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,

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Summer Reading!

There are just a couple days left of school and then it's time to relax, go to our favorite family-friendly yoga class, and devour as many books as possible until September! I decided to choose my possible summer reads all at once this year so here they are.

The Devil's Workshop by Alex Grecian
The Boy Who Lost Fairyland by Catherynne M. Valente (planning on a whole series reread)
The Labyrinth of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers
A Matter of Magic by Patricia Wrede
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
Fire and Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber
The Mistaken Wife by Rose Melikan
Dodger by Terry Pratchett
Resorting to Murder, edited by Martin Edwards
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle (for The Estella Project)
Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
Envious Casca by Georgette Heyer
Lord Edgware Dies by Agatha Christie
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
The Martian by Andy Weir (for The Estella Project)
Angel With Two Faces by Nicola Upson
Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear
The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
The Last Bookaneer by Matthew Pearl
S by Doug Dorst

I also have my 100 Chapter Books Project reads for the summer and I'm going to try and get to Emma for Roof Beam Reader's Austen in August. And I just noticed that I have no non-fiction on this shelf so I have to add one or two of those!

What are you looking forward to reading this summer?

Reading all the books,

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Another Day in Paradise, Kauai Style

Yes, we took another trip to Hawaii. This time we decided to go to an island we had never visited before -- Kauai. Here are some of the highlights!

Talk Story Bookstore - The Western-most Independent Bookstore in the United States! It was our first stop on the island and yes, we bought books even though we had brought plenty with us.
If you have never had shave ice with ice cream in the bottom, find some. Even better if it is macadamia nut ice cream under guava and passion-orange shave ice (with a condensed milk "cream topping"!). Mmm.
Z was totally relaxed.
I practiced my palm tree photography.
I read some fantastic books.
We saw places that were definitely our idea of paradise, like Hanalei Bay. We even checked the price on the property for sale across the street!
We climbed on lava rocks and explored little tide pools filled with fish.
I grabbed a few photos of one of my favorite flowers.
Hibiscus are possibly the most photogenic flower.
And we spent some time just appreciating the gorgeous landscaping at the Grand Hyatt.
Kauai is an amazing island.
Because, in Hawaii, after every storm ...
... there's always a rainbow.
Dreaming of an island life,

Sunday, June 7, 2015

New Release: Book Scavenger

I'm back! Sorry to disappear on you like that but I had to go to Kauai for a bit. It was a lovely vacation and I'll share some pictures with you in my next post but right now I really wanted to share with you the best book I read while I was there -- Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman.

Garrison Griswold is called "the Willy Wonka of book publishing".  He runs some one-off book and puzzle related games but his biggest undertaking is an online game called Book Scavenger where people hide books and then leave clues so that other readers can find them. There's a whole points system and it has some seriously devoted users. Griswold is ready to launch his big next game when he is attacked. Emily, a Book Scavenger fanatic, is the one who finds the first clue that launches her unknowingly into the new game. And though she is just getting to know her new home city of San Francisco, she's racing against the clock because she's not the only one who is on the trail of Griswold's next prize and those people aren't playing around.

This was such a fun book that I kept trying to pick it up again for days after I finished it. A side plot is that Emily's family moves frequently and so we get to see how she and her brother deal with that, especially as they get older. But, of course, the book parts of the story were the best and were right up my alley. Bertman's skill at combining regular book nerdery with specific San Franciscan literary history, Edgar Allan Poe lore, and cryptography is exemplary. This is a book that I want to read again already!

And amazingly, there is a real Book Scavenger game starting up! There are less than two dozen books hidden right now in the US but I can only imagine how that number will swell when kids start getting excited after reading this book and then finding out that the game is now real.

Finding that a good read is the best prize,

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

I've wanted to reread Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, well, pretty much since I first read it (probably in 2004 or 2005 when it was still new).  I have to admit I was a bit nervous though because many readers through the years have decided they couldn't get through it, with its copious footnotes and details. I thought maybe my memories of it were more glowing than the book itself. But, the new BBC miniseries prompted me to get to it now and, though it admittedly took me a couple of weeks to get through it, I enjoyed it again just as much as I remembered having done the first time. It is a glorious novel that builds an entirely believable hidden world of magic, just out of focus from our own world.


The seven-episode miniseries has begun airing this week in the UK and will show on BBC America in the US starting on June 13.

Susanna Clarke wrote in The Guardian about the experience of seeing her novel come to life --
... But nothing, I find, has prepared me for the sight of my own characters walking about. A playwright or screenwriter must expect it; a novelist doesn’t and naturally concludes that she has gone mad. (What do they need so many umbrellas for? Don’t they realise that they are imaginary?) 
... In the part of Wentworth Woodhouse that has been made to look like the House of Commons, Sir Walter Pole smiles and saunters over to speak to me. In a ballroom of immense magnificence Lady Pole and Mrs Strange perform a dance of their own invention; it is both graceful and funny. (Later someone will give me a photograph of it.) Stephen Black looks grave and self-possessed and keeps to the shadows. Childermass – in straightforward Yorkshire fashion – shows me his tarot cards and lets me hold them for a moment: they feel warm and pleasantly rough in the hand. Out of the assembled ranks of fairy dancers the gentleman with the thistle-down hair gives me a friendly wave. (This last, I am willing to admit, is not the least in character.)
 Neil Gaiman wrote in the same simply about why he loves this story --
In February 2004, to my perplexity and my delight, the mail brought an advance, but finished, copy of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. I took my daughters on holiday to the Cayman Islands, and while they romped and swam in the surf, I was hundreds of years and thousands of miles away, in Regency York and in London and on the continent, experiencing nothing but the purest pleasure, wandering through the words and the things they brought with them, and eventually noticing that the paths and lanes of the story, with its footnotes and its fine phrases, had become a huge road, and it was taking me with it: 782 pages, and I enjoyed every page, and when the book was done I could happily have read 782 more. I loved the things she said and the things she did not say.
Perhaps some of you that didn't get through the novel will feel inspired to pick it up again after the miniseries. It's getting favorable reviews claiming that it is true to the book, something that we all hope for every time we see an adaptation being made. And perhaps others of you will do as I did and pick up your already beloved copy again and disappear into the world of magician Jonathan Strange and his mentor, Mr. Norrell.

With a nod to The Raven King,

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Upcoming Release: The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy

Almost immediately upon receiving The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks, I knew that Sam Maggs was someone who would understand me. I knew it because she created this, THE GEEK GIRL'S LITANY (which you can also watch above), which is right on the back of the book --
I am a geek girl and I am a feminist.
I embrace the word "fangirl" with open arms.
I don't have to prove my nerd cred to anyone ever.
Whether I'm a comics n00b, or a fic writer typing up her next chapter, or a hardcore gamer who sometimes forgets to sleep (not that I ever do that), no one else gets to decide whether I do or do not belong.
From SuperWhoLock to Shakarian I accept all fandoms and ships as equally meaningful and important in our geek girl lives.
Even if your OTP is my NOTP, I will still like you (though I may have to unfollow your blog).
I will support empowering, lady-created media and amazing female characters that make me feel like I could be Batgirl, if I just had some yellow Doc Martens and a vigilante complex.
I'm the Doctor, not a companion; Buffy not Bella; nobody's sidekick, love interest or token female.
I'm driving this ship.
I'm a fangirl, a feminist, and a force to be reckoned with.
I've known inside for years that I was a fangirl but I also felt like I was a bit shabby at it. I don't really collect anything besides movies and books. I never write fan fiction or ship any characters (except for frequently imagining myself, Oliver Queen, and a salmon ladder in the same room ... ahem). I have never attended a con. I don't have any geeky tattoos. I don't even know half of the acronyms that the twitter-residing fangirls use.


Now I have validation from Sam Maggs that loving the things that I do love in the way that I love them is enough. My simple Doctor-Hoo shirt is just as valid as someone else's amazing Tardis dress. Watching every Studio Ghibli movie chronologically counts the same as having, admittedly, the coolest Totoro bed in the world. And having watched every Star Trek episode (except any of Enterprise ... blech) is as Trekkie as putting on a tiny red dress or prosthetic ears. Every kind of fan and geek is authentic, and, if each fangirl and boy everywhere (including me) abides by Sam's rules about being respectful and kind to other fans, we can all live in a great big, beautiful, nerdy world together.

So, what else is actually in this book besides validation? Intros to a few fandoms, some slang terms, interviews with geek goddesses, tips about fan fic and cons, and lots more. There's tons of goodness in this tiny book and I highly recommend it to all fangirls and guys, both aspiring and pros.

Normally I don't post early about books -- and this one isn't out for two weeks (May 12) -- but Quirkbooks has a great pre-order deal going where you can score swag. Check it out if you're interested!

Finally owning it,

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Read-a-Thon Day! Woohoo!

Dewey's 24-Hour Read-a-Thon starts in 15 minutes! As is the case every time I do this though, I am not going to be available at the start due to, well, sleeping. I am just not the type of person who can do 5am, even for something as awesome as read-a-thon. So, after waking up at a reasonable time, my plan is basically this --

9am-ish: Get a crockpot of chili going for dinner while listening to The Carpet People by Terry Pratchett.
9:30-ish: Keep listening to my audiobook while I make my traditional read-a-thon breakfast of scones and tea. I'm feeling blueberry this time.
10am-ish: Plop down on the couch, in front of a fire, with my cozy blanket and enjoy this lovely stack of books for the rest of the day!

Books of Magic - Neil Gaiman & others
Moone Boy - Chris O'Dowd and Nick V. Murphy
Scott Pilgrim volumes 1-6 - Brian Lee O'Malley
The Foundling - Lloyd Alexander
The Last Unicorn - Peter S. Beagle
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll
A Wild Ride Through the Night - Walter Moers

I have gone with mostly graphic novels this time for a change. I've been working through Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell for the past week and a half so I wanted something less heavy (literally). I might still pick that up for a bit though too.

And with my books, of course, I will be enjoying snacks! I have all of these horribly bad for me goodies (Pringles, zebra popcorn, churro bites, white chocolate pretzels, more chocolate), some fruit for smoothies and snacking, and, of course, lots of black tea. I've also used these snacks to bribe Z and the husband into joining me for the day. Yay!

I will mostly be hanging out on Twitter and instagram rather than writing up lots of blog posts so check for my updates there, starting in a few hours. Woot!! (I'm not sure this has come across yet but I am super excited for another read-a-thon!!!)

Are you joining the read-a-thon today? (It's never too late!) What are you looking forward to?

Hitting the books,

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