Thursday, April 29, 2010

How To Indulge Your Naughty Book Love

These are my bookshelves. They are fairly unimpressive, but also overflowing.


Ideally, ‘overflowing’ would be a welcome arrangement, but my 90 sq. ft. bedroom is not ideal (and despite me calling them unimpressive, I think they are pretty amazing—much better than the huge bookcase I had in before that took up too much floor space). Books keep coming and I have no place to put them. What you see here, this is literally the ONLY SPACE I HAVE if I want to keep my room from looking like it belongs on Hoarders! As a result, my office desk is becoming a bookshelf in itself. The stack has grown so much that co-workers have begun to comment, and I’m thinking about operating a small lending library from my cubicle.
When I see rooms (or photos of rooms) with plentiful, floor-to-ceiling bookcases, I get envious. I dream of the day I have more than 90 sq. ft. of living space and a library (and I mean a room, not just a collection) of my very own.
Actually, ‘dream’ is the wrong word. I fantasize. I have wicked fantasies about a room that contains beautiful built-ins around which the rest of the room flows, colorful spines aligned neatly in a row, enormous windows, and a big comfy chair. Bookshelf space goes right on my list of house ‘must-haves,’ along with a front porch and a record collection.
Since you’re reading book blogs, there’s a good chance we share the same fantasy. How would you feel about a room like this? Or this? Or this? And don’t you just love libraries like this and bookstores like this? I’m assuming you shouted, “Oh, yes!” out loud right there, and there’s a new site I discovered created for people like us. And it’s called…
Are you ready for this?
Head on over and indulge in some…Bookshelf Porn. Which one is your favorite?

Monday, April 26, 2010

It’s a Party, I’ll read about the world if I want to!

In case you missed that last post I just wrote about my desire to read more world literature, I have recently come to the conclusion that I want to read more world literature. And then, while reading Eva’s blog, I came across her post on the World Party Reading Challenge, hosted by Fizzy Thoughts. Oh, what serendipitous timing!
This challenge runs for 12 months and requires reading 12 books, one for each month, on the chosen country. I’ve pretty much missed April at this point, so I’ll start with May and try to stick to the monthly schedule. However, I’m not one of those people that reads 20+ books a month (not even 10 books a month), so I’m not making any promises about strictly sticking to the schedule. I’ll just amend the official rules for my own challenge of hitting each country!
Looks like it’s time for a trip to my beloved Idlewild, and I’ll post a proposed list in the future. And if you need some book suggestions for this challenge and you’re attending BEA, be sure and give them a visit! And no, they aren’t paying me for advertising…I really just love this bookstore that much!
EDIT: Here’s the challenge schedule, which I probably won’t be stick to, but at least I can keep track of what I’ve done through this post.
  • April — April Fool’s Day — France
  • May — May Day — a communist country of your choice, past or present
  • June — Juneteenth — Liberia
  • July —July 4th — Rwanda
  • August — Women’s Equality Day — New Zealand
  • September — Native American Day — any sovereign Native American Tribe
  • October — Columbus Day — India
  • November — Thanksgiving — Turkey
  • December — Happy Holidays — choose your own country
  • January — Martin Luther King, Jr Day — Cambodia
  • February — Valentine’s Day — England
  • March – Saint Patrick’s Day — Ireland

Thursday, April 22, 2010

An exploration through literature

Generally I’d like to think that I keep an okay tab of what’s going on in the news. But, this hasn’t always been the case, and as a result, there are some things I know embarrassingly little about. The conflict in Israel and Palestine is one of them.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of those things you always just know exists but don’t think too much about, like we’ve grown accustomed to hearing about it but without really registering what it still means. We forget that it’s a very real part of some people’s daily lives. The conflict been going on for so long that it almost doesn’t seem to matter how it began—so much has happened in the past 60 years that just keeps fueling the tension between the two sides.
I just watched a documentary called Promises that followed a handful of Jewish and Palestinian children in Jerusalem from 1997-2000. Though these kids lived only minutes apart from each other, their worlds were completely divided. None of them had friends of the opposite culture. Most of them wanted peace. And each of them felt their cause was the “right” one. I loved this movie. Without getting bogged down by too much history or details, the filmmakers were able to illustrate the complexities of the conflict by peering into the lives of kids—individuals who have a voice that is rarely heard on the subject. Sanabel, a Palestinian pre-teen, said it best, with something like, “We didn’t choose war. War chose us.”
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is actually an issue that I keep running into lately in my literary adventures. My book club selection a couple months ago was School for Love, a novel that takes place in Jerusalem right after World War II and right before the beginnings of turmoil, when both sides were living (fairly) peacefully side by side as refugees from the war. The book didn’t delve into the politics too much—it was a character-driven novel—but it got me thinking.
Then I read this review by Amanda at The Zen Leaf on Mornings in Jenin, which inspired me to find some literature on the subject. Then I saw Promises. And today, I saw this story on NPR about Kai Bird’s Gate. So I think the forces of the universe are leading me one direction, and I am officially inspired to read about things I know little about.
This illustrates, without a doubt, my favorite thing about books. This is why I think they are so magical. Oftentimes, I don’t necessarily feel like I learn anything from the books I read, but then I think, “Well, the phrase ‘book-smart’ must mean something.” And this is it. Maybe I don’t get the full picture about every situation, but books give the reader a perspective. It’s a glimpse into a way of life that you probably don’t live, and that knowledge is priceless. So while I may not be a history buff, I know a little about Mormonism, or WWII, or bird-watching, or what it’s like to be of mixed race.
What are your favorite places books have taken you? Is there any subject you really want to explore through literature? I feel like I need to expand the voices I read. Give me some suggestions!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Review: An eternity of unrequited love

Gail Hareven’s The Confessions of Noa Weber is this year’s winner of the Best Translated Book Award for Fiction. Originally written in Hebrew, this is Hareven’s first novel translated into English, and it also won Israel’s Sapir Prize for Literature. So basically what I’m trying to say is, this book has been given a lot of credit in the world of world literature.
The story itself is simple. On the surface, Noa Weber is the epitome of a successful, feminist woman. She’s the author of a series of crime thrillers led by a strong, independent woman; she has a daughter whom she raised alone. But what Noa is hiding beneath the surface is that she’s completely and hopelessly in love with Alek, a man she met when she was seventeen, the man who fathered her child, the man she will never get over.
The Confessions of Noa Weber serves mainly as a confession to Noa herself instead of one to anybody else. She is picking apart her life, analyzing her emotions, and trying to come to terms with her life and Alek. Noa is so self-deprecatingly honest that, though you want to shake her to snap out of it, you can’t help but be intrigued by what she’s saying. I know unrequited love is a common theme in literature, but this was the first I’ve encountered of this kind—the kind where the afflicted just accepts this burden rather than anguish about letting it go. It was somewhat fascinating, somewhat cringe-inducing.
Though I found the ideas interesting, I did yawn through a lot of the book. Noa is like that friend that just won’t shut up about her boy problems and uses you as a backboard to pitch her theories on relationships. The first time around, she has fresh ideas and makes some good points, but once you’ve heard it for months and there’s nothing new to say, you want to tell her to shut up and get over it. But, it does have compelling ideas and (what I think is) a unique perspective on a common situation. Noa Weber is an extreme case, but I think most people will find something relatable about her.

“With more than twenty-nine years behind us, I am entitled to believe that I am, indeed, special to him. That my perseverance has borne fruit, and there is a place reserved exclusively for me in his heart.”
That’s all we really want, isn’t it?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Review: Letters through a war

If you haven’t yet read at least one review of Sarah Blake’s The Postmistress, then I am very surprised. Because it was the “It” book of March, I’m going to keep my summary short—you’ve probably read enough about it already.

First, let me start with my thought-processes going into this book. The Postmistress is the next BIG title to come out of the Amy Einhorn imprint. After the success of The Help, it seems like everyone has such high hopes for any Amy Einhorn title. These titles supposedly seek “that perfect blend of literary and commercial,” which I like to call “easy reading that has more depth than chick-lit.” This is true, but I must admit I’m a bit wary of the imprint on a whole; people expect every Amy Einhorn book to be just faaaabulous, and I would rather discover them individually than define them as “great” based on their publisher.
Further, this was the first full novel I read on my eReader [one advantage…library hold lists aren’t very long for digital copies]. It was hard to get used to. Being used to the physicality of books, I struggled when I couldn’t flip back a few pages to recall a character, and I had no physical context for passages I remembered (ie: “I don’t know what page it’s on, but it’s in the top third of the page…”). Eventually I got used to it, but I still prefer a hard copy.
Now about the actual book. It’s World War II, right before the U.S. officially enters the war. Iris James is the Postmaster of a small town in Massachusetts (because there’s no such thing as a “Postmistress,” only a “Postmaster”); Emma Fitch is the new wife of the town doctor, stuck alone after her husband leaves for London to help with the war effort. Iris holds a powerful position in town, as all news come directly through her, and Emma finds herself waiting around the post office for word of Will. Meanwhile, Frankie Bard is an American reporter working in London, a woman whose voice is familiar to both Iris and Emma through radio waves. The lives of these three women intersect through letters, and they each must decide how much the truth matters.
I had some pros and cons about this book. For one, I loved the setting. I can’t remember any other novel I’ve read that threw me into a war setting with as much detail and emotion. It was amazing to hear the details of destruction in Europe…and especially to see how it has so drastically recovered in relatively few years. I also loved Frankie. She has an American naivety, but she can’t be blamed for it; she is seeing a situation unlike any she has experienced before. I loved to hear how her experiences changed her thought-processes and developed her as a character. In terms of the negative, I didn’t feel anything for the either two women. For a book essentially named after Iris, she didn’t have as much of a role as I would’ve expected—Frankie was really the star of the novel. Plus, Iris just seemed grumpy. And Emma, she was just helpless, almost to the point where you felt sorry for her, but mostly I just rolled my eyes at her.
I thought the ending seemed trite…But perhaps one of my biggest annoyances was the Note from the Author at the very end. In it, Blake discusses her research (which was clearly a lot, and props to her for that because she definitely set the scene very well) and (here’s the kicker) what she was trying to say in this book. Umm. Shouldn’t she have gotten that point across in the previous 300 pages? If you need to sum it up at the end to tell the reader your point, maybe you should’ve done some more editing…because you’re supposed to get that point across in the novel itself.
Maybe I’m just being picky. I did enjoy reading it, and I know lots of women will think it’s fabulous and the greatest book of the spring/summer…but I doubt it will really stick with me.
What did everyone else think?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Home sweet home

So I’m not really going to be Wordless. Instead I’ll give an excuse for my absence, which is that I was enjoying the good ol’ state of Tennessee. I promise I’ll write a review soon—I have several things to review, including The Postmistress, an Israeli translated novel, and one about my glorious home state.

Until then…


For more Wordless Wednesday, go here.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Magnolia

For all those coming to NYC for BEA, be sure to hit up Magnolia Bakery (the West Village original). Yes, it’s touristy, but it’s also a must. NOM NOM!


More Wordless Wednesday here.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

GIVEAWAY Winner: Crazy Heart

Thanks to everyone who entered to win a copy of Thomas Cobb’s Crazy Heart. And a double thanks to Harper Perennial for offering this giveaway!

According to, the lucky winner is…


Which is…


Congrats, Sue! Check your mailbox soon!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

NEW BOOK! Review: The Amateur Sleuth Returns!

Ah Flavia, we meet again. Bantam Dell has just published the latest in Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce mysteries—The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag. You may remember the first in the series from last summer—the runaway bestseller A Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (review: here). For the second title in the series, Flavia, our 10- (almost 11!) year-old sleuth, is back and on top of the newest mystery to ascend upon Bishop’s Lacey.

With the opening line, “I was lying dead in the churchyard,” Flavia illustrates her flair for the dramatic, and so begins Flavia’s newest adventure. Shortly after her imaginary funeral, Flavia comes across a stranger strewn across a tombstone, weeping, in the church cemetery. Upon further investigation, Flavia discovers that a traveling puppeteer and his female assistant (said weeper) have detoured to Bishop’s Lacey. But Flavia suspects the famous Rupert Porson of Porson’s Puppets is not such a stranger to Bishop’s Lacey after all. After his mysterious death by electricity, Flavia finds herself entangled in two murder mysteries distanced by time but arguably connected.
Bradley’s second Flavia mystery is as enjoyable as the first, though I found that it took quite a bit longer to get into the suspense of the story. Flavia, again, is the most fun character I’ve encountered lately. She’s astoundingly brilliant and alarmingly self-aware, as indicated by this line:

“At this, a great laugh went up from the children in the audience, and I have to admit I chuckled a little myself. I’m at that age where I watch such things with two minds, one that cackles at these capers and another that never gets much beyond a rather jaded and self-conscious smile, like the Mona Lisa.”

She has a thirst for adventure but with a bit of that childhood naivety that leaves her blind to any real danger. She peppers her descriptions with literary quotes and references, and her chemistry genius proves her mind is beyond that of an average 10-year-old. She can concoct an antidote from the sodium nitrate in pigeon droppings and develop a poison of hydrogen sulfide from scratch, but in the end, Flavia’s biggest troubles are a couple of older bullies…her sisters. The blend of Flavia’s extravagant adventures and her seemingly monotonous everyday life results in a fun series that I am excited to continue.
Visit the Flavia website at