Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Day Late and a Dollar Short

Well, that pretty much sums up my life. I have several things that I want to share with everyone, but many of you may have already heard about them. But, I figured that I'd go ahead and post anyway because I think it's all worthy information.

First, I found a link yesterday on Lisa's blog regarding author Patry Francis who has been diagnosed with cancer just as she was set to promote her new book, The Liar's Diary. So the book world decided to promote her book for her. This is such a great idea, and it offers us (readers and bloggers) a way to give back to the authors who give us so much pleasure.

Next, I came across this at the New York Times this morning and thought I would pass it along. Title Page is a new literary program set to air in early March. The show "will feature a round-table discussion between Mr. Menaker, 66, a former fiction editor at The New Yorker, and a group of four authors. The first episode will be streamed online at on March 3. "

Finally, Not in Worldcat is a new blog devoted to works that aren't found in OCLC's union catalog, which contains records from over 60,000 libraries worldwide. This description is taken from the site.

" is the public face of the largest combined (or “union”) library catalog in the world. Library folks usually refer to it as OCLC (Online Computer Library Center). Currently OCLC/WorldCat catalogs over 1 billion items from over 60,000 libraries around the world. This blog is not affiliated with OCLC/Worldcat in any way. It’s just an outlet for one bookseller/librarian (me) to feature unusual, rare and interesting items that exist outside of WorldCat’s vast reach."

You Make My Day!

I was tagged by the lovely Jill at The Magic Lasso with the You Make My Day Award. I'm glad Jill likes reading what I have to say. I've 'met' so many wonderful book lovers since I started this blog. I appreciate all the kind words and comments left here, and I absolutely love reading what everyone else is up to. Now, I'm supposed to tag ten bloggers who make my day when I read their posts. If you're in my blog list, I enjoy reading what you have to say, so it's difficult to choose just ten. But, here goes (in no particular order):

1. Jenclair Garden Carried in my Pocket)
2. Andi (Tripping Toward Lucidity)
3. Lisa (Bluestalking Reader)
4. Simon (Stuck in a Book)
5. Cornflower
6. Maggie (Maggie Reads)
7. Literary Feline (Musings of a Bookish Kitty)
8. Sharon ( Ex Libris)
9. Sam (Book Chase)
10. Stephanie (Stephanie's Confessions of a Bookaholic)

Great Expectations

I finished this book over the weekend for the Year of Reading Dangerously Challenge and haven't had time to post a proper review. I'm not sure I would really call this a proper review. I'm simply going to give you my thoughts on the book. I think I've confessed here before that I had not read any Dickens to this point. So, I was pleasantly surprised at just how much I liked it. I also mentioned before that I was reading the BN classics edition, for which I was truly grateful. This edition contained end notes in addition to explanations of obscure words and phrases, a very nice introduction and an alternate ending. I didn't know this, but Dickens changed the ending at the request of Edward Bulwer-Lytton, a friend of his who was also a novelist and literary critic. Though neither the original ending nor the final version can be accused of being a 'happy ending', the final version does allow for some ray of hope, albeit extremely small. It's in this final version that Dickens allows the reader to decide for themselves what the future holds for Estella and Pip.

Dickens fleshes out his characters in such a way as you really begin to feel as if they are real people. I felt sorry for Pip from the first page to the last page. First, he is an orphan being raised by his hateful older sister. The only saving grace here is her husband, Joe, truly cares for Pip and tries (usually unsuccessfully) to shield him from some of the maltreatment he must endure. He tries hard to do the right thing and to please everyone around him. Fear, guilt, and insecurity are his companions throughout his life. When he gets a taste of a different life by going to the eccentric wealthy Miss Havisham's, he becomes obsessed with making a better life for himself. At the time, he believes that a better life is one in which he is a wealthy gentleman as opposed to the blacksmith he will become if he remains with his Uncle Joe.

And then there's Estella. Of course, she plays a huge role in all of this. Pip is immediately smitten with Miss Havisham's adopted daughter the first time he lays eyes on her at a very young age. From that moment on, she is the main reason that he wants to become a gentleman -- to become worthy of Estella. She has been raised by Miss Havisham to be hard and cruel and to neither feel nor show any emotion. Pip admits that he is never happy in her company, but he loves her and longs to be with her forever. I also felt some sympathy for Estella. She was a product of her upbringing and didn't know the meaning of love. Dickens' characters are well-rounded. It's difficult to totally love or hate them. In this way, they are all too real.

Pip believes his dreams will be realized when he is informed of an anonymous benefactor. He is to immediately leave Joe, the only person that has ever cared for him, and the blacksmith apprenticeship behind and go to London. He is given some money and told he must wait until the time is right to find out the identity of his benefactor. He mistakenly presumes that it is Miss Havisham and that she must also intend Estella for him, as well. In London, he mismanages the money he is given, and he turns his back on Joe because he is ashamed of his manners and dress. The reader knows from the moment he leaves his childhood home that things will not turn out well for Pip. It was extremely frustrating at times because I just wanted to shake Pip and tell him to wake up. The reader sees so clearly the mistakes that he's making, but you also understand that he is naive.

There are many twists and turns throughout the story, which add to the drama of the book. However, sometimes the reader is expected to believe extreme coincidences. All in all, that is a small price to pay for such a lovely story.

Monday, January 28, 2008

I've Been Tagged

Susan at Bloggin' Bout Books tagged me for this meme that has been making its rounds around the blogging community.

Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews? The Road by Cormac McCarthy because it just seems very depressing and not at all like anything I normally like. However, people who have very similar tastes in reading have recommended it. But, I still keep putting it off.

If you could bring three characters to life for a social event (afternoon tea, a night of clubbing, perhaps a world cruise), who would they be and what would the event be? I'd like to have supper with Atticus and Scout Finch and Boo Radley from To Kill a Mockingbird.

(Borrowing shamelessly from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde): You are told you can't die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for awhile, eventually you realize it's past time to die. What book would you expect to get you a nice grave? Moby Dick -- I just can't get through it.

Come on, we've all been there. What book have you pretended, or at least hinted, that you've read, when in fact you've been nowhere near it?
Can't think of one.

As an addition to the last question, has there been a book you really thought you had read only to realize when you read a review about it/go to "reread" it that you haven't? Which book? O.K., this is horrible to admit, but -- Little Women

You're interviewing for the post of Official Book Advisor to some VIP (who's not a big reader). What's the first book you'd recommend and why? (If you feel like you have to know the person, go ahead and personalize the VIP) I don't care who it is, I would recommend To Kill a Mockingbird -- the greatest book of all time in my very humble opinion.

A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: you will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with? Wow, this is a tough one. Since I'm not fluent in any foreign language, there are too many to choose from. I guess maybe it would be French.

A mischievous fairy comes and says you must choose one book that you will reread once a year for the rest of your life (you can read other books as well). Which book would you pick? Sorry, this is becoming boring, I know. But to answer honestly, I would have to say To Kill a Mockingbird.

I know the book blogging community, and all its challenges, have pushed my reading borders. What's one "bookish" thing you discovered from book blogging (maybe a new genre, or author, or new appreciation for cover art - anything)?
Wow, another tough one. I can't honestly think of one particular thing. I find something new every day from reading all the wonderful book blogs out there. I guess one of the nicest things about it is finding others who share your passion for books and reading.

The good fairy is back for one final visit. Now, she's granting you your dream library! Describe it. Is everything leather bound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few favorite authors have inscribed their works? Go ahead - let your imagination run free.
The short answer would be -- I'll just take the library in the Biltmore House. If you've never been, you have to go. It is a book lover's dream. There are floor to ceiling windows on the back wall with beautiful views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. There are leather sofas and cushioned arm chairs. The walls are lined with leather bound books and a ladder to help you reach the books on the upper shelves. Everything is done in rich burgundy and gold colors. There is a huge fire place. I could go on and on, but I'm starting to drool.

Now I'm supposed to tag four people to complete this meme.

Jen Clair




Have fun!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Reading Update

Well, I feel like I'm on track with my reading goals for this year. Yes, I realize that it's still just January. That aside, I'm progressing nicely with Great Expectations. I'm on Chapter 38 and will try to finish it in the next couple of days. I haven't had an evening at home this week, but I don't have anything planned for tonight. So, I will hopefully get in a good deal of reading. I'm not sure what I expected with this book. I think that's one of the problems with reading a classic at this point. Everyone else has pretty much read it and given their opinion on it. It seems that people either love it or hate it. So far, I'm really enjoying it. I'm reading the B&N classics edition, which is really nice. It has footnotes, which explain some of the more obscure words. There is also a nice introduction. But, enough about that. I don't want to get into too much more until I finish it.

Reading Challenge
I'm also reading Nocturnes by John Connolly as a part of the Short Story Challenge. I'm not going to do any reviews at this point, but I'll just say for now that I'm enjoying them. I've been reading these at night right before I go to sleep, and I've actually scared myself a few times to the point of scooting over closer to hubby. They aren't that scary, but they are disturbing in a fun sort of way (and yes, I am a big scaredy cat).

Early Reviewer
I was disappointed yesterday when I got a notice from LibraryThing saying that I didn't get an Early Reviewer book this time around. I figured I wouldn't since I've gotten three in the past, but I was still disappointed. So, imagine my delight when I got a message today that I had gotten one of the bonus batch books. The Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur by Daoud Hari (Random House) is obviously non-fiction, which will be a nice change of pace for me. Here's the blurb from LibraryThing:

"I am the translator who has taken journalists into dangerous Darfur. It is my intention now to take you there in this book, if you have the courage to come with me.

The young life of Daoud Hari—his friends call him David—has been one of bravery and mesmerizing adventure. He is a living witness to the brutal genocide under way in Darfur."

Book Lusting
Finally, I have several books that I'm dying to get my hands on. But the one I want the most is The Serpent's Tale by Ariana Franklin. This is the second installment in the Mistress of the Art of Death series. This was one of my top picks from 2007, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was going to be a series. So, thanks Jenclair for alerting me to this one! I've also ordered They Came Like Swallows by William Maxwell through ILL (thanks, Lara!) for the Cornflower Book Group.

That's all for now, but I'll have some book reviews and an update on my class soon.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

No Snow (again!)

O.K., I thought I would be home this weekend wrapped in a blanket reading by the fireplace as snow lazily drifted outside my window. Well, so far all we have is rain, and I'm at work with no fireplace and no cozy blanket. However, I do have lots of books (one of the perks of working in a library!). Hopefully, the snow is on its way. But we've had several false alarms here of late, and I'm losing what shaky faith I had in the art (or is it science?) of weather prediction.

This is the third Early Reviewers book that I've received from LibraryThing. I actually read this one and got the review posted on LibraryThing in a timely fashion. At first glance, I put this book into the same category as Carolyn Hart's Death on Demand series and Maggie Sefton's Knitting Mysteries. In this type of mystery, the author intermingles details regarding a particular hobby such as reading in Hart's books and knitting in Sefton's books in with the mystery. The comparison is fair because this book contains a mystery or two and is intermingled with descriptions of plants and gardening.

Paula Holliday, originally from New York, is a thirty-something single woman who is starting a new gardening/landscaping business in Connecticut. Of course there is the usual murder and mayhem you would expect to find in any mystery book. In her first big job, Paula stumbles upon the preserved corpse of a baby in the garden of one of the town's most respected citizens. Of course, she sets about trying to solve this mystery much to the dismay of the local police. But, it doesn't end there. The sleazy owner of a nursery in town winds up murdered, and Paula thinks the body she found is connected to the murder in some way. As she investigates, strange things begin to happen, and she finds herself in trouble with the police and possibly in danger herself.

I really wanted to like this book as much as I've enjoyed the books by Sefton and Hart. Unfortunately, I didn't. The book was pretty good, and I probably would have liked it better if I were the least bit interested in gardening. As my yard will attest, I usually find other things to do with my time (usually reading and knitting). But, I found some problems with the book. Some of it was simply not believable for me. The actions of the characters didn't ring true and sometimes seemed forced.

I think anyone who likes gardening and this type of amateur sleuth mystery would probably enjoy this book, but don't expect too much. Hopefully, the books that follow in the series will get better.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Class is in Session

I'm back in class -- well, sort of. I've decided to audit a class this semester taught by Dr. Jim Gulledge here in the library. The class is The Works of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. I'm really excited about this class after the first meeting yesterday. The class is small, about 18 students, and the setting is intimate, which is a pleasant way of saying that we're crammed into a tiny room on the third floor of the library. After reviewing the syllabus, I can honestly say that I'm glad that I'm auditing the class. I'm not sure I'd be able to keep up and work full-time and take care of everything else in my crazy life. As you might expect with these two prolific authors, the course is extremely reading-intensive, which suits me just fine. In fact, I just returned from the bookstore where I picked up several of the books that are required for the course. The Essential C. S. Lewis, edited by Lyle W. Dorsett, The Tolkien Reader by J. R. R. Tolkien and Beowulf: A Verse Translation by Seamus Heaney and edited by Daniel Donoghue. In addition to these, we'll be reading The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien and three of the books in the Chronicles of Narnia series by Lewis -- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Magician's Nephew, and The Last Battle. I know I may be the last person on the face of the planet who has not read The Lord of the Rings. The closest I've come is watching the movie, which I did enjoy. So, I'm looking forward to finally reading this book.

I know I'm weird when it comes to things like this (my children remind me of this fact quite often!), but I'm like a kid in a candy store when I go to pick up books for a class. I love school. I always have. I think that's part of the reason I ended up as an academic librarian. This is as close as it comes to getting paid to go to school, which happens to be my ultimate dream. I graduated with my MLIS in 2005 and haven't taken any classes since, which is the longest that I've been out of school since 1998. I was beginning to have withdrawals. Luckily one of the benefits of being an employee in most colleges and universities is the opportunity to take classes free. So, until someone hires me to be a full-time student, I will probably continue to take classes that pique my interest in order to stave off those pesky withdrawal symptoms. So, you'll probably be hearing updates about the reading for this class periodically throughout this semester.

I should finish my latest Early Reviewers book from LibraryThing, Pushing Up Daisies by Rosemary Harris, this weekend. I also hope to make some progress on Great Expectations, which I'm supposed to have read by the end of the month for the Year of Reading Dangerously Challenge. My face to face book club meets on February 7, and we'll be discussing The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks. So that will be next on the reading list. Of course, that is after I do the reading for my class.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

(I received this book as part of LibraryThing's Early Reviewer's program. The book that I received has a different cover, which I like better.)

Let me preface this by saying that I don't read very many short story collections. So, I didn't really know what to expect from this book. However, I knew from the very first story that I was going to enjoy this book. I especially like the way that the author loosely ties all of the stories together using the title character, Olive Kitteridge. This allows the reader the opportunity to see how differently people perceive themselves and others. The stories also progress over time. In the first story, Olive is a working mother, and in the last several stories, she is in her 70s and has lost her husband.

Though Olive is featured in each of the stories, she is featured more prominently in some, and these turn out to be my favorite stories. It would be difficult for me to pick a favorite story, but I think "Security" would have to be one of my favorites. In this story, Olive goes to visit her only son and his pregnant wife in New York. Olive feels very out of place and is devastated to learn that Christopher has issues with her and the way he was raised. The visit ends with Olive and Christopher having an argument and Olive leaving earlier than planned.

It's true that on the surface Olive seems to be an unpleasant person who speaks her mind without regard for the feelings of others. However, I think that the author does a good job of showing the complexities of this character. I feel like much of her brusqueness comes from insecurities. But for all of her rudeness and harshness, she does show kindness in unexpected ways.

Overall, this is a really great book of stories that does indeed read like a novel. I would highly recommend it. Thanks LT for this early reviewers program!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Secret Santa Update

O.K. let me begin by apologizing to Literary Feline. I actually thought I had already posted on this. I know, that's pretty scary, huh? Yes, I did receive a lovely, generous gift in the Secret Santa exchange. I know it was sent well over a month ago, but it only arrived in the last week. I feel sure it got lost in the Christmas mail because the package looked a little worse for wear. However, the goodies inside were safe and sound. I received a package of book plates, several bookmarks and a Barnes and Noble gift card! I have ordered several classics that I've been meaning to read -- Great Expectations, Woman in White, and Cranford. There was also a very lovely card that I will save. I don't have my camera with me at work, or I would post some pictures. Again, my apologies to Literary Feline. Thank you for your generous gift. This was a great deal of fun.

Monday, January 7, 2008


There are numerous literary prizes that get doled out yearly -- Pulitzer, Man Booker, Orange, etc. However, in the world of academic libraries there is -- Choice Outstanding Academic Titles. For those of you unfamiliar with Choice, this is a book review publication, which reviews only academic titles. At the beginning of each year, they publish a list of the best from the previous year. As an acquisition librarian, I use this tool quite a bit. In fact, I think the majority of academic librarians rely on Choice for much of their title selection. So, you will understand why we are so excited here in the G. A. Pfeiffer Library to discover that one of our own, Laura Stivers, Associate Professor of Philosophy, has had her book chosen as one of the Choice Outstanding Academic Titles of 2007! Justice in a Global Economy. Congratulations, Laura!

(edited to include link to faculty profile)

The Tin Roof Blowdown by James Lee Burke

This is the first James Lee Burke book that I've read, and I read this one because it was chosen for my face to face book club. I was pleasantly surprised with this read. I'm not sure what I expected, but I figured I would read it and forget it. I'm not sure how much this book is like Burke's other work. If you're a fan, please let me know. The book is part of his Dave Robicheaux series, which is set in New Orleans. The setting itself is really another character in the story. Burke spends a great deal of time detailing the surroundings, which I adored. I love to gain a sense of place while reading, especially when it's somewhere I've never been. As you might expect, there are descriptions of lovely tree-lined streets and sunsets over the water. As beautiful as many of these scenes are, there are equal numbers of disturbing scenes. You see, this book is set in New Orleans immediately before and after Hurricane Katrina. So, many of the descriptions are heartbreaking.

"The entire city, within one night, had been reduced to the technological level of the Middle Ages. But as we crossed under the elevated highway and headed toward the Convention Center, I saw one image that will never leave me and that will always remain emblematic of my experience in New Orleans . . . The body of a fat black man was bobbing face down against a piling. His dress clothes were puffed with air, his arms floating straight out from his sides. A dirty skim of yellow froth from our wake washed over his head. His body would remain there for at least three days."

Burke is from Louisiana, and you really get a sense of the loss and anger that he feels about what happened following Katrina. The ineptitude and mismanagement of numerous state and federal agencies contributed to the deaths of so many. It is also obvious to the reader that Burke believes much of what happened following Katrina was fueled by racism.

The book is ultimately a detective story with the flawed hero. The bad guys are a little more complex than the stereotypical criminals. One in particular, Bertrand Melancon, evokes pity for the situation he finds himself in. He has made some really bad choices, but he hasn't had many opportunities in life, either. No, that doesn't justify what he's done, but it does allow you to see possibly why he's the way he is. Overall, I enjoyed the book and recommend it to anyone who enjoys this genre.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Happy New (Reading) Year!

After an unintended lengthy break from posting, I'm back at work and raring to go for 2008. I had a great holiday with family and friends and even managed to stay on my diet (sort of). I didn't gain anything, which I consider a success. However, I do have one regret. I didn't quite end the reading year with a bang. As usual, with almost two weeks off work, I was looking forward to reading several books. I had them all picked out, and I couldn't wait to get started. But, it never happened. I'm not sure why. Yes, there was Christmas shopping to finish and gifts to wrap, and decorating to be done, and knitting to finish -- well, you get the picture. But, that still doesn't explain it. I'm always busy, but when I'm working I seem to still find time to read. I read at lunch, I read in the evenings before bed. I always carry a book with me to read in case I'm stuck waiting somewhere. I'm one of those people who can't just sit and do nothing. So, you would think being out of work, I'd be able to get a great deal of reading time in. But, it never happens that way. I guess I just function more efficiently on a schedule. I wanted to read 50 books this year, which is a pretty meager goal considering the staggering number of books some of you read. I was sure I would make it, too. But, I didn't. I read 42 books in 2007. I've never really kept up with the number before so I don't really know if that is typical or not. It was really difficult to choose a favorite book for the year. If I don't like something after a few chapters, I usually give it up. So, if I stick with it, that means I liked it. I was able to narrow it down to a tie for my favorite. Taking a cue from some of the rest of you, here are some of my reading statistics for 2007:

Favorite Book (It's a tie -- couldn't choose just one):
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
The Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin

Top 5 Books (not counting the above and not in any particular order):
1. Cross Creek by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
2. The Water's Lovely by Ruth Rendell
3. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
4. The Lost Mother by Mary McGarry Morris
5. A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

Number of Fiction vs. Non-Fiction Books:
36 Fiction Books
6 Non-fiction Books

Books in Series:
Sunday Philosophy Club
by Alexander McCall Smith
The Sunday Philosophy Club (this was a re-read for book club)
The Careful Use of Compliments

Knitting Mystery by Maggie Sefton
Knit One, Kill Two
A Killer Stitch
Needled to Death
A Deadly Yarn

A Mobile Library Mystery by Ian Sansom
The Mobile Library: The Case of the Missing Books
Mr. Dixon Disappears

Professor Dr. von Igelfeld by Alexander McCall Smith
Finer Points of Sausage Dogs
Portuguese Irregular Verbs
At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances

The Shop on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber
The Shop on Blossom Street
A Good Yarn
Back on Blossom Street

Funniest Book:
A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

Saddest Book:
For One More Day by Mitch Albom

This is just a partial list, but doing this has helped me remember just how much I enjoyed many of these books. Hopefully, I'll find time to read more in 2008. I certainly added some great new books to the tbr pile, including all five of the John Dunning Bookman series and the new Ken Follett, World Without End.