Thursday, September 27, 2007

Booking Through Thursday - Friendship

This week's Booking Through Thursday question is actually inspired by Buy a Friend a Book Week. If you don't know anything about Buy a Friend a Book Week definitely check out the program's website (or read about it in this post).

Anyway, here's the question:
What book would you choose to give to a friend and why?

The easiest thing for me to answer this question would be to link to my BAFABW posts from last year, but I will behave myself and actually write out an answer here.

It seems to me that I have two different ways of gifting books. I'll either send something from a person's wishlist (but 9 times out of 10 it'll be a book that I think I'd also like reading) or I'll pick out something I think they'll like (I really only do this with children and people I know relatively well). Someone like a brother-in-law would get a book following the first method. Someone like my mom would get a book following the second method. And, when I'm gifting books to someone like my dad, I'll do a bit of both.

After posting this, something else occurred to me so I'm jumping in here again. Sometimes I'll like a book so much that I'll pick up multiple copies and gift them to everyone that I think might remotely like it. Most recently I've done this with Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu.

Happy Birthday

Today may be Google's 9th birthday, but September 27th was mine long before.

I haven't received all my presents yet, but I have gotten a few books so far.

My sister also got me the Love of Learning Willow Tree figurine to celebrate my love of books.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

book clubbing in September

It's that time of the month again. My book club met today and we discussed Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.

Richard Mayhew is a young businessman with a good heart and a dull job. When he stops one day to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London sidewalk, his life is forever altered, for he finds himself propelled into an alternate reality that exists in a subterranean labyrinth of sewer canals and abandoned subway stations below the city. He has fallen through the cracks of reality and has landed somewhere different, somewhere that is Neverwhere.

Neverwhere received a pretty positive response from the book club. We all liked it, some more than others, and because of that (as is typical for us) our discussion about the book itself wasn't that in depth. That's not to say we didn't have a good discussion, we just got off track a bit talking about graphic novels and the Millennials and movie adaptations and ...

Personally I liked the book, but found it a bit slow. Though that's probably because (as usual) I waited until the last minute to read the book so I couldn't put it down in favor of something that was better suited to my mood.

My impressions of the book, however, we're definitely affected by the fact that I'd read China Mieville's Un Lun Dun relatively recently. The concept behind Un Lun Dun and Neverwhere is similar, with an alternate world existing beneath our feet. Un Lun Dun's un-London is a bit more fantastical (and the novel a bit more playful as it is geared toward a different audience). I enjoyed Un Lun Dun, but after reading Neverwhere I know exactly how much Mieville is indebted to Gaiman

The Blacksmith's Daughter

The Blacksmith's Daughter by Suzanne Adair

Suzanne Adair follows up her award-winning debut with another, subtler, high-stakes adventure tale.

Set against the backdrop of the American Revolution, The Blacksmith's Daughter is the story of seventeen-year-old Betsy Sheridan, a neutral who can’t help getting involved in rebel intrigues. Happily married to a successful cobbler, Betsey is pregnant with her first child when her seemingly-perfect life starts to fall apart.

Her uncle and both her parents are on the run after being incorrectly labeled as rebel spies. Betsey is implicated in their activities when her uncle drops by to assure her of their safety. With British officers of her case, Betsey discovers that her husband has been keeping secrets from her and, though posing as a loyalist, is involved in a rebel spy ring. When her house is first vandalized and then burned to the ground, Betsey realizes how tenuous her safety in Camden is. Knowing that she must do whatever it takes to keep her unborn child safe, Betsey is determined to leave town. Torn between a desire to reunite with her parents and her duty to her husband, it seems like there are no simple decisions in this time of war.

Filled with adventure, romance, and abundant historical detail, The Blacksmith's Daughter is a page-turner. What sets it apart from most historical thrillers, however, is its cast of substantive characters. Protagonist Betsey is sympathetic, if a bit impetuous. The secondary characters--from the villainous Lieutenant Fairfax to minor actor Josiah Carter--are all carefully drawn and fully realized. Additionally Adair puts her novel in context with a historical afterword and bibliography.

While The Blacksmith’s Daughter follows Adair’s first novel, Paper Woman, it does stand on its own. Paper Woman takes place immediately before the action of The Blacksmith's Daughter, but it focuses on Betsy’s mother Sophie Barton, who is only a minor character in The Blacksmith's Daughter. The novels are also written in such a way that if readers encounter the second novel first, they can go back and enjoy Paper Woman without fear of knowing too much about the plot of the first novel.

Suzanne Adair is a colonial and Revolutionary War reenactor. Her first novel, Paper Woman, won the 2007 Patrick D. Smith Literature Award, given by the Florida Historical Society.

Read my review at Front Street Reviews...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Booking Through Thursday - Sunshine & Roses

Imagine that everything is going just swimmingly. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and all’s right with the world. You’re practically bouncing from health and have money in your pocket. The kids are playing and laughing, the puppy is chewing in the cutest possible manner on an officially-sanctioned chew toy, and in between moments of laughter for pure joy, you pick up a book to read...
What is it?

This question is the reverse of last week's and, if anything, I think my answer is even more nebulous this week. If I'm content, I'm not sure that it matters what I read. Though, thinking about both of these questions, it occurs to me that I may read less when I'm at both extremes than I do usually (too depressed/out of it to read, too bouncy to want to sit still).

That being said, today has been a crazy day and I'm looking forward to curling up on the couch and doing a little reading and a little knitting and just relaxing.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Labyrinth by Kate Mosse

I have to admit that I started this one without the faintest idea what it was about (beyond "three secrets, two women, one grail," which couldn't be ignored on the front cover; I didn't read the back cover text). Obviously I knew something about it when I added it to my wishlist (right after it was first published), but since then I'd managed to forget whatever it is that I knew. Kate Mosse was one of the co-founders of the Orange Prize and, honestly, I'd give her a try just because of that.

Set both in modern day France and 13th century Languedoc, Labyrinth is a historical thriller revolving around the mystery of the Grail. What sets it apart from the other bestsellers with which it will be inevitably grouped is Mosse's understanding and evident love of the area in which the story is set (as well as her writing).

The one thing that was a bit annoying about the book was that (justifiably for plot reasons) Mosse holds out on explaining what the Cathar's truly believed until fairly late in the narrative. This probably wouldn't be a problem for readers familiar with the period, but for me I had a hard time understanding the justification for the crusade (which is the backdrop of the historical part of the novel) without knowing the extent of the heresy.

In any case, Labyrinth may be the best kind of historical fiction, the kind that makes you want to learn more about the period in which it was set. I'm actually kind of interested in reading Greg Mosse's Secrets of the Labyrinth despite the fact that I don't particularly care for spin-off books. Though I'll probably just see if Russell has anything on the period kicking around in his book collection.

Though this is really only tangentially related, I have to say that reading this book (in which the city of Carcassonne features prominently) made me want to break out Carcassonne, a fantastic euro board game...

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Booking Through Thursday - Comfort Food

Okay . . . picture this (really) worst-case scenario: It’s cold and raining, your boyfriend/girlfriend has just dumped you, you’ve just been fired, the pile of unpaid bills is sky-high, your beloved pet has recently died, and you think you’re coming down with a cold. All you want to do (other than hiding under the covers) is to curl up with a good book, something warm and comforting that will make you feel better.
What do you read?

Ideally I'd head for something that is really untaxing and has a happy ending. I haven't been doing a lot of rereading lately - I'll just browse my BookCrossing bookcase (yes, I have a whole bookcase devoted to BookCrossing books) and pick out a YA or chick lit title that doesn't look too annoying or a cozy mystery. Sometimes I'll choose fantasy or historical fiction just to get away from myself and the situation.

As for specific titles...
Cecilia Ahern's PS, I love you really helped me through the aftermath of my cousin's unexpected death. I've also found Katie Schneider's All we know of love particularly comforting.

Monday, September 10, 2007


It's probably quite obvious that I haven't been getting a lot of serious (read: assigned) reading done lately. I've been a bit of an escapist and I've been drowning myself in quick, untaxing reads many of them series books. So here's a look at what I've been reading lately.

Maggie Sefton's Knitting Mysteries.
So far I've read the first three: Knit One, Kill Two, Needled to Death, and A Deadly Yarn. The fourth book in the series, A Killer Stitch, is next on my list (I'm going to start it right after I publish this post).
I don't typically read a lot of cozies, but I do like this series. I can really relate to its protagonist, a young professional who is addicted to coffee and just learning to knit. After the second book I was worried that the series would end up being unforgivably formulaic (there were too many similarities between the crimes in the first two books), but I'm pleased to report that A Deadly Yarn deviated a bit.

Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris
My coworker and I are actually both reading this series now. So far I've read Dead Until Dark, Living Dead in Dallas, Club Dead, Dead to the World, and Dead as a Doornail.
I like this series much better than most of the other paranormal series I've picked up. Sookie is pretty down-to-earth, the author is inventive, the secondary characters are pretty well-drawn, and there isn't an unnecessary amount of sex. The overarching story, however, is a bit of a mystery to me. Just today my coworker and I were arguing over the identity of Sookie's intended love interest. Though my coworker has cast the role, I'm not altogether sure. We both agree, however, that it's not Bill.
I'm not going to run out and purchase the other books in the series (so far Definitely Dead and All Together Dead), but I'll read them when they come my way.

I also just finished the first of Alexander McCall Smith's Isabel Dalhousie mysteries, The Sunday Philosophy Club.
When I was in Chicago, my aunt gave me the audio version, which we started listening to on the way home. Russell didn't care much for Isabel and her internal monologues on ethics and philosophy. I will say that she grew on me. Yes, the monologues got a bit tiresome, but I found Isabel to be an interesting character (and I liked McCall Smith's inclusion of what my dad would call SAT-words).
One thing that occurred to me as I was listening to the book is how different Isabel is from Precious Rambotswe (star of the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency books). Not that I expected them to be similar, but I found it interesting that while McCall Smith's core audience probably has the least in common with Precious, she may very well be his most sympathetic protagonist (I don't know anything about the 44 Scotland Street series, though, so I could be completely off base).
So far there are three others in the series: Friends, Lovers, Chocolate, The Right Attitude to Rain, and The Careful Use of Compliments. I won't go out and buy the books, but I did put them on my BookMooch wishlist so hopefully I'll be able to snag them if they are listed. In the meantime I'll probably give the Professor Dr Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld books a go. They've been hanging around my bookshelf for a while now.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Booking Through Thursday - Goldilocks

Are you a Goldilocks kind of reader?
Do you need the light just right, the background noise just so loud but not too loud, the chair just right, the distractions at a minimum?
Or can you open a book at any time and dip right in, whether it’s for twenty seconds, while waiting for the kettle to boil, or indefinitely, like while waiting interminably at the hospital–as long as the book is open in front of your nose, you’re happy to read?

Hmmmm... this is a really interesting question and I'm not sure that I have a direct answer. Usually I'm not, but sometimes I am. There are times when it feels like I am just too distracted to read -- I'm antsy, I get up, walk around, disturb the cats, thinking of a million unimportant things I *need* to do at the moment -- but usually I can just set myself down and get into my book, provided it's something I want to read (though I will admit that I sometimes have a hard time in public places when it is very noisy). Then again, with stuff that I have to read (like certain boring articles when I was in school), I get into Goldilocks mode. So, like I said, no direct answer.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


I had my mail held while I was away in Chicago last week.
Today, when the mail was delivered, I had the most wonderful little mound of parcels some of which included books (of course).

I received two BookCrossing books:
I also received two wishlist books (which have just been added to my LibraryThing collection) that I'd requested through BookMooch:I just had to share.