A couple of weeks ago, I got home from a packed weekend and took the following Monday off to sleep, rest my incredibly unhappy back, and read my copy of Go Set A Watchman. I finished it in a single day, but I haven’t written much about it until now (partly because I’ve been busy and lazy, but partly because I had a lot of thoughts and it has taken me a while to sort them out).

OK. So, initial thoughts: I kind of liked it. I liked seeing this older Scout and I think that even though much of this was rough, Harper Lee’s talent for creating complex characters is evident.   There were scenes in Watchman that really shined. Atticus is a complex man and this version of him is harder to love, but I think Lee makes him that way for a reason (though that hedging toward the end made me uncomfortable).

Watchman feels incomplete. Because it is. This was an early draft before an editor got involved and steered Lee in a new direction. The pacing is off and while there are great scenes, there are cringeworthy ones as well.

This does not detract from To Kill a Mockingbird for me. I don’t think it mars Harper Lee’s legacy, though I do think that the publisher has done her a disservice in publishing Watchman without a disclaimer of some sort indicating the circumstances of its publication (i.e. early draft, little-to-no editing, etc.).

I think that there are many interesting papers/books that can (and probably will) be written about the evolution of the treatment of race in these two books. Even though Scout is horrified by Atticus’s segregationist ideals, she’s got some of her own issues that rub me the wrong way.

All in all, this isn’t a great book. It probably isn’t even a good book, but the novelty of it and looking at it through the scope of TKAM has brought it up a little bit up in my eyes.

 

I am part of a kickass library group on Facebook. Discussion topics run the gamut from dealing with difficult boards/government committees, to bizarre patron interactions, to what we’re drinking.

And tonight, one librarian walked into her local Wal-Mart and saw a huge display selling Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman. Those of you following along are probably calling shenanigans right about now. The release date for Go Set a Watchman is Tuesday, July 14. There are some insane embargoes on this book. Copies come in boxes with labels stating that books cannot be sold/checked out before the release date. Taking/posting pictures of the book or even the box it came in violates the agreements that libraries and bookstores make with publishers.

So the fact that this HUGE book is on the sales floor days before its release date is a big deal. When the librarian said something to the store manager, the response was “what are you going to do about it?” Now, I’m not going to say that that was the store’s first mistake, but it was definitely a big one.

After a post on the group’s page, what I will now call the librarian mafia (in the most loving of ways) took action. They contacted Harper Collins with the store information and even though it was already kind of late on a Friday night, HC was ON. THEIR. SHIT. and the librarian crusaders received very prompt responses that HC would be contacting the store in question.

If you’re out shopping at a store (not just Wal-Mart, though based on previous incidents they appear to think these kinds of rules don’t apply to them) and see a book displayed before its release date, you can usually find a phone number or email address for reporting issues to the publisher.

The email address and phone number to report violations to Harper Collins are below. If you see displays of Go Set a Watchman before Tuesday, I encourage you to report it.

onsaleviolations@harpercollins.com

1-800-242-7737

In conclusion, if you ever thought about pissing off a librarian, you might want to reconsider that course of action. That guy at Wal-Mart who naively asked “what are you going to do about it” had no idea what he started. It’s a lesson everyone should learn: don’t screw with the librarians.

I know that book nerd-dom comes in many varieties, but I’ve always felt that going to book events (assuming they’re available) was a good book nerd behavior. And so it’s embarrassing to admit that even though I’ve lived in Philadelphia for over a year, I haven’t gone to a single book/author event. Until tonight. 

Caitlin Moran, author of How to Be A Woman and How To Build A Girl, as well as comedian, columnist, TV/film writer and all-around awesome human being was at the Free Library of Philadelphia tonight. She was honest and raunchy and absolutely hilarious. It was a fantastic event.

After the talk/reading and Q & A she signed books upstairs. The line moved a little bit slowly, but that was just because she actually spoke to every single person, giving them hugs and taking pictures. When it was my turn I was a little star-struck, but she was just so lovely —thanking me for coming and saying all of these amazing things that I want to cherish forever — that I kind of just felt like I was talking to a friend. A friend who is hilarious and spectacular and makes me feel better about myself and the world.

Caitlin Moran comes across like a hella-awesome lady in her writing, and she really, really is. Her books are amazing, she’s amazing, my night was amazing.

And because I am that kind of book nerd, here are my pictures from the night:

The fabulous Caitlin Moran.

The fabulous Caitlin Moran.

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Reading from How To Build A Girl

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Close-up of Caitlin Moran reading from How To Build A Girl

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Seriously, she’s so nice and enthusiastic.

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We just had a little chat before she signed my book.

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Also, she’s super silly, and it’s fantastic.

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Love her!

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My signed copy. It has such a great memory to go along with an already fantastic book.

Playing Catch-Up

June 29, 2015

So I’ve really fallen down on this blogging job. It’s not like I haven’t been reading or talking about books. I just kind of forgot to write about them. Whoops.

Anyway, now I’m so far behind that the idea of writing reviews for all the books I’ve read since I last posted is overwhelming and crazy-making, so instead I’m just going to give you a list of the things I’ve read. If you want to know more about a specific book, comment and I’ll write more about it.

The Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique

Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love by Thomas Maier

The Empathy Exams: Essays by Leslie Jamison

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley

The Room by Jonas Karlsson

Euphoria by Lily King

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Dress Your Family In Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris

Find Me by Laura van den Berg

The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon

Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Year of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil by Deborah Rodriguez

How to Be Happy by Eleanor Davis

2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino (I just finished this one today. It was so much fun and it takes place in Philly, so it gets a little extra shout out)

Wow, it’s even more intimidating when I have it all written out like that. Yep, I think I made the right call in terms of starting fresh from now. That’s way too many reviews to write while I’m still reading stuff.

And yes, I am, as usual, reading many books at once. Hopefully I’ll finish a few of them and get reviews out in a timely manner this time around. Meanwhile, I read on.

GUYS. Guys. This movie looks so good.

You may remember that I read The Martian back in December and basically ignored my family  over the holidays in order to finish it. The book is fantastic and I was a little concerned about what they would do to it in movie form.

So much of the book is just Watney being kind of a jokey nerd as he, you know, tries to stay alive. How was that going to translate? Based on the short glimpse they give us (and the “science the shit out of this” line), I think they might have managed it.

Obviously we can’t say for sure until the movie comes out, but I’m cautiously optimistic and SO EXCITED.

 

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.

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