Wednesday, August 31, 2011

a weekend update

I live in a basement apartment in an area that was right in the path of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene. Sunday morning we woke up (around 7:30 am) to 2 inches of water in the kitchen (the laundry room was also completely flooded, but we didn't notice that right away). So, suffice it to say, that we had an interesting weekend. It's not nearly as bad as it could have been (thank goodness for the neighbors and their little submersible pump). The carpeted main part of the apartment did get some water (it came up through the floor), but we were able to move most everything out of the way. We're mostly dry now, but disorganized and musty-smelling. All of our books are safe and sound.

As for work, the sites have downed trees and some flood-related damage to buildings and landscapes. The main library is a-OK. I assume that we may have lost some books that were in the areas of the sites that flooded, but that's minor in the great scheme of things.

Friday, August 26, 2011

more liquid shopping

As of yesterday everything is 50-70% off at Borders. Russell and I went again last night. This morning as I was filling out my expense report paperwork I noticed something interesting on my receipt (see image on right). The free space in our store is now filled with miscellaneous stuff (this post at The Book Frog will give you an idea) and it warms my heart that someone had enough spunk in reserve to make that snarky, but apropos adjustment.

While I did pick up one book for myself (One of Our Thursdays Is Missing by Jasper Fforde; I needed it since I have all the other books in the series), the shopping experience was more depressing than anything else.

I spent some time in the history section, doing some collection development work. At least this time others will benefit from our Borders-liquidation obsession. We also picked up another book that I may end up donating to the library: Ghosts from King Philip's War by Edward Lodi. It ended up in Russell's pile during the pre-checkout sort.

As for Russell, he made out like a bandit:And last, but not least, we got Minotaurus, the Lego boardgame, for both of us. We're going to try it out this weekend.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Bookworm (Poughkeepsie, NY)

Last weekend Russell and I checked out The Bookworm in Poughkeepsie.

The store is a bit out-of-the-way on a curvy two-lane road. We had to turn around and backtrack because we'd driven past the driveway for the store before we even noticed it was there.

The shop is brightly lit with a large front counter and a spacious entryway where new stock is displayed. There were two salespeople working on Saturday. The guy manning the front counter was friendly and asked us whether we needed assistance. There is a small side counter where the second salesperson was sitting. I didn't pay much attention to her or her counter, but Russell thought that she was peddling jewelry.

Romance makes up about 35-40% of The Bookworm's stock. That's an guesstimate and it does seem like it might be an exaggeration, but seriously the front door is in the center of the shop and if you turn left, that side is audio books and romance. Only audio books and romance (and a small table of marked-down hardcovers). Everything else is on the other side of the shop.

Per Russell, The Bookworm's nonfiction selection was miniscule and not particularly well organized. For context, it seemed like the nonfiction section was about the same size as the children's section (not including YA books).

There was a good selection within the various fiction sections. And lots of little notes to point shoppers in the direction of their favorite authors (ie. look for so-and-so in paranormal, with arrow).

Overall the stock was on the newer side, in good condition, and strongest in romance and non-genre fiction. I suspect that it gets refreshed frequently because of The Bookworm's business model.

Individual items are not labeled. I was very confused by this until Russell showed me the big sign that explained The Bookworm's buy/sell policies (strangely, the sign isn't by the front counter, it's near the audio books).

The store's pricing is standardized, but high. 50% off list, plus a 25c handling fee. So they'd sell a $16 trade paperback for $8.25. They buy books (ie. give store credit) at 25% of list. The Bookworm seems like the kind of place that caters to regulars who treat it like a library, trading in their recently-read books for new reading material.

We didn't buy anything. Russell didn't find anything in the nonfiction he wanted and I didn't find anything I liked well enough to buy at their prices.

The Bookworm
1797 New Hackensack Rd.
Poughkeepsie, NY 12603
hours: 10am - 5pm
closed Sundays
open 'til 6pm on Wednesdays

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

After a fire claimed the lives of both his parents, 12 year-old Will Henry became the unwitting apprentice of Dr. Pellinore Warthrop, his father's former employer. Dr. Warthrop is a monstrumologist, one who studies (and hunts) "life forms generally malevolent to humans and not recognized by science as actual organisms, specifically those considered products of myth and folklore" (Monstrumologist front matter).

The action of The Monstrumologist begins one night in 1888, Will Henry is roused from his bed when an unexpected caller arrives bearing the fresh corpse of a pack-dwelling monster.

I wanted to get buy a copy of The Monstrumologist because Simon & Schuster, the book's publisher, had announced its plans not to continue publishing the popular, award-winning series that The Monstrumologist opens. The good news is that Simon & Schuster has since reconsidered their decision and will publish at least the fourth installment (book 2 is out already and book 3 is forthcoming).

I found The Monstrumologist to be well-written, but a bit gory for my taste. That's a good thing, though, because The Monstrumologist is one of the only young adult books I've read lately that I can actually imagine a teenage boy reading. Really, why are so many young adult books so heavy on the romance?

In any case, here's a passage I bookmarked:
Perhaps that is our doom, our human curse, to never really know one another. We erect edifices in our minds about the flimsy framework of word and deed, mere totems of the true person, who, like the gods to whom the temples were built, remains hidden. We understand our own construct; we know our own theory; we love our own fabrication. Still... does the artifice of our affection make our love any less real? (362)
So very observant and not at all what I'd expect to find hidden in a horror novel.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen
trans. by Tiina Nunnally

Copenhagen homicide detective Carl Mørck has just returned from sick leave. He's physically recovered from the bullet wound he received while investigating his last case, but not emotionally. One of his partners is dead, the other is stuck in the Hornbaek Clinic for Spinal Cord Injuries, and it's his fault (or near enough).
Mørck's a bit perplexed when he's made head of the newly formed Department Q on his first day back. Department Q (staff: 1) is located at the Copenhagen police headquarters (in the basement) and tasked with investigating cold cases of national interest. It's a cake job for Mørck. He can slack off all he wants because no one really expects him to solve any of the cases he's assigned.
When Mørck discovers the Copenhagen homicide has co-opted the 90% of the 8 million kroner earmarked for Department Q, Mørck successfully lobbies for a departmental vehicle and an assistant. When his assistant (a pleasant, but enigmatic Syrian political refugee) arrives for work, Mørck realizes that he hadn't thought that request through. Now that he has an assistant, he's accountable to another.
Mørck chooses his first case at random. It is the mysterious disappearance of a MP and Vice-chairperson of the Social Democrat party, Merete Lynggaard, five years before.

After the success of Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy, I suspect that publishers will be keeping Americans in Nordic crime novels for the foreseeable future. No complaints from the corner, especially if we keep being feed prize-winning works of the caliber of The Keeper of Lost Causes.

The Keeper of Lost Causes is the first in Adler-Olsen's Department Q series. The novel is an opener that doesn't get too bogged down in setting the stage for the entire series.

Mørck is a flawed, but sympathetic protagonist. He's understandably morose at the beginning of the novel, but working on the case invigorates him. One of the things I like about him is while nearly all of the others who work in the police headquarters find him difficult and unlikeable, we as readers get to see the kindness of which he's capable. Mørck's assistant, Assad, is a bit of a mystery himself. As the novel progresses, both Mørck and the reader discover that Assad has many hidden talents.

As much as I enjoy the CSI television programs, they tend to lack authenticity. I was quite pleased when reading The Keeper of Lost Causes the the detectives were described as "already wearing the white disposable coveralls, masks, gloves and hairnets that procedures prescribed" (23) when they begin to process a crime scene. That gave me faith that Adler-Olsen was going to provide me with a more accurate picture of this kind of police work.

As for Department Q's first case. Readers learn fairly early on that Lynggaard did not commit suicide (as was held when the case was first investigated). The narrative focus switches between Mørck and Lynggaard throughout (near the climax, the villains get their chance in the spotlight as well). At the beginning of The Keeper of Lost Causes, the two timelines are separated by five years, while at the end they become parallel before they intersect.

The mystery had depth. Readers don't figure out whodunnit before the other characters do and there's no out-of-left-field deduction by the investigators. The pacing is quite good (The Keeper of Lost Causes is nearly 500 pages long, but those pages fly by). It would have been very easy to get bogged down in Lynggaard's chapters, but Adler-Olsen manages them with aplomb.

A note on the title -
While I love the novel's American title1 and find it very compelling, it's interesting to note that the original Danish title translates as The Woman in the Cage. The original title emphasizes the case where the title we (Americans) encounter emphasizes Mørck and Department Q itself.

The Keeper of Lost Causes comes out on Tuesday (August 23, 2011). The second and third books2 in the Department Q series have already been published in the original Danish so hopefully we'll have access to English translations soon. I know I'm eager to get my hands the next installment.
  1. Apparently, this book is published under the title Mercy in the UK.
  2. Their Danish titles translate as The Pheasant Killers and Message in a Bottle.
disclosure: I received a review copy of The Keeper of Lost Causesfrom Penguin via NetGalley.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Spellbound by Cara Lynn Shultz

Spellbound by Cara Lynn Shultz

16 year-old Emma Connor's life has been a bit of a disaster the past few years. First her twin brother dies (of meningitis), then her mother (of cancer), leaving Emma alone with her abusive, alcoholic stepfather. When her stepfather causes a car accident that nearly kills them both, Emma moves to New York City to live with her aunt Christine.
When Emma begins her junior year at a posh, private school, she's in for a much bigger change than she ever imagined. Emma is drawn to tall, dark and handsome Brendan Salinger despite the fact that he acts quite coldly to her. Inexplicable things begin to happen, leaving Emma with no choice, but to explore the strange connection between her and Brendan.

I finished Spellbound quite a while ago, but didn't feel up to posting about it because the strongest feeling I had about the novel is one of irritation... not at the story itself or the author's writing, but at the text chosen by the publisher for the novel's back cover (and subsequently for the novel's promotional material). The snappy tag line includes information that neither the protagonist nor the reader learns until about 140 pages into the book. That's more than 40% of the way through the story. To me, that amounts to a spoiler. And, I really do think that I would have enjoyed Spellbound more if I hadn't read that tag line first. Knowing that piece of information prematurely clouded my view of the first half of the novel.

That being said, Spellbound was more or less what I would expect from a teen paranormal romance published by Harlequin. I do wish that Emma and Brendan's romance was a bit more substantive. If they are destined to be together, shouldn't there relationship read like more than just a typical teenage romance?

There are some things that I did like about the novel. While the secondary characters were a bit one-dimensional, I really liked Angelique (great attitude) and how Shultz handled Francisco (despite his horribly cliched stock character status). I also liked the fact that Shultz included what amounts to a soundtrack for the novel in the "What's on Brendan & Emma's iPods?" section at the end of the book.

It seems like Spellbound is the beginning of a series.1 I suspect that the novel's sequel may focus on Emma's friend Angelique. So readers who like Spellbound should keep an eye out for more where it came from.
  1. Harlequin: "A Spellbound Novel"; if the author uses the stories from Hadrian's Medieval Legends as a series theme, "there [a]re countless tales in that book" as Angelique says (331).
disclosure: I received a review copy of Spellbound from Harlequin Teen via NetGalley.

Friday, August 19, 2011

book club slacker and the 2012-2013 reading list

Some of you may have noticed that I haven't been making my regular book club and online book club posts. I have lots of excuses for why I haven't kept up with my book club reading (or made it via Skype to any of my Buffalo book club meetings since I moved), but suffice it to say that I feel horribly guilty about it and I hope to rectify the situation soon.

In the meantime, I do have the new reading list for Buffalo book club to share.

January 2012: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
February 2012: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
March 2012: Room by Emma Donoghue
April 2012: The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan
May 2012: Our Cancer Year by Harvey Pekar
June 2012: City of Thieves by David Benioff
July 2012: A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin
August 2012: The Fortune Quilt by Lani Diane Rich
September 2012: Arctic Chill by Arnaldur Indridason
October 2012: The Strictest School in the World: Being the Tale of a Clever Girl, a Rubber Boy and a Collection of Flying Machines, Mostly Broken by Howard Whitehouse
November 2012: Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson
December 2012: The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

January 2013: The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain
February 2013: Bossypants by Tina Fey
March 2013: The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown
April 2013: Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
May 2013: The Professor's Daughter by Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert
June 2013: Muhammad: A Story of the Last Prophet by Deepak Chopra
July 2013: Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell
August 2013: Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs
September 2013: The Garden of Finzi-Continis by Giorgio Bassani
October 2013: The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga
November 2013: Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
December 2013: A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Such a Pretty Fat by Jen Lancaster

Such a Pretty Fat by Jen Lancaster
Subtitle: One Narcissist's Quest to Discover If Her Life Makes Her Ass Look Big, or Why Pie Is Not the Answer1
I'm just about finished with Downward-Facing Dog when I hear a noise that makes my blood freeze. No, it's not the crack of a gunshot or the tinkle of an ice cream truck; it's the sound of feet clattering up my front steps. Before I can pull myself up, I come face-to-ass with the UPS delivery man, and I peer at him shirtless, backward, and upside down from between my legs, over the spare tire that is forcing my cabbage-rose-clad rack up around my neck, and through my uncurtained windwow.
And this? Right here? Is why I hate exercise. (99)
Such a Pretty Fat is Lancaster's third memoir. I read her first, Bitter is the New Black, last year for book club (see post).

If you haven't read Jen Lancaster, the quote above will give you a bit of a taste for her style. The passage that immediately follows the quote is one of my favorites in the book. I thought about including it as well, but decided a three-page quote was a bit excessive for the blog and, well, I didn't want to rob anyone of the experience of reading the whole scene in context.

Such a Pretty Fat is as much about who she came to write this particular memoir as it is about her quest to lose weight. Lancaster is honest about her struggles (that's one of the best things about Lancaster, her willingness to share all the pitfalls she encounters regardless of how embarrassing they are). She made me laugh. I also found some real wisdom in Such a Pretty Fat, which I wasn't really expecting.
  1. Oh how I love Jen Lancaster's subtitles! She also uses footnotes and by now I'm sure my readers have realized how I feel about footnotes.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

dare I admit that there was another trip to Borders

Don't mock Russell. I encouraged him this time.

The Monday-Wednesday special this week was buy six, save an extra 10%, buy 8, save an extra 15%. It seemed like a good deal (provided the liquidator made good on it, unlike the last time) so we decided that Russell should go on a reconnaisssance and possible shopping mission today.

Russell made out pretty well and reported that it wasn't busy at all. He didn't even have to wait in line!

For me:
  • Bumped by Megan McCafferty (I've been dying to read this one)
  • Delirium by Lauren Oliver (on my 2011 challenge reading list assigned by Jessica)
  • Encounter by Milan Kundera (to complete my collection; I own everything Kundera's written that's available in English)
  • The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey (because I'm not a fan of Simon & Schuster at the moment; see why)
For Russell:For both of us:Yes, that's a total of eight items. And, yes, we did get an extra 15% off.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Thrall's Tale by Judith Lindbergh

The Thrall's Tale by Judith Lindbergh

The Thrall's Tale is a masterpiece of historical fiction that follows Katla, a slave, her daughter Bibrau, and their mistress Thorbjorg, a prophetess of the Norse god Odin, as they navigate the stormy waters of love, revenge, faith, and deception in the Viking Age settlements of tenth–century Greenland. Lindbergh's lyrical prose captures the tenuousness of lives led on the edge of the known world, the pain of loyalties shattered by Christian conversion, and the deepest desires hidden in the human heart. A book that has appeal for readers of fantasy and romance as well as historical and literary fiction, The Thrall's Tale is an absorbing cultural saga researched and written over ten years as Lindbergh immersed herself in the literature, artifacts, and landscape of her characters' lives and world. (back cover text)

I first discovered The Thrall's Tale in 2007 (see post). I've had a copy sitting on my shelf for four years now. I loaned it to my mom (who loves historical fiction) shortly after I received it, but since then it's been more or less collecting dust. I know I've picked it up a few times during the past four years and I may have started it once, but I never dug into it until this month.

I'll admit it now. I didn't finish The Thrall's Tale. I really did make an effort, though: the novel is 446 pages long and I gave up on page 188.1

I really wanted to like The Thrall's Tale. It's a debut historical novel set during a time period with which I'm not familiar and it got great reviews.2 It seemed like the recipe for a great read, but unfortunately The Thrall's Tale did not work for me. The novel seemed to have much promise in its early pages, but the more I read of The Thrall's Tale, the less I wanted to continue reading it. Especially since, after a certain point, it seemed like there was no point in holding out for the promised romance as it was either going to come to absolutely nothing or be disappointing for all involved.

The Thrall's Tale begins with one female narrator (Katla, a teenage slave, accompanying her master from Iceland to Greenland), gains a second (Thorjorg, a seeress of Odin) and then a third (Bibrau, Katla's unplanned and unwanted daughter). I don't mind a multiple narrative structure (whether it be first- or second-person), but I don't think I've ever before read a multi-narrative book where I didn't enjoy any of the narrative threads.
  • I liked Katla well enough in the beginning of the novel, but the drastic change in her personality after the incident that occurs around page 55 rendered her completely unsympathetic to me (I don't fault her for her reaction to the traumatic incident, but I found relating to her very difficult after that point).
  • Thorjorg's narrative was tough from her entrance because of her obtuse, oracular voice. Even early on (when I was still genuinely interested in following the story), I found myself skimming through her chapters.
  • Finally, there's Bibrau. She comes across as more than just strange. She's like an evil child in a horror movie. I didn't want to know more about what would happen to her or what she would do because it seemed like it was only going to get worse.
It's obvious that The Thrall's Tale was well-researched. And I'm sure the story Lindbergh is trying to tell (settlement of Greenland, Christianization of the area) could have been very interesting. In short, three things turned me off: unlikeable protagonist-narrators, slow pace (quite a bit happens early in the novel, but then the pace becomes glacial), and pervasive hopelessness.

BUT, The Thrall's Tale has gotten good reviews so your mileage may vary, as they say.
  1. That's about 42% of the way through.
  2. From Library Journal, Geraldine Brooks, and Jonis Agee just to name a few.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Bruised Apple Books and Music (Peekskill, NY)

As I mentioned, I'm going to start featuring local (and not-so-local) and independent (used and not-used) bookstores on the blog. This is the first of those posts. Let me know what you think.

Last weekend, Russell and I visited Bruised Apple in Peekskill. And, my, my, it is a wonderful shop. It's just the kind of used bookstore that I like best. It has a huge selection (50,000 titles, according to its website). It's organized, uncramped, and infused with mood-setting, but not distracting instrumental music. It's the kind of shop where you could spend an afternoon browsing and there's little surprises around every corner, including the postcards, notes, and clippings that decorate the endcaps.

Russell and I both browsed. My primary focus was the fiction sections, while Russell checked out the music (that section included movies as well) and nonfiction with a particular focus on history and biography.

The selection was quite good and the main sections each had multiple subcategories (urban fiction, Chinese history, etc.). Historical fiction is segregated from the general fiction/literature section and is referred to as something like "fiction inspired by history," which I thought was interesting. The YA section was overstocked with Stephenie Meyer (which isn't completely unexpected; I momentarily considered picking up a hardcover copy of The Host). The local-interest/Hudson Valley section is the only one that includes both new and used books. On the tops of the cases in the fiction/literature section I noticed old leather- and cloth-bound sets of Shakespeare, Dickens, etc, most priced for the entire set, but some available to purchase by individual volume. There are some rare books, but the bulk of the stock was standard modern used (which isn't a bad thing).

Russell thought that the music was overpriced, but the book prices were generally. quite good. I didn't buy anything, but Russell picked up a signed copy of William Pitt: the Younger by William Hague for $9.50. If you follow the link, you'll see that Powells is selling a unsigned used copy of the book for $24.

Bruised Apple does buy used books (not sure about music). Russell called prior to this visit to ask about whether they bought (remember all those books we've been weeding?) and the owner told him that they were pretty full, but that they might consider literature and local history. We didn't bring any books when we made our weekend visit, wanting to see what kind of items they stocked before making any offers. Russell went back during the week with some books, but they didn't buy any of them.

The image below will give you an idea of how big the storefront is (it's also quite deep). I don't have any inside shots since I didn't want to draw attention to myself. Luckily, though, the shop has lots of interior shots on its photo page AND a blogger from the local newspaper has an image-rich post on the store entitled Old-school works for me, every time.

Bruised Apple Books and Music
923 Central Ave
Peekskill, NY
Established 1993
Open daily, call for hours

Saturday, August 13, 2011

giveaway winners and their prizes

I finished ordering the prizes for my three winners this morning.1 When I started shopping for them, I decided that I'd be sending each a book from her2 wish lists as well as two of my own selections.

Wendy V

From her wishlist:
Huntress by Malinda Lo
This one was released in April and has been getting pretty good reviews.
The focus of Wendy's book blog, A Cupcake and a Latte, is young adult fiction so I limited my choices to that genre (or near enough) so that she could write about them on her blog if she chose to.
Stravaganza: City of Masks by Mary Hoffman (my review)
The first in Hoffman's wonderful Stravaganza series, which I'm rereading myself now.
Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu (my review)
I adore this book. I think everyone should read it and I've lost count of how many copies I've purchased to give to others.


From her wishlist:
Cathedrals of the Flesh: My Search for the Perfect Bath by Alexia Brue
I'd never heard of this book before I starting shopping Nim's wishlist, but it sounds wonderful.
I've actually known Nim since before I started this blog (she's an online friend). We've shared books and book recommendations enough that she trusts my taste and would be open to books that she wouldn't necessarily pick out for herself.
Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron by Jasper Fforde (my review)
I know Nim's read and enjoyed Fforde before and Shades of Grey is quite wonderful, though more sedate that his usual work.
Three Bags Full: A Sheep Detective Story by Leonie Swann (my review)
This is my more "out there" selection for Nim. I hope she likes it!


From her wishlist:
Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins by Emma Donoghue
Another one that I wasn't familiar with before. I do like Donoghue, though, so I think could be quite good.

My choices for Nulaanne:

Motel of the Mysteries by David Macaulay (my review)
One of the questions on the giveaway entry form was "Any of my favorites that you're dying to try?" Nulaanne mentioned Motel of the Mysteries and I'm happy to oblige.
The Witch's Boy by Michael Gruber
I haven't written a review about The Witch's Boy for the blog, but it is fantastic. I listed to the audio (read by Denis O'Hare) years ago and decided that I needed to pick up a hardcover copy for my library. Concerned with fairy tales, I think The Witch's Boy makes a good traveling companion for Kissing the Witch.

I do so hope that Wendy, Nimrodiel, and Nulanne enjoy the books I've selected for them.

  1. For those who are interested this (books plus shipping) tidily ate up all my Powells affiliate program earnings. I had to add five dollars and change to complete the payment of the final order.
  2. In this case, all the winners are female.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

last chance to Sync this summer

Today begins the last week of Sync's summer free audiobook extravaganza. I hope these reminder posts have been useful. I for one managed to downloaded the titles I wanted every week (so expect posts on some of the offerings down the line).

Sync's offerings this week are
Storm Runners by Roland Smith and
The Cay by Theodore Taylor

Chase Masters and his father are "storm runners," racing across the country in pursuit of hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods. Anywhere bad weather strikes, they are not far behind. Chase is learning more on the road than he ever would just sitting in a classroom. But when the hurricane of the century hits, he will be tested in ways he never could have imagined.

Phillip is excited when the Germans invade the small island of Curaçao. War has always been a game to him, and he’s eager to glimpse it firsthand–until the freighter he and his mother are traveling to the United States on is torpedoed.
When Phillip comes to, he is on a small raft in the middle of the sea. Besides Stew Cat, his only companion is an old West Indian, Timothy. Phillip remembers his mother’s warning about black people: “They are different, and they live differently.”
But by the time the castaways arrive on a small island, Phillip’s head injury has made him blind and dependent on Timothy.

Note: these books don't expire like the e-audiobooks you get from the library. So, be sure to download the books even if you don't think you'll get around to listening to them right away.

More information about Sync is available in this post.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

giveaway update

I'm busy picking out books for my winners. Expect a reveal post in the next couple of days.

I really appreciate all the feedback I received along with the entries.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Russell can't stay away... from Borders

Yes, Russell went back to Borders yesterday.

He called me during my lunch break keen on going after work. I was a bit perplexed by his enthusiasm as the prices hadn't dropped since the last time we'd been to the store. Apparently, though, shoppers get deeper discounts on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. I had no desire to fight the crowds to I sent him off on his own, but gave him a little list (arranged by department) of books I wanted annotated with their current Amazon prices.

He came home with three books (one of these was Shades of Grey for me), a DVD set, and a case of buyer's remorse compounded by sticker shock.

In his defense, he saw an (intentionally) misleading flyer on the Borders website (see above), which is still up as I type this.1 Customers shopping on Monday did not get an additional 10% off on items, not even items from the specific departments listed. Russell brought something from the politics area (listed) and it was 46% off. Not 40% (regular discount), not 50% (regular discount + 10), but 46% off (?). Everything else he got was at the regular departmental discount (25 or 30%). So, he thought he was going to be getting a much better deal on all this than he actually did.

Now he's sworn off Borders... at least until the discounts are 50%-.
  1. There's more than what's shown in the image above, but I figured I'd just show the relevant section.

Monday, August 08, 2011

last chance to enter the giveaway

You have until the end of the day (11:59 pm, EDT) TOMORROW, Wednesday, August 10 to enter. More information in this post.

Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day by Ben Loory

Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day by Ben Loory

Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day is a strangely compelling little book. Contained within it are thirty-nine short short stories (one is only three sentences long) and a longer fortieth story, grudgingly appended by the author.1

Usually with short story collections I want to read the stories one at a time, to savor them. I couldn't do that with Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day though. Loory's stories--the publisher calls them contemporary fables and I think that's apt--are compulsively readable. They are poignant and unsettling, simple and profound. And I wanted to eat them all up!

My favorites stories2 follow a tea-drinking, spoon-collecting octopus and an unappreciated, intellectual television. Others feature a duck who falls in love with a rock, companionable cadavers, and a menacing hat. It's a strange hodgepodge that's at once a unified whole.

In his acknowledgments, Loory mentions that the stories in Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day were inspired by a horror writing class. There is some horror here, but it's subtle. Subtle and thought-provoking. Overall I think the collection leans more toward humor--wry humor--and hopefulness.

I want to reread Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day, to really let myself reflect on each of the stories in turn. Loory has a lot to tell us and he's only just started.

Get a taste -
One of the collections' stories, "The Girl in the Storm," posted in its entirety on the author's website.
  1. Note introducing the appendix: "The following is a longer story not part of the same project included here at the publisher's request" (193).
  2. "The Octopus" (28-36) and "The TV and Winston Churchill" (59-63).
disclosure: I received a review copy of Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day from Penguin via NetGalley.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

another trip to Borders, books found, and an idea

First of all, before I forget:
Those of you interested in the Borders liquidation might want to check out The Book Frog, who has been posting about her experience living through it. She's also gearing up to open an indy bookstore so her blog is very interesting reading.

We decided to run over to Borders on Thursday after work since the discounts had gone up (on Wednesday?) to 25-50%. Well, I didn't really want to go, but Russell did and I'd much rather go on a Thursday evening than on a busy weekend day. This time I actually prepared for the trip. I went over to my Amazon wishlist and made note of the current Amazon prices for some of the books on it.

Russell ended up buying two books -
1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West by Roger Crowley from the history section. It was only 25% off, but the history section in our Borders was already decimated.
The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates by Ralph Ketcham at 40% off since it was housed in the politics section.

I didn't get anything. The prices on the knitting books (30% off) were still not as low as on Amazon. The general fiction/literature section was 30%, but again the prices on the majority of the books that were in stock were not competitive. YA books were only at 25% off (as were the genre fiction sections except romance, which was 40% off). At one point I had three books in my hands. Two were from my wishlist, while the third was one that just jumped off the shelf at me.

I put back the newly discovered book--The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma--first as it was hardcover with a high list price in addition to being an admittedly intriguing unknown entity. When we got home I looked it up. I'm happy I didn't get it at only 30% though since Amazon has it for 38% off.

The wishlist books--Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde (which I reviewed in February after listening to an e-audio version from the library) and The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender (which is a personally much-anticipated book club section for October)--were both general fiction trade paperbacks and were ever-so-slightly cheaper at Borders than on Amazon. I might have bought these two, but the longer I stayed in the store the more I felt irritated with the shopping experience (it was a bit zooy as they were closing early for inventory) and unable to justify spending the money given that there were more than one copy of each (2 of the one, 3 of the other) still in stock.

Also, I finished reading the book I bought during our first Borders liquidation trip (see post), The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross. I have to admit that I was disappointed in it. Not enough romance for a book published by Harlequin. Two different love triangles, but if I remember correctly only one kiss in the entire book. If there had been enough romance I might have been able to overlook the other problems I had with the book (two love triangles, far too much in the way of anachronism, the author always using the same adjective to refer to one of the character's hair, how the author skipped over the big action, etc).

I know many people are upset about the downfall of Borders and worried that their book-buying options will be limited. Yesterday as Russell and I were planning to visit a local used book shop (to check it out and see if we could pawn some of our weeded books off on them), an idea occurred to me. Russell and I will make an effort to visit local (and not-so-local) bookstores and then feature them on the blog. Expect to see the first of these features in the next week.

Friday, August 05, 2011

influental books

I haven't done a follow-friday post in a while, but I liked this week's question.

Talk about the book that most changed or influenced your life (was it a book that turned you from an average to avid reader, did it help you deal with a particularly difficult situation, does it bring you comfort every time you read it?).

I can't say that this book changed my life, but it is one that helped me through a tough time. I feel a bit silly posting about this particular book in this particular context because the author's work falls solidly in the chick-lit category. I really have nothing against chick lit, but it does have a justifiable reputation for being frivolous.

PS, I love you by Cecilia Ahern is a wonderful, uplifting, and fun story about love and loss and grief and learning to cope. I bought it after the unexpected death of my cousin died planning to send it to his wife. Of course I decided to read it before sending it along and I have to say that it brought me great comfort. After reading it, I felt the desire to buy another copy to send to her so I could keep the original copy for myself. Since then I decided that it should be shared rather than hoarded. I've passed along my copy and bought a few others (from the discount bookstore) to share via BookCrossing.


If you are visiting this blog for the first time, welcome!
And be sure to check out my giveaway (see this post or the sidebar to the right).

This is Karen. I'm a librarian and archivist and I've been writing this blog since 2006. Some of my favorite books are All We Know of Love (schneider), The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (kundera), The God of Small Things (roy), The Handmaid's Tale (atwood), Pride and Prejudice (austen), The Storyteller (vargas llosa), and Zahrah the Windseeker (okorafor-mbachu).

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Sync: Immortal + Wuthering Heights

We're nearing the end of Sync's summer free audiobook extravaganza.

The offerings this week are
Immortal by Gillian Shields and
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Welcome to Wyldcliffe, the place that haunts my present, my past, and my future.
Wyldcliffe Abbey School for Young Ladies is elite, expensive, and unwelcoming. When Evie Johnson is torn from her home near the sea to become the newest scholarship student, strict teachers, snobbish students, and the oppressive atmosphere of Wyldcliffe leave her drowning in loneliness.
Evie's only lifeline is Sebastian, a mysterious and attractive young man she meets by chance. As Evie's feelings for Sebastian blaze with each secret meeting, she begins to fear that he is hiding something about his past. And she is haunted by glimpses of a strange, ghostly girl—a girl who is so eerily like Evie she could be a sister. Evie is slowly drawn into a tangled web of past and present that she cannot control. As the extraordinary, elemental forces of Wyldcliffe rise up like the mighty sea, Evie is faced with an astounding truth about Sebastian, and her own incredible fate.

Wuthering Heights, first published in 1847, the year before the author's death at the age of thirty, endures today as perhaps the most powerful and intensely original novel in the English language. The epic story of Catherine and Heathcliff plays out against the dramatic backdrop of the wild English moors, and presents an astonishing metaphysical vision of fate and obsession, passion and revenge. "Only Emily Brontë," V. S. Pritchett said, "exposes her imagination to the dark spirit." And Virginia Woolf wrote, " the rarest of all powers. She could free life from its dependence on speaking of the moor make the wind blow and the thunder roar."

Note: these books don't expire like the e-audiobooks you get from the library. So, be sure to download the books even if you don't think you'll get around to listening to them right away.

More information about Sync is available in this post.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

why you should enter my giveaway

Because of the fantastic prizes. If you win, you'll get something you've picked out for yourself (a book from your wishlist) as well as a book that I've handpicked for you.

My choice will definitely be a book that I've enjoyed myself. Here are some of the books that might be contenders (but my choice will be based on what I know of your reading tastes):You have until Wednesday, August 10 (11:59 pm, EDT) to enter. More information in this post.

Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson

Diamond Age (or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer)
by Neal Stephenson

First published in 1995, Diamond Age is set in late(?) twenty-first century Shanghai and a world revolutionized by nanotechnology. It is the story of the Young Lady's Illustrated Primer, a book-shaped interactive educational device commissioned by an equity lord for his granddaughter, and what happens when an illicit copy falls into the wrong hands.

So, I finished Diamond Age last night. It was not a quick read for me (I first posted about reading it on June 29) and I feel like I've been reading it for ages.

I really wanted to like Diamond Age, but I really can't say that I enjoyed reading the novel. Part of that may be because of the genre. I admit that I have a hard time science fiction and I tend to want to skim through sections that I find particularly opaque. But, at 455 pages Diamond Age really is overlong and the second half isn't nearly as good as the first (and the ending is unforgivably rushed).

I was intrigued by the Neo-Victorian sect and some of the technology depicted (the Primer, smart paper, chevalines), but was disappointed in the choices made by Stephenson. For me, the novel had so much unrealized potential. More than that, I wanted more detail on the things the author mentioned in passing and less detail on the things on which he focused.

Russell's planning to read Diamond Age so there may be a follow-up post after he's tackled the novel.

I'll end this post with a snippet of one of Nell's lessons with the constable:
the difference between ignorant and educated people is that the latter know more facts. But that has nothing to do with whether they are stupid or intelligent. The difference between stupid and intelligent people--and this is true whether or not they are well-educated--is that intelligent people can handle subtlety. They are not baffled by ambiguous or even contradictory situations--in fact, they expect them and are apt to become suspicious when things seem overly straightforward. (256)

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Everything We Ever Wanted by Sara Shepard

Everything We Ever Wanted by Sara Shepard

Recently widowed Sylvie Bates-McAllister's life revolves around Swithin, the prestigious preparatory school endowed by her grandfather. When a scholarship students dies, concerns about hazing within the school's wrestling team (now coached by Sylvie's adopted son, Scott) come to light. An investigation begins. Scott might be fired, Sylvia might lose her seat on the board, but worst of all, Swithin's reputation might be tarnished.

Sylvie's biological son, Charles, and his new wife are on the sidelines of this drama, but neither can avoid the familial rift and long-hidden secrets the death and its aftermath have dislodged.

Sara Shepard has written for an adult audience before (The Visibles, 2009), but she's best known for her young adult series (Pretty Little Liars and The Lying Game). I haven't read The Visibles, but I have read the first two Pretty Little Liars books (Pretty Little Liars and Flawless). I suspect that fans of Shepard's usual work will be disappointed with Everything We Ever Wanted. This new novel is quite different than her young adult books. It's not that the subject matter is more mature or that the book is written for an older audience. It's that the pacing is slow, there's an inexplicable lack of suspense, and the characters are for the most part unsympathetic.

There were so many things that I didn't like about the story (I won't include specifics for fear of spoiling) that it's hard for me to remember the things I did like. I appreciate the idea behind the novel (it's message, if you will), but I'm not fond of the execution.

Everything We Ever Wanted is coming out in October.
disclosure: I received a review copy of Everything We Ever Wanted from HarperCollins via NetGalley.