Monday, August 31, 2015

Clearing the Slate

I want to clear my review slate so that I can keep up with my RIP books during the next two months so here are some quick mentions of books that are sitting here.

A totally fun read from Matthew Pearl, The Last Bookaneer is yet another of his well-researched forays into the fictional lives of authors. This time we visit Robert Louis Stevenson in Samoa as he is visited by bookaneers, people who make a living by stealing notes and works from prominent authors and using differences in copyright laws between different countries to advantage. Pearl is one of my favorite storytellers and this is a great tale.

One of my favorite movies as a kid, The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle is now one of my favorite books as well. It's beautiful and lyrical and sad and powerful. Schmendrick has a fantastic backstory and everything is much more symbolic and interesting. I did rewatch the film for the first time in about 20 years too and it brought back so many memories.

The Map of Chaos is the final book in FĂ©lix J. Palma's brilliant trilogy. Each book focuses on one or more of the works of H.G. Wells and in this one it's The Invisible Man. This story wraps up many of the loose ends in the previous books but also stands on its own. In fact, Palma says that the three books were written to be read in any order. I could see how reading this one first and then moving back through the other two (The Map of Time and The Map of the Sky) might be fun. I think I will be due for rereads of those two soon! One warning though -- if you don't fully pay attention during these books, you will most definitely get lost. They are complex, in the vein of the overarching stories of LOST or The X-Files or Fringe.

A new release, Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans is a WWII London story unlike any other. Noel is already an orphan when he becomes orphaned again with the loss of his godmother. He goes to live with some not-really-relatives and then is eventually evacuated to the home of Vee Sedge, an opportunistic woman who is trying to make a better life for her son and her mother without quite knowing how to go about it. Neither character is perfect but both come together perfectly by the end of the story, finding exactly what they didn't know they were looking for. I truly enjoyed this one as well!

Sequel to The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, Jacqueline Kelly's The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate does for Charles Darwin's The Voyage of the Beagle what the first book does for On the Origin of Species -- which is, to make them both accessible and applicable to children. Callie Tate is still a young scientist but now, instead of searching around with her grandfather for rare plants, she learns about animals thanks to her brother Travis' obsession with strays. She even helps the new local veterinarian even though nobody believes a female to be capable of that sort of work. Calpurnia is one of my favorite characters and I truly hope there are more books in this series.

And, of course, since I read Nimona and loved it, I had to move on to Lumberjanes. It was awesome! I'm going to read this first volume again before I return it to the library. I love how different each girl is and how they use their individual talents. Also, the supernatural stuff is so dang cool. I'm going to be a Lumberjane when I grow up!

Other mentions:

Moone Boy: The Blunder Years by Chris O'Dowd and Nick V. Murphy is based off of the television show, Moone Boy. While I loved the show, I was more ambivalent about the book, specifically it's treatment of Martin Moone's sisters. He tries to use them as collateral to get what me wants and uses terms like "fun bags" to describe parts of their bodies. While this was the way kids talked in the 1980s when this book was set, I'm not sure that we need to tell that to modern kids. And it's one thing to do it in a show that's geared toward adults but less appropriate in a children's book.

Mothman's Curse by Christine Hayes was a fun and sometimes terrifying middle grade story, based on the Mothman that you've probably heard about in more adult stories. It was certainly scarier than most middle grade books but not in a bad way. I would definitely put it in the hands of a kid who complains that other kids' horror books are too tame.

I know that everybody loved The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin but it didn't completely wow me. I liked the message but was a bit underwhelmed by the story.

Find the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons From a Small-Town Obituary Writer by Heather Lende was a quick little read that made me think about life a bit and feel good while I was reading it but ultimately it didn't change my life. It seems like the kind of book you would give to a non-reader to show them that books can be short but still meaningful.

I really wanted to love Michel Faber's The Crimson Petal and the White but, alas, I didn't. It thought it was way too long because ultimately very little happens. Also, there was just so much that was gratuitous in it that I felt like it was just there for shock value rather than for advancing the story. I would much rather read Fingersmith or Tipping the Velvet again.

Finally, I'm reading To Kill a Mockingbird again right now and am blown away by how good it is. This book is completely wasted on high school students. I may have to go back and revisit more required reading books soon!

Taking a weight off,

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Joining In: RIP IX

colored by me
Fall is almost upon us and, even though it has been a glorious (and hot) summer in Seattle, I can't wait because ... R(eaders) I(mbibing) P(eril) is in its TENTH year! I started participating in 2009 when this challenge was in its fourth year so this is only my seventh but it's my favorite thing in the book blogging world (besides DWJ March, of course)!

Founded by Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings (a million thanks for creating this event, Carl!), this year it is being hosted by my lovely friends Andi and Heather at The Estella Society. Head on over to sign up for this year's fun and mayhem!

artwork by Abigail Larson
As usual, I've devoted an entire shelf of my TBR to the challenge (what I call the Infinite Peril option) ... plus a few other books.

The Penguin Book of Victorian Women in Crime
The Law and the Lady
The Unseen
Resorting to Murder
Bryant & May on the Loose
Mrs. Poe
The Boy Who Drew Monsters

The Mousetrap and Other Plays
Envious Casca
The Aviary
Rivers of London
Elegy for Eddie
The Chatelet Apprentice
Angel With Two Faces
Unnatural Creatures

A Wild Ride Through the Night
The Watchmaker of Filigree Street
The Devil's Workshop
The Mangle Street Murders
The League of Beastly Dreadfuls
The Apothecary
The Madness Underneath
Code Name Verity
The Haunting of Maddy Clare
Blackfin Sky

And some rereads to see if I want to keep these on my shelves ...
Night Music
Return to the House of Usher
The Stolen Child
The Sister

I also think that I will reread A Night in the Lonesome October again this year, an entry a day for each day in October. I might also grab a non-fiction or two from the TBR, some graphic novels from the library, or maybe even a couple of other rereads from my keeper shelves. I'm hoping to get a lot of reading done during the Dog Days of Summer Readathon (Sept. 18-20) and Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon (Oct. 17).

Well, I've obviously managed to go overboard again this year but in what I consider the best way possible -- too many books! Which book are you most looking forward to reading this RIP season? I think it's The Watchmaker of Filigree Street or The League of Beastly Dreadfuls for me. Now, off to finish my last book of August so that I can jump right in on September 1!

Peering through cobwebs and ghostly bodies,

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Oh, How I Love My Books

Seeing as how it is National Book Lovers' Day and how I just finished a major overhaul of my home library, I thought I would share some pictures today! A few of you have seen some of these already on Instagram and Twitter but I have taken closeups of the shelves now that you might want to scroll down for.

This was my old bookshelf wall. We bought these shelves when we lived in an apartment and they were over 15 years old. As you can see, they were getting a bit cluttered and probably half of our books were in a big bookpile in another room and under the book desk on the other side of the room.

I unloaded all of the books from the shelves and we repurposed the shelves around the house (one now has hubby's books in his office space).

We lived with a blank wall and piles of books all over for about a week until ...

these showed up! Five Billy bookcases from IKEA.

I managed to build and position the first one all by myself!

I had a little help with lifting and placing some of the other ones (from hubby and from the cat) but I am proud to say I built them all on my own.

Finally I got all five bookcases up and it was time to position the shelves. I turned to my Instagram buddies and almost all of them voted for staggering the shelves. I agreed and so ...

the shelves got placed and the books (and movies) starting going in!

Finally, after two full days of work, the project was done. I was super sore after putting up the bookcases and hauling the books but I couldn't be happier with how it turned out. I not only staggered the shelf heights but also staggered the front alignment of the books on the shelves so that when I sit on my couch (off to the left of this picture), I see some variety and texture.

I now have a beautiful Diana Wynne Jones shelf, front and center ...

a Neil Gaiman shelf right next door ...

a Jasper Fforde cubby (which will have to be switched with a taller one after he finally finishes his next book) ...

a section of ghost and murder non-fiction (my favorite kind!) ...

my Oxfords, Penguins, and Georgette Heyers ... yay classics! ...

the Harry Potters, of course (right below Z's two cubbies of comics and graphic novels) ...

and all of my YA books, sitting happily between the beloved Oz books and my favorite chapter books.

I culled quite a few books and movies during this process, created a wishlist of books that I want to buy to replace ARCs, and worked on my biceps and glutes. Moving the old shelves also allowed us to clean up T's office that was piled with books and also the workspace in our garage. It has been an amazing process. We aren't quite done but are feeling much more inspired after this. Maybe one day my library hold on The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up will finally come in (I started in the 900s and am now at position 560) and I will use some of those techniques to make this space even better!

What would your dream library look like?

Happy Book Lovers' Day!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

New Release: Nimona

I've been a bad blogger lately but a good reader! I have had so many stellar reads lately, starting with Nimona by Noelle Stevenson.

Ballister Blackheart is the local baddie, appointed by the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics. One day, young Nimona shows up at his lair, declaring herself to be his new sidekick. Where she is from and what she is up to is to be determined. What we know right from the start though is that she is truly exceptional.

Nimona was originally a webcomic and this is the compilation. It's gotten rave reviews and all of them are well deserved. This is a story with complexity, heart, and humor. It goes in unexpected directions but, for a fantasy story, is incredibly well grounded in real human relations. It has diversity, ambiguity, and a unique style. If you haven't yet tried graphic novels or if you haven't found one that you loved yet, this might just be the one to get you hooked!

Redefining good and evil,

Friday, July 17, 2015

Four Recent Reads That I Loved

I read some great books over the past couple of months. In no particular order they are

First up, I read Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier when we were in Kauai. I hadn't read any du Maurier in years but this was just as good as Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel. It's quite gothic with brooding good guys and equally brooding evil ones. It definitely put me in the mood for rereads too!

I wanted to read Andy Weir's The Martian before the upcoming movie but had to wait for hubby to read it first since I technically bought it for him. (I'm sure I'm not the only one who does that!) It was a super compelling read and I loved Mark Watney. Now I can finally watch that movie teaser trailer!

After devouring all of the volumes of Scott Pilgrim this spring, it was time to read Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley. This was a super awesome story about second chances and unintended consequences.

I don't know why I finally gave in and read my last unread Gaiman but Anansi Boys called to me and I couldn't resist. It was as good as expected with great characters and mythology. But now I am without a Gaiman on my TBR shelf. I guess now he just has to hurry up and write something new!

Are any of these books on your favorites list?

Filling the keeper shelves,

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

New Release: Bad Kid

I have a bunch of books that are going to get group reviews as I play catch up again but I thought that Bad Kid by David Crabb deserved its own post. This is Crabb's memoir of growing up gay in San Antonio, Texas. He was bullied before he had even fully realized what set him apart from many of the other kids. The thing he latched onto as a safe and happy thing was music. (Each chapter is headed with a song title or lyric.) And this is the thing that drew me in to his story because we are exactly the same age (well, I'm 8 months older) and we listened to almost all the same music -- George Michael and Madonna, then Erasure and the Pet Shop Boys, and finally The Smiths, Depeche Mode, The Cure, and Nine Inch Nails. But, while I was a relatively innocent Mormon kid, hanging with my besties, going to church dances, and listening to music in my bedroom in a small city an hour east of Los Angeles, he was sneaking out, going to clubs, dodging skinheads, and experimenting with drugs. It was fascinating to see a life so different than mine that was happening at the same time and to the same soundtrack just a few states away. I may not have been able to relate to pretty much anything he went through or did but I still feel like I knew him somehow. We both had specific places we ate lunch with our friends at school, got excited when friends got cool new cars, and lusted after boys that smelled good.

Even if this wasn't your time period or your music, I think there's much to gain from reading Crabb's story, meeting his friends, tagging along to dangerous parties, and seeing how someone who doesn't fit in to the conventional world finds his own place to belong. The story is sweet and funny and frightening and even sad. I was in tears by the end. This is a quick read that would be worth anyone's time to pick up.

There is a light that never goes out ...

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Series Catch-up

I've read the next books in a couple of series so I just wanted to give them a quick mention.

The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken is the third book in Tarquin Hall's Vish Puri series. Vish is a private detective in Mumbai and these books are full of social commentary about modern India. The mysteries are interesting as well. This book also dealt with the division between Pakistan and India and I learned quite a bit about that time that I didn't know.

Mr. Kiss and Tell is the second Veronica Mars novel, continuing the story from pretty much right when it ends in the first book (which starts right after the movie). These are fun but dark reads. I have to admit that I mostly just read them to find out what is going on with Veronica and Logan.

Christopher Fowler's Peculiar Crimes Unit Mysteries (a.k.a. the Bryant and May Mysteries) are probably my favorite ongoing series right now. The Victoria Vanishes is the sixth of eleven current books in the series. I could easily speed through the entire thing but I'm trying to spread them out, keeping at least a couple for when I really need a comfort read. I love the amount of research that goes into them about the history of London and the detectives are quite different from any others you could read about.

Always in the middle,

Thursday, June 18, 2015

New Release: Gumption

Until recently, Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America's Gutsiest Troublemakers was not the type of book I would have picked up. But, thanks to finally getting on the Parks and Recreation bandwagon, a recent interest in historical figures, and a well-timed offer of this book from a blogging friend, I broadened my horizons and had a fun time to boot with Nick Offerman.

The basic premise of this book is that he evaluates twenty-one modern and historical figures and tells us why he thinks they've got gumption. It's a really interesting exercise and will certainly lead to readers composing their own mental lists. He's also incredibly funny, has a great vocabulary, and an adorable love for his wife, Megan Mullally. It also didn't hurt that he's only five years older than me so we come from the same time, if not the same place.

Offerman's list includes politicians, authors, singers, craftsmen (and women! he rocks the equality message in this book), and performers. Sometimes his criteria is quite straight-forward but, other times, it veers in a more philosophical direction. Though I'm pretty sure he didn't mean this to happen, it really gave a lot of insight into how he thinks and what he values. P.S. If he now sounds too high-brow for you, rest assured that he also loves a good steak ... and farts.

Anyway, I wanted to record my additions to his list. My criteria was simple: someone who makes a difference (for the better) in the world, who does things differently than those who have come before. I'm sure I have more additions but these were the first ones to come to mind as I finished reading the book.

Jane Goodall, Bill and Melinda Gates, Elon Musk, Neil Gaiman, Boyan Slat, Zack Kopplin

Who do you think has gumption?

Feeling a bit of my own gumption surfacing,

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