Saturday, October 31, 2009

trick or treat

I got a belated birthday package this week, which contained two books:

Where Three Roads Meet: The Myth of Oedipus by Salley Vickers

In the latest retelling of the world’s greatest stories in the Myth series from Canongate, the highly regarded novelist Salley Vickers brings to life the Western world’s most widely known myth, Oedipus, through a shrewdly told exploration of the seminal story in conversation between Freud and Tiresias.

It is 1938 and Sigmund Freud, suffering from the debilitating effects of cancer, has been permitted by the Nazis to leave Vienna. He seeks refuge in England, taking up residence in the house in Hampstead in which he will die fifteen months later. But his last months are made vivid by the arrival of a stranger who comes and goes according to Freud’s state of health. Who is the mysterious visitor and why has he come to tell the famed proponent of the Oedipus complex his strangely familiar story?

Set partly in prewar London and partly in ancient Greece, Where Three Roads Meet is as brilliantly compelling as it is thoughtful. Former psychoanalyst and acclaimed novelist Salley Vickers revisits a crime committed long ago that still has disturbing reverberations for us all today.

The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness by Dave Ramsey

Respected financial expert Dave Ramsey offers a comprehensive plan for getting out of debt and achieving financial health. Against a playful backdrop of fitness terminology, Dave gives solid, hard-hitting advice needed to make your goals a reality. Filled with both the hope and the how-to, The Total Money Makeover includes: Useful worksheets and forms Readable and informative charts and graphs The four factors that keep people from getting in shape financially Photos and amazing stories from people who have succeeded following The Total Money Makeover plan

The Total Money Makeover is a necessity for everyone in need of a financial makeover. Readers will learn to live by the The Total Money Makeover motto: If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Find #9

We discussed a graphic novel at our book club meeting on Wednesday (see post). One of our members listened to Nancy Pearl's September podcast on graphic novels prior to the meeting and brought with her a list of the books mentioned in the episode. One in particular jumped out at me...

Stitches by David Small

One day David Small awoke from a supposedly harmless operation to discover that he had been transformed into a virtual mute. A vocal cord removed, his throat slashed and stitched together like a bloody boot, the fourteen-year-old boy had not been told that he had throat cancer and was expected to die.

Small, a prize-winning children's author, re-creates a life story that might have been imagined by Kafka. Readers will be riveted by his journey from speechless victim, subjected to X-rays by his radiologist father and scolded by his withholding and tormented mother, to his decision to flee his home at sixteen with nothing more than dreams of becoming an artist. Recalling Running with Scissors with its ability to evoke the trauma of a childhood lost, Stitches will transform adolescent and adult readers alike with its deeply liberating vision.

Holy moly! this sounds both horrible and fascinating. I'm hoping our library's graphic novel collection has a copy so I can check it out.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

book clubbing in October

Box Office Poison by Alex Robinson

I wasn't sure how Box Office Poison would go over with the book club considering the fact that we universally disliked our last graphic novel selection (Why I Hate Saturn, see post) and the amount of naked man flesh in Box Office Poison, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that almost everyone at least kind of liked it.

Originally published serially, Box Office Poison is a 600+ page behemoth of a graphic novel. Readers can easily plow through it, but I really do think it would be easier to appreciate if read in installments.

On his blog Robinson shares quite a bit of commentary on
Box Office Poison, which makes for very interesting reading. I think an annotated version of Box Office Poison would be fantastic because there's just so much that readers might not catch as they are reading it.

During our discussion we talked about which characters we liked and disliked, the storyline about Irving Flavor and what it told us about the comic industry, the various characters' happy and not-so-happy endings, the two homeless girls and what their role was in the story arc, Box Office Poison's target audience, and the similarities between Eddie and Robinson (at least how they are drawn), among other things.

future book club selections, 2010-2011

January 2010: The Night Villa by Carol Goodman

February 2010: Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood

March 2010: The Blue Girl by Charles de Lint

April 2010: Under the Sabers by Tanya Biank

May 2010: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

June 2010: Castle Waiting by Linda Medley

July 2010: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

August 2010: One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell

September 2010: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

October 2010: Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

November 2010: 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

December 2010: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

January 2011: Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

February 2011: The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan

March 2011: The Host by Stephenie Meyer

April 2011: Wings of the Dove by Henry James

May 2011: The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--And How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson

June 2011: Blankets by Craig Thompson

July 2011: Jane Austen, pick your favorite title
Sense and Sensibility (1811), Mansfield Park (1814), Emma (1815), Northanger Abbey (1817, posthumous), Persuasion (1817, posthumous)

August 2011: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

September 2011: Buffalo Gal by Laura Pederson

October 2011: Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty

November 2011: The Shop of Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber

December 2011: The Falls by Joyce Carol Oates

For information about how books are selected for our book club, see this post.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

From Dead to Worse

From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris

I'd decided to stop reading the Southern Vampires/Sookie Stackhouse books after the seventh novel because I thought All Together Dead was far too violent to the point that it seemed out a character with the rest of the books in the series. Yes, the earlier books have violence, but they were not so in-your-face.

However since then I've seen True Blood (the violent and excessively sex-filled television series based on the novels, but departing more and more from them as it progresses) so when I saw From Dead to Worse (the 8th novel) among the New York Public Library's available on-demand audio books, I decided to give it a try.

In any case, in From Dead to Worse things are back to "normal" for Sookie and the usual cast of characters. In addition to the usual were/vampire dramas (and a revelation about Sookie herself early in the novel), there was an interesting plot twist near the end.

Monday, October 26, 2009

It's Monday! What are you reading?

This past week I finished reading:As always I have loads of titles waiting in the wings, but here are the titles I'm actively reading:

Sunday, October 25, 2009

City of the Sun

City of the Sun by Sarah Bryant

Ravaged by nuclear war and the most terrifying dictator since Stalin, Russia's future lies in the hands of one gifted child.

In the aftermath of nuclear war, Russia cowers in the shadow of Solntse, a dictator with a chilling idea of utopia and a plan to bring it to life. The lynchpin of his plan is Sifte Pierson, a child so gifted that he has gambled his entire future on her obedience. Confined at Institute 1, an isolated school which produces the most powerful minds and bodies to serve Solntse, Sifte has grown up without knowledge of her parents or the life she was stolen from. When a new teacher arrives with a dangerous agenda and clues to her past, Sifte and her closest friends uncover a secret history with the power to destroy Solntse's empire. When the secrets leak to the Socialist rebels in the slums of St. Petersburg, their dreams of revolution begin to take solid form. And as Sifte and her friends work to uncover Solntse's plans for Utopia, she comes to realize that her identity and future are vital not only to Russia's freedom, but to all humankind.

I had to include the publisher's synopsis in this post because when I tried to explain City of the Sun's premise to Russell (I think he'd like the book) it took me ten minutes and the result wasn't particularly coherent.

City of the Sun is one of those novels that defies categorization. It's a political thriller, it's science fiction, but it's so much more. In a way City of the Sun is like a grown up version of Harry Potter with Sifte as Harry, her friends are Institute 1, Dumbledore's Army, and the Soviets, the Order of the Phoenix (at least that's a thought that occurred to me while I was reading it).

I really enjoyed City of the Sun. Of course, I also liked 1984 and it's definitely in the same vein. For me City of the Sun was a page-turner, but a thought-provoking one.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Find #8

When I saw this post on Franklin Habit's blog, The Panopticon, this morning, I knew exactly what book I had to feature this week.

The Enchanted Sole by Janel Laidman

Once Upon a Time... Sock knitters yearned for legendary patterns fit for queens, and pixies, and alchemists, yet still wearable for the modern adventurer. Then along came a designer who understood this yearning, and The Enchanted Sole was born. With 20 legendary sock patterns, The Enchanted Sole is sure to please every adventurer on your list.

I follow Janel Laidman through her blog (in fact I even won one of her patterns, Selkie, in a drawing) and have had The Enchanted Sole on my wishlist as soon as I heard it would be coming out.

More importantly, though, I love The Panopticon and Harry, the character who interviews Laidman for the blog. If you haven't checked out the interview yet, run over and read it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ghost Hunter

Ghost Hunter by Jayne Castle

Ghost Hunter is the last of the archives-related romance novels that I was able to get through BookMooch after the archives fiction presentation at SAA (see this post).*

Ghost Hunter is a paranormal romantic suspense novel and the 4th in the Harmony World series by Jayne Castle (aka Amanda Quick, aka Jayne Ann Krentz). I'm not sure why Ghost Hunter was mentioned in the series rather than one of the earlier novels since the archivist character is the series' male lead. Maybe because of the cover art?

The premise is a bit complicated, so I'm going to leave it to the author to summarize. From the Harmony history page of Castle's website:
Late in the 21st century an energy Curtain opened in the vicinity of Earth, making interstellar travel practical for the first time. In typical human fashion, thousands of eager colonists packed up their stuff and lost no time heading out to create new homes and new societies on the unexplored worlds. [...]

The colonists brought with them all the comforts of home – sophisticated technology, centuries of art and literature and the latest fashions. Trade through the Curtain flourished and made it possible to stay in touch with families back on Earth. It also allowed the colonists to keep their computers and high-tech gadgets working.

And then one day, without warning, the Curtain closed, disappearing as mysteriously as it had opened. Cut off from Earth, no longer able to obtain the equipment and supplies needed to keep their high-tech lifestyle going, the colonists were abruptly thrown back to a far more primitive existence. [...] Two hundred years after the closing of the Curtain, the descendants of the First Generation Colonists have managed to claw their way back from the brink to a level of civilization roughly equivalent to our own modern day Earth.

Here on Harmony, however, things are a little different, especially after dark. There are the creepy ruins of a long-vanished alien civilization, a mysterious underground rainforest, and a most unusual kind of animal companion.^ In addition, a wide variety of psychic powers are showing up in the population. Seems that something in the environment on Harmony is bringing out the latent psychic talents in people.
This same text also serves as the introduction to Ghost Hunter.

The archivist in Ghost Hunter who worked as an archivist/librarian (he's referred to as both) as a cover for his real job (I don't want to spoil anything, learning what his real job is part of the plot of Ghost Hunter).

Overall I enjoyed Ghost Hunter very much and want to try to find copies of the other books in the series. The world Castle has created in this novel is fully conceived. Elly, the series' protagonist, is spunky and interesting. Cooper, the male lead, comes out of his shell in Ghost Hunter (leading to the couple's first sexual encounter). And I just love the fact that dust bunnies are actually live creatures what some people have as pets.

* Other books I got were Overnight Male by Elizabeth Bevarly (see post) and How to be a "Wicked" Woman (anthology, see post).
^ dust bunnies!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Duplicity Dogged the Dachshund

Duplicity Dogged the Dachshund by Blaize Clement

Former police officer Dixie Hemingway now owns a pet-sitting business. Duplicity Dogged the Dachshund opens with Dixie walking elderly dachshund Mame through a rich neighborhood. Mame catches an interesting smell and loses Dixie in her rush to investigate it. When Dixie catches up to Mame, Mame has a human finger in her mouth...

Duplicity is the second book in the Dixie Hemingway series (after Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter, see my post). I enjoyed Duplicity as much as Curiosity and definitely want to continue reading the books in the series.

The books are cozy mysteries, but they are extremely well done. Dixie is a multifaceted character. The animals all have personalities. The stories are full of detail and rarely use plot devices.

Monday, October 19, 2009

It's Monday! What are you reading?

This past week I finished reading one bookAs always I have loads of titles waiting in the wings, but here are the two that I'm currently reading:

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Find #7

While browsing at Barnes and Noble over the weekend, Russell pointed out to me a display on Steampunk fiction. There were a number of interesting titles (including The Grand Tour by Caroline Stevermer and Patricia Wrede, which I already own; interestingly enough when I asked about Sorcery and Cecelia: Or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot, the book The Grand Tour follows, they were completely clueless, none of the stores had it in stock and there was no note in the system that the two were in a series), mostly YA despite the fact that the display was not in the young adult section... one in particular, though, struck my eye.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

It is the cusp of World War I, and all the European powers are arming up. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans have their Clankers, steam-driven iron machines loaded with guns and ammunition. The British Darwinists employ fabricated animals as their weaponry. Their Leviathan is a whale airship, and the most masterful beast in the British fleet.

Aleksandar Ferdinand, prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battle-torn Stormwalker and a loyal crew of men.

Deryn Sharp is a commoner, a girl disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She's a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.

With the Great War brewing, Alek's and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way...taking them both aboard the Leviathan on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure. One that will change both their lives forever.

Apparently Leviathan is the first book in a planned four-book series. I really love Scott Westerfeld, so this title is definitely on my must-have list.

Monday, October 12, 2009

It's Monday! What are you reading?

This past week I only finished reading one book: The Garden by Elsie V. Aidinoff.

As always I have loads of titles waiting in the wings, but here are the two that I'm currently reading:Also, if anyone was wondering what I decided to do about the book of the month for the student services blog after reading this post, I'd like to report that I chose Pastwatch by Orson Scott Card, a book we read for book club in June 2007 (see this post), in honor of Columbus Day.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Russell and I wild released 34 books today.

Wild releasing is the act of leaving books out in public somewhere for others to find them. For more information on BookCrossing, check out the FAQs.

Friday, October 09, 2009

The Garden

I was thinking of using The Garden as the October book of the month for the student services blog (because it's in the libraries' collection and because I always like a good excuse to read YA fiction), but have to admit that I'm shying away because it is one of those extremely divisive books. It's just as well, though, as now I can write about it more informally.

The Garden by Elsie V. Aidinoff

In The Garden, a novel geared toward young adults, first-time author Elsie Aidinoff provides another perspective on the story of Adam and Eve. Things are not so cut-and-dry in Aidinoff's version. Her Eden is lush, but restrictive. The act of eating the apple is one of conscientious rebellion and the Serpent may not be encouraging Adam and Eve to do it...

The Garden is not the most well-written book, but it is engaging and thought-provoking (it would be a great book club book - divisiveness leads to good discussions, usually). Its focus is really on exploring issues of free will and personal responsibility. Eve is the novel's protagonist and it is she, and the Serpent, who are the most well-developed characters. God and Adam, unfortunately, are more like stock characters.

In her author's note, Aidinoff explains her inspiration for the novel and is quite open about her biases. If you're not sure whether The Garden is a book for you, read the author's note first.

To some extent I wish we could take away all the baggage of The Garden being about Adam and Eve and the Fall and just view the novel as a work of fiction for young adults (though I know, of course, that that's impossible). Aidinoff's Eve is a character that teens can really relate to: her curiosity, her questioning of authority, her confusion about who she is and her place in the world. The real strength of the novel, I think, is its depiction of rape and its aftermath (how does one recover from something so horrible). That being said, I'm not too crazy about how sexual relations are handled in the novel otherwise. I don't really like spoilers and I've spoiled enough already so I'll just leave it at that.

One last note: the cover art is fantastic, isn't it?

Friday Find #6

My friend Nancy introduced me to a new* book-related blog this week...
Judge a Book by its Cover.

Its authors showcase amusing, crazy, over-the-top, and downright horrible cover art with commentary. They have recurring features like "Mammary Mondays" and "Phallic Phridays." Check it out, Judge a Book by its Cover is definitely worth a look.

* not new, but new-to-me. Here's a link to the blog first post from March 2007.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

word: tenebrous

I've been reading The Garden by Elsie V. Aidinoff and tonight I came across a lovely, evocative word.

tenebrous (adj.)
Full of darkness; dark; murky.
It can also mean obscure or gloomy.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Georg Letham

A review in Library Journal last month.

Georg Letham: Physician and Murderer by Ernst Weiss

Originally published in 1931, this is an account of a crime and its aftermath, interspersed with flashbacks that may illuminate the cause of the crime and the root of the perpetrator's moral defectiveness. The title character is the novel's unreliable narrator. Letham, who describes himself as "a physician, a man of scientific training of certain philosophical aspirations," is ever a medical researcher and taxonomist, categorizing his fellow men impassively as either frogs or rats. After murdering his wife, Letham is sent to the yellow fever-ridden penal colony C, where he is able to continue his epidemiological work and questionable experiments. The author, Jewish physician Weiss, is often compared to friend and contemporary Franz Kafka, but Weiss's work is more realistic, clearly influenced by his own life and work in the medical field.

Read the full review at Library Journal...

Monday, October 05, 2009

It's Monday! What are you reading?

This past week I finished reading:
- Box Office Poison by Alex Robinson (this is our October book club selection so expect a post later this month)
- War and Peace, Book 1 (Librivox audio available here)

As always I have loads of titles waiting in the wings, but here are the two that I'm currently reading:
- The Lexicographer's Dilemma: The Evolution of 'Proper' English, from Shakespeare to South Park by Jack W. Lynch (received through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program)
- War and Peace, Book 2 (Librivox audio available here)

Sunday, October 04, 2009

birthday books take 2

A late birthday present arrived... two knitting books!

Socks from the Toe Up by Wendy D. Johnson

Discover a new approach to sock knitting with Wendy D. Johnson and Socks from the Toe Up. This approach, made famous by her popular blog, will turn even the most reluctant knitter into a toe-up nut. Knitting a sock from the toe up saves yarn and always gives a perfect fit. And? No grafting Wendy provides all the how-tos, tips, and techniques you need, as well as the pros and cons behind all of the cast-on, toe, heel, and bind-off options, gleaned from her years of experience.

With more than 20 fun and beautiful patterns, Socks from the Toe Up has a sock for every foot. Whether you like bold textures or hearts and flowers, delicate lace or Bavarian cables, you (and your feet) will be covered here. Even if you're casting on your first sock, or have been a top-down sock knitter for ages, you'll find patterns and projects here that'll keep your needles humming. Socks from the Toe Up is the hands-down best guide for toe-up socks.

I'm really pleased about getting Socks from the Toe Up. I like toe-up socks and have knit Johnson's patterns in the past. Maybe I'll even try those trilobite socks.

Knitting in the Sun: 32 Projects for Warm Weather by Kristi Porter

Knitting in the Sun is a compelling collection of garments and hand-knitting projects ideal to complete and wear when the weather heads over 70. There are offerings for the beginner to the advanced, and for all tastes. Readers will find:
* Accessories including: a sun hat, a summer cloche, a beach bag blanket, a lace shawl summer aran wrap, an ocean waves wrap, a vining leaves scarf, a driving scarf, and even a knitted beach chair.
* Sleeveless confections including: a square neck shell, a ribbon tie tunic, a convertible sheath, a smocked tube top, and a split leaf shell.
* Beautifully-constructed garments featuring Short Sleeves including: a ruffled surplice top, a cap sleeved top with lace panel, a pullover with lace detailing, and a top-down shaped t-shirt.
* For those chilly evenings, Long Sleeved garments including: a lightweight hooded pullover, an openwork cover-up, an empire sweater with elongated stitches, and a ripple stitch tunic.
* A few summer-weight Cardigans: cables and lace sideways knit cardigan, an eyelet rib shawl, a collared cardigan, a cardigan with lace panels, a happi-style jacket, a tube sleeved shrug, and a lace bolero.
* Compelling Coordinating Pieces including: a gored skirt, an openwork skirt, a summer sleep set, and even a bathing suit.
* Top-notch Contributions from popular designers including: Eileen Adler, Sarah Barbour, Heather Broadhurst, Rachel Clarke, Carol Feller, Faina Goberstein, Stefanie Japel, Janine Le Cras, Dawn Leeseman, Lisa Limber, Anne Lukito, Marnie Maclean, Jairlyn Mason, Jillian Moreno, Kendra Nitta, Amy Polcyn, Susan Robicheau, Sarah Sutherland, Julia Trice, Katherine Vaughn, and Tonya Wagner.

Knitting in the Sun made it on to my wishlist after an Amazon recommendation, I think. I'm intrigued by it.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Friday Find #5

Browsing at Barnes and Noble over the weekend I came across a number of books I could mention here. I've chosen the title below because both Russell and I were intrigued by it. I found the book while I was waiting for Russell to finish up in the history section. Its title is what caught my eye.

The Dancing Plague: The Strange, True Story of an Extraordinary Illness by John Waller

A gripping tale of one of history's most bizarre events, and what it reveals about the strange possibilities of human nature

In the searing July heat of 1518, Frau Troffea stepped into the streets of Strasbourg and began to dance. Bathed in sweat, she continued to dance. Overcome with exhaustion, she stopped, and then resumed her solitary jig a few hours later. Over the next two months, roughly four hundred people succumbed to the same agonizing compulsion. At its peak, the epidemic claimed the lives of fifteen men, women, and children a day. Possibly 100 people danced to their deaths in one of the most bizarre and terrifying plagues in history.

John Waller compellingly evokes the sights, sounds, and aromas; the diseases and hardships; the fervent supernaturalism and the desperate hedonism of the late medieval world. Based on new evidence, he explains why the plague occurred and how it came to an end. In doing so, he sheds light on the strangest capabilities of the human mind and on our own susceptibility to mass hysteria.

- Publisher synopsis

In the UK it seems the book is published under an alternate title, Time To Dance, a Time To Die: the Extraordinary Story of the Dancing Plague of 1518.

Thursday, October 01, 2009


Betwixt by Tara Bray Smith

For three teenagers, dark mystery has always lurked at the corner of the eyes and the edge of sleep. Beautiful Morgan D'Amici wakes in her trailer park home with dirt and blood under her fingernails. Paintings come alive under Ondine Mason's violet-eyed gaze. Haunted runaway Nix Saint-Michael sees halos of light around people about to die.

At a secret summer rave in the woods, the three teenagers learn of their true, changeling nature and their uncertain, intertwined destinies. Riveting, unflinching, beautiful, Betwixt shows a magic as complex and challenging as any ordinary reality.

I have mixed feelings about Betwixt. The novel is dark and compelling and definitely reads like it could be the first book in a series (the first book in a really good series), but pacing was problematic. It starts out slow, takes an extremely long time to get readers oriented to its world (this, I think, is supposed to mirror the experience of the protagonists' awakening), but then the ending is rushed, so rushed that it's forgettable. I finished reading Betwixt over the weekend, but just yesterday I was questioning whether I had actually finished the book. I had to go back an reread the last few chapters last night.