Book Riot Live!!

November 10, 2015

Book Riot Live was in New York this past weekend and I had such a blast that I’m having trouble adjusting to “regular life” again.

It was exciting to meet Rioters and spend time with so many glorious book nerds. The atmosphere was incredibly positive and inclusive and representative of why I love the bookish community so much. One minute you’re geeing out with other fans about an author and their work, and the next moment you’re geeing out with that author.

All of the panels that I had the opportunity to attend were fantastic and really echoed the values that I’ve come to associate with Book Riot — enthusiasm for all kinds of books and fandom, inclusivity and attention to diversity, and devotion to inspiring thoughtful conversations about important topics in the bookish community. My main complaint about Book Riot Live is that there were too many interesting panels happening at the same time and I hate choosing! Clearly next time around there should be some Book Riot time turners so that attendees can go to everything.

This weekend at Book Riot Live was fantastic. I learned about (and bought) so many new books, connected with other enthusiastic book nerds, and met some amazing authors. Now it’s time to sit back, brew some tea (or, let’s be honest, open a bottle of wine), and dive into my pile of newly acquired books. I probably have enough books and recommendations to last until Book Riot Live 2016. Probably…

And now, I bring you some of my favorite photos from the weekend. Follow me on Instagram (@poindextrix) for future real-time book nerd-dom!

Posing with my badge. I also got a wizard/activist ribbon from the Harry Potter Alliance!

Posing with my badge. I also got a wizard/activist ribbon from the Harry Potter Alliance!

The pigeon's name is Reginald. We became fast friends.

The pigeon’s name is Reginald. We became fast friends.

Lithographs made temporary tattoos of lines from The Handmaid's Tale for the Book Riot Live tattoo chain. They saved the first line for Margaret Atwood.

Lithographs made temporary tattoos of lines from The Handmaid’s Tale for the Book Riot Live tattoo chain. They saved the first line for Margaret Atwood.

This is my line.

This is my line.

Speaking of Margaret Atwood, she had some great things to say at the "Writing What You Don't Know" panel.

Speaking of Margaret Atwood, she had some great things to say at the “Writing What You Don’t Know” panel.

The shelf for the Harry Potter Alliance's apparating library was overflowing with fantastic choices.

The shelf for the Harry Potter Alliance’s apparating library was overflowing with fantastic choices.

A peek at my purchases post-cocktails at the Strand.

A peek at my purchases post-cocktails at the Strand.

Liberty and Rebecca show off their big spoon/little spoon shirts at the taping of the All the Books podcast. They're kind of fantastic (the people and the shirts).

Liberty and Rebecca show off their big spoon/little spoon shirts at the taping of the All the Books podcast. They’re kind of fantastic (the people and the shirts).

Speaking of amazing people, did I mention that I met and took a picture with Margaret Atwood at the cocktail party at the Strand?! Because that happened!

Speaking of amazing people, did I mention that I met and took a picture with Margaret Atwood at the cocktail party at the Strand?! Because that happened!

Another awesome thing: In what will probably be the best idea I'll ever had in my life, I got some of the women of Book Riot to sign my copy of Bitch Planet.

Another awesome thing: In what will probably be the best idea I’ll ever had in my life, I got some of the women of Book Riot to sign my copy of Bitch Planet.

And here's my full book haul! Lumberjanes (books 1 & 2), Nimona, Bats of the Republic, Life After Life, I Capture the Castle, And Sometimes I Wonder About You, Faceless, All Fall Down, Saga (book 5), Bitch Planet (book 1), A Darker Shade of Magic, Housekeeping, and The Handmaid's Tale.

And here’s my full book haul! Lumberjanes (books 1 & 2), Nimona, Bats of the Republic, Life After Life, I Capture the Castle, And Sometimes I Wonder About You, Faceless, All Fall Down, Saga (book 5), Bitch Planet (book 1), A Darker Shade of Magic, Housekeeping, and The Handmaid’s Tale.




I’ve been a terrible book blogger recently in that even though I’ve continued to consume loads of books, I haven’t been writing about them (I have, however, continued to post stuff on Instagram and twitter, so you should clearly follow me @poindextrix on both #shamelessselfpromotion).

But since I’m about to embark on what I can only describe as a book nerd-dom bonanza, I thought I better pop in with a quick update (with the obvious fingers-crossed promise that I’ll be better about updates in the future).

Last week I went to a Free Library of Philadelphia author event in which Ruth Reichl talked about her new book My Kitchen Year. She was fabulous, this book is fabulous — and gorgeous — and I’ll hopefully start making things out of that and tell you about it soon.

But tonight. Tonight I’m heading back to the Free Library to see Patti Smith talk about her new memoir M Train. You may remember how much I love her first memoir, Just Kids. For those just joining us: the answer is a lot. A whole lot. M Train talks more about the later years, the less Robert-centric years, I take it. I’m incredibly excited to read it and super excited to meet/see/breathe the same air as Patti Smith and hopefully get her to sign my copy of Just Kids, which I just finished re-reading.

Crazily, I won’t even have time to come down off of my Patti Smith high, because as soon as I leave the library, I’m heading up to New York for Book Riot Live. When people ask me what my plans are for this weekend I’ve been saying I’m going to a book nerd convention, and I think that’s describing it pretty accurately. It’s not like BEA in that this is way less industry-centric. This is an event for readers and it’s mostly about what readers love and care about and I’m so excited in case you couldn’t tell by my complete incoherence.

I’m really looking forward to this weekend. I think it’s going to be fantastically bookish in the best ways. If you’re at Book Riot Live and see/recognize me, come say hi!

The Last Illusion by Porochista Khakpour started out with a bang. A loud, explosive bang with colors and light and heat. But as our protagonist Zal gets more “normal,” I got less interested (I’m going to skip right past what that says about me). The biggest draw for me was the parallels of his life with the Shahnameh, or The Book of Kings — an Iranian myth introduced in the preface — and how things worked on the fringes of reality.

A huge event hangs over the majority of this book, and while I get that that’s the point, it was sort of unsettling. There’s what we know happens in real-life history, but the book has this aura of surreality that made me wonder if maybe, just maybe things would play out a bit differently.

I’m being vague on purpose because I found it interesting (if stressful) to watch it all unfold and slowly figure things out, so I don’t want to deprive anyone of that.

I did really enjoy this book, I guess it’s just a weird feeling since I absolutely loved the beginning.

I enjoy reading essay collections because they are so often relatable even when the things that take place are way too outrageous/horrific/just plain interesting to ever happen to me.

Sadly, that wasn’t really the case with Ashley Cardiff’s Night Terrors. It had its funny moments, and maybe even a poignant moment or two, but overall, it kind of just felt like self-indulgent rambling to fill in the gaps between the two or three good pieces that had already been published online. And then there were a few things that Cardiff wrote with which I vehemently disagree and kind of just made me frustrated and angry reading. I won’t go into it here, but let’s just say we might disagree on some word usage, among other things.

All of that sounds way harsher than I meant it to, so let me clarify that I didn’t hate this or anything; it was just OK.

I guess “just OK” is just not that impressive when I’m inundated with awesome books on a daily (and nightly) basis. You could read it and skim for the funny bits, but I’m not sure I’d recommend investing any significant amount of time (or money) in it.

To put it bluntly, Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings is about six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts and the self-involved adults that they become. Wolitzer follows these teens — praised and admired for their talents and charmed at age fifteen — as they move through their youth and into middle age and shows how fortunes play out in different ways and relationships survive, but at certain costs.

It is a glimpse into the world of the sickeningly rich and the devastatingly middle-class in New York and how they might intersect. The book also provides a portrait of that most vile of human emotions — envy — particularly of a beloved friend and how it can tear a person (or people) apart.

When it comes down to it, this is another book where the characters aren’t necessarily “likeable” (perhaps, in this case, because each is a little too relatable in one way or another), but that might just be part of the book. The characters’ flaws make them who they are and while they’re occasionally insufferable, they make a good story.

If you have a low tolerance for obnoxious, annoying, or self-involved characters, skip this one, but otherwise give it a read because it really is worth it.

Oh my God you guys this book. I have such mixed feelings about it. And that’s really the main take-away of this book: so. many. feelings.

Our story follows Theo Decker and a priceless painting — the titular Goldfinch. Theo and the Goldfinch survive a horrific incident that kills many, leaving our “hero” effectively an orphan and bringing the painting into his possession.

Theo bounces around from the hoity-toity Upper East Side dwelling of a wealthy friend, to the outskirts of Las Vegas with a devil-on-the-shoulder-esque Russian sidekick, down to the dusty Village antique store.

Maybe it’s pop psychology, but Theo seems somewhat stuck as the damaged 13 year old (possibly with PTSD) longing for the mother he’s lost and the mysterious girl he can’t have. He consistently makes the worst decisions. And yes, bad things happen that are legitimately out of his control, but especially as this saga moves into Theo’s adult years it becomes a bit more difficult to sympathize — mostly because you just want to smack him. Or was that just me?

And the thing is, this book just takes so long to get anywhere. Donna Tartt knows how to bring the feels and this combination makes the reading experience emotionally exhausting (and kind of physically exhausting as well — that book is heavy).

There are times when this book is a slog and times when it’s absolutely riveting.

I kind of can’t tell if this was a positive or negative review and therefore I have no idea if this will be helpful to anyone. The Goldfinch is masterfully written. Tartt’s characters jump off of the page and her scenes are filled with powerful language and suspense. Hopefully I’ve given you some idea of what to expect if you decide to tackle this tome. Overall I’m glad that I read it, but I’m not sure I’ll be rereading it any time soon.

BEA14 Recap

June 3, 2014

Let us rejoice, fair readers, for I have returned triumphant. Book Expo America — the one day of it that I could attend — was a success!

I arrived in New York Friday night after quite a few wrong turns and extra bridges (my GPS and I had a disagreement — she really wanted me to go to Staten Island) to my friend’s lovely and welcoming apartment. After some food and conversation it was off to bed and a few hours later we were up, grabbing bagels (oh, how I miss NY bagels) and heading to the Javits Center.

I checked in and got my badge and we waited in line until the exhibition floor opened at 9. Then it was GoGoGo until the show closed in the afternoon.

Unlike in previous years, the Power Readers (or Book Con-ers, this year) were segregated to one section of the floor. While this made certain parts blissfully open, the other section, where much of the action was happening, was horrifically crowded and claustrophobic.

Even with all the extra people, I got tons of books.

I’d like to think I was more discerning this year, and perhaps I was, but all the same, I am already out of bookshelf space. There are just so many books and they all look so good! So yeah, this should prove interesting.

Now, I know you actually care very little about my experience at the expo. You just want to know what books I got. So, without further ado, I present my BEA14 Book Haul:

The BEA14 Book Haul Pile

The BEA14 Book Haul Pile

The Tastemakers: Why we’re for cupcakes but fed up with fondue by David Sax
The Happiest People in the World by Brock Clarke
Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev
How Star Wars Conquered the Universe by Chris Taylor
Birth of a Bridge by Maylis de Kerangal, translated by Jessica Moore
Zac & Mia by A. J. Betts
The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister
Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan
Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole
Jacob T. Marley by R. William Bennett
On Immunity: An inoculation by Eula Biss
Juliet’s Nurse by Lois Leveen
The Black Butterfly by Shirley Reva Vernick
Laura Ingalls Wilder: A writer’s life by Pamela Smith Hill
Pioneer Girl edited by Pamela Smith Hill
Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival by Jennifer Chiaverini
My Real Children by Jo Walton
All Roads Lead to Jerusalem by Jenny Jones
City of Lies: Love, sex, death, and the search for truth in Tehran by Ramita Navai
The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy
The Dogs Were Rescued (and So Was I) by Teresa J. Rhyne
Empire’s Crossroads: A history of the Caribbean from Columbus to the Present Day by Carrie Gibson
Alice + Freda Forever: A murder in Memphis by Alexis Coe
Madame Picasso by Anne Girard
Straight White Male by John Niven
Let’s Get Lost [excerpt] by Adi Alsaid
Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf
Misdiagnosed: One woman’s tour of and escape from healthcareland  by Jody Berger
Good Chinese Wife by Susan Blumberg-Kason
The Last Breath by Kimberly Belle
The Good Girl by Mary Kubica
Stars of the World Cup
Landline by Rainbow Rowell
Fridays at Enrico’s by Don Carpenter, finished by Jonathan Lethem
Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican
Rebel Souls: Walt Whitman and America’s first bohemians by Justin Martin
If Only You People Could Follow Directions by Jessica Hendry Nelson
The Girl Who Never Was by Skylar Dorset
Turkish Coffee Culture
A Millennium of Turkish Literature
The Aegean Mythology
Fire Shut Up in My Bones by Charles M. Blow
Rainey Royal by Dylan Landis
Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle
Drawing Amanda by Stephanie Feuer
Turkish Coffee by M. Sabri Koz and Kemalettin Kuzucu
The Geek’s Guide to Dating by Eric Smith
Jackaby by William Ritter
The Black Hour by Lori Radder-Day
Neverhome by Laird Hunt
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
Liberty’s Torch by Elizabeth Mitchell
Stitching Snow by R. C. Lewis
The Jewel by Amy Ewing
10:04 by Ben Lerner
We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas
The American Plate: A history of the United States in 100 bites by Libby H. O’Connell

Yesterday Humans of New York posted two photos of a librarian and a library student and asked them both “What’s the sexiest part about being a librarian?”

At first this may not seem like that big of a deal. It’s National Library Week and maybe he wanted to highlight some young librarians. But the question. There are so many good questions you could ask about librarianship. I think HONY often asks very good and insightful questions, so I’m confused by this.

Librarians constantly have to deal with the sexualization of the profession and it’s, frankly, ridiculous. Librarians as individuals are sexy. Knowledge is sexy. Books are sexy. But the sexy librarian trope doesn’t help anyone and emphasizing that when you have such a great opportunity to help people understand the greater importance of libraries in our changing society is absurd.

The young woman answered HONY’s question with poise and dignity and it’s just disappointing that she didn’t get to answer a better one.

I’m still going to follow the HONY. This one hiccup isn’t enough to make me abandon such a great page, but I will be paying more attention to the kinds of questions that he asks his subjects and I hope that he listens to the feedback he is undoubtedly getting from the library community about these posts.

This book is expansive. It is the kind of historical fiction that I love — the kind that spans multiple time periods to put into context the journeys and the characters. 

This story initially struck me as unexpected and I liked the portrayal of the bizarre friendship. Sometimes it moved a bit too slowly — the author took pains to get the details right and while it certainly added to the atmosphere, it was, perhaps, heavy-handed at times. 

Interestingly, as the book progressed and action built, parts began to fall a bit too predictably into place. Or perhaps I’m just good at putting together the pieces?

All the same, I really enjoyed this book. The characters, their motivations, and their interactions were refreshing. 

The Golem and the Jinni has gotten a fair amount of bookish buzz in recent months and it is well-deserved. It is a sweeping, poignant tale that will appeal to many readers. 

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.