Before heading up to NY for Book Riot Live (or book nerd camp for grown-ups, as I’ve decided to call it), I spent an evening at the Free Library of Philadelphia listening to a conversation with Patti Smith. She was on tour to promote her new memoir M Train, but spoke a bit about Just Kids as well.

I’d re-read Just Kids in a sort of semi-preparation for the event and was experiencing a flurry of mixed emotions. I loved Just Kids the first time I read it. I’ve proclaimed (often) that the book changed my life and when that thing about listing your 10 most important books was all over Facebook, you better believe that it was on my list.

And so, when I re-read it (with pen in hand to underline all the lines that changed my life) I felt a little bit let down. Much of the language is poetic, and I still find the evolution of her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe beautiful and inspiring, but something was missing — I didn’t feel the same stirring in my soul as the first time I read it and I found this troubling.

Hearing Patti Smith speak was lovely, but the amazing (for me) moment came during the audience Q & A at the end. A woman stood up and said that Patti Smith had been a great role model for her as an artist, a mother, and a feminist and asked her what advice she would give to a young girl growing up right now. Patti Smith started talking and I found myself taking fevered notes on my phone:

  • Do the best that you can
  • Think for yourself
  • Don’t judge based on superficial things
  • Feel yourself as an individual
  • Connect with the world, but remember who you are [when] unconnected

In hearing this advice I was able to identify why Just Kids meant so much to me when I initially read it and why it didn’t hit as hard upon re-reading.

I will be the first to admit that I definitely don’t have everything figured out, but I can say with some amount of confidence that I’ve begun to figure myself out. I think reading Just Kids had a lot (though admittedly not everything) to do with that; it showed me the merits of embracing my “authentic self.” The process of being who I want to be — quirks and bizarre enthusiasms and all — began long before I read Just Kids and continued after, but I think that the book helped something click in my brain. And so when I began my re-reading, that switch was already flipped and the book didn’t feel as revolutionary.

Without this revelation, I’m not sure how I would feel about this book right now. In acknowledging what I took from it the first time, I feel like I can still call it a book that is important in my life. And it’s entirely possible that I’ll pick it up again some time in the future and have other, entirely different feelings about it. I believe that I have changed a lot as a person, especially in the last 5 years, so it makes perfect sense for the way I experience books to change.

I don’t have to give up books that meant a lot to me at the time just because I’ve grown and changed. And that realization has been particularly freeing.

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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.

Iris Has Free Time — Review

February 17, 2014

I’ve been reading a lot lately because, well, you can only spend so much time looking for library jobs in the Philadelphia area. And it’s cold and snowy and gross outside, so I’ve become an accidental hermit.

There are a bunch of reviews coming up, but this one is long overdue. I was reading Iris Has Free Time back when I was still in the midst of finishing my last semester of grad school/finding an apartment/holiday/moving to a new state insanity. So yeah, I forgot to write the review. And then I neglected to include it in my 2013 wrap-up.

Since this was a BEA book that the folks at Counterpoint actually mailed to me after the fact, I kind of wanted to get this review out, even if it’s woefully late.

And so, here we go: Iris Has Free Time…

I think the best way to describe this book would really be “HBO’s Girls in book form.” That may or may not be a selling point for you, but it is a very clear point of comparison.

Iris is an NYU graduate trying to make it in the city. My biggest pet peeve was that she didn’t seem to be trying all that hard. Iris’s narrator reads a bit like a [for lack of a better term] hipster millenial who complains a lot about her shitty lot in life, yet she refuses to make positive changes or act like a person with even a modicum of self awareness.

Now that I’m writing/reading this it sounds harsh, but that’s honestly how I felt. The characters are by and large vapid and insufferable.

None of this is to say that the book isn’t entertaining. For all her flaws as a character (or human being), Iris’s antics make for some decent reading. There is just a fair bit of prattling on in between.

I think this book is very hit or miss depending on your ability to tolerate this kind of character. For me, there was a lot of excessive eye rolling and it probably took me twice (if not three times) as long to finish as it should have because sometimes I just could not deal with it and needed to read something else.

It’s certainly worth a shot and there are some funny life in New York bits, but other times are shining examples of why people moan about millenials.

Poindextrix in Philadelphia

January 15, 2014

So here I am in Philadelphia.

I realized over the summer That those extra classes I was taking would enable me to graduate from my library science program a semester ahead of schedule. Since my lease was ending and i didn’t want to incur a semester’s worth of unnecessary student loan debt, it seemed like the right thing to do.

I picked Philly for a number of reasons. There are some that I’m not quite ready to share here, but I’ll let you in on the others: Philly has tons of cultural heritage institutions where I could potentially find work and there are fewer library schools in the area with graduates all vying for positions. Philly is also a bit closer to home, so I can see family and friends in the DC area more often. And finally, I think New York and I just needed a break for a while. Living there by myself was certainly an experience, but New York is intense and I think I need to dial it down a bit. Also, with no job and no student loans, I couldn’t really afford to live there, now could I?

But Philly! Philly is great. It’s a city, but it isn’t quite as crazy as New York (or maybe it is, just in a different way). I’m still getting used to things (I’m using tokens for the train/bus, guys. Tokens.), but my apartment is cute and I’ve gotten my library card, so I’m settling in.

I don’t think much will change here. It’ll be the same old Poindextrix ramblings, just from my new locale.

My Birthday Weekend

September 11, 2013

This past weekend my mother came up to celebrate my birthday with me. It was a jam-packed weekend and I had a great time.

Saturday we walked all over the city (my fitbit put us at well over 8 miles by the end of the day). We had a leisurely, delicious brunch in this tiny place downtown and then wandered around South Street Seaport for a while. The weather was fabulous and it was so nice looking out across the water.

We eventually headed over to the 9/11 Memorial. It was kind of ridiculous going through the various entrances, but once inside the memorial grounds it’s very peaceful and lovely. It’s also such a huge space, which, for me, had been hard to conceive of at first.

It’s interesting how they’ve used technology to enhance the experience of the memorial — there is an app and a mobile site, as well as strategically placed machines that all exist to help visitors locate names or groups of people (i.e. first responders, passengers from a specific flight, etc.) within the memorial. The app and site showed you where names were located and if there were memorial bricks and provided donor information. It’s interesting because these tools add these extra layers of metadata that were probably at one point purely used for logistics, but are now helping to enhance the visitor experience at the memorial. Leave it to me to start thinking about user experience and information science wherever I go…

After we left the memorial we pretty much walked half the island, grabbed a (very) quick dinner, and then saw Pippin on Broadway.

Pippin was fantastic. I may be forfeiting my theatre dork card by admitting this, but I didn’t really know the story before I saw it. I is so cool and fun and dark and twisty. It is, in a word, awesome. And spectacular. It made me want to go to circus camp or something. I want to watch it a million times and unpack all the various theories swimming in my head about motivation and perspective and reality. Yeah, basically it’s super cool and you can tell because it’s making me super nerdy.

Sunday we (read: I) slept in a bit and then went to tea at Alice’s Tea Cup. The place is really cute and they have lots of delicious varieties of tea (as they should) and great scones and sandwiches and tarts and the like. I actually plan on going back to buy some of the blend that I had because it was absolutely fabulous (green tea with bergamot and some other deliciousness).

After tea, off to another show! We saw the matinee of Soul Doctor, which was also great. It was really fun and interesting seeing the history of the Jewish Reconstructionist movement since I didn’t know that much about it and how it developed in great part through the actions of one man (the “Soul Doctor”).

After the show, we did a bit of shopping (because what’s a birthday in New York without a bit of shopping?) and then headed downtown for dinner.

We went to the Risotteria, which is my new favorite place in New York. The food is fantastic (they’re also really accommodating — great for vegetarians, gluten free diets, and allergies) and the staff is really chill. What more could you possibly want?

It turns out the answer is “jammie dodgers.” There’s a British candy shop across the street from the restaurant and so after dinner we popped in quickly to have a look around. They only had mini jammie dodgers in the original flavor (which is best), so that’s what I got. They might already be gone…

All in all, it was a fantastic birthday weekend. I might be getting crotchety in my old age (really, I maintain that teenagers/”youth” are just annoying), but I think it’s probably worth it for birthdays like this.

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips has been on my to-be-read list for ages and I finally got around to reading it recently. I was wandering the shelves at my NYPL branch and there it was, waiting for me. Clearly it was a sign that it was time for me to read this one!

Allow me to set the scene:

It’s present day (or near enough) and the Greek gods are drained of power and living in a dilapidated house in London. Driving each other crazy and doing their best to conserve their remaining power, the gods try to fit into the twenty-first century world, but old habits die hard and what starts out as a small disagreement between Aphrodite and Apollo could lead to the end of the world. Now, the fate of everyone — gods and mortals alike — rests on the shoulders of two exceedingly ordinary (and mortal) humans).

The entire story is entertaining, but I really like the last quarter or so, when it becomes clear just how entwined everything really is and how gods and mortals need one another to thrive.

Gods Behaving Badly was a super quick and fun read for me. I read it in a day or two and probably made a number of people a bit uncomfortable as I giggled while reading it on the subway (which, I think, is usually a good indication that a book is good). If you’re like me and have a special spot in your literary heart for mythology, then you’ve got to read this one.

The Rowling Ruckus

July 26, 2013

So by now I’m sure you’ve heard all about the not-so-new J.K. Rowling book.

If not, let me bring you up to speed:

Back in April, J.K. Rowling quietly published The Cuckoo’s Calling, an old-school detective novel under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. It got pretty good reviews and sold reasonably well for a book by an unknown author. Then, somehow Rowling’s identity as Galbraith (or Galbraith’s identity as Rowling?) got out.

With enough distance, it appears the leak originated from the law firm representing Rowling, but at the time there was talk of super-observant (or dedicated) individuals noticing that Rowling and Galbraith shared an editor and publishing company and subsequently uncovering similarities in the writing styles present in The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Casual Vacancy. In any case, once Rowling was outed, she confirmed that she had, indeed, written the book as Galbraith.

Some have suggested that it was a marketing ploy, pointing to skyrocketing sales after the leak of Rowling’s role as author, but I really think that’s unlikely. Of course the sales soared; that’s to be expected, but it’s not like she needs the money.

J.K. Rowling is a billionaire (the first to become one through writing, I might add — this according to something I read on the internet that may or may not be reputable and I can’t remember where I saw it in order to check my sources. Let’s all agree that I’m a terrible academic/information professional and move on, shall we?).

Rowling has stated that she wrote The Cuckoo’s Calling under a pseudonym because she wanted to write without the pressure of other expectations. Thinking back to the hype leading up to the release of The Casual Vacancy, I can certainly understand that desire and I kind of wish that she’d been able to keep up the pseudonym a bit longer (both for her sake and because it would be so much more explosive when she revealed herself down the line). I find it interesting that her chosen pseudonym is male. I’m sure there is plenty that could be read into that, especially given her history (she was advised to use initials so that readers would not be put off by a book with a male protagonist written by a female author).

Anyway, I, like everyone else, heard about this book and immediately looked up the blurb. And, well, it looks really good. So I requested it from my public library branch… Along with what feels like half of New York. I am currently number 322 on the hold list for 26 copies. I don’t totally know how collection development works in public libraries of NYPL’s size, but it’s possible that they may acquire more copies since the book is in such high demand.

All of this hullabaloo also reminded me that I haven’t actually gotten around to reading The Casual Vacancy. Interestingly, I was able to get that from NYPL immediately. There’s probably a backed up hold list now, so I’ll need to read it before my loan period is up, but I felt a nice little surge of victory in beating that particular rush. So I’ll be reading and reviewing that in the (somewhat) near future.

I’ve also got a few other galleys and library books going, so stay tuned for a few other reviews.

Matilda on Broadway

July 13, 2013

Last night I got to see Matilda on Broadway.

I’ve been so excited about this show. It started out in England (beginning in Stratford, then moving to the West End) and got great reviews. Matilda has finally come to New York where it has continued its streak of critical acclaim, winning a number of Tony’s, as well as additional awards in the theatre community.

But to be honest, even if the reviews were bad and the award committees indifferent, I would still have wanted to see Matilda. I love Roald Dahl’s books, and Matilda, with its emphasis on being true to yourself and the power of books, stories, and imagination has always had a special place in my heart. I own the movie adaptation of the book and watch it fairly often. Seeing the Tony performance just confirmed my burning need to see the show — it’s an adaptation of an awesome book and it looks spectacular!

So anyway, (due to circumstances I won’t go into here) a family friend was unable to use her tickets for the show and generously offered them to me.

And so, a dream came true.

Matilda was everything I could have hoped for and more. It was hilarious and heartbreaking, sweet and inspiring. The cast was superb. I can’t even begin to express my awe at the talent, especially considering the average age is so young.

My favorite line has to be when Matilda asks Ms. Honey, “am I strange?” I desperately wanted that to be on one of the t-shirts, but, alas, I remain unsatisfied. That is a missed merchandising opportunity if ever there was one!

But seriously, the show made Dahl’s story come alive. It’s magical and inspiring and I have to go read the book again. If you get a chance to see this show, I highly recommend it. I’d see it again in a heartbeat.

I got an ARC of Chocolates for Breakfast by Pamela Moore at BEA. I may have started reading it the night I got it… you know, before BEA was even over. I’ve never been very good at self control.

Anyway…

Pamela Moore originally wrote Chocolates for Breakfast in 1957 (when she was only eighteen) and it was widely read and acclaimed for a number of years before going out of print and slipping from our collective consciousness. Until now. Harper Perennial is reissuing it with a number of extras (like biographical notes that shed some very interesting light on Pamela Moore’s life and writing).

Even without the extras, Chocolates for Breakfast is a great read. A sexually precocious teen with distant parents, splitting her time between Hollywood and New York and the crazy people she hangs out with in each place? You’re hooked, aren’t you? I certainly was.

Given the timing and certain parallels in the biographies of authors and characters, it’s hard not to draw comparisons between Chocolates for Breakfast and The Bell Jar and The Catcher in the Rye. But they’re favorable, I promise.

There are some places, especially in some of the turns of phrase, where Chocolates dates itself, but mostly you can read it and feel like it’s taking place today. And that, friends, is the mark of great writing.

I read Chocolates for Breakfast very quickly — I pretty much couldn’t put it down. And now that I’ve finished it I kind of want to read it again even though I have a ton of other books that I need to read first. So take from that what you will. Bottom line: you should read it. Right now. Or in July, when it actually comes out.

Chocolates for Breakfast by Pamela Moore comes out from Harper Perennial in July and I definitely recommend it.

BEA Recap

June 6, 2013

Hello again, fair readers!

If any of you were in New York last week you may have noticed quite a commotion as hordes of people made the pilgrimage from Penn Station to the Javits Center everyday for Book Expo America — the largest publishing event in North America.

I was one of those people.

This was my first BEA and it was quite the experience. Thankfully, I was able to go around with two people, both of them hardened BEA veterans, who were able to show me the ropes. It was also great because we got to know each other’s reading preferences, so if we saw a book that wasn’t quite in our realm, but would be perfect for someone else, we passed it along.

BEA was really fantastic. I made a lot of great connections (I told myself I would pass out as many of my cards as I could and I think I did pretty well with that) both for the blog and in the librarian world.

I saw Neil Gaiman speak and met/got autographs from Billy Collins, Holly Black, David Levithan, and a few other authors. Needless to say, there were a few fangirl moments (point of interest, there’s a book I’m excited about called Fangirl). Even when I wasn’t all in a tizzy about an author, BEA was my first big conference/event experience and it was a lot to take in. It was overstimulating and exhausting and I can’t wait to do it again.

So what does this mean for the blog? I have a ton of ARCs (and grooves on my shoulders from carrying them home) and I’ve signed up for NetGalley, so assuming I keep up with my reading (no promises though. I am in grad school after all) I’ll be posting reviews of books before or shortly after they’re released. That means you can add books to your presumably never-ending TBR lists and piles before they even hit the shelves. Plan your library requests and book budgets accordingly.

I was going to add an inventory of books I got at BEA. I haven’t decided if I still want to do that. It would probably be smart for my own records, but I don’t know if I’ll end up publishing it unless you guys are really interested. I’ve already finished one of the books I got at the Expo, so that review will be up in the near future.