Friday, April 29, 2011

Frost Moon

Frost Moon by Anthony Francis

Set in an Atlanta teeming with paranormal subcultures, Frost Moon is the first in an intriguing urban fantasy and not-so-cozy mystery series.

The novel's protagonist, Dakota Frost, is the self-proclaimed "best magical tattooist in the Southeast" and a skindancer, someone who can harness the magical energy stored in her tattooed skin. As a member of the Edgeworld, Dakota eschews the traditional secrecy surrounding magic, encourages collaboration between practitioners, and is committed to "dragging magic kicking and screaming into the light" (28).

The novel opens with Dakota being brought to the police station. The Atlanta PD are working with the Federal Department of Extraordinary Investigations because there's a serial killer on the loose who is targeting individuals with magical tattoos. They need her expertise and her client list. They also want her to be careful since she fits the victim profile. Dakota doesn't have time to be careful, though. She's just been invited to have her skill challenged by a world-famous debunker on national television, but before she can prepare for that Dakota has to get an arcane control-charm checked out for her antsy new werewolf client.

Frost Moon is author Anthony Francis' debut novel and it reads like a first novel. It seems like the author tried to pack far too much into one book. The world he creates is genuinely interesting and rich, but much momentum is lost in his need to showcase and explain every subculture. Additionally situations and characters are often overcomplicated. For example, Dakota's ex-girlfriend is a vampirologist who had herself turned into a vampire for academic reasons. But, in addition to being a lesbian and a vampire, she's the ruler of the vampires in Dakota's neighborhood (despite the fact that she's very young) and into bondage and a devout Christian.

Dakota is a well-developed and for the most part sympathetic character, but her nearly universal sex-appeal is not believable. She may be stunning and large-breasted, but Dakota is also 6'2" with a deathhawk and covered in tattoos (author's rendition of Dakota). With that strong and distinctive a look she can't possibly be to everyone's taste, yet it seems that almost every man (and woman) who meets Dakota wants to have their way with her.

All that being said, the story itself was compelling and the world Francis has created is rich enough to support any number of sequels.

You can read an excerpt from Frost Moon on the publisher's website.
ETA disclosure: I received a review copy of Frost Moon from Bell Bridge Books via NetGalley.

Monday, April 25, 2011

why you really don't wish you were a character in a historical romance

When you read historical fiction (or some classics like Jane Austen's novels), you can't help but feel a wave of nostalgia. You imagine what your life would be like if you were born in whatever time period you happen to be reading about. During those moments you dwell on the idealized version of the past. You are always that lady of the manor rather than a housemaid or a tenant farmer. You contemplate the beautiful clothes, the refined manners, but never the logistics of really living during that time.

My mother has been reading The Women of the House by Jean Zimmerman (a book from our library, by the bye) and she just had to share the following passage with me:
[In the 1690s, no] woman, though, not even Catherine [van Cortlandt Philipse], would dream of shielding her nether regions by pulling on a pair of underpants, even when she menstruated. Women simply bled into their clothing--we're talking about roughly thirty years of monthly "accidents," except for the months a woman spent pregnant. [...] Perhaps the practice of ignoring the issue had its advantages: One historian surmised that far from finding menstrual blood a turnoff, men of the era perceived the aroma of a woman's monthly flow as intensely seductive. And that is fortunate, since bathing with soap and water still was actively frowned upon, with the inevitable gaminess ameliorated mainly by sachets sewn into clothes linings. (178)
As a nurse and proponent of personal cleanliness, this passage made her shudder. I believe the not-bathing part, but I'm skeptical about the bleeding-out. Either way, though, it served as a reminder (see post title).

Thursday, April 21, 2011


This morning as I was catching up on my blog reading, I happened across a reference to NetGalley.1 It sounded promising so I went to check it out straight away.

NetGalley "delivers secure, digital galleys to professional readers." The site considers you a professional reader if you are a reviewer, blogger, journalist, librarian, bookseller, educator, or member of the media. That definition is pretty broad and it may well cover the majority of this blog's readers.

Here's how it works:
You create an account on the site, after which you can search all the books available for request (you can also browse the catalog by genre, publisher, or date added).
Once you have an account you can request any of the titles, but almost all of the requests are vetted by the publishers (I did request one title that had automatic approval). Each publisher has different reviewer guidelines, which are outlined on the What are publishers looking for? page. Because the publishers screen you before approving your requests, it seems like you'll have better luck if you include lots of information in your profile (they call the part of the profile that the publishers can see your "public bio").
It seems like the majority of the time you'll be able to get the books you want in a format that'll work with the reader of your choice (using Adobe Digital Editions for rights management just like when you borrow ebooks from the library), but NetGalley also has a web-based reader.
Once you read the book, you still post your review in whatever places you would normally post it (whether that's on your blog, bookseller websites, or other review sites like LibraryThing and GoodReads), but notify the publisher about your review (and share a copy) through NetGalley (more details about this are on the Before you Request page).
The site also has Groups and Communities, but I haven't yet figured out what their purpose or how they work.

In any case, I have a long train ride on the schedule for Saturday so I've requested a bunch of books in the hopes of getting approved for a few in time to load them onto my Nook before the trip.

  1. It was in this post on The Olive Reader (a blog associated with HarperPerennial).
    Another aside: the book mentioned in the post (Domestic Violets) sounds promising, doesn't it? I requested it via NetGalley so I'll be posting a review once I've read it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

gorgeous cover art

I saw this once and lost track of it before I got around to posting about it, but then I saw it again today.

Per this Atlantic article, three titles set to come out as Penguin Classics Deluxe editions this fall will be part of a new Penguin Threads series.

Penguin commissioned Jillian Tamaki to design (and stitch!) the cover art for Black Beauty, Emma, and The Secret Garden.

Of course I have to have these editions even though I'm sure I already have copies of each of these novels. What I particularly like is that apparently the covers are going to be printed in such a way to lend texture and emphasize the stitchwork.

Check out Tamaki's blog post about the project. It has some great in-progress shots.

Monday, April 18, 2011

series reading

I finished the second and third books of Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series. I have to say that things got better for me after City of Bones (see post). I'm definitely interested in reading the other books in the series (and in the Infernal Devices series, which is set in that same world; the books are supposed to be prequels, but they're all steampunky), but I think I'll be relying on the library rather than purchasing copies.

I should be reading Wings of the Dove, as it's the Buffalo book club selection for this month, but I'm neglecting it in favor of Steig Larsson's Millenium trilogy. I enjoyed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (see post) so I know what I'll be getting from Larsson and I just had a hard time getting into Wings of the Dove.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

being a librarian

A book is a fragile creature, it suffers the wear of time, it fears rodents, the elements and clumsy hands. So the librarian protects the books not only against mankind but also against nature and devotes his life to this war with the forces of oblivion.
- Umberto Eco1
In my old job I was a Librarian. Yes, librarian with an capital L. I was an archivist, but I was also a Librarian (Senior Assistant Librarian for most of my tenure). Librarian is some academic libraries have faculty status so Librarian is a formal title indicating rank just like Professor. In this academic world not all librarians are Librarians and, yes, I freely admit that I occasionally caused a bit of uproar by using the term librarian (little L) unintentionally excluding people when others assumed I meant Librarian-with-a-capital-L.

While I served on library committees, worked with librarians on various projects, presented at library conferences, and occasionally prodded subject specialists to add certain titles to the circulating collections, I wasn't really a librarian. Or, at least I didn't feel like one despite by ALA-accredited degree and Nancy Pearl action figure.2

Now in this new position I really am a librarian. While I'm mostly a department head, an archivist, and a records manager, I oversee a library. There's a circulating collection and rare books and satellite libraries, oh my! And I'll be helping with many of the library functions as well as working on implementing an electronic catalog (yes, we still have a card catalog). It's quite exciting to be a librarian. In addition to learning about the collections under my care and about my new employer as a whole, I'm accustoming myself to thinking like a librarian more of the time.3

Since I'm not going to be doing book-of-the-month posts for the student services blog anymore, I thought I might occasionally feature a book from my new library's collections. These will likely be different types of books than I've usually featured on the blog since our collection doesn't include much fiction and is pretty geographically and historically specialized. It should be interesting and I think it'll help me get a better handle on the types of books we collect (our collection development policy circa 2000 is detailed, but it needs some updating).
  1. The Name of the Rose (48). The quote doesn't really have anything to do with what else I wrote in the post (and is equally relevant to the archival profession), but I decided to include it anyway.
  2. I have both the original and deluxe.
  3. People often think that archivists view the world the same way as librarians. I'm as guilty as the rest as my simple explanation of what I do occasionally goes something like this:
    - What do you do?
    - I'm an archivist
    [silence accompanied by blank stare]
    - a special kind of librarian
    (though usually I've just said that I work in the special collections area of the library). However libraries and archives have different roles leaving librarians and archivists with very distinct points of view (some simplistic differences: secondary vs. primary sources, item- vs collection-level description, access vs. preservation). Thinking as an archivist I'm liable to want to throw out much of what I as a librarian should want to keep to ensure we have a robust collection.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

City of Bones

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

When fifteen-year-old [Clarissa (Clary)] Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder—much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing—not even a smear of blood—to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?
This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know...

I've been meaning to read Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series for quite a while as it comes highly recommended by a number of people. I used a gift card on a box set of the first three books even though I'm not really supposed to be purchasing books. Two people whose combined good opinion seem to ensure that I'll love a book both recommended the series so I felt confident that I'd enjoy Mortal Instruments.

City of Bones is the first book in the Mortal Instruments series. I've already started reading book two, City of Ashes.

As of right now, the jury is still out on the Mortal Instruments series. It may be that my expectations were too high, but I have to admit that I was disappointed in City of Bones (I also should mention that I'm reading these books at a time of stress and change so I may have less patience than usual). The world that Clare creates is interesting, but the storyline of this first installment is quite derivative and I really didn't think it was well-written (I can overlook quite a bit of less-than-stellar writing, but I found myself cringing at times). I also had the sense that Jace's character was too big for the story, or that Clare decided to write a story about Clary when she really would rather have focused on Jace. Like I noted above, though, I've already started the second book so we'll see if things improve for me. It also occurs to me that I can't have disliked City of Bones too much since I stayed up late last night to finish reading it.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

this little valley: an update

"If I should wish for a retreat whither I might steal away from the world and its distractions, and dream quietly away the remnant of a troubled life, I know of none more promising than this little valley" (Washington Irving, Legend of Sleepy Hollow)
Some you know already know this and others may have speculated based on this post, but the big news is that I have a new job. I'm moving back to the area in which I grew up, the same area referenced in the Irving quote above. That (and the stress of leaving one job and starting another and weeding and packing our possessions) is why I have been neglecting the blog. I won't be fully settled until next month, but I am going to make an effort to begin blogging more regularly.

As I told my friend Nancy, the fact that I haven't been posting is really no one's loss as I've been reading a lot less than usual lately and what I have been reading is for the most part nothing to write home about.