Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 reading recap

I haven't done a particularly good job of keeping track of my reading this year so I'm sure that this post (and its attendant list) will not be comprehensive. 
n.b. I did make a few additions to my running list while compiling this post.  When I added a title, I tried to place it somewhere in the general vicinity of where it would have appeared in the list if I'd added it when I should have (that is, when I either finished or official gave up on it).

First, a few notes on the list -
  • If I've posted about a book, I've included a link to that post.
    I do intend on writing about quite a few more of these books, but if there's one (or some) in particular about which you'd like to see me post, leave a note in the comments and I'll add the book(s) in question to the short list.
  • I've also starred the books that I, at this particular moment, think were my favorites of the year.
Now, a few observations -
  • I was much more likely to post about a book if I read it earlier in the year, regardless of how much (or little) I liked it or whether I'd received a review copy).  This makes sense if you look at my post distribution for 2012. 
  • Between comfort reading (Hunger Games while sick; Harry Potter before and during Superstorm Sandy), preparing-for-the-next-installment reading, I did much more rereading this year that I'm usually wont to do.
  • During the second half of the year my reading was skewed toward YA and children's literature. Before I started this post I was worried that the bulk of what I'd read this year would fall into these categories (not that reading exclusively from these categories is a bad thing, just that I tend to think of myself as a more diverse reader than that) so I was pleased to be reminded of the actual variety of this year's fare.

Karen's books read in 2012

124. Tales of H.P. Lovecraft (still in progress but I've read enough of it that I think it should count toward this year; post)
123. What Lies Beneath the Clocktower by Margaret Killjoy
122. The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton*
121. The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban *
120. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
119. Sugar and Spice by Leda Swann (reread)
118. Beta by Rachel Cohn
117. Three Willows by Ann Brashares
116. After the Snow by S. D. Crockett
115. The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg
114. The Seven Markets by David Hoffman (post) *
113. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (post)
112. Safekeeping by Karen Hesse (post)
111. Legend by Marie Lu
110. Talulla Rising by Glen Duncan (did not finish)
109. Because It Is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin
108. The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkein
107. Camilla by Madeleine L'Engle *
106. Redemption on the River by Loren DeShon
105. Ape House by Sara Gruen
104. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling (reread)
103. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling (reread)
102. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling (reread)
101. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling (reread)
100. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling (reread)
99. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling (reread)
98. Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone by J.K. Rowling (reread)
97. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (reread)
96. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (reread)
95. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (reread)
94. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
93. L: A Novel History by Jillian Becker (post)
92. Thumped by Megan McCafferty
91. Blood Red Road by Moira Young
90. Enclave by Ann Aguirre
89. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
88. The Sherlockian by Graham Moore
87. The Book of Madness and Cures by Regina O'Melveny
86. Dead Ringer by Allen Wyler
85. Daughter of the Sea by Mira Zamin
84. Love Slave by Jennifer Spiegel
83. Coming to My Senses by Alyssa Harad (post) *
82. Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James (post)
81. The Enchanted Truth by Kym Petrie
80. Insurgent by Veronica Roth (post) *
79. Divergent by Veronica Roth (reread)
78. God Save the Queen by Kate Locke
77. Peaches for Father Francis by Joanne Harris (post)
76. Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver (post)
75. Cinder by Marissa Meyer (post) *
74. Wish You Were Here by Stewart O'Nan (post)
73. Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann (post)
72. Delirium by Lauren Oliver (reread)
71. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (post) *
70. Bumped by Megan McCafferty (reread)
69. Hot and Steamy, edited by Jean Rabe and Martin Greenburg
68. Mariana by Susanna Kearsley
67. The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
66. Shadow of the Night by Deborah Harkness (post)
65. Old World Murder by Kathleen Ernst *
64. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman *
63. Faceless Killers by Hennings Mankell
62. Death of a Kitchen Diva by Lee Hollis
61. American Monster: How the Nation's First Prehistoric Creature Became a Symbol of National Identity by Paul Semonin
60. I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore
59. Sunset Park by Paul Auster
58. The Luxe by Anna Godbersen (unintentional reread)
57. Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace by Kate Summerscale (post) *
56. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (post) *
55. A Hope Undaunted by Jess Lessman (post)
54. The Light Keeper's Legacy by Kathleen Ernst (post) *
53. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (post)
52. The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber Tree by Susan Wittig Albert (post) *
51. The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry (post)
50. Feed by M.T. Anderson (post)
49. Miss New India by Bharati Mukherjee (post)
48. The False Friend by Myla Goldberg (post)
47. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (post) *
46. You or Someone Like You by Chandler Burr (post)
45. Perfume by Patrick Suskind (post)
44. Agatha H. and the Airship City by Phil and Kaja Foglio (post) *
43. Mobile Apps for Museums: The AAM Guide to Planning and Strategy
42. I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak (post)
41. Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourn
40. Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn
39. Second Space by Czeslaw Milosz, trans. with Robert Hass (post)
38. Moon Rise by Marilee Brothers (post)
37. Moonstone by Marilee Brothers (post)
36. Timeless by Gail Carriger
35. Invitation to the Voyage: A Poem Illustrated (reread; post) *
34. Personal Days by Ed Park (gave up around page 145; post)
33. Ganymede by Cherie Priest (post) *
32. A History of Venice by John Julius Norwich (did not finish; post)
31. Crossed by Ally Condie (post)
30. The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams (post)
29. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson (post) *
28. Dreadnought by Cherie Priest (post) *
27. Boneshaker by Cherie Priest (post)
26. Heartless by Gail Carriger (reread)
25. Blameless by Gail Carriger (reread)
24. Changeless by Gail Carriger (reread)
23. Soulless by Gail Carriger (reread)
22. The Mercy of Thin Air by Ronlyn Domingue *
21. Matched by Ally Condie
20. Domesticating History: The Political Origins of America's House Museums by Patricia West
19. Foreshadowing by Marcus Sedgwick
18. The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer
17. Dungeon Parade by Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim
16. Gazelle by Rikki Ducornet
15. The Secret River by Kate Grenville
14. Blue Angel by Francine Prose
13. Wherever You Go by Joan Leegant
12. While I'm Still Myself by Jeremy Mark Lane
11. Alentejo Blue by Monica Ali (post)
10. The Gilded Chamber by Rebecca Kohn
9. The Book of Lost Fragrance by M.J. Rose (post)
8. The Pirate King by Laurie R. King (post)
7. Tuck by Stephen Lawhead (post)
6. Marrying Anita by Anita Jain (post)
5. Scarlet by Stephen Lawhead (post)
4. Hood by Stephen Lawhead (post)
3. Ten Thousand Lovers by Edeet Ravel (post)
2. Platinum by Jennifer Lyn Barnes
1. City of Ships by Mary Hoffman

Thursday, December 27, 2012

word: gloaming

All actresses have favourite words, and 'gloaming' was one of Laurel's. It was a pleasure to articulate, the sense of falling gloom and helpless encompassment inherent within the word's sound, and yet it was so close to 'glowing' that some of the latter's shine rubbed off on it.
(The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton, 66)
gloaming, n.
Twilight; dusk.

The word's etymology is particularly interesting given the above quote's reference to gloaming's closeness to glowing.
From Middle English gloming, from Old English glomung, from glom (dusk). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ghel- (to shine), which is also the source of words such as yellow, gold, glimmer, glimpse, glass, arsenic, melancholy, and cholera. (Wordsmith)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Song of Ice and Fire-themed knitting (and gift-giving)

In my post on A Game of Thrones, I mentioned that I'd been working on an A Song of Ice and Fire-themed package for a secret swap. Well, now that that package has been (joyfully) received, I figured that I'd post about it.

The package was more specifically themed for House Stark and the northern lands. It included:
  • spinning fiber from Dripping Fiber Studios in a colorway called "The Wall," which I special ordered,
  • a double-pointed needle holder from Babylove Designs (my partner really wanted a DPN holder and I chose this one because the fabric read "winter" for me),
  • a pair of Arya's Gauntlets knit by yours truly (I'm not crazy about these; more details below),
  • Stitch markers from Little Skein in the Big Wool (I purchased a Big Bad set, but I thought that this particular wolf would work as a dire wolf just as well)
  • an ice and fire lip balm set from Kisstixx, and
  • a couple of goodies from See's Candies (specifically a Bordeaux treat and a Scotchmallow tree).
Here's a better image of both (one of the) mitts and the stitch markers -

Project: Winter is Coming
Pattern: Arya's Gauntlets by Julie Coburn
Yarn: Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light, "Tern" colorway

While I love the stitch pattern for the mitts (which is supposed to resemble chain mail), I’m not crazy about the construction - specifically the fact that the pattern does not include any increases for the thumb joint.

My modifications: for the thumb I picked up 20 stitches rather than 16, knit the 6 rows of ribbing that I was supposed to knit, then decreased to 16 stitches and knit 10 more rows. When I blocked the mitts, I manipulated the thumbs to indicate directionality.

books for the holidays

So far I've received slightly more books than I gave this year.
(Russell, it seems, did not receive any books this year)

What I received -

Brave New Knits: 26 Projects and Personalities from the Knitting Blogosphere
by Julie Turjoman
from a swap partner (same swap mentioned here)
Brave New Knits is the first book to celebrate the convergence of traditional hand-knitting and modern technology. The Internet has made it possible for the knitting community to connect through photos, pattern-sharing, and blogs that document the knitting projects and passions of dozens of designers and enthusiasts. With a Foreword written by Jessica Marshall Forbes, co-founder of, Brave New Knits includes 26 must-have garment and accessory patterns, all gorgeously photographed by knitting celebrity Jared Flood of Brooklyn Tweed. Contributors range from established designers like Norah Gaughan, Wendy Bernard, Anne Hanson, and knitgrrl Shannon Okey, to rising stars such as Melissa Wehrle, Connie Chang Chinchio, and Hilary Smith Callis. In-depth interviews with the designers reveal their design philosophy and passions. From shapely sweaters and delicate shawls to fingerless gloves and stylish hats, each of the knitted designs features detailed directions and charts to inspire both the beginner and experienced knitter.

The Last Dragonslayer
by Jasper Fforde
from Santa (ie. me (and Russell))
From the author of the Thursday Next mysteries comes this off-beat fantasy, the first in a new series for young readers. In the good old days, magic was powerful and unregulated by government, and sorcerers were highly respected. Then the magic started to fade away. Fifteen-year-old Jennifer Strange runs Kazam, a magic employment agency. Work is hard to come by, and unexciting: These days, sorcerers find work unblocking drains, and even magic carpets have been reduced to pizza delivery. So it's a surprise when the visions start. Not only do they predict the death of the last dragon at the hands of a dragonslayer, they also point to Jennifer. Something is coming. Something known as — Big Magic.

One + One: Scarves, Shawls & Shrugs: 25 Projects from Just Two Skeins
by Iris Schreier
from my mom and dad
One + One = Two skeins! That's all it takes to make any of these 25 breathtaking knitted accessories. Scarves, Shawls & Shrugs is the first in a new series by renowned designer Iris Schreier that showcases the many possibilities of working with just two skeins of yarn. Mixing yarn types, weights, and colors, she presents a dazzling array of stylish and sophisticated wraps. Schreier created about half the projects herself, while other prominent designers provided the rest.
The projects range from easy to unique and offer new ideas for blending yarns and creating pieces with high appeal, beautiful drape, and practical functionality.

The Peculiars
by Maureen Doyle McQuerry
from my mom and dad
On her 18th birthday, Lena Mattacascar decides to search for her father, who disappeared into the northern wilderness of Scree when Lena was young. Scree is inhabited by Peculiars, people whose unusual characteristics make them unacceptable to modern society. Lena wonders if her father is the source of her own extraordinary characteristics and if she, too, is Peculiar. On the train she meets a young librarian, Jimson Quiggley, who is traveling to a town on the edge of Scree to work in the home and library of the inventor Mr. Beasley. The train is stopped by men being chased by the handsome young marshal Thomas Saltre. When Saltre learns who Lena's father is, he convinces her to spy on Mr. Beasley and the strange folk who disappear into his home, Zephyr House. A daring escape in an aerocopter leads Lena into the wilds of Scree to confront her deepest fears.

What Lies Beneath the Clock Tower
by Margaret Killjoy
a stocking stuffer (courtesy of my mom)
Descend into the depths of the undercity and embroil yourself in the political struggles of colonialist gnomes and indigenous goblins. Fly in air balloons, drink mysterious and pleasant cocktails, smoke opium with the dregs of gnomish society. Or dream and speak of liberation for all the races. Fall in love and abscond into the caverns. It's up to you, because this is an adventure of your own choosing.

What I/we gave -

The Tolkien Years of the Brothers Hildebrandt
by Greg Hildebrandt Jr.
for my dad, a Tolkien-lover and frequent recipient of Hildebrant calendars
The million-selling Tolkien calendars created during the '70s by renowned fantasy artists Greg and Tim Hildebrandt are now considered artistic masterpieces, a defining visual interpretation of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The Tolkien Years of the Brothers Hildebrandt collects the complete treasury of their fantastic artwork, plus the untold story behind the creation of those cherished illustrations. Greg Hildebrandt, Jr. provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes look into the defining work of his father and uncle, now updated and expanded with all-new pages of commentary and exclusive, never-before-printed art!

The Seven Markets (see my review)
by David Hoffman
for my dad (as well as a few others who may or may not have received their gifts yet)
Once in every century, for three days only, the Market comes. Her whole life, Ellie MacReady has delighted at her papa’s stories of the fantastical Market. The creatures that walk its streets. The wonders waiting in every shopkeeper’s window. The exotic foods and unearthly scents which tempt travelers on every corner. But in all his stories, her papa never mentioned the irresistible Prince, or the perils which await young girls who wander away to explore the Market on their own.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Seven Markets by David Hoffman

The Seven Markets by David Hoffman
series: The Seven Markets (1)
So reads the sign that seventeen-year-old Ellie MacReady encounters on her way into the village one day in the summer of 1726. A thing of legend, the Market appears only once every century.   Ellie grew up hearing her father's stories about the Market, but nothing he told her prepared Ellie for what she was to encounter there.

Reading The Seven Markets was a bit of a rollercoaster ride for me. I went from thinking "oooh, this is good" to regretfully telling Russell that I was going to hate the book (more on why below). I then moved on to cautious optimism, which later morphed into delight. There followed some bewilderment (ditto), but I ended the novel on a good note.

The Seven Markets is described as a science fiction fairy tale. I've always disliked the fact that science fiction and fantasy are nearly always lumped together in non-specialty bookstores.1 The creation of this single category further degrades two genres that are already marginalized as "genre fiction" (as opposed to "real" fiction) by reducing them to subgenres. While I am by no means an expert on either genre, I grew up with a man who did the majority of his book-shopping in that department.2 While there is cross-over between the two genres, I think that's the exception rather than the rule and that their real commonality is their reader.
In any case, The Seven Markets is the rare book that belongs in the science fiction and fantasy department because it is a cross-over that has significant elements from both genres.

From this blog's tag cloud, it is obvious that I read (and post about) more fantasy than scifi. While the gap is actually significantly wider than the tags would have you believe, I do appreciate both genres. I am, however, a particularly picky reader of the two genres, mostly because I become overwhelmed by the heaviest versions of either. The bewilderment mentioned above is a result of that tendency of mine, while the possible hatred relates to a particular fantasy trope3 for which I usually have no patience.

The Seven Markets is like nothing I've read before. The novel, like the Market itself, is full of endless wonders, but it is also tightly constructed. As a reader you never know what will happen next. I'm loathe to go into too much detail on the plot because much of the novel's magic--and what makes it such a compelling read--is in how and how much it reveals itself. I'd just caution readers not to be put off by the (intentionally) jarring transitions between the first few chapters. While those types of transitions continue to move the narrative along, you do become accustomed to them.

If you are interested in The Seven Markets, but not sold yet, check out the sample available on the author's website.

For what it's worth, Russell and I have already purchased two copies of The Seven Markets to give as gifts4 (it's a particularly good choice for lovers of fantasy, science fiction, and strong, female protagonists) and intend to purchase at least one more in the very near future for the same reason.

I have to admit, though, that I'm looking forward to Hoffman's next book, Beautiful Handcrafted Animals (forthcoming Spring 2013),5 much more than I am Ellie's next adventure. Of course that doesn't mean that I won't whip though The King's Glamour (forthcoming Summer 2013) as soon as I can get my hands on it.
n.b. Links within this post either go to Amazon (no referral) or Hoffman's website, rather than my usual.
  1. Case in point: Amazon.
  2. My father is the first person I disappointed by my inability to slog through The Lord of the Rings.
  3. In the footnotes because specifying this could be considered a SPOILER. I don't think it's too much of a spoiler, but continue at your own risk.
    I generally dislike (and sometimes despise) stories that involve humans crossing over into the faerie realm and getting stuck there outside of time.
  4. Even though The Seven Markets is only available via Amazon, a company that I'm trying not to patronize when I can help it.
  5. David (oh, jeeze, see the disclosure statement) describes this one as "suburban fantasy" (as opposed to urban fantasy; forgive the lazy Wikipedia link), which sounds just like my cup of tea.
disclosure: I received a review copy of The Seven Markets from the author, with whom I am friendly.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

a fire in the library

Or rather a fireplace in the library...

I crafted this fireplace yesterday (on my day off) as a special surprise for my coworker. Since we moved into the new office, she's thought that this wall was in need of a fireplace.

The obscenely (and unnecessarily) large box in which Target sent my recent order (sliced in half and stacked upon itself) was the basis of the fireplace itself. Other materials used were to-be-recycled office paper (to cover box and for the grill), an old file folder (for the non-red flames), wrapping paper (for the red flames), and a used Priority Mail mailer (for the logs and structure for the fire), as well as tape (packing, scotch, and double-sided), markers, a pencil, scissors, and a box cutter.

The stockings are my family's stash of guest stockings. They were crocheted by my paternal grandmother.

My desktop Dalek has joined a few knit items holding court on the mantle until we receive enough holiday cards to crowd them out.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Peaches for Father Francis
by Joanne Harris

Peaches for Father Francis by Joanne Harris
original title: Peaches for Monsieur le Curé1
series: Chocolat trilogy (3)
I am no longer the Vianne Rocher who blew into town eight years ago. [...] I am in charge of my destiny. I call the wind. It answers to me.(23)
While I've read quite a bit of Harris' oeuvre, I've never gotten around to her most famous novel, Chocolat.2 Peaches for Father Francis is the third book to feature characters from Chocolat. I haven't read Chocolat's first sequel, The Girl with No Shadow,3 either. To my mind, Peaches for Father Francis functions perfectly well as a stand along novel, though a a familiarity with Chocolat's storyline and characters is useful to the reader.

The primary action of Peaches for Father Francis takes place in Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, the fictional French village that was the setting of Chocolat (The Girl with No Shadow takes place in Paris, which is where Peaches for Father Francis begins). A letter from her now-deceased friend Armande Voizin summons protagonist Vianne back to Lansquenet, which Armande suspects will be in need of Vivianne's help by the time the letter is delivered to her. When Vianne arrives in Lansquenet much has changed in the village. The storefront where she sold chocolate once upon a time is now being used as a small Muslim girls school or was until a recent arson attack. The primary suspect in the attack is Vianne's old nemesis (and the novel's second protagonist), village curate Reynaud Francis.

Reynaud finds an unlikely ally in Vianne, who is quick to surmise that all is not as it seems in Lansquenet.  Peaches for Father Francis is classic Harris. Her prose is gorgeous, evocative, and tinged with magic. The story, which revolves around the problems caused by prejudice within a community affected by conservatism within and self-segregation of its (Moroccan Muslim) immigrant population, is timely. The novel's themes--which include tolerance and forgiveness, was is vs. what seems to be, the inevitability of change--are timeless.

Here's a quote from Reynaud that struck me:
Of course, I know God has a plan. But in recent years I've found it increasingly hard to believe that the plan is running as smoothly as He intended. The more I think about it now, the more I see God as a harried bureaucrat, wanting to help, but crippled by paperwork and committees. If He sees us at all, [...] it is from behind a desk piled high with accounts and works-in-progress. That's why He has priests to do His work, and bishops to oversee them.  [...] But try to juggle too many balls, and this is what happens.  Some go astray. (244)

A couple other truisms from the novel:
Love is random, centreless; striking out like pestilence. (268)

Vianne: But we have the uncanny knack of focusing on difference; as if excluding others could make our identity stronger. But in all my travels, I have found that people are mostly the same everywhere. Under the veil, the beard, the soutane, it's always the same machinery. (221)
Peaches for Father Francis is a must-read for lovers of Harris and/or Chocolat. Despite its timeliness I'm not sure that I'd recommend Peaches for Father Francis as an introduction to Harris' work since it builds upon groundwork laid in Chocolat (and probably also in The Girl with No Shadow). Rather I'd recommend Peaches for Father Francis in conjunction with Chocolat.

Because we all know that I like footnotes -
  1. Because apparently Americans can't handle a little bit of French.
    Why, oh why, do publishers think the American audience needs a different title? I really do think that the confusion this causes outweighs any possible benefit. I'd much rather have an explanatory note in the front matter than an alternate title.
  2. Though, for what it's worth, I did see the film adaptation.
  3. The Lollipop Shoes was the original title. Does lollipop have some alternate meaning across the pond? (rhetorical question; see footnote 1)
disclosure: I received a review copy of Peaches for Father Francis from Viking Press via NetGalley.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
Series: A Song of Ice and Fire (1)

Despite hearing people rave both about the A Song of Ice and Fire books and the television show based on them,1 I really had no interest in reading A Game of Thrones until recently. First, I was introduced to A Game of Thrones: The Board Game2 at our Monday-night gaming group. Everyone in attendance that night had read A Game of Thrones except Russell and I, which make me feel irresponsible for some reason. Then, for a secret santa swap, I was assigned someone who adores both the books and the series. So I simply had to read A Game of Thrones so I didn't completely botch the A Song of Ice and Fire-themed package I decided that this person needed.

I finished A Game of Thrones tonight after a fit of monogamous reading. Actually I listened to the (e)audiobook narrated by Roy Dotrice, who with the exception of an occasional slip-up on the names3 did a nice job. I read A Game of Thrones quickly not because I found it particularly suspenseful (and researching for my swap package yielded at least two spoilers). My dedicated reading was primarily due to the fact that I hated having two giant fantasy novels in progress at the same time.4

I'm not dying to read the next book, but neither am I resistant to continuing along with the series. The thing I liked most about the novel was that it was told from a number of different points of view. I found the story as a whole fairly compelling, but much of that had to do with wanting to get back to one character or other to find out how they were faring.

Apparently the series is inspired by the Wars of the Roses. The reference seems apt, but honestly I don't know enough about those 15th century battles of succession to say how closely the novel(s) follow actual events. A Game of Thrones (and I assume the series as a whole) is heavy on violence and bloodshed, which is understandable even if not welcome. I do admire the fact that Martin has no qualms about killing off significant characters.
  1. Not everyone raved, but the ravers outnumbered those less enthusiastic.
  2. For what it's worth I really did not like the game (and I have no desire to play it again). This strategic free-for-all type of game is not my cup of tea and I found the iconography on the action tokens extremely confusing. As House Baratheon I started out in position of power. I still had the Iron Throne at the end of the game, but I didn't play well by any stretch.
  3. Calling "Joffrey" "Jeffrey" and pronouncing Lady Stark's name as "Caitlin."
  4. Russell has me reading Lord of the Rings and it is going to take me forever to finish. And, yes, I'm counting it as three separate books in my tally for the year.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

a bookish gift idea

The Personal Library Kit is a perfect gift for the habitual book-loaner or wannabe-librarian in your life.
Knock Knock describes the kit as follows -
For a bibliophile, there’s no greater pleasure than sharing beloved books, but no crueler pain than losing them for good—until the Personal Library Kit! Revive old-fashioned library circulation techniques for fun and book retention with our classic bestseller!
  • The perfect gift for the generous reader
  • Even better looking
  • 6 x 7.5 x 1.25 inches; 20 self-adhesive pockets and checkout cards; date stamp and inkpad; pencil
The Personal Library Kit is currently on sale for $12.99 at ThinkGeek.

Monday, December 03, 2012

quotable Dr. Who

"You want weapons? We're in a library. Books! Best weapons in the world! This room's the greatest arsenal we could have. Arm yourself."
                                        - 10th Doctor, Doctor Who, "Tooth and Claw"

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Safekeeping by Karen Hesse

Safekeeping by Karen Hesse

Teenage Radley Parker-Hughes is volunteering at an orphanage in Haiti when the President of the United States is assassinated. Despite the reports that have managed to filter to her remote location, Radley decides that she must return home to be with her parents during this time of unrest. When she arrives in Manchester, New Hampshire, she finds the country under martial law. Her parents' phone has been disconnected. She can't take a bus to Battleboro because she lacks the appropriate travel documents for crossing state lines. Radley's only choice is to walk home along country roads, trying to avoid being caught out after the newly imposed curfews.

With no money (her emergency credit card is now a useless piece of plastic) or food, Radley is reduced to foraging in dumpsters along the way. That she manages to arrive home safe and sound seems like a victory. Her parents, though, are not at home. It seems that they have disappeared, leaving all of their belongings behind. Radley locks herself inside the house, hiding whenever the police make their increasingly frequent visits, and eating all of the food in the pantry. Eventually she resigns herself to the pointlessness of remaining in Battleboro and decides to go to Canada...

I discovered Safekeeping among the featured recently-acquired titles in the teen room of the public library. I was sold on the cover art and flap text, especially this bit:
Illustrated by 90 of her own haunting and beautiful photographs, this is a vision of a future America that only Karen Hesse could write: real, gripping, and deeply personal.
But I have to admit disappointment with the novel. While I do appreciate that Safekeeping is a stand-alone novel,1 I am dissatisfied with how easily Hesse ties everything up. That, combined with the fact that readers are never given a full backstory for the political and societal unrest, leaves the dystopian premise feeling insubstantial.

The story is very much character-driven and Radley's coming-of-age is the true center of the novel. Hesse does a wonderful job bringing Radley up and using the privations of the situation to facilitate that up-bringing. My disappointment is in how easy everything seems to be for Radley (all the truly awful things happen to other people) and how distant the threat seems to be. In short, Safekeeping seems like Dystopia light.

L: A Novel History2 (which I read earlier this year) is constructed around a similar blip-in-the-history-of-the-nation kind of Dystopia. However, L's Dystopia was as horrifying (or more so) as any other I've encountered in fiction (to the point where I could only read the novel in small doses). What I wanted for Safekeeping was for more of the feeling that hell had broken loose (that phrase is used on the flap as well as within the novel) even if only for a time. Then again, limiting the reach of the threat may have been a goal. It does make the novel more palatable for younger readers.

The photographs are indeed both haunting and beautiful. I also love the idea that Hesse took them while tracing the same route she has Radley walk (as described in "about the author," 293-294) and that the "feet-on-the-ground research contributed to the authenticity of Radley's narrative." However, the placement of the photographs within the novel is inconsistent. Sometimes a photo matches the prose almost too perfectly, while at others the image seems at odds with the text.

One final comment -
The library copy of the novel was marked with a science-fiction spine sticker. That categorization is so off that I can only imagine that dystopian fiction is now considered (at least by some) a subgenre of SciFi. In any case, there is nothing in Safekeeping that I associate with science fiction. The novel is set in the future, but that imagined future is so near that it could happen tomorrow.
  1. I do like series, but is seems like so much that is being published nowadays (especially in YA fiction) is a trilogy or quartet or longer series.
  2. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

word: mondegreen (redux)

Mondegreen (the mishearing or misinterpretation of a oft-heard phrase) is one of my favorite words.  It was the subject of a featured-word post back in March of 2010 (see post), but I've been wanting to post about it again.

'Tis the season for carols and my most recently discovered mondegreen comes from "Deck the Halls" -
Hail the new year's Latin lessons (actual lyric:  Hail the new, ye lads and lasses).  But, my desire to post about mondegreen has nothing to do with the holiday season, but rather with knitting and yarn craft. 

In September, indie yarn dyer Verdant Gryphon debuted a new yarn (a worsted weight blend of 60% Blue Faced Leicester wool, 20% baby camel, and 20% silk) called Mondegreen and they are using misheard song lyrics for all the colorway names.  This pleased me on so many different levels, even more so when I received one of the preview skeins (my review).  I made a pair of mitts for myself and they have have been getting quite a bit of use now that the weather has gotten colder.

Project:  Mondegreen flip-tops
Yarn:  Verdant Gryphon Mondegreen
Colorway / mondegreen: Two chickens in fried rice
Actual lyric:  Two tickets to paradise (Eddie Money, "Two Tickets to Paradise")

I loved knitting with the yarn so much that I requested a sweater quantity for my birthday (thank you, Mom!).

Colorway / mondegreen:  I wanna freak out and stab you
Actual lyric:  I wanna reach out and grab ya (Steve Miller Band, "Abracadabra")

I've also been keeping an eye on the new colorway releases not because I need more yarn (though knitting with this yarn is a joy), but because I'm getting such a kick out of the colorway names.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

the dragon is stirring

December seems like a good time to get back on the wagon so expect regular posts to start appearing soon.

I'm sure that I missed a few books in my sidebar-updating, but "Books Read in 2012" is current and as accurate as my memory allows.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

shades of grey
(and an explanation of sorts for recent silence)

So, I loaned my mom Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde (see post). She started reading it recently and brought the book along to the hospital with her to read in the downtime before her shoulder surgery.1 Today she told me that both the nurse there and my father were completely scandalized that she was reading the book and that she was reading it in public.  Even worse for my father is that she'd gotten the book from me.

Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron is zany dystopian fiction.
Fifty Shades of Grey is poorly written dominant/submissive erotica (or so I've been told).

My poor mother was apparently unaware of the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon so I had to fill her in. While I acknowledge a similarity in the two novels' titles, this particular case of mistaken identity seems odd to me considering that they were horrified by seeing her read the book, rather than by her making passing reference to the fact that she was reading the book. The Fifty Shades books have very distinctive (and widely publicized) monochromatic blue-gray cover art. None of the various covers for Shades of Grey look remotely similar. And while the cover art on my copy isn't as colorful as some of the other editions', I can't imagine confusing the following -

And, just to be clear, while I personally have no plans to read Fifty Shades of Grey and its sequels, I pass no judgment on those who do. I follow a "read what you like, like what you read" philosophy.  And it seems like the Fifty Shades books have inspiring many adults to read, which is a very a good thing.

n.b. The staff at your public library are not judging you based on your reading habits (unless, of course, you're the one "reading" The Joy of Sex in the men's washroom)2 so go ahead and check out Succubus Blues, or whatever else floats your boat, without shame.

In any case, on to the parenthetical. It's been something like 2.5 weeks since my last post. I apologize for my silence.

Erratic posting is really a result of two things.  First, when you have to do something that you like (in this case: writing about books), it begins to feel more like work than like fun. Second, ever since we moved Russell and I have been sharing one computer at home. And by the time I've finished all the stuff I need to do on the computer, I don't always have the time or energy for writing blog posts. I have been reading even if I haven't been keeping my side-bar list updated3 and I do have a bunch of titles that I'm planning to review. My posting schedule will no doubt continue to be erratic at least for the foreseeable future. Please forgive me.
  1. Surgery went well and she seems to be doing just fine.
  2. No, I'm not joking. At a library where a colleague of mine worked part of the close-up procedure involved a trip to the men's room to collect The Joy of Sex for reshelving.  The joys of working in a public library.
  3. I'll update it before I log out of blogger today.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Coming to My Senses by Alyssa Harad

Coming to My Senses: A Story of Perfume, Pleasure, and an Unlikely Bride
by Alyssa Harad

Author Alyssa Harad is a perfumista and a contributor to Perfume-Smellin' Things, one of the perfume blogs I regularly read. In Coming to My Senses, Harad recounts her first year of perfume obsession, which just so happens to be the year leading up to her wedding.

I like perfume. I'm not fluent in the language, nor am I confident in my taste, but I'm interested in moving beyond blog-reading and effortless sampling. So I really am an ideal reader for this book.

Coming to My Senses begins with Harad's awakening to first the language of perfume lovers and then to the perfumes themselves. I enjoyed following Harad on her voyage of olfactory discovery. I loved the details, her openness, her descriptions. Harad begins to write about being a bride about a third of the way through the book. It's at that point that I worry that I'll lose interest in the narrative. As much as I like Harad by this point, I'm not sure that I want to know about her wedding-planning. I worry that it will take away from what I think is the real focus of the memoir. Luckily, Harad manages to remain true to the theme of discovery and perfume both reflecting and enhancing life despite discussing wedding preparation (and a friend's sex change). Strangely enough, though, one of my favorite parts of Coming to My Senses revolves around Harad's bridal shower.

When Harad writes about a particular perfume she doesn't always mention it by name. I understand why (she explains why in her author's note1), but I can't help feeling a bit disappointed. Because I'm still learning about perfume and its myriad nuances, I'd find it so helpful to know exactly which perfume Harad was referencing at any given time. In any case, I enjoyed Harad's writing (especially the more contemplative passages) and her honesty. Coming to My Senses also inspired me to overcome my fear of snooty salespeople and visit a perfume boutique last time I went into New York City. I've also ordered a bunch of samples to try out at home.

One last not-directly-book-related comment -
Harad's author website, promoted in her author's note as where she'll give readers "the latest, updated scoop" (vii), is underwhelming. It has a blog with one post dated June 26, 2012 surrounded by an architecture with lots of intriguing, but empty rooms. Even the Upcoming Events page is out of date. The more I explored the site, the more disappointed I became. I wonder why the publisher's PR people would put together the site and not maintain it (the book only came out last month) and I wonder why Harad agreed to it. One nice, long blog post is worse than none.
  1. I have provided the names of the perfumes featured when I felt it was crucial to the telling of the story. However, in some cases I preferred to leave the names out and keep the emphasis on the description of their scents and the emotions they evoked at the moment. Doing so allowed me to avoid recommending perfumes that may be discontinued or reformulated by the time this book is published" (vii).
disclosure: I received a review copy of Coming to My Senses from Viking via NetGalley.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

sync this week:
Whale Rider & Call of the Wild

Sync's offerings this week (Thursday, August 16 through Wednesday, August 22, 2012) are:

The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera
The Call of the Wild by Jack London

Eight-year-old Kahu, a member of the Maori tribe of Whangara, New Zealand, fights to prove her love, her leadership, and her destiny. Her people claim descent from Kahutia Te Rangi, the legendary "whale rider." In every generation since Kahutia, a male heir has inherited the title of chief. But now there is no male heir, and the aging chief is desperate to find a successor. Kahu is his only great-grandchild--and Maori tradition has no use for a girl. But when hundreds of whales beach themselves and threaten the future of the Maori tribe, it is Kahu who saves the tribe when she reveals that she has the whale rider's ancient gift of communicating with whales.

A classic novel of adventure, drawn from London's own experiences as a Klondike adventurer, relating the story of a heroic dog, who, caught in the brutal life of the Alaska Gold Rush, ultimately faces a choice between living in man's world and returning to nature

Go here to get this week's downloads.
n.b. at the time I'm publishing this post (as when I checked the site earlier in the day), Sync has the following note posted (so you may not be able to download this week's titles right away):
Our apologies! Our host is having issues with the current downloads. The service will be up and running as soon as possible!

Remember, 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.


This week I had one of those exceedingly frustrating days that make you want to pull all your hair out.  On days like those, I'm in desperate need of some serenity.1 Last year I bought myself this ring2 from Etsy seller donnaOdesigns. For me it is a perfect reminder to breathe and to focus on what I actually can control.

My hand, my photo.
There are much better images available if you follow the links above.

It features the Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to
Accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can, and
Wisdom to know the difference.
While the prayer is often misattributed to St. Francis of Assisi, I understand that is was actually written by an early 20th century theologian named Reinhold Niebuhr though the current, popular formula deviates from the original.3
  1. Serenity: the state or quality of being serene, calm, or tranquil; not agitated.
  2. The price has gone up about $15 since then, but I love it so much that I'd still buy it at the current price.
    If you want one for yourself, I'd recommend ordering a full size larger than the size you'd normally wear on your preferred finger. I had to send mine back to get resized because it didn't occur to me that I needed to size the finger near the first joint rather than at its base.  In any case, the donnaOdesigns was very accommodating.
  3. "Father, give us courage to change what must be altered, serenity to accept what cannot be helped, and the insight to know the one from the other."

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

PSA: audiobook giveaway

My friend Jessica alerted me to this great giveaway going on at Publishers Weekly's audiobook blog, Listen Up -

The 30+ book prize pack includes:
All you need to do to enter is post a comment on the relevant blog post, preferably about your favorite audio book or narrator. That's it. They say that the winner will be announced on 31 August, so I assume it closes on the 10th. Good luck.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James

Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James

I mentioned last week that I'd started reading Death Comes to Pemberley. I borrowed the book from a Jane Austen purist who'd unwilling received a copy as a gift. While I do love Austen and Pride and Prejudice in particular, I'm open to adaptations and spin-offs1 and I started Death Comes to Pemberley with an open mind. Actually I was quite optimistic considering that that this particular spin-off was written by an author of some note. While I don't recall having read James' work before, I know her by reputation.

Death Comes to Pemberley takes place in 1803 and 1804 (Elizabeth and Darcy have been married for six years). The day before Lady Anne's ball, now an annual event at Pemberley, Mrs. Wickham arrives unexpectedly and in a state of great distress. In the course of that night it becomes clear that Captain Martin Denny has been murdered in the woods surrounding Pemberley and Wickham is the chief suspect.

James is quite obviously an Austen fan. In addition to her apologetic author's note, there's one passage that makes her feelings abundantly clear. When Elizabeth is recounting the time of her life put down in Pride and Prejudice, she speculates: "If this were fiction, could even the most brilliant novelist contrive to make credible so short a period in which pride had been subdued and prejudice overcome?" (47, emphasis mine).

I do feel that James tried to be true to Austen. She tries, successfully I think, to mimic Austen's style and language including the deliberate use of words that are now obsolete.2 Death Comes to Pemberley is clearly written by an Austen lover for other Austen lovers. And I'd recommend a quick reread of Pride and Prejudice before starting Death Comes to Pemberley because some of Pride and Prejudice's less memorable secondary characters play significant roles in Death Comes to Pemberley.

Death Comes to Pemberley was a surprisingly slow read for me (especially considering that it is only 291 and a mystery). I appreciated a different take on a Pride and Prejudice sequel, but I really wasn't crazy about the story. I didn't have the entire mystery figured out before the reveal, but I was definitely looking in the right direction. My strongest feeling about the book has to do with Darcy. I think one of the reasons Darcy is such a beloved romantic hero is because he is so horribly enigmatic. In Death Comes to Pemberley much of the narrative is being told from Darcy's perspective. We learn much about his thoughts and actions during the course of the novel and, worse, more of the wheres, whys, and hows of everything that happened during Pride and Prejudice. Precious little left to the imagination.
  1. I even read that atrocious, zombies-added one.
  2. I should have kept track of them to feature them on the blog, but I didn't have writing materials close to hand as I was reading and it would have been unforgivably rude to dogear someone else's book.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Insurgent by Veronica Roth
series: Divergent Trilogy, 2

Considering how much I liked Divergent (see post), it's no surprise that I enjoyed its sequel, Insurgent.

Insurgent continues the overarching storyline begun in Divergent. During the course of the novel readers learn more about the other factions (and the factionless) and how the groups relate to each other. We also get a better idea of how five-faction society functions as a whole and how and why it came into being.

Beatrice and her love interest from Divergent maintain their relationship1 and it continues to be complex and somewhat complicated.

On a side note, I love Insurgent's cover art. It's beautiful and compelling with great movement. It also echoes Divergent's cover in a nice way while still standing on its own legs.
  1. Good. I dislike nothing more than series that follow the new-installment-new-love-interest modus operandi.

sync this week: Skulduggery Pleasant & Dead Men Kill

Sync's offerings this week (Thursday, August 9 through Wednesday August 15, 2012) are:

Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy
Dead Men Kill by L. Ron Hubbard

Meet Skulduggery Pleasant: ace detective, snappy dresser, razor-tongued wit, crackerjack sorcerer, and walking, talking, fire-throwing Skeleton — as well as ally, protector, and mentor of Stephanie Edgley, a very unusual and darkly talented 12-year-old. These two alone must defeat an all-consuming ancient evil. The end of the world? Over Skulduggery Pleasant's dead body.

When several of the city's most respected citizens are inexplicably killed by what appear to be zombies, all Detective Terry Lane has to go on is a blue grey glove, a Haitian pharmacy bill for some very unusual drugs and a death threat from a mysterious stranger. Matters are soon complicated when a beautiful nightclub singer shows up who claims to have information that could solve the case, but whose motives are plainly suspect. Against his better judgment, Terry investigates her lead only to find himself sealed in a coffin en route to the next zombie murder—his own.

Go here to get this week's downloads.

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.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

word: sardonic

Elizabeth had never been popular, indeed the more perceptive of the Meryton ladies occasionally suspected that Miss Lizzy was privately laughing at them. They also accused her of being sardonic, and although there was uncertainty about the meaning of the word, they knew that it was not a desirable quality in a woman, being one which gentlemen particularly disliked. (Death Comes to Pemberley, 9; emphasis mine)
I began (with cautious optimism) P.D. James' nod to Austen this evening. When I came across the passage above, I knew that I must share it in a featured-word post. 

From the OED (vol. 8, part 2, 1914) -
Sardonic, adj.
Of laughter, a smile: Bitter, scornful, mocking. Hence of a person, personal attribute, etc.: Characterized by or exhibiting bitterness, scorn or mockery. (111)

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder by Marissa Meyer
series: Lunar Chronicles, 1

work colleague: So, what are you reading now?
Karen: Oh, it's a retelling of Cinderella set in a dystopian future. She's a cyborg.

In Cinder we have a classic fairytale set in the (far distant) future. The moon, now a nation known as Luna, is populated by a race of mutant humans with mind-control powers (which most humans consider magic, but is described by the scientifically minded as the ability to manipulate bio-electric energy).1 After the devastation of World War IV, Earth's remaining nations signed a peace treaty. But, while there is peace on Earth, humans are threatened both by a worldwide pandemic, a plague called letumosis, and by the possibility of war with Luna.

Linh-mei (aka Cinder) is a teenage mechanic living in New Beijing, capitol of the Eastern Commonwealth. While Cinder survived the airship accident that killed both her parents, the surgeries that saved her left her less than 70% human. She is a cyborg, a second-class citizen. Her adoptive father contracted letumosis shortly after her assuming guardianship of Cinder, her care was left to his wife. Adri resents being burdened with Cinder, of whom she is ashamed and whom she only tolerates because of Cinder's ability to support the family.

When Prince Kaito, first in line to the throne, seeks Cinder out to repair his personal android, he is unaware that she is a cyborg...

I have to admit that I was a bit reticent to read Cinder. Given its premise,2 I figured that the novel would either be absolutely fantastic or perfectly horrendous depending on its execution. But I overcame my reluctance when I happened across Cinder among my library's e-audiobook offerings.

While it would have been easy for debut novelist Meyer to the overdo it with Cinder. There are a lot of different elements that she has to balance while still remaining true to the original story. But Meyer manages brilliantly. Cinder is true to the original while being something completely new. I still feel like the inclusion of the paranormal elements3 was a bit much and likely unnecessary, but they didn't bother me nearly as much as I would have expected them to. Cinder is a strong, sympathetic character. While she's still an unloved step-child with the ability to (unintentionally) beguile a prince, Cinder is so much more than that.  She is independent, brave, and a problem-solver who doesn't need a fairy godmother to get her to the ball.4 Prince Kai is much more nuanced than the traditional Prince Charming character and his decision about Cinder is more complicated than simply overcoming prejudice. Some of the secondary characters are a bit one-dimensional, which is almost to be expected in a fairytale considering that fairytales are full of stock characters, but others are perfectly crafted.

I will definitely be continuing on with this series. Per Meyer's website, the second installment Scarlet will be released in Feburary 2013 and will focus on a Little Red Riding Hood character.
  1. Shades of vampirism, not blood-sucking, but being able to glamour humans and an aversion to mirrors.
  2. Let's review how much is packed into this one story. We have a retelling, set in a dystopian future with a heavy emphasis on science fiction and a dash of the paranormal. I'm overwhelmed just setting that out.
  3. There's more than what is mentioned in footnote 1, but explication would involve spoilers.
  4. There is a fairy godmother character, but Cinder comes to her rescue rather than the other way around.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
series: Delirium Trilogy, book 2

Pandemonium is the sequel to Lauren Oliver's Delirium and the second in an expected trilogy. I was disappointed by Delirium when I read it last year (see post), but that didn't keep me from feeling like I needed to reread it before I sent my copy (along with a bunch of other books) off to live with Russell's voracious-reader sister. I hadn't been planning on continuing with the series, but given the fact that I was rereading Delirium, I decided to put myself on the library waiting list Pandemonium.

And, I'm glad that I did because I liked Pandemonium better than Delirium. Again in Pandemonium I was unhappy with how the romance played out.1 But, Oliver gives us a lot more information about the society in this second installment.  There's more menace and suffering and because of that Pandemonium works much better as a dystopian novel.
  1. This is vague and unspecific, but it's still a bit of a spoiler so continue with the footnotes at your own risk.

    SPOILER - And we have a love triangle to look forward to in book three, ugh.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

sync this week:
Daughter of Smoke and Bone
& A Tale of Two Cities

Sync's offerings this week (Thursday, August 2 through Wednesday, August 8, 2012) are:

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious errands; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.
When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

* I listened to the audio version of Daughter of Smoke and Bone last month and loved it (see post).

"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."
After eighteen years as a political prisoner in the Bastille, the ageing Doctor Manette is finally released and reunited with his daughter in England. There the lives of the two very different men, Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat, and Sydney Carton, a disreputable but brilliant English lawyer, become enmeshed through their love for Lucie Manette. From the tranquil roads of London, they are drawn against their will to the vengeful, bloodstained streets of Paris at the height of the Reign of Terror, and they soon fall under the lethal shadow of the guillotine.

Go here to get this week's downloads.

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.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tigers in Red Weather
by Liza Klaussmann

Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann

Like Wish You Were Here by Stewart O'Nan, which I posted about earlier this month (see post), Tigers in Red Weather concerns itself with an extended family and their interpersonal relationships using time spent together at a summer cottage (this time on Martha's Vineyard) as a catalyst.  The novel is also told variously from the perspectives of the individual family members, but Tigers in Red Weather has a series of first-person narrators rather than one third person omniscient.

While Wish You Were Here takes place over a single week, Tigers in Red Weather unfolds over twenty-plus years. From the end of World War through the late 1960s (with a bit of a flashback to the war years), Tigers in Red Weather follows first (female) cousins Nick and Helena (and Nick's husband Hugh) as they adjust to post-war and married life. Their children Ed and Daisy join the narrative as they reach the age of reason, spending their summers at Tiger House.

Throughout the novel there's an air of mystery and deep-seated secrets. One summer there's a murder on the Vineyard, and while that adds to the intrigue, it's never really a question of whodunnit. Rather the focus of Tigers in Red Weather is on interfamilial deceptions, the lies individual characters tell themselves and each other.

Unfortunately, it was difficult to connect with any of the central characters. Two of them were repugnant the majority of the time. The others ranged from generally likeable to vaguely incomprehensible, but all suffered from some level of inconsistency within their characters that made them at best unsympathetic, but at worst unbelievable.

I will say that the novel's ending is unexpected and quite well done.

The poem that no doubt inspired the novel's title, and which appears in part at the very end of the narrative: "Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock" by Wallace Stevens (1915)
The houses are haunted
By white night-gowns.
None are green,
Or purple with green rings,
Or green with yellow rings,
Or yellow with blue rings.
None of them are strange,
With socks of lace
And beaded ceintures.
People are not going
To dream of baboons and periwinkles.
Only, here and there, an old sailor,
Drunk and asleep in his boots,
Catches tigers
In red weather.
"Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock" was first published in the collection, Harmonium.
disclosure: I received a review copy of Tigers in Red Weather from Little Brown & Co. via NetGalley.