Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Good News from GoodReads!!


After what must have been a kitten-ton of comments, GoodReads has added a ReReading feature!

From the GoodReads blog:

How Do I Start Using the Rereading Feature?
Next time you decide to reread a book that you've already marked as Read on Goodreads, simply mark it as Currently Reading. When you are done, just mark it as Read. You can do this from the Goodreads iOS and Android apps and on Goodreads.com, as well as in the About the Book feature on Kindle (if you have connected your Goodreads and Amazon accounts - click here to connect your accounts). We take care of marking it as a reread for you. Bonus, it will also automatically be included in your Reading Challenge.

Rereading Rolling Out In Stages
While it sounds like a simple thing to add, rereading turned out to be a complex engineering challenge that involved our entire database. To give you a sense of that scope, our 60 million members have added more than 1.7 billion books to their shelves! That's why we're rolling out rereading in stages. So, if you're not seeing it yet, you will soon!

How Do I Add All The Times I've Reread My Favorite Books?
On Goodreads.com on desktop, use the brand-new "Add read date" button in My Activity on the Book Page to enter when you read the book; then hit save! (You don't have to have a start date, but you must have a finish year for the book to count toward your Reading Challenge.)

What Happens If I've Been Keeping Track of My Rereads With The "Number of Times Read" Option?
If you previously used the "Number of times read" field, don't worry, we've already done the work for you and all your rereads are still there. If you added a number, it automatically shows in the new feature. If you used text, we've included it in the private notes section of your review. Simply click on edit Review, to change any dates or add more information.

There is more info on the blog post, so I encourage you to visit.

This calls for a toast to GoodReads for listening, responding, and just being awesome! CHEERS!

Monday, January 30, 2017

BOTNS: Winning Reads 2017



It's so difficult to let go of my favorite podcast when they string me along like this. Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness send a monthly email to their faithful followers with a book recommendation from each. Here is what we have this month:





 
A Really Good Day by Ayelet Waldman

In A Really Good Day, Ayelet Waldman writes about her experimentation with micro-dosing LSD in an effort to cure her debilitating mood swings that had been difficult to control with conventional psychiatric medicine. Micro-dosing (taking a tiny amount of LSD every few days) does not give the kinds of psychadelic effects that we tend to associate with LSD, and Waldman explains, with the help of experts, the history of LSD and its potential uses that may never be made available because of governmental regulations about research.

This is also a memoir of how Waldman's marriage (to novelist Michael Chabon, though she never names him in the book) was strained by her mood disorder, and how her experiment with LSD may be the thing that saves it.

This book is truly fascinating and, I confess, had me wondering for a moment if maybe I knew a guy...


I love that Kingman, before introducing the book, prefaces with this:

I debated whether or not to include this book in our prize package, since I don't know the winners personally and I didn't want them to think that I was advocating for the use of illegal drugs. But in the end, I loved it so much, and it's not really about illegal drug use in the standard way, and most readers are open minded, so here we are.

She is sensitive to her readers, but also acknowledges our reading maturity, ability to decide for ourselves, and in general, gives us the power to choose. That is respect. Thanks, Ann.

Kindness is next with this suggestion:

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsay Lee Johnson

Though I think The Most Dangerous Place on Earth had its title early on, the plot was a mystery to me. That's a good thing because I think if I had known what it was about beforehand, I might not have read it. And that would have been a shame.

Lindsey Lee Johnson's debut novel is the story of a group of teens at a high school in affluent Marin County, CA. At first, the characters appear to fit into the usual high school stereotypes: the A-student, the athlete, the bad-boy screwup, the once-popular, now-ostracized girl. But in this novel, no one is quite what they seem, making them all the more real.

But back to why I wouldn't have wanted to read it if I'd known the plot. At the heart of the story is Tristan Bloch, a shy outcast and the target of online bullying. As a parent, the tragedies of this book were nearly too much to bear. But Lindsey Lee Johnson's writing makes this book worth the pain.


Again, a simple yet poignant warning to the reader that this will not be an easy journey, especially if you are a parent. However, if you choose to, you may just be a better person for it.  

And with that, you can see why I still miss this weekly podcast from these two exceptional readers. I have downloaded both of these, and added to my TBR. Let me know what you decide!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Himself by Jess Kidd

Summary:

When Mahony returns to Mulderrig, a speck of a place on Ireland’s west coast, he brings only a photograph of his long-lost mother and a determination to do battle with the village’s lies.
My take: 4 looks

For a debut novel, this one hits it, if not out of the park, at least to the wall. The opening chapter is a combination of all of my favorite genres: mystery, action, magical realism, and fantasy. You see, there is a young mother with her child running from a murderous cad. She doesn't make it, but the forest hides the child so the cad won't find him.

That's right! The forest hides him!

Fast forward thirty years, and he is back. With the help of some very interesting and colorful characters, as well as more than a few undesireables trying to thwart his efforts, he returns to Mulderrig to unearth the truth.

Oh, and did I mention that he sees dead people?

Highly recommended.

Thanks to NetGalley for this copy in exchange for my honest review. Published in October 2016, the book is available through Canongate Books.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

Summary:

Every family has its problems. But even among the most troubled, the Plumb family stands out as spectacularly dysfunctional. Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point on an unseasonably cold afternoon in New York City as Melody, Beatrice, and Jack Plumb gather to confront their charismatic and reckless older brother, Leo, freshly released from rehab.

Months earlier, an inebriated Leo got behind the wheel of a car with a nineteen-year-old waitress as his passenger. The ensuing accident has endangered the Plumbs joint trust fund, “The Nest,” which they are months away from finally receiving. Meant by their deceased father to be a modest mid-life supplement, the Plumb siblings have watched The Nest’s value soar along with the stock market and have been counting on the money to solve a number of self-inflicted problems.

My take: 2 looks

Egad. This book read like a season of Dallas or Dynasty, two prime time television soap operas in the 1980s. The story follows four siblings straight out of a caricature: Melody is an overachieving helicopter mom, Bea is a talented writer with no self esteem, Jack is quintessentially gay, and Leo is a larcenous cad. Cue the close-ups of each face as they discover that Leo's latest antics have siphoned their inheritance, and let the games begin.

Not compelling in any way, the story is a tired one, full of shock, lies, betrayal, and slight-of-hand. Of course, it is tied up neatly in the epilogue so that everyone lives happily ever after. That gives me some hope: there will be no sequel.

Not recommended.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Nutshell by Ian McEwan

Image result for nutshell ianSummary:

Trudy has betrayed her husband, John. She's still in the marital home a dilapidated, priceless London townhouse but John's not here. Instead, she's with his brother, the profoundly banal Claude, and the two of them have a plan. But there is a witness to their plot: the inquisitive, nine-month old resident of Trudy's womb. 

My take: 3 looks

Brilliant premise: the story is narrated by an unborn child. He can hear what goes on around him, as well as feeling his mother's feelings, and noting her heart rhythm and adrenaline surges. He is also very aware of her alcohol consumption and none-too-happy with the high activity level of her sex life.

Writing: I found the wiring to be a touch verbose, overly descriptive. However, at less than 200 pages, the editor of this one was probably hesitant to cut too much.

Overall: It was a fast and easy read, albeit unexceptional. I recommend it if you need a quick "palate cleanser" to assist in getting over a book hangover. Otherwise, look past this one.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

David Bowie had a reading list?

Heck, yes! Superstar musician and brilliant performer David Bowie was a prolific reader. As a matter of fact, it is said that he took all 400 books in his then-collection when he went on location to film "The Man Who Fell to Earth."

That set a pattern of taking a travelling library on tour and Bowie said: "I had these cabinets – it was a travelling library – and they were rather like the boxes that amplifiers get packed up in. . .  because of that period, I have an extraordinarily good collection of books."

When Vanity Fair asked him “What is your idea of perfect happiness?” he responded simply “reading.”

In 2013, Bowie posted his 100 favorite books on his public Facebook page. The list is a characteristically eclectic list featuring everyone from Junot Diaz and George Orwell to Angela Carter and Muriel Spark.

To find the complete list, look no farther than his official site. I can think of no better tribute on this one year anniversary to The Thin White Duke than to delve into the list, and then into one of the books.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

Waking Gods (Themis Files, #2)Summary:

In the gripping sequel to Sleeping Giants, which was hailed by Pierce Brown as “a luminous conspiracy yarn . . . reminiscent of The Martian and World War Z,” Sylvain Neuvel’s innovative series about human-alien contact takes another giant step forward.

My take: 5 looks

Again, any book read in one sitting gets an automatic 5 looks. I was a little hesitant to read this one without refamiliarizing myself with the first in the series, "Sleeping Giants", but no fear. While it would have been a bit richer to build on the characterizations of the main players, it was not necessary to dive right into the story. Enough background was provided to jog my memory. However, I do recommend reading these in sequence.

I remembered the first book being quite the exciting rollercoaster ride, and this was the same. Written in epistolary form, the science fiction-heavy story is made personal and easy to follow. I am not a huge fan of science fiction because I get bogged down in the science, unfamiliar words, and implausibility of the scenarios. Neuvel makes this science fiction feel very real and possible, and brings the genre home to readers like me.

A few of my fave lines:
Scientists are like children: They always want to know everything, they all ask too many questions, and they never follow orders to the letter.
Believing you're the only person with their head on straight is usually not a sign of good mental health.

This is highly recommended, and is available April 4th, 2017, by Del Rey.

Many thanks to NetGally for an advance copy in exchange for my review.


Monday, January 2, 2017

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney

Lillian Boxfish Takes a WalkSummary:

It’s the last day of 1984, and 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish is about to take a walk.

As she traverses a grittier Manhattan, a city anxious after an attack by a still-at-large subway vigilante, she encounters bartenders, bodega clerks, chauffeurs, security guards, bohemians, criminals, children, parents, and parents-to-be—in surprising moments of generosity and grace. While she strolls, Lillian recalls a long and eventful life that included a brief reign as the highest-paid advertising woman in America—a career cut short by marriage, motherhood, divorce, and a breakdown.

A love letter to city life—however shiny or sleazy—Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney paints a portrait of a remarkable woman across the canvas of a changing America: from the Jazz Age to the onset of the AIDS epidemic; the Great Depression to the birth of hip-hop.

My take: 5 looks

My first finished book of 2017 was a winner! I was dazzled and intrigued by the title, and the fact that Lillian is an octogenarian, taking a walk through Manhattan on New Year's Eve, made it that much more compelling. Rooney's writing is fluid and strong, witty and poignant. I very much wanted to meet Lillian at the beginning of the book, and I felt as if I had met her when I finished the last page. Lillian's personality, retorts, perfect timing, and sense of style came together to paint quite a character.

Imagine my surprise and delight upon discovering that Lillian Boxfish was patterned after a real person! Margaret Fishback Antolini (March 10, 1900 – September 25, 1985) was a published writer of prose and poetry, worked for Macy's in the advertising department, was reportedly the highest-paid female ad copywriter during the 1930s, and married the chief rug buyer from Macy's, which whom she had one son.

Because of the strong writing and compelling characterization of this fictionalized night in the life of a real person, I am looking forward to reading Fishback's books, and finding out more about this intriguing woman. A book that springboards to additional reading and research is the best kind of book!

Highly recommended.

Many thanks to NetGalley for an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Well, what did I expect?

You know what they say: hindsight is 20/20.

The Delta Zeta Collegiate ladies had the grandly marvelous idea to have a book group, and we are getting started in January. Molly, lead book group instigator, chose "Where'd You Go Bernadette" by Maria Semple as our first book.

I had already read this one, but it was the summer of 2014. I remembered how clever and witty it was, so I looked forward to a re-read. I usually take books off of my iPad when I finish them, to avoid cluttering the library, so I sat down to reload it. Once it was reloaded, I went straight to the highlights and notes to refresh my memory.

There were none.

Egad!

I sat and thought for a moment. Well, of course there were none. I had deleted the copy that contained my additions. When I reloaded the book, I reloaded the unread version and not the one I had marked. Without copying the file from my iPad to the computer, they would never be there. All of the notes on all of the books I had read on my iPad were gone.

Oddly, I wasn't that upset. After all, what was I thinking? My notes would "ghost" to the hard drive? What a cotton-headed-ninny-muggings! So, now I am hedging my bets and writing them in pen on paper.

Live and learn!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

2017 Reading List of the Edgewater Ladies Book Club

Image result for reading listMy friend Ashley belongs to a book group which sets their entire year's reading list at once.  There are pros and cons to this, for sure, but I love that she shares the list with me. Here is the 2017 planned reading list:

JAN      Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

FEB      The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg 

MAR    America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

APR      The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

MAY     Stoned: Jewelry Obsession & How Desire Shapes the World by Aja Raden

JUN     One Second After by William Forstchen

JUL      The Lady in Gold by Anne Marie O’Connor

AUG     The Doll House by Fiona Davis

SEP      Girl at War by Sara Novic

OCT      A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

NOV     Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick

DEC     Great American Eccentrics by C. Sifakis  

Overall, it's a little heavy on non-fiction for my taste, but a very good list. I have added a few of these to my TBR. Let me know what you think of the list, and what you think of creating an entire year's list at once.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Foiled Again: Public Library Board Appointment

While I am not surprised, I am very disappointed.

I asked the executive assistant to Arab's mayor to send me a list of the City Council-appointed public library board members. I expected a vacancy toward the end of the year, and made my interest known to all city council members, as well as the mayor, in June. I received a reply from one of the members, letting me know that others had also shown interest.

While I find that highly unlikely, I did not question him.

When I received the list, I was shocked to find that a young man had been appointed just yesterday, to fill a seat left vacant by a resignation.

Very interesting, since this young man ran for city council in the last election and lost. This looks awfully like a concession prize.

I wrote an email to each council member, asking what their criteria for appointment was, considering there were several interested parties. I know that I was never contacted.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

Summary:

Carolyn's not so different from the other people around her. She likes guacamole and cigarettes and steak. She knows how to use a phone. Clothes are a bit tricky, but everyone says nice things about her outfit with the Christmas sweater over the gold bicycle shorts. 

After all, she was a normal American herself once.  

That was a long time ago, of course. Before her parents died. Before she and the others were taken in by the man they called Father.

My take: 5 looks

I think I have hit my favorite genre, a genre I call Science Fiction Horror. I would put Daniel O'Malley's Chequey series in this category, as well. Humans vs nonhumans with a touch of needing to cover your eyes every now and again.

Carolyn seems like a normal young lady on the surface, as do her siblings. However, once you start to unravel the ties of the relationships with her "family", you see that there is something very other-worldly going on here. Father, Steve, Erwin, and the twelve librarians all have quite interesting histories. Histories that have prepared them for this moment of convergence.

"Library" had me from the very first page. It was gripping, taut, and very well crafted. As the pieces started to come together at the end, I found myself wanting more pages, simply so I could enjoy it longer. I will now search for others by this author.

Recommended.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Stiletto by Daniel O'Malley

Stiletto (The Checquy Files, #2)Summary:

When secret organizations are forced to merge after years of enmity and bloodshed, only one person has the fearsome powers—and the bureaucratic finesse—to get the job done. Facing her greatest challenge yet, Rook Myfanwy Thomas must broker a deal between two bitter adversaries:
 
The Checquy—the centuries-old covert British organization that protects society from supernatural
threats, and…
The Grafters—a centuries-old supernatural threat.
 
But as bizarre attacks sweep London, threatening to sabotage negotiations, old hatreds flare. Surrounded by spies, only the Rook and two women, who absolutely hate each other, can seek out the culprits before they trigger a devastating otherworldly war.
 
My take: 5 looks and a CAT CALL

When I saw that Daniel O'Malley had released a sequel to "The Rook", I immediately downloaded it and moved it to the top of my TBR.

The first in the series introduced us to the secret government organization tasked with protecting the general population from things of which they are completely ignorant. Kind of like "Men in Black". With a kick-ass woman as the lead, I devoured the more-than-600-page book in just a few days.

This one was no different. Again led by strong women, this is a must-read for every fan of science fiction, fantasy, and feminism. It is a roller coaster of a story, well-written, and cleverly full of twists and turns.

Some highlights:
  • I am absolutely appalled to have you here, but I am also extremely well mannered and so I shall conceal that fact from you.
  • "But I hate her," protested Odette. "Oh, I'm sure you think you do," said Marcel cheerfully, "but you're still young. It takes decades to really hate someone."
  • The color could perhaps have been descried as sky blue, but it was the blue of a sky that would drive even the cheeriest and most tuneful of novice nuns to slash her wrists. It was a blue that had given up.
See? Wicked good! Highly recommended.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Book Podcast Crisis Part 4: Adventures With Words

Adventures With Words
The next bookish podcast Ann and Michael of Books on the Nightstand recommended is Adventures with Words. This is a monthly podcast of books, sprinkled with reviews of film, tv, theater, and music. Hosted by Kate and Rob, it is based in the UK.

Looking at the description of their latest download, dated November 14, I am trepidatious. "It’s been an ‘interesting’ week in the world so Rob and Kate pick out some of the books they turn to for their comfort reads." Even though this is a British-based podcast, to have such a strong reference to the US Presidential election, and in a negative way, is off-putting for me. However, after listening, while both hosts are obviously liberal, they do restrain themselves from making political comments.

In choosing her first comfort read, Kate chooses ... a radio program. I forwarded through ten minutes of her talking about this daily 15-minute UK radio soap opera. To Rob's credit, he did choose a book, "Young Bond Strike Lightning" by Steve Cole. He gave a nice, succinct summary, as well as why he considers it a comfort read.

When it was time for Kate to talk about her next pick (would it actually be a book this time??), I felt my shoulders tense as she went on and on about buying the entire set of "The Murder Most Unladylike Mystery Series" by Robin Stevens. Can't stand the voice with her vocal fry.

Can't do this one.

When a friend sends a book...

So, I found lots of reading buddies in my coworkers at Bentley Systems. David is going to GIFT me a signed Ann Patchett that his wife found at a thrift store, Gilda carted me all over Chester County, Pennsylvania to visit book stores, and Jim told me that I HAD to read a particular book that he loves.

Great, right?

Well, Jim sent me the book, "The Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett. Amazon delivered yesterday. I thought I was going to have to get my wheelbarrow to get it in the house.

I even took pics!

I love a nice, thick read, but this one is really stout! As a matter of fact, it was not made into a television movie. It was not made into a theatrical release. It was made into a miniseries! That's commitment!

Here is the summary:
Everything readers expect from Follett is here: intrigue, fast-paced action, and passionate romance. But what makes The Pillars of the Earth extraordinary is the time—the twelfth century; the place—feudal England; and the subject—the building of a glorious cathedral. Follett has re-created the crude, flamboyant England of the Middle Ages in every detail. The vast forests, the walled towns, the castles, and the monasteries become a familiar landscape. Against this richly imagined and intricately interwoven backdrop, filled with the ravages of war and the rhythms of daily life, the master storyteller draws the reader irresistibly into the intertwined lives of his characters—into their dreams, their labors, and their loves: Tom, the master builder; Aliena, the ravishingly beautiful noblewoman; Philip, the prior of Kingsbridge; Jack, the artist in stone; and Ellen, the woman of the forest who casts a terrifying curse. From humble stonemason to imperious monarch, each character is brought vividly to life.

The building of the cathedral, with the almost eerie artistry of the unschooled stonemasons, is the center of the drama. Around the site of the construction, Follett weaves a story of betrayal, revenge, and love, which begins with the public hanging of an innocent man and ends with the humiliation of a king.

At once a sensuous and endearing love story and an epic that shines with the fierce spirit of a passionate age, The Pillars of the Earth is without a doubt Ken Follett's masterpiece.

Thanks, Jim! This is the next one on my list!