Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How to be a "Wicked" Woman

How to be a "Wicked" Woman

I requested How to be a "Wicked" Woman through BookMooch after it was mentioned in the archives fiction presentation at SAA (see this post). The romance anthology is concerned with what it means to be wicked. Three stories are included in it:
  • "The Wicked Witch of the West Side" by MaryJanice Davidson
  • "Instruction in Seduction" by Jamie Denton
  • "Wicked Ways" by Susanna Carr
"Wicked Ways" is the one that features archives and the one I chose to read first. Neither of the protagonists in "Wicked Ways" is an archivist (the female lead is a business owner and head of the library's friends group, the male lead is an investigator pretending to be a librarian), but they do have a romantic encounter in the archives.

What I don't like about these kind of anthologies is that the stories don't tend to be long enough for the relationship buildup to be appropriately satisfying. "Instruction in Seduction" was the least problematic in this regard because the characters knew each other before the start of the story period and had a strong backstory. I didn't like "The Wicked Witch of the West Side" at all. The female protagonist was extremely irritating and there just wasn't enough time to warm up to her (if warming up to her was even possible).

Monday, September 28, 2009

It's Monday! What are you reading?

This past week...

I finished reading:
Betwixt by Tara Bray Smith (post to come)
How to be a "Wicked" Woman (post to come)
The White Castle by Orhan Pamuk (see this post)

Book club discussed Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love by Dava Sobel. (see this post)

I also blogged about Frank Lloyd Wright: the Interactive Portfolio by Margo Stipe. (see this post)

I'm currently reading:

Sunday, September 27, 2009

birthday book

This is the first year in quite a while that I haven't received any book for my birthday. Never fear, though, there's one book that I know I'm getting for my birthday, I just haven't received it yet.

Sock Innovation: Knitting Techniques & Patterns for One-Of-A-Kind Socks by Cookie A.

Unconventional, rule-breaking socks are part and parcel in this unique guide to sock knitting that includes 15 new sock patterns. The skills of the average sock knitter are increased through design exploration and advanced stitch manipulation, treating the sock as a knitted canvas where elements are strategically and intentionally placed. New designs of floral lace patterns, angular geometric shapes, and unusual cables are presented along with detailed instructions on modifications to suit needs and aesthetics. The incredible range of style and complexity in this guide runs from sweet and simple to delightfully imaginative.

I've knit one of Cookie A.'s patterns before, Monkey, and I enjoyed it once I got a handle on the stitch pattern. I love aesthetic and there are quite a few patterns in Sock Innovation that I'm really looking forward to trying.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Frank Lloyd Wright: the Interactive Portfolio

With the Frank Lloyd Wright's Buffalo Venture: from the Larkin Building to Broadacre City exhibit opening at the UB Anderson Gallery on October 3rd it seemed appropriate to feature something related to Frank Lloyd Wright for September's book of the month for the student services blog.

Frank Lloyd Wright: the Interactive Portfolio by Margo Stipe

The Interactive Portfolio is a unique book that focuses both on Wright's personal and professional life. The author utilizes material from the Frank Lloyd Wright archives (as well as copious photographs) to engage readers, bringing Wright's work to life.

You don't read The Interactive Portfolio, you experience it. It contains facsimiles of drawings and letters that can be removed, giving readers the sense of working with primary source documents. These items are so realistic-looking that the letters even have rust stains from the paperclips that once held them together.

The book also includes an audio CD, entitled "Frank Lloyd Wright speaks" that includes excerpts from interviews and lectures that took place in the 1950s.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The White Castle

The White Castle by Orhan Pamuk

I wanted to like The White Castle more than I actually did, which is why I think it took me so long to finish the book despite its relatively short length.

There's a bit of metanarrative: the story does not stand on its own. The novel begins with some text about a contemporary researcher coming across this obscure 17th century manuscript, which he is now bringing to light.

The novel is primarily concerned with two characters: Him (the unnamed narrator), an Italian Christian captured at sea by a group of Ottoman Turks, and Hoja, the Turk who becomes his master. The two look eerily alike and are similar in many ways despite their mutual hatred* of each other. Pamuk uses these facts to explore identity and sense of self.

The White Castle is a very slow read without a lot of narrative thrust. I quite liked this line from somewhere near the end of the book: "I have now come to the end of my book. Perhaps discerning readers, deciding my story was actually finished long ago, have already tossed it aside." Very tongue-in-cheek, but quite apropos.

* theirs is truly a love-hate relationship

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

book clubbing in September

A non-fiction month for our book club. On the table: Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel

We had a small group this month and I'm sure that's because a number of people didn't want to come because they hadn't finished the book. I'll admit right now that I didn't finish the book either. I started too late and ran out of time.

Subtitled "A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love," Dava Sobel's Galileo's Daughter uses letters that Galileo's oldest daughter Virginia (Sr. Marie Celeste) wrote to him from the convent in which she was cloistered to tell the story of their relationship.

To some extent I believe that the book's title is a bit of false advertising. The book really isn't about Galileo's daughter (this may be because of the lack of information about Virginia). It's about Galileo himself and his relationship with his family. The book opens with a letter from Virginia to her father, but then it takes one hundred pages before she appears as a player again. In the meantime, the narrative is focused on Galileo. There is discussion of his relationship to the children's mother, their births, and his attempts to get Virginia and her sister placed in a convent as wards, but other than that the girls don't appear much at all.

Apparently in the second half of the book, the narrative is more evenly focused (with more frequent appearances of Virginia's letters), but I didn't get far enough to see that for myself. At this point I don't feel like I need to finish the book. I've placed it in Russell's to-be-read pile because I think that he'll like it, interested as he is in Galileo, astronomy, history of science, and the Catholic church.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Harm Done

Harm Done by Ruth Rendell

I picked up an unabridged audio version of Harm Done at a book store inventory sell-off. I'd never read Rendell before and honestly I wasn't expecting much, just something to listen to on a long car trip or while knitting.

I have to say that I really enjoyed Harm Done (I'm not a huge mystery fan, but I do read them from time to time). Harm Done is a very smart mystery. There a number of different threads to the plot, which could have easily become unmanageable, but Rendell proceeds with flawless execution.

Harm Done is the 18th book in the Chief Inspector Wexford series, but I had no difficulty reading it as a stand-alone.

It's Monday! What are you reading?

This past week I finished reading Harm Done by Ruth Rendell (unabridged audio). I plan to have a proper post about this book up later today.

I read two of the three stories in How to be a "Wicked" Woman, which I requested through BookMooch after it was mentioned in the archives fiction presentation at SAA (see this post). I'll post about the book after I've read the last story.

I also gave up on reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (see this post).

I'm currently reading:

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

As of right now I am officially giving up on Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. My bookmark has been ensconced between pages 280 and 281 (of 1006 total) for at least a month and I have felt no desire to pick it up again.

I really want to like this novel, but I just can't get into it. Honestly, it was like pulling teeth to even get as far as I did. Whenever I've tried to read it I've felt like it would never end. I feel guilty given all the awards and rave reviews that Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, but I have to admit that the book just isn't right for me right now and let it find a new reader who'll be able to appreciate it. I plan to wild release it this afternoon.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday Find #4

My find for this week isn't a book, but rather a book site. is a site that provides free audio versions of books in the public domain (no longer protected under copyright). Their tagline is "acoustical liberation of books in the public domain" and all of their recordings are done by volunteers. They've been going strong since August 2005.

I'd heard about LibriVox before, but I hadn't actually checked out the site before this week. I visited it early this week, poked around a bit, and downloaded the first book (28 chapters) of War and Peace (available here). I'm on chapter 13 right now and I'm happy as a clam. The recordings are all really good quality and while the reader sometimes changes from chapter to chapter it hasn't bothered me at all.

I'd encourage all of you to check out Good stuff there.

book club voting lists (4 of 4)

This post explains what the lists are all about...

World Literature
  1. Arctic Chill by Arnaldur Indridason (Iceland)
  2. Blindness by Jose Saramago (Portugal)
  3. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz (Dominican Republic)
  4. Farming of Bones by Edwige Dandicat (Haiti)
  5. The Garden of Finzi-Continis by Giorgio Bassani (Italy)
  6. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie(Nigeria)
  7. The History of Danish Dreams by Peter Hoeg (Denmark)
  8. The Pakistani Bride by Bapsi Sidhwa (Pakistan)
  9. Snow by Orhan Pamuk (Turkey)
  10. The Thief and the Dogs by Naguib Mahfouz (Egypt)
  11. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (Afghanistan)
  12. Waiting by Han Jin (China)
  13. Wild Meat and the Belly Burgers by Lois-Ann Yamanaka (Hawaii)
Young Adult
  1. The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga
  2. Bad Kitty by Michele Jaffe
  3. The Black Tattoo by Sam Enthoven
  4. Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
  5. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
  6. Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty
  7. Going Bovine by Libba Bray
  8. I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
  9. Sovay by Celia Rees
  10. Strictest School in the World, The: Being the Tale of a Clever Girl, a Rubber Boy and a Collection of Flying Machines, Mostly Broken by Howard Whitehouse
  11. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Special Month: Your Choice by Author X
(voters will pick their top two)
  • Jane Austen
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • Henry James
  • Toni Morrison
  • Joyce Carol Oates
  • Jodi Picoult
Special Month: Margaret Atwood
She's be speaking at the University at Buffalo on March 3, 2010, so we'll read her in February in preparation
(voters will pick their top two)I'll post our reading list for 2010-2011 as soon as the results are in...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

book club voting lists (3 of 4)

This post explains what the lists are all about...

  1. Booked to Die by John Dunning
  2. A Carrion Death by Michael Stanley (Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip)
  3. Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
  4. The Constant Gardener by John le Carre
  5. The Devil's Feather by Minette Walters
  6. Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell
  7. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
  8. The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist
  9. Grave Sight (Harper Connelly Mysteries, Book 1) by Charlaine Harris
  10. Haunted Ground by Erin Hart
  11. An Innocent Client by Scott Pratt
  12. The Night Villa by Carol Goodman
  13. One for the Money (Stephanie Plum, Book 1) by Janet Evanovich
  14. Pandora by Anne Rice
  15. Prime Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan
  16. Smilla's Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg
  17. Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz
  18. Snow Storms in a Hot Climate by Sarah Dunant
  19. Sunshine by Robin McKinley
  20. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
SciFi and Fantasy
  1. Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey
  2. Blue Girl by Charles de Lint
  3. Dragonflight (Dragonriders of Pern, Book 1) by Anne McCaffrey
  4. Changing Planes by Ursula Le Guin
  5. Excession by Iain M Banks
  6. Grass by Sheri Tepper
  7. The Host by Stephenie Meyer
  8. Master of the Five Magics by Lyndon Hardy
  9. Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson
  10. The Serpent's Shadow by Mercedes Lackey
  11. Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
  12. Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman
  13. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
  14. The Unincorporated Man by Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin
  15. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
Women's Fiction
  1. Addition by Toni Jordan
  2. Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs
  3. Everyone Worth Knowing by Lauren Weisberger
  4. The Fortune Quilt by Lani Diane Rich
  5. The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles
  6. The Linnet Bird by Linda Holeman
  7. Lord of Fire by Gaelen Foley
  8. One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell
  9. Patty Jane's House of Curl by Lorna Landvik
  10. The Shop on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber
  11. Star Gazing by Linda Gillard
  12. Sullivan's Island by Dorthea Benton Frank
  13. Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella
  14. Thanks for the Memories by Cecilia Ahern
  15. Woman's World by Graham Rawle

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

word: nanny

I wasn't going to post about Jane Austen and Names by Maggie Lane, a book that a friend and fellow book club member ordered through Interlibrary Loan after we discussed Pride and Prejudice, but flipping through it I learned an interesting tidbit that I just had to share.

I'd never given a second thought to the word nanny. Nowadays we use it (with lowercase N) to refer to a childminder. Originally, I learned in Jane Austen and Names, Nanny was a nickname for someone named Anne, but was acceptable only for a servant (otherwise you would call your Annes by Nan or, later, Nancy). It's so interesting to think about how the meaning of a word changed over time, especially in cases such as this, where you can imagine a very clear progression.

book club voting lists (2 of 4)

This post explains what the lists are all about...

General Nonfiction:
  1. The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan
  2. City on the Edge: Buffalo, New York, 1900-present by Mark Goldman
  3. Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz
  4. The Devil's Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea
  5. Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron
  6. The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson
  7. The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed by John Vaillant
  8. The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann
  9. Once Upon a Quinceañera: Coming of Age in the USA by Julia Alvarrez
  10. Outcasts United: A Refugee Team, an American Town by Warren St. John
  11. The Platypus and the Mermaid: And Other Figments of the Classifying Imagination by Harriet Ritvo
  12. Rumspringa: To Be or Not to Be Amish by Tom Shachtman
  13. The Science of Sherlock Holmes by E.J. Wagner
  14. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
  15. Under the Sabers: The Unwritten Code Of Army Wives by Tanya Biank
Graphic Novels:
  1. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
  2. Blankets by Craig Thompson
  3. Castle Waiting by Linda Medley
  4. A Drifting Life by Yoshihiro Tatsumi
  5. Kings in Disguise by James Vance and Dan Burr
  6. The Lagoon by Lilli Carré
  7. Laika by Nick Abadzis
  8. Our Cancer Year by Harvey Pekar
  9. Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan, Niko Henrichon
  10. The Professor's Daughter by Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert
  11. Strangers in Paradise by Terry Moore
Historical Fiction:
  1. Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors
  2. The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory
  3. The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan
  4. In the Beauty of the Lilies by John Updike
  5. The Master by Colm Toibin
  6. Peony in Love by Lisa See
  7. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
  8. Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross
  9. The Remedy by Michelle Lovric
  10. Remembering Babylon by David Malouf
  11. Tears of Pearl by Tasha Alexander

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

book club voting lists (1 of 4)

This post explains what the lists are all about...

Biographies & Memoirs:
  1. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver
  2. Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction by David Sheff
  3. Bitter is the New Black: Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smartass, Or, Why You Should Never Carry A Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office by Jen Lancaster
  4. Buffalo Gal by Laura Pedersen
  5. The Caliph's House: A Year in Casablanca by Tahir Shah
  6. Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert
  7. Feeding a Yen: Savoring Local Specialties, from Kansas City to Cuzco by Calvin Trillin
  8. Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
  9. Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou
  10. She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders by Jennifer Finney Boylan
  11. Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines by Nic Sheff
Classics and Contemporary Classics:
  1. 1984 by George Orwell
  2. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  3. The Book of Salt by Monique Truong
  4. Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
  5. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  6. Hamlet
  7. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  8. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  9. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  10. Wings of the Dove by Henry James
General Fiction (non-genre):
  1. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
  2. Astrid & Veronika by Linda Olsson
  3. The Beach House by Mary Alice Monroe
  4. Buffalo Lockjaw by Greg Ames
  5. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
  6. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
  7. Eureka by Jim Lehrer
  8. The Falls by Joyce Carol Oates
  9. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  10. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  11. Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
  12. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
  13. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
  14. Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult
  15. Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
  16. Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi
  17. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
  18. Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum
  19. Trans-Sister Radio by Chris Bohjalian
  20. The Various Flavors of Coffee by Anthony Capella
  21. We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Monday, September 14, 2009

Creating a Reading List

People always wonder how we choose the books we read for book club. My book club is a bit different than most. While we do have a group of regulars the club is open to everyone who works in the library. We make an effort to read from a number of different genres to encourage people who might only want to read their favorite genres to join us for a meeting or two. We also allow everyone to help us choose the books we read. Here's how:

We begin with a list of categories. The categories vary a bit from round to round. These are the eleven categories we're using this time:
- Biographies & Memoirs
- Classics and Contemporary Classics
- General Fiction (non-genre)
- General Nonfiction
- Graphic Novels
- Historical Fiction
- Mystery/Thriller/Horror
- SciFi and Fantasy
- Women's Fiction (formerly romance)
- World Literature (formerly literary fiction)
- Young Adult
This round we're trying out a couple of new things as well. We're devoting February 2010 to Margaret Atwood since she'll be speaking on campus at the beginning of March as part of the UB Distinguished Speakers series. Another month we plan to focus on an author rather than on a book; everyone can read whatever title most interests them and we'll see where the discussion leads.

Regular book club members are invited to suggest titles. I take all the suggestions and use them to create voting lists, fleshing out various sections if they are looking a bit bare. We aim for 10-20 options per category.

I set up an online voting mechanism and for each category voters (any library staff member is eligible) are encouraged to select up to five titles they'd like to read. They can also mark their top choice for each category. I use the top-choice votes to give weight to titles in case of a tie.

This is all a bit of a production, but each time we vote I can use the results to schedule two years worth of meetings. Oh, and I find the whole thing quite fun, despite the work it entails.

Since we're just about to start the voting for this round of book club selections, I thought I might share our voting lists over the course of the week. If anyone has any strong feelings about books we should or should not pick, I'd love to hear about them in the comments.

Check back tomorrow for the first installment.

It's Monday! What are you reading?

This past week I finished reading:I'm currently reading:

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Guilty Pleasures

Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton

I picked up Guilty Pleasures at a BookCrossing meetup this weekend. It's the first book in the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series so I thought I'd try it out. Guilty Pleasures is quite a bit darker than most of the vampire/paranormal books I've read lately, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Interestingly enough, Guilty Pleasures does not read like the first book of a series. On the one hand, it may be a good thing because it means that Hamilton created a very full backstory. On the other, while reading the book I felt like there was so much that I didn't know about the characters and their world that I should to the point where certain things like Anita's relationship with Jean-Claude made so little sense to me that I was sure that I must have been wrong about the book being the first in its series.

The ending is also rushed, with the final confrontation left for the last few pages.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Embers

The Embers by Hyatt Bass

Director, producer and screenwriter Hyatt Bass's debut novel is an exploration of a family, of how three very different people react to a single traumatic event.

The novel opens with lawyer Emily Ascher and her fiance visiting the Berkshires in 2007 in preparation for the wedding they plan to hold on the Ascher family's vacation property there.
Where the house used to be, there was only meadow now—her family's own piece of rolling Berkshire hills. [...] For the first time, the actual destruction of the house didn't have the feeling of something that had happened to [Emily] personally. It felt instead like an epic or a myth. And it was mythic, really, the way her father had destroyed everything: his house, his family, and of course most tragically, his son. In retrospect, it all seemed inevitable, as if fate had destined things to be so and had never offered the possibility of them happening any other way.
Flashbacks begin in 1992, working their way to the present (2007-2008), slowly revealing the root cause of the Ascher family's brokenness.

Joe Ascher is a famous actor and playwright who has been suffering from crippling writer's block. Self absorbed to the point of misanthropy, he is misunderstood by everyone around him and unable to make the slightest effort to reestablish his fractured relationship with daughter Emily.

An ever dutiful wife and mother, Laura is plagued by what-might-have-been. Between her critical parents, a distant and unfaithful husband, and an abandoned acting career, she has to struggle for many years until she is able to come into her own.

Once wild Emily has grown into a hard woman who puts her job first (to the point of skipping her anniversary dinner to meet with a client). She holds herself and others to very high standards.

The mystery is Thomas whose untimely death marks the family in so many ways. And, the real thrust of the novel, what keeps the reader reading, is the desire to know exactly what caused Thomas' death.

The Embers is a good first novel. While the writing strong, some readers may be put off by the fact that the narrative jumps from character to character as well as from present to past. Hyatt portrays her main characters with empathy, but none of them is particularly likable. The most sympathetic characters in the novel are the people who put up with our protagonists: Earl, Laura's second husband; Emily's half-Korean fiance, Clay; and, of course, teenage Thomas. The Ascher family is dysfunctional and it is unclear, even at the end of the novel, whether there is hope for redemption and reconciliation.

I, for one, am very interested to see what Hyatt Bass writes in future.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday Find #3

A friend of mine was visiting from out of town this week. While she was here we got to talking about vampire books, specifically those set in schools. My find for this week are a couple of series that she told me about.

House of Night by P.C. and Kristen Cast

After she is Marked, 16-year-old Zoey Redbird enters the House of Night and learns that she is no average fledgling. She has been Marked as special by the vampyre Goddess Nyx. But she is not the only fledgling at the House of Night with special powers. When she discovers that the leader of the Dark Daughters, the school's most elite club, is mis-using her Goddess-given gifts, Zoey must look deep within herself for the courage to embrace her destiny--with a little help from her new vampyre friends.

1. Marked (2007)
2. Betrayed (2007)
3. Chosen (2008)
4. Untamed (2008)
5. Hunted (2009)
6. Tempted (2009)

Evernight by Claudia Gray

Bianca Olivier is a new student at Evernight Academy, a creepily Gothic boarding school where her classmates are somehow too perfect: smart, sleek and almost predatory. Bianca knows she doesn't fit in.
Then she meets Lucas, another loner, who seems fiercely determined not to be the "Evernight type." There's a connection between Bianca and Lucas that can't be denied. She would risk anything to be with him—but dark secrets are fated to tear them apart... and to make Bianca question everything she's ever believed to be true.

1. Evernight (2008)
2. Stargazer (2008)
3. Hourglass (2010)

There are also the Vampire Academy books by Richelle Mead, which are fantastic, but they aren't new-to-me as I've already read the first two, Vampire Academy and Frostbite.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Labor Day reading

I spent a big chunk of Monday on the train. In that time I read two nooks from start to finish:

Liszt's Kiss by Susanne Dunlap

Author uses composer Franz Liszt's relationship with countess Marie d'Agoult as the jumping-off point for her second (after Emilie's Voice) music historical novel. Neither Listz nor Marie is the protagonist of Liszt's Kiss. That position belongs to the teenage Anne de Barbier-Chouant, a young countess and musical protégé. Liszt uses Anne's lessons as a way to get close to Marie, the dearest friend of Anne's recently deceased mother.

Liszt's Kiss has so much potential, but it falls flat. The relationships in the novel are interesting. Anne has a number of different love interests (including Liszt) each from a different walk of life. Her father, though, is a confusing character. He's not particularly well-drawn and ends up being a bit of a stock character despite the fact that he's supposed to be an enigma. The mystery in the novel is centered around the father, but it (along with the eventual Liszt/d'Agoult coupling) is rushed through at the end of the book with the aid of one too many coincidences. Dunlap could easily have added a hundred pages to the novel and really fleshed out the mystery and the story's conclusion and Liszt's Kiss would have been a much stronger novel.

The Pakistani Bride by Bapsi Sidhwa

I recently received a copy of The Pakistani Bride and decided to read it right away since I've been
intrigued by Sidhwa since I read Cracking India (alternatively titled Ice Candy Man) in college. Though it was published after The Crow Eaters, The Pakistani Bride was the first novel Sidhwa wrote. It was inspired by an article she'd read about Pakistani girl who ran away from an intolerable marriage only to be hunted down in the Hindukush mountains and beheaded by her husband. (my copy of the book included an introduction by Anita Desai, which put the novel in context)

Sidhwa writing is wonderful. She has a gift with language. Her story is well-crafted to show a variety of different perspectives and she's not the least bit heavy handed. The inclusion of a Western character, a liberal American woman who'd married a Pakistani man, is at first look a bit curious, but her role is an important one. She is at once a second Pakistani bride, whose experience mirrors the first's (everything is about degrees in this novel), and a way for Sidhwa to really connect with her Western readers.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Others

Novels of the Others by Christine Warren

I recently read the first two books in Christine Warren's Others paranormal romance series, Wolf at the Door and She's No Faerie Princess. There are quite a few other books in the series (listed below) and if they are like the first two, I'd definitely be interested in reading them as well. The books, at least the two I've read so far, are engaging reads, and the paranormal stuff isn't so far-fetched as to be completely unbelievable.

The books take place in a world very much like our own, but in which Others (were-animals, witches, vampires, etc.) coexist with humans their true natures hidden. They follow a broad story arch, but each focuses on a different couple. In Wolf at the Door the two protagonists are an Irish werewolf (the guth* of his pack) and a Manhattanite who happens to be a fox woman. In She's No Faerie Princess, a New York werewolf falls for a Sidhe who's heir to both the Seelie and Unseelie courts.

The other Others books:
3. The Demon You Know (2007)
4. Howl At the Moon (2007)
5. Walk On the Wild Side (2008)
6. One Bite with a Stranger (2008)
7. You're So Vein (2009)
8. Big Bad Wolf (2009)

* "in addition to being the pack's ambassador and negotiator, the guth was the keeper of its traditions, its histories, and its stories. He was the pack's living link to its past, as well as their insurance of a favorable future" (Wolf at the Door, 2)

Monday, September 07, 2009

It's Monday! What are you reading?

This past week I finished reading:I'm currently reading:

Saturday, September 05, 2009


Incantation by Alice Hoffman

I read Incantation while on the train yesterday. It was a quick read, but a good one. The novel is written for a young adult audience, but I think it will appeal to adults, particularly those who enjoy historical fiction. I've passed on my copy to my mom.

Set during the Spanish Inquisition, Incantation is the story of a teenage girl whose family is denounced as crypto-Jews. It is a multifaceted coming-of-age story: protagonist and narrator Estrella (Ester) is simultaneously becoming an adult (learning the ways of the world) and learning the secret of who she and her really are. While the story is very much situated within its historical milieu, it touches on universal themes like love and hatred, loyalty and betrayal, courage and trust, the nature of evil and jealousy, and the importance of memory and of hope.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Friday Find #2

Another find from Powell's Review-a-day:

Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan

Raised in a sepulchral house where ghosts dwell in mirrors, Meridia grows up lonely and miserable. But at age sixteen, she has a chance at happiness when she falls in love with Daniel — a caring and naive young man. Soon they marry, and Meridia can finally escape to live with her husband's family, unaware that they harbor dark secrets of their own. There is a grave hidden in the garden, there are two sisters groomed from birth to despise each other, and there is Eva — the formidable matriarch and the wickedest mother-in-law imaginable — whose grievances swarm the air in an army of bees. As Meridia struggles to keep her life and marriage together, she discovers long-buried secrets about her own past as well as shocking truths about her new family that inexorably push her love, courage, and sanity to the brink.

Of Bees and Mist is an engrossing fable that chronicles three generations of women under one family tree over a period of thirty years — their galvanic love and passion, their shifting alliances, their superstitions and complex domestic politics — and places them in a mythical town where spirits and spells, witchcraft and demons, and prophets and clairvoyance are an everyday reality. Erick Setiawan's astonishing debut is a richly atmospheric and tumultuous ride of hope and heartbreak that is altogether touching, truthful, and entirely memorable.

- Publisher synopsis

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Fun Home

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

Dykes to Watch Out for author Alison Bechdel's brutally honest memoir, Fun Home, focuses on her childhood and coming-of-age. The "fun" in the graphic novel's title is both a shortening of funeral (the family runs a funeral home) and wonderfully sarcastic (her home was such a fun place to grow up).

Fun Home is as much about Bechdel growing up and developing her sense of self as it is about her relationship with her father. His untimely and somewhat suspicious death makes her father even more of an enigma and Bechdel struggles to understand both him as a person and how much she had in common with him.

One of the things I like about Fun Home is how literary it is, literary in a very accessible way. Bechdel references both well- and lesser known works of literature and uses lots of uncommon words. She also does things like this bit I photographed from page 106

(click on the image to bring up a larger, more legible version), which follows a panel depicting Bechdel and some of her lesbian friends stopping by a bar in Greenwich Village called Chumley's.