First there was Samuel L. Jackson reading Go the Fuck to Sleep and that was good. Now we have Christopher Walken reading Where the Wild Things Are (I say “now” because I just saw it, but youtube tells me it’s been on the interwebz since at least 2011).

This is great not only because of the way Walken reads the story, but because he describes what’s happening in all of the illustrations. It is hilarious and magical and so much more.

Just take a moment to watch/listen and enjoy.

I was checking the little free library website because one day I want to have one of my own and I found out that they have a kickstarter campaign.

Their priorities for the money, as listed on the campaign site, are as follows:

  • Install hundreds more Little Free Libraries that ‘kick start” brighter futures for thousands of children through the power of literacy,
  • Water book deserts – rural or urban areas where books are difficult to access or afford,
  • Help teachers provide books to their students that they can take home to enjoy and build their reading skills during summer and year-round,
  • Provide police departments with Libraries of Understanding that will help them engage with youths and encourage them to read.
  • Positively impact at least 100 communities through the power of reading.

Now here’s the thing, they have 10 days to go and are over $30,000 short. If they don’t reach their goal, they don’t get any of the money pledged throughout the campaign (they don’t charge the credit cards, so there’s no risk to people who pledge).

The Little Free Library Big Book Access Campaign is a great endeavor that I encourage you to throw your money at. Think of all the kids (and adults) that will benefit from increased access to books. To back this campaign and learn more about what their goals are, visit the campaign page, then check out the organization’s website.

So first things first, I have a confession to make: I haven’t yet read A Dance with Dragons (the fifth book in the Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire series). At first I was waiting until it came out in paperback. Then, with no paperback release in sight, I caved and bought the hardcover. And now it’s just been sitting on my shelf. I think I’ve put off reading it because   I know that once I read it, I’ll be like all the rest of you schmucks waiting in agony for the new one. Also, have you seen this? It’s old, but it never ceases to amuse me.

All of this to get to my actual point: I’m still putting off reading A Dance with Dragons (though my resolve is weakening), but I wanted to read some sort of crazy fantasy. Enter Tuf Voyaging.

Originally published in 1986, Tuf Voyaging is a collection of linked stories by George R. R. Martin following the exploits of Haviland Tuf —trader turned ecological engineer— and his cats. Really, I think all you need to know about this book is that there’s a dude (who kind of reminds me of good ole’ GRRM) who flies around in space with cats. I could tell you more, but I kind of don’t want to. These stories are attention-grabbing, hilarious, and so much fun, with little bits of social commentary sprinkled throughout.

Each story chronicles a different one of Tuf’s adventures, so they can certainly be read in pieces, but I tore through this. It was such a treat and I just wanted to see everything that he got up to.

So yeah, if you’ve run out of A Song of Ice and Fire books, or if you just feel like it’s time for some other sci-fi/fantasy, definitely pick this one up.

As some of you may recall, I read Garth Nix’s Sabriel, and while I really enjoyed it, I initially decided that I wasn’t going to continue reading the series. And then there was so much buzz about Clariel and the other two books (Lirael  and Abhorsen) were right there at the library and… yeah.

I enjoyed Clariel, but if I’m being honest, not as much as the other books in the series. I liked the concept behind the book and how it took a different direction than the other books, but somehow it didn’t all mesh the way I wanted it to. Some people were disappointed with Clariel  because they found the character to be unlikable in whatever way. I can see how she is not the most likable person, but I think much of it is a fair representation of a certain type of teenager — somewhat selfish and wrapped up in her own interests, but fiercely devoted to her family, despite any disagreements. Clariel reads like a hard-headed teenager for a lot of the book. That doesn’t necessarily make her actions any less infuriating though.

Even though Clariel takes place in the same world, it feels like such a departure from the rest of the series because of the tone and the way the story progresses in a different direction. I certainly would not discourage a fan of the other books from reading this, but they should be prepared for something a bit different.

Dead Wake — Review

May 7, 2015

I am continuously amazed by the amount of detail, research, and work that goes into each of Erik Larson’s books, and his newest endeavor Dead Wake is no exception.

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania explores not only the sinking of the Lusitania by a German U-Boat, but also the events on both boats and the political climate leading up to the disaster.

The level of detail in this book is, once again, amazing. I sometimes forgot that I was reading about a real event in history. All the same, I learned a lot while reading this book. My history education focused a lot on the Civil War and WWII, but there wasn’t as much of a focus on WWI and the cultural and political atmosphere. Dead Wake painted a helpful picture and put everything in context.

So I’ve now read 3 of Larson’s books (some of his others are still on my list and I’ll get to them eventually). If I had to rank them, I’d put Dead Wake in the number two spot. I really liked it, but it still doesn’t quite beat Devil in the White City for me. I’m sure that speaks volumes about my psyche, but there you have it.

In case it wasn’t obvious, I definitely recommend Dead Wake. It’s a fascinating and informative read.

Dinaw Mengestu’s All Our Names got a number of rave reviews, and while I found parts of the story compelling, it just felt oddly familiar and a little too vague. Generally, those two don’t go hand-in-hand, but in this case I think the vagueness led to the familiar feel.

So much of the book — the characters, the plot, the setting — was so vaguely expressed that an otherwise moving tale fades into the background of “young man from a war-torn country struggles to create a new life in the US.” I’m not saying that these stories are unimportant or boring, but with no distinguishing details and similar storytelling techniques, it can be difficult to differentiate.

I even found myself wondering time and again if this was a book that a movie I’d seen a few months ago (the name of which has completely left my head) was based upon. Eventually I decided it wasn’t, but there were some striking similarities.

So it’s not that I didn’t enjoy reading it, it’s just that I felt something was lacking. Sorry I can’t give you more than that…

On becoming a DNF-er

April 11, 2015

I have a problem. I finish books. All books.

In actual fact, it isn’t usually a problem, since I’ve picked the books and I generally know what I like, but sometimes I’m (hold on to your hats, folks) wrong. And when that happens I have the book-nerdiest of wars raging within me. On the one hand, I started this book and I’m not really enjoying it, but what if it gets better?! If I stop reading now, I’ll never know! On the other hand, I’m not enjoying it and there are so many other books that I want to read. There are times when I actually get sad thinking about all the books I won’t have a chance to read simply because life is too short.

So what’s a book nerd to do? Well, I’ve been tracking my reading for a while now and I figure that if I really wanted to (and if I was any good at math, but details) I could calculate a rough estimate of how many more books I will read in my lifetime. I have absolutely zero inclination to do this, but there’s nothing like the harsh reality of estimated numbers to spur a girl into action — even if that action happens to be the cessation of one (i.e. abandoning a book partway through and moving on).

Since coming to this realization I’ve only DNFed (that’s Did Not Finish-ed for those who’ve yet to memorize the book nerd code book) a couple of books. Being a bitter-ender is still my default and I find myself rationalizing and continuing past the point where I should probably give up time and again. But I’ll keep working on it. Who knew quitting took so much practice?

Nina MacLaughlin got a degree in classics and spent her twenties working for a Boston newspaper. Then, craving something different, she quit her job and answered a Craigslist ad for a carpenter’s assistant. One phrase stuck out: “Women strongly encouraged to apply.” Before she could second-guess herself she sent a response explaining that she didn’t have any experience, but that she wanted to work with her hands and she was a fast learner.

Spoiler alert: she got the job.

Going on this journey with MacLaughlin as she lugs equipment and learns how to expertly drive in a nail or lay tile was oddly riveting. I would never expect repetitive physical tasks to be so engrossing, but the way MacLaughlin writes them, they really are.

Reading Hammer Head gave me a greater appreciation for the work that goes into everything. It made me want to make something myself.

I highly recommend this book. Even if, unlike me, you don’t spend hours watching home improvement shows and HGTV, I think this will still fascinate readers.

I have consulted numerous electronic and paper calendars and all of them have told me the same thing: it’s springtime! But here in Philadelphia, the weather doesn’t seem so sure of that fact. It seems like for every nice day we have, we get a week of cold temperatures, rain, and overall gloom. I shouldn’t complain too much since that is prime reading-with-a-cup-of-tea weather, but I’m ready for reading-on-a-picnic-blanket-in-the-park weather (I’m not saying I do this, but I want the option).

I don’t generally tailor my reading to the season because I’m just not that organized, but this super prolonged winter has me yearning for sunnier books.

So here’s my list for what to read when nature has betrayed you and continues with the cold, grey weather.

  1. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. It’s a big, epic book filled with love and war and magic. It will draw you in and completely transport you to the mythical Macondo, which is in Latin America and therefore is a warm and sunny place at least most of the time.
  2. Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson. I’m cheating with this one because it isn’t actually sunnier, but we’ll get to why I picked it. This is a dual narrative combining the fascinating story of the build up to the Chicago World’s Fair and the chilling tale of a string of murders committed by H. H. Holmes in the city around the same time. It is utterly enthralling and after reading about the creepy murders and how Holmes pulled it all off, you might not mind being cooped up inside.
  3. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by is bloggess Jenny Lawson’s sidesplittingly funny (mostly true) memoir. There are some serious bits interspersed with a whole lot of hilarity. I challenge you to read it and not be in a good mood afterward. I’m pretty sure it can’t be done.
  4. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. This book is enchanting and whimsical. There’s mystery and adventure and it takes place in bright, sunny California (though often at night…).
  5. Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell. I’m looking out of my living room window and it’s all grey and I think it’s spitting rain and I can’t help thinking of that titular story with the wizened old vampire drinking lemonade under a Tuscan sun…
  6. iwanttogotothere

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are just a few of the books that might numb the sting of being betrayed by ole’ Mother Nature. What would you add?

 

I’ve been trying to read more short story collections and I heard such a great things about Julia Elliott’s The Wilds.

So first things first, I enjoyed the book. Elliot is a talented writer and she knows how to tell a story. My problem is that The Wilds had been described to me as “weird.” And when I think “weird short stories,” I think of Karen Russell and how much I loved Vampires in the Lemon Grove. Every time I pick up “weird” short story collections, I think I’m hoping it will be that book. I know that isn’t fair at all and I think it’s coloring my reading of the other collections.

Because The Wilds is good. It is weird. It’s also funny and sinister and a bit… off.

I think the thing that Vampires in the Lemon Grove had that I’m still looking for is that touch of whimsy sprinkled in with the sharp edges and dark humor. Without it I’m just left with a slightly bad taste in my mouth.

So now I know what I’m looking for in my short stories: whimsy.

Now accepting recommendations.

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