Thursday, January 31, 2013

January reading recap and
notes from the field (a new feature!)

It's quite obvious that I'm failing at my 2013 blogging resolution.1 I also failed to get to the Morgan Library before the Beatrix Potter exhibit closed.2 As for the former - I intend to deal with the January backlog in the coming month and to try to better keep on top of things going forward. As for the later - viewing the online version is better than nothing (and a little birdie told me that they didn't have exhibit catalogs to purchase anyway).

Books read in January

9. Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines - public library
8. White Horse by Alex Adams - Netgalley
7. Sneak by Evan Angler - Netgalley
6. Summerset Abbey by T.J. Brown (mentioned here) - Netgalley
5. The Culling by Steven Dos Santos (mentioned here) - Netgalley
4. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (post) - public library
3. After the Storm by Sangeeta Bharava (post) - public library
2. The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry (post) - personal copy
1. The Twelve Rooms of the Nile by Enid Shomer (post) - public library

I gave up on
- The Lives We Lost by Megan Crewe - Netgalley
reason: Every time I tried to read it the file made my Nook crash. I deleted it from the device and downloaded a fresh copy, but the problem still persisted. I can't bear the idea of reading an entire book on the computer so I probably won't read this properly until I can get a copy from the library. 

Notes from the field
or, the not-so-secret travels of BookCrossing books

background: The neatest thing about Bookcrossing is that the site sends you notifications whenever any of the books that you've logged3 gets a new journal entry. I thought it might be kind of fun to share these on the blog since I always enjoy hearing back from one of my books.
In case it isn't obvious, my posts appear under the name morsecode on the Bookcrossing site.

- This copy of Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie was read by someone who's had it since August 2005.
- This copy of A Mortal Glamour by was mailed from Ontario, Canada (where it had been since May 2007) to Essex, England (arriving on January 25).

  1. There have been extenuating circumstances, but still.
  2. See footnote #1. It would have helped, though, if I'd planned to go right when it first opened.
  3. "Journaled" in Bookcrossing-speak.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

my latest YA book recommendations

For most of the time that I lived in Buffalo I had a (friend and) coworker with whom I traded YA books and book recommendations.  We still keep in touch (mostly, intentionally, by hand-written letters), but we hadn't traded recommendations in quite a while.  Here is a very slightly edited version of what I emailed her yesterday about the YA fiction recently.1

Other YA books I read in the last year that I wasn't so crazy about:
See also this post.
n.b. I do love dystopian fiction, but I think I have (and continue to) over do it.  I'm sure some of these books are on this list (and not above) purely because of overstaturation.

  1. Recently in this case means all of 2012 and what I've read so far in 2013.
  2. My original comment was "meh," but Jess' response made me sufficiently embarrassed to change it.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

quick thoughts on three recent reads

because, regardless of extenuating circumstances, it is far too early in the year to give up on what little resolution I had.

After the Storm by Sangeeta Bharava

A coming-of-age story set during the time of the Indian independence movement (1947 bookends the bulk of the action, which takes place in 1941). The upheaval of the period is seamlessly integrated into the story and into the lives of the novel's four main characters:  an Indian princess who's left home to attend a formerly all-English boarding school; her bi-racial best friend, who was raised by a hardworking single mother because her parents' families so disapproved of their match that they would not reconcile even after her father's death; a Sikh college student turned revolutionary; and a young Englishman who will forever be tainted by his father's participation in the Jalianwala bagh massacre. 

The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry

This is one of the books I received for Christmas. It was on my wishlist presumably because I'd seen some pre-launch information for this paranormal steampunk novel and wanted to make sure to check it out once it was published.
I have to admit that I didn't like The Peculiars as much as I thought that I would. The protagonist, Lena, is generally sympathetic, but when she's frustrating, she's extremely frustrating.
Things I did like about the novel: the world, secondary characters like Jimson and Mr. Beasley (and Mrs. Mumbles), and the fact that romance while part of the story takes a back seat to the rest of the story.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

My favorite Stiefvater novel by far. I've read between one and two-thirds of the Wolves of Mercy Falls Trilogy and by that I mean that I listened to the audio version of Shiver and I may have given up in the face of Linger's angst before I finished it. Quite recently I read The Raven Boys, which was a bit too supernatural for me.
The Scorpio Races was inspired by Celtic legends of water horses. Stiefvater's fictional Thisby island and its inhabitants are so realistic that a reader can almost forget that what she's writing about isn't real.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

when you are feeling overwhelmed

A colleague shared this quote with me on a particularly trying day this week:
Take some small step today, and value each step you take. You never know which step will make a difference. This is much better than not trying to do anything.
It's from a December 10, 2012 NY Times article, "When Daily Stress Gets in the Way of Life" by Jane Brody, specifically from an interview with psychologist Tamar E. Chansky.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The Twelve Rooms of the Nile
by Enid Shomer

The Twelve Rooms of the Nile by Enid Shomer

This is a work of fiction inspired by real people. Though I have hewed close to the facts, I have also taken liberties with them. [...] Flaubert and Nightingale did indeed tour Egypt at the same moment with nearly identical itineraries, but as far as we know, they never met. However, the historical record does suggest that they glimpsed each other in November 1849 while being towed through the Mahmoudieh Canal from Alexandria to Cairo. (449)
In her debut novel, Enid Shomer (who has previously published three collections of poetry and two of short stories) imagines what might have happened if a 28 year-old Gustave Flaubert met and became friendly with a 29 year-old Florence Nightingale while each was traveling in Egypt in 1849/1850.

The Twelve Rooms of the Nile is a character driven story told alternatively from the perspectives of the novel's two protagonists. It is a bit of a slow read, but that is almost to be expected from a book focused more on the internal lives of its protagonists than on its plot.

Nightingale, Flaubert, and the novel's secondary characters are well-drawn1 and Shomer plays Nightingale and Flaubert's similarities and dissimilarities against each other to great effect.  The timing of the pair's parallel trips to Egypt, before either of them had begun the work for which they'd become famous, was particularly fortuitous and Shomer deserves much credit for realizing the potential for a double coming-of-age story and for executing it so well.  
  1. While I was reading the novel I found Nightingale's maid's backstory unnecessarily odd, but I was happy to learn in "Acknowledgements, Sources, and a Note" that it was based on an actual contemporary relationship, that of Hannah Cullwick (as detailed in The Diaries of Hannah Cullwick, Victorian Maidservant), rather than a flight of fancy.

for what it's worth

My blog-related resolution for 2013 is to post at least something about every book that I read this year, preferably immediately or shortly after I either finish or officially give up on it.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

new calendars for a new year

For home we have a Literary Pin-up Calendar
Illustrated by Lee Moyer, each month of the calendar will feature a different fantasy author, detailing one of their characters, or offering an homage to their work.

All proceeds from the project go to Worldbuilders in support of Heifer International.
Russell discovered this particular calendar online this past fall and I allowed as how he could order a copy provided he get one for my dad as well. As expected, Dad got a huge kick out of it when he unwrapped it on Christmas morning.

For the office, I picked up The Reading Woman Calendar (50% off at our local Barnes and Noble) yesterday.
In addition to twelve paintings by European artists — including Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Otto Franz Scholderer, and Théo van Rysselberghe — this calendar contains twelve quotes that celebrate the love of reading.
I was planning on getting one of those family or mom's calendars, since the one I had last year worked out so well for keeping track of everyone in our department.  This particular calendar's theme was just too perfect for us so I decided to go with it even though it is a standard monthly wall calendar.  However, I did pick up a weekly calendar to use in conjunction with it.