Saturday, May 7, 2016

Books Finished in April

19. Beggars and Choosers by Nancy Kress

Received from Bookmooch; the best I've read from Nancy Kress since Beggars in Spain. I still prefer the first book, but this is an intriguing sequel that ups the game on how genetic engineering can revolutionize society. The affected speech of the "livers," (people who are essentially paid not to work) though, is super annoying.

20. The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon

Glad I gave Chabon another chance after Wonder Boys, although I probably liked this one so much since I'm more interested in the source material. Chabon creates a convincing version of a Jewish/Yiddish society formed in a post-World War II Alaska. Highly recommended, and proud of myself that I didn't need the glossary. Also, wishing there were more books out there where I could put my vestigial Yiddish to use.

21. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

Totally convinced now that all chefs are secretly part of the mafia. Just kidding. A little. Seriously though, not what I was expecting, but definitely...interesting.

22. A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

Meh. This book got such great reviews, but it's just a story about a family and I didn't find any of the characters especially compelling. Anne Tyler is a wonderful writer and her prose is pleasing, but I didn't like it as much as Digging to America or The Accidental Tourist, which I was concurrently listening to on audiobook.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Free Books and How to Find Them

I've acquired a number of free books lately and thought I would share my secrets. Feel free to share yours in the comments!

I've been a member of Bookmooch for about 8 years now, and while it's not always gratifying in the short term, it's been amazing over the long haul. Eventually, books I'm interested in come around, and in the meantime, I can send excess books to good homes that will care for them (and then perhaps pass them onto another loving home). 

Recently, I've acquired Beggars and Choosers by Nancy Kress and Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, which were on my wish list for years, so it's not the fastest method but it gets results!

2. Little Free Libraries

I'd vaguely heard of Little Free Libraries when I discovered one in my neighborhood. I always enjoy checking out the selection, and it changes often enough that every once in a while, I see a book of interest. I've also added a few books to the collection.

Recently, I've acquired Paper Towns by John Green and Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok. There's no guarantee that a book you want will magically appear, but browsing is part of the fun!

3. The Library

And then, there's the actual public library! Although I occasionally have some success getting specific books I want, I've found that most of the fun of the library is browsing or looking for popular books from years ago. If you really want a current bestseller, there's probably a long waiting list or if you need a specific book now, it's not often the best way to go, but to walk in a roomful of free books is itself a pleasure.

Recently, I've been checking out audiobooks including Anne Tyler's The Accidental Tourist. It's  a good deal since audiobooks are usually expensive and, unlike physical books, I don't find I like to re-read them. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Do You Ever Promote New Books Over Classics to Level the Playing Field?

I'm a big fan of classics. There's a reason for that. Those were the books I read in school, parents and relatives recommended, and I read on lists, first in library pamphlets and then on the Internet. Classics are classics for a reason is an old adage, but more and more we're calling into question what that reason is. The We Need Diverse Books movement argues that books by and about women and minorities have consistently been overlooked, and that if we make a conscious effort to include them, we will find material that is just as good or better than the traditional classics. From my own research and opinion, I know that at least some of the works of 16th century women writers, who were not read or studied for centuries, is just as thoughtful and entertaining as the work of some of their male contemporaries,whose work has been closely studied and promoted for centuries. I'm not making an argument about diverse books here, necessarily, although I include those, but I am suggesting that once a book gathers literary acclaim, that acclaim tends to perpetuate itself (i.e. literary classics follow the law of inertia).

With that in mind, what about books that have not yet had much chance to generate forward motion? There's an idea that reviewers have a moral imperative to be gentler to newer and debut authors. But does that extend to promoting a newer book over a classic, even if you honestly think the classic is better? For example, if I have to recommend the number one fantasy book I have ever read, I would have to answer Lord of the Rings every time. However, the people who are most likely to ask me this question, fellow fantasy readers, have most likely already read it and are certainly aware of it. So wouldn't it benefit fantasy readers (and authors) more to answer Bitterblue or The Girl of Fire and Thorns? I'm having a really hard time thinking of newer fantasy books that haven't also been hyped somewhat, but maybe that's part of the problem.

This whole question arose when I was writing my Top Ten list for Books Every Gamer Should Read, and while I could think of some newer books that fit the description, I thought more "classic" books worked better. I went with the classics, but perhaps I should have taken the opportunity to promote. Should I put a newer book on my Top Ten Tuesday list if it's not really in my top ten, but I did like it and don't think other people have heard of it as much? Does anyone else worry about this, or make the opposite choice?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Top Ten Books That Will Make You Laugh

Happy Top Ten Tuesday over at the Broke and the Bookish!

Books that make me laugh are not always books that make other people laugh (I think Romeo and Juliet is hilarious), but I'll try:

1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

2. Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

3. The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz

4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams


That's all I can think of. I can think of other books with funny characters (Silk from David Eddings' Belgariad and Malloreon) or funny turns of phrase (Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union), but I don't read a lot of books just for laughs. Maybe I should.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts

1. I'm now reading Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential--I know it says "Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly" but I was not prepared for the level of drugs and criminality. With some of the stuff he talks about, I'm surprised this book didn't end up with him six feet under, even though he does change names. Wow.

2. Wedding dates--how do you choose? Do you ask your friends and family first? The rabbi? The venue? What comes first when picking a date? I'm so confused.

3. Are engagement parties really necessary? I know people have them, but I didn't realize it was, like, de rigeur. There's a budget for it in all of the wedding planning books/sites I've looked at, and it just seems really unnecessary? Especially if a bridal shower is also required/expected? Who came up with this madness?

4. I think I officially DNF'd Empress of the Night, just have to return it to the library. Next audiobook up: The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler. I hear there are corgis.

5. So, not a huge deal, but 85-90% of my clothes are visibly worn out or have stains/holes. I should probably get new clothes. Except a) I hate shopping for clothes and b) I have zero budget for clothes. Tips on cost-conscious shopping? I know I should probably try thrift stores, but that's not a thing my family does so it's not familiar to me and the idea of hunting through tons of clothes makes me ill.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Top Ten Books Every Gamer Should Read

Happy Top Ten Tuesday at the Broke and the Bookish!

Disclaimer: I am not a big gamer myself, but my boyfriend is and he agrees with me on most of these (and hasn't read the rest).

1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

For anyone nostalgic for the '80s and early '90s.

2. Armada by Ernest Cline

This is the only one I haven't read, but my boyfriend read and liked it, although he did say it wasn't as good as Ready Player One.

3. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

For fans of shoot 'em up games in space, like XCom.

4. You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

For WoW fans or recovering addicts, also fans of Geek & Sundry and/or Felicia Day.

5. Dune by Frank Herbert

For fans of space or other colonization games, like Space Engineers or Civilization.

6. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

For fans of fantasy games, like Dragon Age and the Elder Scrolls.

7. Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear

Also for fans of Dragon Age and the Elder Scrolls.

8. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

For fans of space and Star Wars games

9. The Belgariad and Malloreon by David Eddings

Also for fans of fantasy and colonization type games.

10. World War Z by Max Brooks

For fans of Day-Z,  Fallout, and The Walking Dead.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Books Read in March

12. Peony in Love by Lisa See

 Lisa See brings another little known (at least in the Western world) phenomenon from Chinese women's history to life. Peony, the character and the book, is representative of a historical cohort of women who fell in love with a fifteenth century opera, The Peony Pavilion, and, in imitation of the main character, wasted away from 'lovesickness.' Read my full review here. 

13. The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson

14. The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson

Like the first book, A Girl of Fire and Thorns, the second and third books in this compelling trilogy, show that author Rae Carson is not afraid to pull the hard punches. The novels continue to be strong on character development, especially for the main character Princess Elisa, and world-building, set in a mostly desert world with a fascinating religious backstory. Overall, I think the first book is my favorite, but I'm glad I continued to follow Elisa's journey. The end is both satisfying and leaves room hopefully for more books set in this world. Highly, highly recommended.

15. Tarnish by Katherine Longshore

Katherine Longshore has accomplished that wonder of wonders and created a fresh version of the Anne Boleyn story. Read my full review here.

16. Son by Lois Lowry

In each of her books in The Giver quartet, Lois Lowry skilfully builds worlds around a single word. The final installment, Son, illuminates the meaning of the title, and sheds more light for the curious on Jonas' Community, unseen since the first book. The story of Claire, mother of Gabriel, overlaps with and diverges from Jonas' until she finally reaches her eponymous goal. This is a satisfying book in itself and as an end to the series, although The Giver remains my favorite.

17. Pax by Sara Pennypacker and illustrated by Jon Klaussen

This book broke my heart, a little. It's a children's story about a fox and his boy, in what seems like a possibly dystopian England. The fox, Pax, has an imaginatively rendered way of thinking and speaking that again, seems calculated to evoke the heart strings. I had to curl up for a while with my little fox (read: corgi mix) after reading. Read at your own risk.

18. A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Obbotson

This was a cute audiobook about a Russian countess who escapes the revolution to become an English maid. It's enjoyable, with a predictable ending, but some of the attitude rubbed me the wrong way. The audience is invited to sympathize with a character who habitually fondles maids, and while it's overtly acknowledged that this behavior is "incorrect," it seems to be validated in the end, when pretty maids are hired with him in mind...ugh (it's tacitly excused because the maids in question either like it or don't mind and he "never goes too far" but yeah, not okay). Also, a lot of weird/archaic stereotypes, but the author does seem to be trying to promote diversity...Otherwise, positive message about how eugenics is evil (yeah, I'm not sure why this novel when in that direction, but it did).