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,

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,

Related Content by Wordnik