Read: [v] The act of interpreting and understanding language, symbols, and the written word.

Furiously: [adv] To do something with excitement and passion.

Nerd Traveler

Traveling just got nerdier.

Nerd Traveler is visual storytelling, cultural journalism, and autoethnography all wrapped into a love letter to new experiences.

Nerd Traveler is now available for pre-order wherever books are sold.

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Bucks Poetry Extravaganza!

This past Wednesday, Read Furiously got to help celebrate Poetry Extravaganza at Bucks County Community College, and we'd like to thank everyone involved for the warm welcome, and congratulate all the amazing poets who shared their work, including our own Bernadette Karpa who read from her new book And She Does Shine. For those who couldn't make the event, here are some of the great pictures from the event, along with a special reading Bernadette did of her poem Beautiful Boys.

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Thursday, January 5, 2017

More than a Pretty Face

It is very difficult for writers, especially women, to move beyond the stereotype of "chick lit." As a reader, I don't approve of this term because I feel it devalues novels with female protagonists. Yes, there are the formulaic stories that bore us to tears about the "traditional" American housewife: the drama, the terrible husbands, the ungrateful children, the pies in the oven. If the novel has too much stereotypical intrigue, it becomes a Lifetime Original movie. Too little plot and it becomes a pretentious overview of American gender roles, so thinly sliced in its mockery that it is unclear whether or not it would make a decent sandwich (see what I did there?).

American Housewife: Stories by Helen Ellis subverts the expectations of women's literature and presents us with absurd, clever, and wholly suburban short stories that will terrify us in its familiarity and engross us in its complexity. The volume is slim, slightly under 200 pages, making it a fun afternoon read with a cup of tea (I have tested this theory for your convenience, furious readers).

I don't want to give away too many of the short stories, but I did pick out my favorites that deserve a mention:

"Dumpster Diving with the Stars" - After setting the tone of absurd suburban living, Ellis explores pathos in her third story. Most of the narrators in this collection are writers, or struggling writers, or - in the case of this story - one-time writers who are searching for their next inspiration. "The Writer" agrees to be on a reality TV competition where contestants choose old antiques with hidden value. Among the contestants are John Lithgow and Mario Batali (who are portrayed as the down-to-earth, kind celebrities that we hope they are), a tennis star (who in my head, I imagined as the glamorous Serena Williams), a Scientologist movie star couple trying to prove that the husband isn't gay, a made-up reality TV star (but the premise would easily work in our world), and Mitzy, a Playboy bunny who ends up being the heart of the story. Without going too much into the plot, Ellis explores the rules of reality TV and the monsters who manipulate them (and the audience), so the housewives at home can have a good show. I always love a story when the "pretty bimbo" (another damaging stereotype that devalues female protagonists) turns out to be legit. This is one of my favorites in the collection since the story itself is very plausible as I feel our culture would watch this, manipulative host and all, in a binge fest on TLC.

"Hello! Welcome to Book Club" - Told in the breathless tone of the nosy American housewife who doesn't let her guest (the reader, who gets to experience direct POV through stream of consciousness dialogue) get a word in, this dark, creepy story is one worthy of Margaret Atwood or Daphne du Maurier. As the reader, you continue to listen to this woman's prattle, knowing with each turn of the page, that we are heading for something very sinister. When you get to the end of this story, you won't be disappointed.

"The Fitter" - This story answers the age old question: what would your life be like if your husband was blessed with the gift of being able to fit women into their perfect bras? Part of the story reads as a scandalous, "don't steal my husband" housewife story, and the rest raises the quiet question of what our lives would be like if women leaned on each other more and acknowledged the complexities of the female body. It would be, to quote our narrator: "Good enough."

"My Novel is Brought to You by the Good People at Tampax" - Creativity and capitalism find themselves at odds as the terrifying people of Tampax hold a writer prisoner so she can complete a book that Miley Cyrus wants to be made into a film. Yes, you've read all that correctly, but feel free to read it again. Or aloud. You won't be able to look at those blue boxes again without hearing, "On behalf of Tampax..." This piece closes out the collection and it is a great horror story about the "joys" of writing.

Since the popularity of Mad Men, American housewives are still having a moment. Between the new HBO event based on Liane Moriarty's Big Little Lies (I read the book last year towards the end of my reading year and it was absolutely delicious - much like reading a friend's diary. The trailer looks just as scandalous) to ABC's new series American Housewife (starring the hilarious Katy Mixon; there has been controversy over the fat-shaming content of the show, which I found troubling as well, but the show hits its stride with episode 7's "Power Couple" so I am hoping for a comeback in sharp storytelling), we are seeing a character beyond the June Cleaver/Donna Reed/Stepford wife that both thrills and terrifies us.

Out of all the new TV/film versions of the housewife, I still recommend spending time with Helen Ellis and her version of the American housewife. It is the closest version we have of providing women with the agency they deserve in a culture that asks them to give up everything - their dignity, their dreams, their ability to see beyond their external self - for the sake of the home.

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Friday, October 14, 2016

Feeling Frozen...The Book Buying Sabbatical

Happy Fall, Furious Readers! While the days aren't getting too cold here in New Jersey, fall is always a wonderful time to think about preparing your winter TBR, finishing up your reading goals before the end of the year, and considering which books loved ones will be getting as holiday presents. There are numerous book festivals throughout the country and, of course, October marks Comic Con season on the East Coast.

In other words: we are surrounded by books wherever we go and we can never escape.

Oh, apologies, furious readers, I'm feeling a bit sensitive right now. We are at the midpoint of our "book buying sabbatical" and I am learning a few lessons:

1. This is a lot harder than I thought. With my first post, I had written in an optimistic hand, excited for this social experiment. However, I did not consider my book buying habits, which - to be honest - are not healthy. I notice now that we often bought books because we were 1) bored; 2) had a bad week; 3) passed a bookstore; and 4) noticed we hadn't purchased a book in a few days. While these are great reasons in small doses, you tend to purchase books that aren't always on your list and you often end up stacking those newly-acquired purchases on an already-towering TBR pile. The habit of buying mindlessly is something we all must deal with in our consumer culture, but when it borders on wasteful, then we have a problem.

2. I appreciate independent bookstores so much more. We at Read Furiously are firm believers in the power of the independent bookstore (and are very vocal on our favorites), but this appreciation as blossomed and matured into something stronger. While I enjoy our big-box bookstore chains for their convenience, I also noticed that not buying from them is quite simple. Yes, the coupons and sales are fantastic (and there has been many a good coupon that I had to delete from my inbox during this time), but the reader can walk out without a purchase the same way one does in a department store. There isn't a connection between you and the purchase. With independent bookstores, I found this book-buying sabbatical to be much more difficult. Independent bookstores are the cornerstone of a true reader's experience and there is more to it than a shopping spree (which is always great for the bookstore and, when they can afford it, the reader). It's the moment when a reader pulls a book from the shelf and, after perusing the cover and first chapter, makes the important decision to take it home. Book buying is a meditation, a moment between your next read and a possible next favorite.

3. I love buying books for other people. This I always knew, but I've done this a few times during the book-buying sabbatical and it has been great watching the books immediately leave my house (to keep this fair, I did not keep the books in my house for too long in case I felt compelled to read them) and reaching the home of its reader. Like buying a book for yourself, buying for someone you love is a very special moment and without thinking about myself as I entered a bookstore, I am able to put my entire book purchasing energy into that person. It's a really nice feeling.

4. Libraries are the heroes of the book world. I have the joy of living within walking distance of my public library and you can believe I made good use of it during this time. Not only do you feel as though you've been through a "spree" when you leave with a large stack of books, but a furious reader can also take chances on titles they wouldn't normally choose in a bookstore (sometimes wallets have very loud opinions on what to buy or not to buy in a bookstore).

To conclude: so far, so good. I've actually enjoyed this sabbatical and I'm thinking we can make this an annual activity at Read Furiously. Just a few more weeks to go!  Until then, read well, read often, and read furiously!

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Stress Free Binging

Editor's Note: The first lesson in a book buying sabbatical: Never go at it alone. I'm happy to report that Adam will be writing a few posts himself to highlight another side of our alternative reading journey.

As a long time comic book reader, there's always been a sense of urgency that comes with reading - a self imposed deadline to make sure you've made enough progress on your TBR pile to justify going to the comic book shop when Wednesday rolls back around. You don't have to read everything you picked up, but if you haven't read anything then it becomes difficult to silence the little voice in the back of your head saying "Do you really need to go back and get more?" New comics come out weekly, and all it takes is one week to really start falling behind. So if you want to get something new, you can't slack off.

Even as someone who reads most titles in trade form instead of single issues (where the frequency of release is much more manageable), I still find a small part of myself secretly hoping I come up empty when I glance over the list of new books that will be hitting shelves each week, that there'll be nothing new I need to add to my ever growing list. After all, it's just nice to have the time to play catch up every now and then.

Being a part of the Read Furiously's Book Sabbatical, I want to take this time to not only catch up reading titles I've fallen behind on, but also go back and revisit titles I've already read.

With an imaginary weekly deadline looming over my head each week re-reading something can feel a bit frivolous at times. You only have so many hours a week you can dedicate to reading, shouldn't you be spending it on something new, something that'll help quell the bookshelf worth of paperbacks and hardcovers making up your TBR pile (which is actually a full TBR bookshelf with mini-TBR piles in front of it at this point).

So having the opportunity to step back and really reflect on my reading, this seems like the perfect opportunity to indulge in some titles I want to revisit.

First up is Fables by Bill Willingham. With over 22 books in the series (if you don't count crossovers, standalone graphic novels, and spinoffs), I made it as far as volume 18 before I started falling behind, and as the series drew closer and closer to the end I started to come up with more and more excuses to put off reading the rest of the books.

As we entered the Book Sabbatical though, and I no longer felt the pressures of an oncoming Wednesday, it seemed the right time to return to Fabletown once more. Not just to finish off the series, but to re-read it all, from Legends in Exile to Farewell. I now had the luxury of time, so why not take a cue from Netflix and binge on a book.

But Fables seems like a the right choice to start. It's a series I began reading over ten years ago when I was still in college, and in some cases I haven't revisited the storylines in just as long. A lot of time has passed since then, and I'm a much different person now, my interests in some cases have done complete 180s. So the idea of going back and seeing how the books hold up is an exciting one.

Even as I was reading Fables the first time around it was one of those titles where my interest waned to varying degrees throughout it's run, so I can't wait to see what will it be like to read it all straight through. Will it be like when my wife and I try to pace ourselves watching Orange is the New Black only to end up finishing it in a single weekend, or will it be more like Arrow where the only reason we made it through season one was because we kept in on in the background while we did other things.

Regardless of the outcome though, just the luxury that the Book Sabbatical has offered, the opportunity to go back and reflect on the titles that have shaped me as a reader is a great one. And after Fables I've got a great queue lined up for other book series I've been looking for an excuse to dig up.

So till next time, Furious Readers.

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Friday, August 19, 2016

Happy Book Birthday to Brian & Bobbi! In Stores Now!!

Happy Friday, furious readers! First of all, I am so happy I had my 5th anniversary edition of Brian & Bobbi before our book buying sabbatical (the perks of working for Read Furiously...and being married to the author). Otherwise, I would be in serious book agony trying to figure out how to get my copy.

I am so excited to put the spotlight on Brian & Bobbi, especially since it falls on the one year anniversary of The M.O.T.H.E.R. Principle, Volume 1. An anniversary edition on the anniversary of Read Furiously's first title! I think it is a good sign.

Five years ago, author Adam Wilson and illustrator Franco Viglino released the graphic novel Brian & Bobbi, a classic superhero story for the 21st century. Brian is born with superpowers, but no one seems to care while Bobbi is the daughter of a superhero who doesn't seem to care about her. The two find each other and their friendship gives them both an agency to help them find their place in the world. That's the classic part of the superhero story. The 21st century lens is illustrated through characters that are both flawed and inspiring. One of the largest concerns about female comic characters is their lack of development, but that isn't the case with Bobbi. She manages to be funny, endearing, selfish, desperate, and powerful throughout the graphic novel. She wants Brian to make a name for himself so others will notice her - she is left abandoned by family and culture, but learns very quickly she won't win if she strings herself to the classic hero narrative, AKA Brian. One of my favorite parts of this novel is watching Bobbi realize her own worth while still keeping her friendship with Brian. She is her own woman, with her own destiny, and this is something that young readers - both male and female - need to see in the comics they read.

Conversely, Brian's story begins in a vague-stereotypical hero's journey and ends in an extraordinary destiny. Once he moves out of the "typical narrative" of crossing the threshold, Brian discovers that he can become his own superhero on his own terms, which is more of a blessing than he realizes. Choice is the theme throughout Brian & Bobbi - both characters have to decide whether to be their own original creation as they navigate the superhero narrative that is expected of them. Adam Wilson plays with these boundaries of expectation versus reality seamlessly and creates a story that is character-driven through the action and humor that drives so many human stories (or in this case, not human?).

Franco Viglino brings his own style to the panels the same way Adam Wilson tells his story: using influences we are familiar with (you will notice the panels have a manga feel to them) while creating something completely different that is entirely his own. The panels are well-paced, to match the quick-wit dialogue, and the action sequences provide us with more than superhero grimaces and closeups. There are beautiful moments of skyline views that allow us to inhabit Brian & Bobbi's world.

Read Furiously is proud to introduce its release of the 5th Anniversary edition of Brian & Bobbi, complete with a new cover and featuring a cover gallery that includes all of the concept art by Franco Viglino for the original cover. With this edition, we are including a pin-up gallery featuring artwork by the talented Alex Schumacher, Randi King, JC Grande, Lynn Carper, Nolan Moore, and Rodolfo Maximiliano. You can purchase your copy on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and (most importantly) at your local independent bookstore. You can also get your autographed copy from us at The Furious Reader.

Enjoy your new #FridayReads, furious readers! As always, I remain your humble book blogger telling you to: read well, read often, and read furiously!

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