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27 April 2015

Oh, Mad Men. I binge-watched every season and loved watching your amazing characters (even some of the truly vile ones) and now I'm sad the show's coming to a close. I have no idea what to replace the show with when it ends. Ah, the decor and fashion of the 1960s! Joan, you are awesome! Peggy! What a badass! And, dammit, Don, I tried an Old Fashioned drink because of you and now I get ticked off when bars don't muddle it just the right way. And who knew I would be curious about what the characters would be reading? But I did. I perked up every single time a character had a book in their hands.

Fair warning. I'm not particularly exceptional or truly committed with reading challenges. I join them and then I falter halfway throughout, and I have a hard time posting my updates. But, I couldn't resist putting something together (and something that has an extended timeline with no pressures) when I saw that the New York Public Library had developed a handy list documenting the books by episode and by characters, and even posted oodles of reading tidbits to further satiate your vintage needs. Thank you, NYPL! Here's the full list here and what I'll be referencing; more lists are linked below. I also created a separate site that you guys can all add your links to also, which minimizes the need for me to administratively manage posts, etc. In other words, I'm a little busy (lazy) so I don't want that to stop your eagerness.

For me: It all started when sad and cold-hearted Betty Draper was reading Mary McCarthy's The Group and something about it made me Google it on a whim. Suddenly, I cared a little bit more for her character, and *gasp* actually felt a little bad for her. When once I wrote her off as someone without much substance and who was probably there to facilitate more storylines for Don, I started to actually feel for her. I began to wish Betty had taken her chance to be even more independent when her marriage with Don failed. Why get back into another marriage with Henry and not fulfill your dreams? As Betty mentioned in one episode to Henry: "I'm not stupid, you know! I speak Italian!" Oh, Betty. Did you read The Group and dream of what life might have been had you chosen a different path after college? (And, honestly. Why didn't they ever develop the Betty Draper character a little more? She was always so unhappy, but the character never grew, unlike others on the show.)

Here's my copy of The Group and the description from Goodreads:

Mary McCarthy's most celebrated novel portrays the lives of eight Vassar graduates, known simply to their classmates as "the group." An eclectic mix of personalities and upbringings, they meet a week after graduation to watch Kay Strong, the first of the group, be married. After the ceremony, the women begin their adult lives--traveling to Europe, tackling the world of nursing and publishing, and finding love and heartbreak in the streets of New York City. Through the years, some of the friends grow apart and some become more entangled in each other's affairs, but all vow not to become like their mothers and fathers. It is only when one of them passes away that they all come back together again to mourn the loss of a friend, a confidante, and most importantly, a member of the group. 
Written with the trenchant, sardonic edge that can be attributed only to Mary McCarthy, The Group is a dazzlingly outspoken novel, as well as a captivating look at the social history of America between two world wars.
The Mad Men Reading Challenge details:
  1. ENJOY.
  2. Sign up below. If you write an announcement post, link it up.
  3. Pick books from the NYPL list here and here and here.
  4. Read the book or listen to the audiobook.
  5. Write a review.
  6. Add the graphic from this post to your write-up.
  7. Every time you review a book from the list, add it to the Linky on the designated site:
  8. If you select books that weren't read on the Mad Men show, but were published (or were popular) during 1960 - 1968, just make a note of it in your post.
  9. Feel free to post about a movie or television show from that time period - the intent of this challenge is to celebrate the time and to say good-by to Mad Men.
  10. ENJOY!
Sign up here:

01 April 2015

Bag of Bones, by Stephen King (Audio Review)

I usually don't like listening to an author narrate their own work. In my opinion, they are too close to it and someone else is better able to bring the story to life in a way that the author never could. Or, sometimes authors don't have the right voice for audio, and the story ends up being something I just don't like listening to. Even if the reviews of a Stephen King-narrated book are over the moon about it, I still pick something else; I'll be honest that I was never fair about this assumption.

But recently I listened to On Writing and Stephen King surprised me with how honest his voice was, carrying his work to my ears in a way I wasn't expecting. It held my attention and I enjoyed the time I spent listening. So when I realized I downloaded Bag of Bones, I wasn't as apprehensive as I thought I would be.

This story seemed so close and personal (it's also mentioned frequently in On Writing, mostly because it was written/published at the same time). This is a true ghost story from Stephen King and there are elements that will linger with you and just might make you look a few times over your shoulder late at night. Writer Mike Noonan loses his wife suddenly and in his resulting sense of loss, he uncovers she was working on something much more mysterious than his best-selling novels. When he dives into her unfinished investigation, Mike is drawn into something quite unforgivable and disturbing, and, as only good husband-wife teams go, he has to finish what she started. A generational secret is exposed in a quiet town through a web of characters that are never boring and the life of a child is at stake. Readers sometimes complain with some of Stephen King's longer novels that, "it really could have been shorter," or, "too much!" But with this one, it met the mark on every level for me and wasn't too long, too short, or too wordy. It was a story that needed to be told, something that would be worth your time. Typical King has you walking through a story that is full of characters with essential and wild back stories that are all connected, and Bag of Bones is no different. It's a wild ride of creepiness, villains of the most disturbing kind, racism, music, and the noble urge to do something incredibly right after such a tragic wrong. This is good stuff. Stephen King knocks it out of the park and I will never worry about grabbing an author-narrated book again if it's him.

Did you know Pierce Brosnan starred in a two part mini-series? It's on Netflix. I'll have to watch that soon.

FTC Disclosure: I purchased this audiobook through my membership. Click here to listen to the sample.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Release Date: 05/23/00
Audio Time: 21 hours, 21 minutes
Narrator: Stephen King

About the Author

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty novels, including The StandThe Dark TowerItThe Shining, oh...what more can be written that one doesn't already know? So here you go, click here to visit this cool author's official website.

06 March 2015

Pet Sematary Readalong - #gangstercats

March 1st through April 15, this is what's goin' down. Here are the details:

24 February 2015

A Feast for Crows, by George R.R. Martin

I'm still reeling from the events that happened in the third book of The Song of Ice and Fire series.

Book four just keeps getting better. In this part of the story, the author chose to focus on a select group of characters instead of several who concluded book three with such a bang (Tyrion, Stannis, etc.) and broke them out into the next book, A Dance with Dragons. I've heard that fans weren't happy with that, and I can understand why. If I had to wait eleven years between when I last read about Jon Snow, Tyrion and Daenarys, I would be ticked, too. This is the reason why I prefer waiting for a series to end before I even think of picking it up. I have no patience.

I'm lying. I'm still impatient, but I wrote the preceding paragraph because it makes me feel better. I wasn't part of the group tearing my hair apart waiting to hear what happened next because I just didn't really understand this whole fantasy genre and how incredible it was. But I would have been! Oh, how I would have been part of the fan base for this series, waiting in long lines on release dates but, alas, I just didn't run in the same reading circles as I do today. Thank goodness for all of you bubbling with excitement when the HBO series premiered, which made me pick up the first book. I still can't believe what happened to Ned Stark. I was pretty close to throwing my book across the room. I think I did.

A Feast for Crows continues after all seven kings find some sort of temporary "cease fire" (to use our modern terms) by mostly focusing on the strong Brienne of Tarth, Sansa Stark (now known as Littlefinger's bastard daughter, Alayne), Sam Tarly, Jamie Lannister, and his completely delusional sister, Cersei,the Queen Regent. Every scheme implemented, either behind closed doors or on the field of battle, resulted in some sort of leftovers for the "crows" to pick apart, to flay into their own hopeful sense of power, which inevitably provided yet one more game to put in place.

I cannot wait to see where all the schemes end up and I loved every step along the way. And once again, I am completely dumbfounded by George R.R. Martin's incredible talent, to carry this story out for almost two decades in publishing. Granted, some sections might have been a little tedious, but those are few and far between, and I was again madly in love with this sweeping medieval fantasy tale, and the meddling and evil residents of the land. While the events in book 3 were much more shocking than the concluding moments of this book, I'm still rushing to the bookstore to get A Dance with Dragons.

So now I can pick up the most recent book, finish it, and then stamp my foot in anger along with everyone else until the final book is released in a bajillion years.

Publisher: Bantam Books, an imprint of Random House
Release Date: 2005
Pages: 976

Review of Book 1: A Game of Thrones
Review of Book 2: A Clash of Kings
Review of Book 3: A Storm of Swords

About the Author
George R.R. Martin is the author of eleven novels, seven novellas, two novellettes, one children's book,and a score of other writing and editing accomplishments. He was also the writer for seven episodes of the Twilight Zone and fifteen episodes of Beauty and the Beast, including three episodes of the HBO adaptation of Game of Thrones. There's so much about this author, I don't have enough space to write it all, so I'll just ask that you:

Click here to visit the author on his website.
Click here to visit the author on his blog.

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