagerly awaited since the publication of her heralded best-selling short-storycollection, How to Breathe Underwater (“Fiercely beautiful”--The New York Times)—is a grand love story and an epic tale of three brothers whose lives are torn apart by war.

Paris, 1937. Andras Lévi, a Hungarian Jewish architecture student, arrives from Budapest with a scholarship, a single suitcase, and a mysterious letter he has promised to deliver to C. Morgenstern on the rue de Sévigné. As he becomes involved with the letter’s recipient, his elder brother takes up medical studies in Modena, their younger brother leaves school for the stage—and Europe’s unfolding tragedy sends each of their lives into terrifying uncertainty. From the Hungarian village of Konyár to the grand opera houses of Budapest and Paris, from the lonely chill of Andras’s garret to the enduring passion he discovers on the rue de Sévigné, from the despair of a Carpathian winter to an unimaginable life in forced labor camps and beyond, The Invisible Bridge tells the unforgettable story of brothers bound by history and love, of a marriage tested by disaster, of a Jewish family’s struggle against annihilation, and of the dangerous power of art in a time of war.

Finally Friday is the new feature on Book Addict that will provide you with a glimpse into my reading weekend. Whether I am about to start a new book, continue, or finish one, I will tell you all about it. In the comments section, please share what you plan on reading during the weekend.

If I were not a moderator of a book group, I probably never would have come across The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (Kingkiller Chronicle #1) because I do not generally read much from the fantasy genre. Our current theme, "Start a Series", has introduced me to a variety of books I hope to read very soon, including A Game of Thrones which is being adapted into a highly anticipating miniseries on HBO. This chunkster of a story was nominated and eventually selected because of its high ratings and positive reviews on goodreads.

While it took me about 100 pages to get into the story, I immediately loved Rothfuss's writing style and admired his creativity in developing a setting unlike anywhere I have ever "visited" in a book. He has already been compared to J.R.R. Tolkien, and after finally reading and loving The Fellowship of the Ring at the end of last year, I knew I needed to keep reading. I am just over halfway through the book and hope to read a couple hundred more pages before Sunday night arrives.

If you like fantasy, this should definitely go on your to-read shelf. If you're hesitant to read fantasy like I was, this should definitely go on your to-read shelf. This is great storytelling for anyone who truly wants transported through reading.

From goodreads:
The story revolves around Kvothe, an enigmatic red-haired innkeeper who, as he shares his incredible life story with a renowned scribe, turns out to be much more than he appears. Born into a family of nomadic court performers, Kvothe's unconventional education was broadened by spending time with fellow travelers like Abenthy, an elderly arcanist whose knowledge included, among other things, knowing the name of the wind. After his parents are brutally murdered by mythical beings known as the Chandrian, Kvothe vows to learn more about the godlike group, and after suffering through years of homelessness, he finally gets his chance when he is admitted into the prestigious University. But the pursuit of arcane knowledge brings with it unforeseen dangers, as the young student quickly learns.

What might hold up my progress in the epic fantasy described above? The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, a fantastic non-fiction debut from Rebecca Skloot that made several "Best of 2010" lists and is extremely difficult to put down. I have teared up a few times reading this fascinating glimpse into science and the woman who unknowingly contributed to some incredible medical breakthroughs, but the story of Henrietta Lacks and the HeLa cells is one I would recommend to anyone.

Also currently on the nook on loan from the local library: Bloodroot by Amy Greene, a family saga woven with secrets and magic in Greene's native Appalachian Mountains.