My Latest Obsession- Serial Reader

thm4nppstyAs an English major in college, I was often assigned tons of classics to read. Although not my typical fare, I didn’t mind reading them (with a few exceptions). I noticed though that once I graduated, I never had that inclination to read older books. The guilt of being an English major who didn’t read Dickens, Tolstoy, etc. would assail me occasionally, but I had come to grips with the fact that I was never going to crack open Great Expectations for fun. And then I discovered the Serial app.

Now, if you’ve been utilizing one of my other new app obsessions, Litsy, then you’ve undoubtedly heard of Serial by now. It’s where I first heard about it, and I first brushed it off. I mean truly, I had decided I was just fine despite never having read The Tennant of Wildfell Hall. But then everyone kept raving about it, so I eventually decided to give it a shot, and now I am hooked!

If you haven’t heard of Serial, it’s pretty simple. They have a large database of older books (I believe the guideline is the original publication date must have been over one hundred years ago at least). You choose what title(s) you want to read and every day you receive an issue.  The issues are usually about 6-15 minutes in reading time. You can set what time each day you want your issues delivered. I have mine delivered at 8 A.M. and usually read them once I drop my 4 year old off at school.


Currently I am reading Anna Karenina and The Jungle. Anna Karenina is one of those books I had always wanted to read. I owned a copy. I had the best of intentions. But man that book is big! So when I signed up for Serial it was the obvious choice. I will say, in hindsight I wish I had chosen a shorter book to start with. 159 issues is A LOT. I calculated that it would take me over five months to read the entire book if I only read one issue per day (side note: for a nominal price, you can buy the full app, which gives you a few bonus features, the most notable being that you can read ahead if you don’t want to stop at one issue per day). At this rate, I am 78% of the way through, and I started it in July.

I had told myself from the beginning that I would only read one book on Serial at a time. The reasoning behind this was because I always have a print book and ebook going at once, so adding one Serial in already seemed like plenty. And that has worked for me the past few months. But then I read Accursed last week, by Joyce Carol Oates, and one of the characters in it was young Upton Sinclair. The Jungle was referenced incessantly and I was intrigued. Mind you, I have never had the desire to read The Jungle before. I have a long list of books on Serial I want to read and this one was nowhere to be found. But just like that, I had added another book. And what do you know–as much as I am ambivalent about Anna Karenina (Levin, you bore me to tears), The Jungle has me completely rapt. I can’t wait to read my issue every day. Go figure. But seriously, I will not add a third book. I repeat, I will not add a third book.

I am anxious to hear from other Serial fans. What have you loved? What have you loathed?




October 2016 Readathon


Good morning everyone! I am so excited to be taking part in another 24 Hour Readathon. I participated in my first readathon in October 2009 and have joined in subsequent readathons whenever possible. It’s been awhile since I have had the time to devote to one of Dewey’s readathons (working retail for five years guaranteed that my Saturdays were always spent working) but I am so thrilled to be here today reading with all of you.

I have a two year old and four year old that will keep me busy and occupied for much of the day (we have plans to do some fun fall activities this morning) but I am still hoping to devote a lot of time to reading and cheerleading.

I try not to bog myself down with a ton of goals, but overall I would like to do the following today:

-Read at least two books

-Spend a cumulative time of 8 hours reading

-Spend at least  hour of cumulative time cheering

I will likely do most of my updates  here as well as on Litsy (reviewsbylola). You may possibly find me on Twitter too (@reviewsbylola).

If you have a Litsy account please post your user name.  The majority of my cheering will  be on Litsy as well so I would love to see everyone’s progress!

Intro survey:

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

Columbus, Ohio
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

Probably The Mothers, or really all three of my Book of the Month Club picks.
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

I think I’m the only readathon participant who didn’t go to the grocery store beforehand. Last readathon my husband went and bought me a burrito to try to make my day even better so maybe he’ll do that again!
4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I believe that nothing pairs better with a book then a great bath so I am already going through my bath stash to figure out what my readathon bath will look like later on tonight.
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

I feel like I have learned not to pressure myself. I am bummed that I can’t start off reading all morning but I also knew it wouldn’t be fair to coop my kids up all day. I used to also force myself to take small naps and wake up in the middle of the night to read more. I have come to realize that I don’t have to attempt a full 24 hours and so I fully intend to call it quits around Hour 15 and get a full night of sleep.

Book Review: The Dollhouse


The Dollhouse

Fiona Davis


304 pages

Darby is a young woman on her own in New York City. She has been sent there by her mother at the behest of her stepfather to attend secretarial school. It’s the 1950s, and as such it is not uncommon for single women to live in hotels or boardinghouses. Darby is living in the Barbizon Hotel for Women, which has almost a sorority-esque feel to it. Darby is a small town girl and soon feels out of place and homesick, until she meets one of the hotel maids, Esme. Esme introduces Darby to a whole new world by taking her out after hours to experience the nightlife by way of a jazz club. As their friendship blossoms, Darby begins to see her life from a whole new perspective.

Meanwhile, their is a modern day element to The Dollhouse with an alternating storyline. Rose is living in the Barbizon, which has now been turned into condos. Some of the former residents from the 1950s have stayed on, including Darby, but she has completely isolated herself. Rose, a journalist, is trying to research a story on the history of the Barbizon, and more specifically a mysterious death that happened there in the 50s. Rose attempts to ingratiate herself with the icy Darby but has little luck.

As the story unfolds, more and more details emerge about the murder that occurred and the climate of the hotel in the 50s. I admit I actually abandoned this book at 7% and I rarely ever pick up abandoned books again, but I did on a whim (because I feel an immense guilt bailing on a review book), and I am so glad I did. The pacing was excellent and the mystery unfolded at a good speed, which held my attention through most of the book. I though Davis’s writing left a little to be desired–it is hard to explain why I felt like that, but it definitely felt like a debut novel. I especially had a hard time believing Rose’s character.


I loved the setting of The Dollhouse and thought that the Barbizon sounded so cool. If you’re looking for a quick mystery in a historical setting, this is a good one to try.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: You Will Know Me


You Will Know Me

Megan Abbott

Little Brown

352 pages

Devon is only 15, but she’s not your average teenager. She has dedicated her life to becoming a world class gymnast, and she will do whatever it takes to succeed. A wrench is thrown into her plans when someone close to the gymnastics center where she trains dies suddenly. Devon remains stoic but is relentless in her quest to become an elite gymnast. Her mother, the narrator of You Will Know Me, struggles with coming to terms with the death and also with how to best serve her family, including Devon’s younger brother.

Seemingly straightforward, the book ends up becoming darker and creepier as the story unfolds. I wasn’t necessarily expecting a mystery, but You Will Know Me does qualify as one, which is why my synopsis is so cryptic. Devon was a difficult character for me to get a grasp on, and I believe that was intention on the author’s part. No one seemed to know what to make of her, including her own parents.

The parenting struggles that Devon’s mom, Katie, constantly seemed to be struggling with resonated with me as a parent. It’s impossible to ever know whether we are making the right decisions for our children, and Katie was often conflicted about how to juggle her family life and all of the obligations of each family member. Her son was often overlooked in the chaos of Devon’s gymnastics career, and Katie felt a lot of guilt over that.

You Will Know Me wasn’t one of my favorite books of the year but I felt it was well written. The mystery kept my interest and I appreciated that the book was multi dimensional and focused on other issues as well.




Book Review: June



Miranda Beverly-Whittemore


386 pages

Living in Ohio, I have certainly driven past crumbling homes in the more rural part of the state. Once loved and lived in, these homes are now left to the elements. Two Oaks in St. Jude, Ohio is one such home. Once the grandest home in the area, Two Oaks is now weathered and beaten.

Told as a dual narrative, part of June takes place in 1955. Two Oaks was still inhabited and was the town’s crown jewel. June lives there with her widowed mother Cheryl Ann and the home’s owner, a distant relative named Lemon Gray Neely. June, and the entire town, are all enthralled with movie star Jack Montgomery, who is in town filming a movie. The entire town is involved in the hustle and bustle of filming and all that goes along with it.

Meanwhile, in the modern day setting, Cassie Danvers has returned to her grandmother June’s now dilapidated home, Two Oaks. Cassie and June had a tense relationship in recent years, and now that June has suddenly passed away, Cassie is at a loss on how to move forward.

Typically I give a more in depth synopsis with my reviews, however with June there was so much going on that it is hard to go into a lot of detail while still being concise. I also think this is a great book to go into not knowing much. Touted as a mystery, Cassie spends a lot of time attempting to discover the grandmother she thought she knew, but although the pacing was good, it didn’t have the same feel as your typical thriller. Instead, it was a great look into how we view others, and what defines a close relationship.

My biggest issue with June was that it felt way too long. I felt that a lot could have been edited out to make a more cohesive story. I think the author included too many details that detracted from the story as a whole. It was made all the more irritating by the fact that it actually was a good story, just not told in a way that was engaging to me as a reader. Cassie’s part especially seemed repetitive to me and overly drawn out, almost as if the author struggled to line up the dual narrative.

To sum it up, I felt that, personally, the great story and setting were bogged down by the actual writing.


Book Review: All at Sea


All at Sea

Decca Aitkenhead

Fourth Estate

240 pages

I am an avid fan of Book of the Month Club for a myriad of reasons, one of them being that it introduces me to books I wouldn’t otherwise have read. This is one of those books. I had never even heard of it prior to the reveal of the September selections. There are so many books on my TBR list that I rarely read books that haven’t been fully vetted or where I am unfamiliar with the author, publisher, etc., but I made an exception for this one based on the synopsis (and just the fact that the BOTM judges chose it in the first place).

Decca Aitkenhead is on vacation in May of 2014 with her partner Tony and their two boys, ages 3 and 4. Decca is off further along the beach one morning when she spots her 4 year old in the ocean alone. She quickly realizes that her son, a novice swimmer, is drifting out to sea fast. She races out to save him, and notices that Tony, coming from the beach closer to their son, is attempting to swim out to him too. Decca and Tony are able to get Jake to safety, and Decca is relieved that they have avoided disaster. Until she realizes that Tony is dying before her very eyes.

All at Sea literally made me hold my breath multiple times. The rawness of Aitkenhead’s grief was difficult to read. As a reporter for the Guardian, Aitkenhead talks about how she is faced with this type of tragedy all the time, but it doesn’t have that realness unless you’ve actually experienced it. I understand what she means, because in reading things like this, I often think about how it is one of my worst nightmares, and yet I truly can’t fathom the pain and grief.

Aitkenhead was completely honest and open about her relationship with Tony, and his flaws. I was shocked to read that he was a crackhead. It’s one of those things–you hear crackhead and you can’t imagine that person being a contributing member of society. It may sound silly, but that stuck with me, that we don’t really know people, and not everyone is what we expect.

If you’re a fan of memoirs, this is a great one.  Just beware–it will break your heart.

Book Review: All the Stars in the Heavens


All the Stars in the Heavens

Adriana Trigiani

Harper Paperbacks

480 pages

I am not a big movie buff, but ever since seeing Gone With the Wind, I have had a thing for Clark Gable. Never mind that that is the only movie of his I have ever seen. I love legitimately love him. So when I heard about this book, which is a fictionalized account of his love affair and secret love child with Loretta Young, I had to read it. I love historical fiction that is based on true events and real people from history.

Going into this book, I knew a fair bit about Gable’s personal life. Married quite a few times, dying when his (I think was) fifth wife was pregnant with his first child in 1960. Apparently though that wasn’t his first child.

In 1935, 21 year old Loretta Young met the older Gable on the secluded set of The Call of the Wild. Stuck together in a hotel on site for weeks on end, the naïve Loretta and the womanizer Gable fell in love. Their affair was brief, and they went in different directions once the film was wrapped. Loretta continued to pine after Gable, and then she found out she was pregnant. Unable to make their relationship work due to their egos (some may find this to be harsh as far as Loretta goes, but going solely off the book, I definitely think she could have done things differently), Loretta secretly gave birth to their daughter Judy and fought for years to keep Judy’s parentage a secret.

The idea of two film stars having an illegitimate child in 1935 is almost unheard of. It would have destroyed Loretta’s career, not to mention the ramifications on the two actors considering they both signed “morality clauses”. Loretta instead hid Judy at an orphanage for years, eventually “adopting” her.


I loved the idea of this book. The story had so much potential. On the one hand, I do think Trigiani did a great job of bringing the characters to light. I actually read another fictionalized account of Gable a year or two ago, about his marriage to Carole Lombard, that I felt was pretty poorly done in terms of fleshing out the characters. All the Stars in the Heavens didn’t have that problem, however I did feel that it should have been more focused. Trigiani chose to start the book prior to Gable and Loretta meeting, when Loretta was falling in love with Spencer Tracy. It then meandered all the way to Judy’s adulthood. There was a lot of jumping around towards the end and the direction seemed confusing. I think Trigiani should have chosen to just write about the love affair and Judy’s first few years. It would have made the story seemed much more cohesive and refined.

I found it interesting that Loretta’s daughter in law came out after her death and claimed that Gable actually date raped Loretta, resulting in her pregnancy. Obviously that puts an entirely different spin on the circumstances of Judy’s conception and birth, and it made me wonder what the true story is. Either way, I truly admire Loretta Young. She had a few options open to her, and she took what was arguably the hardest road, despite the ramifications on her professional and even personal life. It could not have been easy.