Tuesday, July 22, 2014

New Release: The Care and Management of Lies

Usually when there's a new Jacqueline Winspear book, I have to put my blinders on and avoid all details about them because they're new Maisie Dobbs stories and I'm still about three books behind the latest one (on purpose). But now she's written a stand-alone novel, The Care and Management of Lies, a very in-the-moment story of the First World War, so I got to read this one right away.

As you might expect from Winspear, this isn't a big action story. Rather, it's about the relationships between the characters, old school friends Kezia Marchant and Thea Brissenden, and their maturation into adults as they face the trials that come with a nation entering war. It's quiet and poignant, heartbreaking but also uplifting. It's a reminder that no lives were left untouched but that many people rose to the occasion and became the best version of themselves that they could be during a dark time. Winspear is really an expert at bringing this period of history to life.


p.s. I received a galley of this book from the publisher.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Short Story Summer: Update One

Apologies for the brief absence. We had something like fourteen 80 degree plus days in a row (that's hot for Seattle since we don't have air conditioning so whatever temperature it is outside is what temperature it is inside) and I didn't feel much like having a hot laptop anywhere near me! Now that it has cooled back down and a bit of rain is headed our way, I feel like doing a bit of catch-up blogging.

I am making progress on my short story summer, having read two anthologies so far --

Queen Victoria's Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling is a collection of stories set in Victorian or near-Victorian times and exploring various forms of magic. There were a bunch of well-known authors with stories in here -- Jane Yolen, Gregory Maguire, Catherynne M. Valente, Caroline Stevermer and more. Of the eighteen stories, I really enjoyed about a third of them. Two of my favorites were "Smithfield" by James P. Blaylock (ghostly photography!) and "Phosphorus" by Veronica Schanoes (historical fiction with a bit of voodoo). And the very best story, in my opinion, was "The Vital Importance of the Superficial" by Ellen Kushner and Caroline Stevermer, written as a series of letters between two young people falling in love and dealing with really fun magic. Overall, I found this collection to be hit or miss but it has inspired me to look for the novels of a few of these authors.

I've read a couple of Mike Ashley's Mammoth anthologies and really enjoyed them. He's quite talented at collecting a cohesive set of stories, some of them quite obscure. This one was The Mammoth Book of Roaring Twenties Whodunnits and I thought ten of the twenty three stories were great fun. The others dealt with boxers and mobsters, things I'm really not interested in. I was hoping for more Bright Young Things but that's okay. It was fun to immerse myself in another time and to meet all sorts of crazy characters, even the ones I found distasteful. I've jotted down a couple of authors to investigate in the future and I look forward to my next Mammoth book.

I've been reading some novels recently but I'm going to give a couple more anthologies a go before the end of the summer.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

New Release: World of Trouble

Next week, the world will finally get the third book in The Last Policeman trilogy, World of Trouble by Ben H. Winters. I didn't expect this series to become one of my all-time favorites but somehow it did. Between the first book (The Last Policeman), the second (Countdown City), and this one, I only spent about four days reading. I just couldn't put these books down. I can't say if it was the sense of urgency of an impending asteroid strike or the need to help Detective Henry Palace find what he was looking for or simply the morbid desire to watch the breakdown of civilized society as the end of the world approached. Whatever it was, this was an incredible ride and I'm sorry it's over.

I feel like this post should be longer because I enjoyed this series so much but I don't know what to say besides READ IT.

Out with a bang,

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Six Years! of Blogging

The light breaks through
Z and I were sitting there yesterday morning (let's say morning because otherwise our summer laziness will be exposed), eating our cereal, when I suddenly realized that it was July and I needed to look up what date our blogiversary was so that I didn't miss it. For some reason, I can never remember it. Well, it turns out that it's TODAY, July 8th.
I never knew what the blog would blossom into.
Six years ago, I had a four-year-old preschooler who was needing less of my attention and I was finally able to start reading again during the previous months. I wasn't super familiar with anything but personal blogs (which I wasn't very interested in writing) but thought that I could probably write something about the books I was reading. I scoped out the existing book blogger community, pondered using an alias (no for me, yes for Z), came up with a catchy name (assonance, ftw), and decided to try it out for a year or so. At the time, I had a TBR stack of probably about 15-20 books.
An RIP-worthy photo!
Six years later, this is my 1204th post (in 2192 days). I've received 6231 comments. I've posted more of my photographs than I care to count. I've given away 24 books (on my own, with a couple of publisher-supported giveaways on top of that), 5 gift cards, and a necklace. I've participated in 8 read-a-thons, a couple of book/letter swaps, and lots of challenges (including 5 years so far of my favorite R.I.P. Challenge). I've also hosted three years of Diana Wynne Jones March and written about chapter books for almost two years on The Estella Society. And I now have a TBR of almost 200 books.
I'm not kidding about being lucky.
I've been so lucky to meet some real friends through blogging and to have been exposed to so many books I never would have found on my own. I really do want to thank my readers and friends for being there with me throughout this journey. I really don't want to miss anyone but I don't want to miss this chance either so, in no particular order (and with profuse apologies if I've missed you) ...

Thank you to

(deep breath)
(another deep breath)
(and another)
(one last breath)
(okay, I lied)
... and I think I might be short a Chris and a Jenny

Thank you all for your love of books, for sharing your favorites with me and for letting me share mine with you.
Yep, I pulled out the Neil picture again.
Finally, I want to remember how lucky I've been to meet some of my favorite authors -- Neil Gaiman, Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Catherynne M. Valente, Ransom Riggs. Did I mention meeting Neil? I'm not sure if I did.

What am I hoping for the year ahead? I would love to get a chance to meet more bloggers, especially if I do actually make it to the UK as planned. I would love to meet more authors (fingers crossed for a Jasper Fforde Seattle visit because I've always been too nervous to go meet him). And, well, I would like to read more books and share them with all of you. How does that sound?

Stepping out toward seven,

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Playing at a Friend's House Today

Today you can peruse my list of books that "moved me" over at Tif Talks Books. Tif is in the process of moving to another state and she had this really fun idea for guest posts. Head over there and let me know if any of these books moved you too.

Sharing and caring,

Friday, June 27, 2014

New Release: The Quick

In late-Victorian London, there are all sorts of people -- scholars, shopkeepers, beggars, and, well, vampires. The Quick by Lauren Owen explores the stories of both the hunters and the hunted, the Quick (live people) and the un-dead.

I wanted to love this book based on the published summary but that summary didn't mention one main thing -- that it was a vampire story. This wasn't bad on its own but it made the book sound quirkier and more mysterious than it ended up being. Vampires aren't exactly mysterious anymore. I thought it was a good story but not a stellar one. Owen's love of all things Victorian and her scholarship certainly came through and I do hope that she decides to write about this time period again -- just not about vampires.

Hanging out in the sun,

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

New Release: The Best of Connie Willis

The book that motivated my Short Story Summer project was the brilliant The Best of Connie Willis: Award-Winning Stories. It's a 450+ page book with only 10 stories and a couple of speeches. But it is a collection of some of the best science-fiction out there and each story is followed by an Afterword that gives us insight into why Willis chose to write them. The common factor? She wrote each of them out of love for the subjects, love for people, love for words.

My favorite story was Fire Watch, a time travel story from my favorite alternate history series (that of Blackout and All Clear) that I had been waiting a while to read ... until I read The Winds of Marble Arch and my mind was blown. It's the type of story that you can't really describe except to say that it is a complete fantasy that is also entirely believable. This will be a collection that I return to regularly.

Above and beyond,

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Summer Reading, 2014 Style

Summer is almost upon us (Z is done with school after the 19th) and so my thoughts have turned to what I plan to read this summer. I'll be reading Moby Dick until the middle of June but I obviously get to choose some other books to read around and after it. Looking at my shelves, I have decided on ...

Short Story Summer

These are the books of short stories that are sitting patiently on my TBR shelves, some for longer than others. I figure that they're easy to fit in around summer programs and swim lessons.

The Time Traveler's Almanac featuring short stories and portions of stories about time travel, including just about all of the great science-fiction writers ever.
Queen Victoria's Book of Spells, a collection of historical fantasy.
Unnatural Creatures, sixteen stories about fantastical creatures, curated by Neil himself.
Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman -- one of the couple of books by him that I haven't read yet.
The Penguin Book of Victorian Women in Crime which promises to expose me to new Victorian authors, hopefully some who are good.
The Mammoth Book of Dickensian Whodunnits and The Mammoth Book of Roaring Twenties Whodunnits which are pretty self-explanatory.
The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter, a collection of her takes on fairy tales.
Unexpected Magic by Diana Wynne Jones, which I've read the first five stories of already.


I'll also be working through a few ARCs of books that are coming out in June and July. Some of these are pretty hefty so I need to get going soon!

The Quick by Lauren Owen
The Sea Garden by Deborah Lawrenson
The Care and Management of Lies by Jacqueline Winspear
The Visitors by Sally Beauman
The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin

I'm also going to try and read a book or two for The Estella Project, Season 2. The booklist is up and a few possible reads and re-reads are standing out. For each read (up to three), there's an entry to win a nice prize!

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (re-read)
Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez (re-read)
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Finally, my summer reads for the 100 Chapter Books Project are

Half Magic by Edward Eager
A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
Holes by Louis Sachar
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

If you would like to join me for any of these projects or books, please do! I just hope that it's a nice sunny summer so that my lawn dries out and I can lounge on it as often as I like. And yes, I realize that I just listed 24 books to read this summer. I'm aiming high!

What are your summer reading plans?

Dreaming of iced tea and sunglasses,

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