Seuss Makes a Comeback!

Holy Suessicals! According to an article in yesterday's PW, Random House has just announced the release of a "new" Dr. Seuss collection. It's not really fair to call it new, as the stories in The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories were originally published in magazines in the 1950s, but they are stories sure to be new to many Suess fans.

The book is set to release Sept 27th of this year. Who's excited?

Audiobook Review: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

You know the kind of book you resist reading, just because everyone else has been talking about it for so long that you're convinced you know everything there is to know about it? It's the way some people feel about the movie Casablanca, or the show Friends. Saw the preview, heard people rave about it, what's left to know? Yeah, that's how I felt about The Help.

I was wrong. There is so much more to this novel than can be captured in the praise it has garnered.

Set in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962, The Help takes place against a backdrop of Civil Rights and cultural change. Sit-ins and mini-skirts, marches and birth control: this is the dawning of a new era. Amidst this change, we hear the voices of three women, Aibileen, Minny and Skeeter, whose stories at once intertwine and yet remain starkly separated.

Aibileen is a black maid with a specialty in rearing the children of white women. After decades of watching others' children - and following the death of her own son - she finds her normal complacency and optimism waning, steadily replaced by a bitter cynicism.

Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is a mouthy, sassy maid who jumps from job to job after refusing to accept her place within a white household, all while struggling to raise five children and avoid the hand of an abusive husband.

And Skeeter, the only white narrator Stockett gives us, is a recent college grad and about as rebellious as young girls got in 1962 Mississippi. Rather than longing for marriage, as her mother wishes she might, she longs for a career as a writer, and is willing to risk more than she can imagine in order to finally see her words in print.

Each of these women is strong in her own way, and tackles the big questions of life - family, love, friendship, race, class - in her own way, but in turn, each is important. In a world in which they are meant to live separate lives, none could survive without the others.

In this style, Stockett tackles big issues in little anecdotes. Perhaps that was the magic combination, what made this book so persistent in its popularity: serious issues, accessible style. Or maybe it is the tackling of heart-wrenching issues with an overarching theme of hope. Or maybe it was bringing a very human element to the historical detail we all take somewhat for granted. Whatever it is, it works.

While maybe not the next To Kill a Mockingbird, The Help is well worth the read. The hype hasn't ruined it; if you're one of the few remaining people out there that haven't read this already, put it on the list.

A note on the audio: The book is written in dialect, with each narrator speaking in her own voice. The audio version, which I listened to, is narrated by three women, and their voices capture the heart of their characters almost perfectly. Even know, flipping through the pages of the hardcover, their voices once again fill my head, Southern twangs and all. Though I'm sure the print is good, this is one instance where I recommend the audio over the print.


Thoughts from other bookworms:

S. Krishna's Books
Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'?
The Book Lady's Blog
At Home With Books


You might also enjoy:

The Secret Life of Bees
by Sue Monk Kidd

The Oldest Books (Quote of the Day)

"The oldest books are still only just out to those who have not read them." -Samuel Butler

Book Review: 13 rue Thérèse, by Elena Mauli Shapiro

Elena Mauli Shapiro, born and raised in Paris, has written a novel with a wonderfully colorfully Parisian setting. When American academic Trevor Stratton arrives in Paris, he finds a small, checkered plastic box tucked away in the back of a filing cabinet in his new office. Bewitched by both his clerk and the artifacts he finds within the box, he follows the life and story of Louise Brunet, recreating her story through the collection of items she's left behind - a white lace glove, a postcard, a datebook, a letter.

13 rue Thérèse in one word: unexpected. I did not expect the galley to show up on my front stoop. I did not expect the novel to twist and turn the way it did. I did not expect to piece together an entire history from the clues scattering the pages. I did not expect color photographs, handwritten notes, or passages in French. I did not expect it to end the way it did. I did not expect it, in fact, to be so unexpected.

Nor did I expect to write one of the shortest reviews to be found on this blog, but sometimes it's good to be unexpected.


Thoughts from other bookworms:

Devourer of Books
Book Diary
Reading on a Rainy Day


Thanks to Reagan Arthur of Reagan Arthur Books for sending me a copy of this book for review.

It's Called the Library

And it's there for public use.

Borrow. Read. Pay a late fee or two. Read some more. Repeat.

It's all very simple, really. Find one near you today.

was just thinking. my sister does -alot- of reading, and spends like
$1000 a year on just books alone. most of them she reads once
then never looks at again. is there any kind of like…
video rental store but for books? would make things alot cheaper,
plus once one person had read one the next person can get enjoyment from it etc

[via Fail Blog]

Book Review: Unfamiliar Fishes, by Sarah Vowell

In her most recent book, Unfamiliar Fishes (on sale tomorrow), Sarah Vowell turns her witty attention to the annexation of Hawaii, where, as the back of the book claims, "Manifest Destiny got a sunburn." This back-of-the-book blurb, unlike so many others, sets the stage - and the tone - of Vowell's latest offering perfectly. I'd never have said so before, but the annexation of Hawaii was American Manifest Destiny at its best (or worst, depending on your point of view). And Vowell's account of this history is at once timely, poignant, and humorous. An interesting combination, thinks you? You think right.

I write this with the news blasting updates on Operation Odyssey Dawn in the background. Despite the fact that the operation name sounds like a parody, this is no joke. And with newscasters repeating time and time again phrases on the importance of spreading democracy, and the inherent desire of all people to be free, and blah, blah, blah... well, let's just say that Vowell's seemingly obscure history of Hawaii suddenly snaps into quick focus. There are recurring themes, here. The infamous "they" were right again when they stated that history is doomed to repeat itself.

But I couldn't have known this before diving in, of course. I picked this book up solely because Sarah Vowell wrote it. I've already written about my near-fanatacism for Sarah Vowell. Why else, really, would I have read a book about Hawaii's history? I'm an East Coast girl, born and bred. My interest in history is limited to early America, the Civil War, the Industrial Revolution, World War II, Ireland, Ancient Rome, Ancient Greece, and English monarchies. Fine. Maybe it's not so limited. But note that Hawaii does not make an appearance in this list.

Nevertheless, Unfamiliar Fishes was right up my alley. Vowell's writing, as usual, is factual, detailed, and often laugh-out-loud hilarious. Her research is (to these uneducated eyes) near impeccable, and ridiculously thorough. As with her other subjects (patriotism, presidential assassinations, and Puritans), she meanders through history, at times wandering far from the subject at hand, but always managing to keep these diversions to task and shockingly relevant.

Perhaps because of the very serious situation into which she is writing, I found this particular Vowell volume to be slightly less laugh-out-loud hysterical than her previous writings, though it is certainly peppered with a fair amount of Vowellensian humor. I particular liked the sentence that started, "Dewey decimated..." Touché, Sarah. I tip my hat to you on that one.

If you've ever read Vowell, you already know what I'm talking about. And if you haven't, you're missing out. Big time. Feel free to start anywhere you like, but be sure your reading of her includes Unfamiliar Fishes, or you'll be missing out on an excellent dose of history, wit, and a host of information you never knew you didn't know.


Thoughts from other bookworms:
Sarah Vowell, UNFAMILIAR FISHES and an "Orgy of Imperialism" at The Book Lady's Blog


This bookworm also recommends:
Follow Sarah Vowell on Facebook
The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell
The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell
Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell
Take the Cannoli by Sarah Vowell


Note: Many thanks to Lydia Hirt of Riverhead Books for sending me a copy of this title for review.

Adoring Our Books, and Sharing that Adoration (A Week in Reading)

From literary tattoos to author adoration-bordering-on-obsession, through celebrating St. Patty's Day with longings for Irish literature and a Cicero quote on the importance of books in the home, this has been a week subconsciously dedicated to the vocal nature of book love. As a bookworm, I do not merely read my books, I love them; I do not merely love my books, I stand on my roof (or in this case, the great wide interwebs) and shout about them.

And personally, I think that's a good thing. I think my roof-shouting keeps me tied to the literary world in a way my current career path would otherwise not allow me to be. I think that in the face of the madness we see across the world today, my love of books can be consistent, steady, true.

I am proud that I can find so many different ways to think about books, talk about books, and demonstrate my love of books. From ink on my skin to photographs on the wall to books on the shelves lining each room of my house, I scream bookworm from the moment you get to know me. Despite whatever else may be in flux, that is the constant in this week, and the constant in my life.

A Home Without Books (Quote of the Day)

“A home without books is a body without soul.” - Marcus Tullius Cicero

A Bit O' Irish For You

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!
(A Happy St. Patrick's Day to you!)
rough pronunciation: bahn-ach-tee nah fay-leh paw-drig uh-riv

I'm home nursing a cold and preparing for a business trip tonight instead of out drinking green beer and Jameson, but I can't help but sport a little Irish pride. I did marry a McHugh, after all.

I have a host of Irish-themed books I'd been aiming to read by now, so I could be a proper blogger and feature timely, seasonal reviews on this blog. Alas, real life got in the way (surprise), and those Irish-themed books are still sitting on the Irish-themed bookcase (yep, a whole bookcase of them) waiting to be read. Included on the list:

What am I missing (besides Ulysses, of course)? What are your favorite Irish books, be it history, fiction, poetry, or some combination of them all?

I've been reading more news lately...

... and I think the world is falling apart around us. First Egypt, now Libya. The earthquake, then the tsunami. The nuclear power plants failing, and Californians stocking up on anti-radiation medication. Gay marriage protests. Healthcare reform. Unions up in arms. Crazies with guns. Budget crises, again and again. And even more than that, we still can't seem to speak to each other like civilized human beings; instead, it's one biting comment after the next, one rant fired back at another.

I'm feeling a little overwhelmed by it all. Maybe things will look up by the end of the day - it is Hump Day, after all - but I'm not convinced. I'm looking for reading suggestions to help put things in perspective. Any thoughts?

Author Adoration

I'm about halfway through Sarah Vowell's Unfamiliar Fishes, which according to the back cover is "an examination of Hawaii, the place where Manifest Destiny got a sunburn." I love history, but in the grand scheme of historic subjects, the history of American imperialism in Hawaii does not strike my fancy. Sarah Vowell, however, does.

I devoured The Partly Cloudy Patriot, her account of her on-again, off-again love affair with American patriotism, and absolutely loved Assassination Vacation, in which she documents her travels to various places related to presidential assassinations. Vowell is witty, humorous, nerdy, educated, and obsessed with the trivial details we are generally all too willing to overlook. I don't need humor to find a history book interesting, but man, do I appreciate it.

So when I was offered a review copy of Unfamiliar Fishes, I did not hesitate in accepting, even though a part of my brain was saying, "Hawaii? Ugh. American imperialism is so overrated."

I accepted the book not as a standalone object that I thought I might enjoy, but as part of an author's repertoire that I know I have enjoyed. In short, I'd read anything Sarah Vowell decided to write.

All bookworms have favorite authors, of course. But do you have an author whose next book you will read, regardless of subject? In addition to Sarah Vowell, I have a few others: Mary Roach (whether she's righting about cadavers or sex or outer space, I'm interested), Mark Helprin, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. To me, these are authors whose writing is so accomplished that they can take any subject, any story, and turn it into something I want to read. Something I want to own, so I can read and re-read. They are vastly different, each of them, but they can be assured of at least one purchase of each of their next books by yours truly.

What about you? Do you pick books as standalone objects, or as part of an author's repertoire? Do you have authors whose books you will read, regardless of subject, or are you more focused on the subject matter?

The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos Abound

I've been a long-time follower of the blog Contrariwise, which posts regular updates of reader-submitted literary tattoos. From illustrations to quotes to punctuation marks, bookworms seem as fond of ink on bodies as they are of ink on the page. Yours truly is no exception; I've been planning for years how to fit in another tattoo, this one a literary quote.

Back in October, the Montreal Gazette ran an article about the rise of literary-themed tattoos. Tess Adamski, a Montreal resident, has over 20 tattoos of Kerouac quotes:
"The physical step of ink . . . (gives) the feeling that you're literally enveloping yourself in a book... It's a powerful and comforting process."
See? As fond of ink on skin as of ink on paper.

And now that ink on skin has found its way into ink on paper, with Harper Perennial's release of The World Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwide. Personally, I'm intrigued by the book, as much for information as inspiration. But I'm also wondering aloud to the bookworm community: is this trend a sign that bookishness is on the rise? Suddenly, or once again, something to boast publicly? Or is it pretentiousness? Somewhere in between? What do you all make of this display of book love?

Game of Thrones and Other News (A Week in Reading)

This was a big week for fans of George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series. Not only did EW post a new preview of the HBO Game of Thrones mini-series (which premieres in April), but Martin's publisher finally set a release date for the fifth Song of Ice and Fire book, Dance with Dragons (July 2011). And then I discovered the Song of Ice and Fire iPod/iPhone/Droid app, which I will absolutely have on hand when I start my series re-read. Of course, I have to finish my Wheel of Time re-read first. I'm on book 10 (of 13), and I just got the library pick-up notice for the 11th, Knife of Dreams. Number 11 ends my re-read; 12 and 13 will be new to me. Can't. Freaking. Wait.

But I suppose not all of you are fantasy nerds like me, hm? In the non-fantasy world, I'm almost finished listening to The Help, which I really, really enjoyed. I have 6 tracks on the last CD left. Review to come soon. I abandoned my first book of 2011 this year - The Memory Palace - and though I was disappointed, it felt good to prioritize my reading. I've been crunched for time, and I just can't justify finishing something I'm not loving. Plus, Nancy Pearl said it was ok.

After putting that one aside, though, I found I was a bit indecisive on what to read next. So now I'm in the middle of no less than three new books: Sarah Vowell's newest, Unfamiliar Fishes (which is, like her other books, hilarious, historical, and downright awesome), an old paperback I borrowed from my dad, The World According to Garp (I've always wanted to read John Irving), and Michael Gruber's The Good Son, which I'm reviewing for Bookgasm.

And last, but not least, a(nother) quick apology for being scarce on book news and links to other's blogs. I'm still playing catch-up, and hope to be back on track this week.

A Room Without Books (Quote of the Day)

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” - Marcus Aurelius Cicero

Great Idea Friday: Books on Lamp Posts

There's something iconic in literature about the lamp post. Think Narnia. Or Shadow of the Wind. Or any number of mystery novels with detectives (or bad guys) cloaked in fog and silhouetted by a single lamp post on a dark night.

Some clever author out there is capitalizing on this reputation, posting pages of a new mystery novel across the East Village on lamp posts. Though interviewees in a recent New York Post article on the lamp post book argue that this is an inefficient way to read a book, the marketer in me sees a kind of genius here: get them hooked with randomly placed pages, and then draw them into the book as a whole. It's guerrilla marketing to the core. It's kind of fun.

It's a small-scale effort, but I'm curious if anyone else has seen or heard about this. Things like this do make me miss the "only-in-NYC" nature of that city.

Pseudo-Review: The Memory Palace by Mira Bartók

Nancy Pearl has a rule of 50: if you are fifty pages into a book and do not love it, close it and move on. She's right, really. There are too many books in the world to spend hours on something that isn't just right for you. You know, after all, that something out there is.

The Memory Palace just... wasn't. I made it well past 50 pages, not abandoning it until page 150 or so, but at that point I managed to close the book and walk away guilt-free. It wasn't bad, but it also wasn't good. I certainly didn't hate it, but I was not in love.

And with so many, many books out there, I just couldn't justify the last 100 pages. I've been working 50-60 hour workweeks, and by the time I get home, my brain is so fried I want nothing more than crappy television and bed. In light of my more limited reading time, my books must grab me, move me, make me want to abandon sleep and responsibilities in light of wanting to read more, learn more, know more.

So while I wouldn't turn readers away from The Memory Palace - it is, after all, well-written and relatively engaging - I also wouldn't spend 300 pages on it. Make of that what you will. This is only a pseudo-review, after all. I'm too braindead for anything more.


Thoughts from other bookworms:

Bibliophile by the Sea


You might also like:

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Half-Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls
You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know by Heather Sellers (many thanks to Erica, PhD in training, for that recommendation)


Note: Many thanks to the publisher for a review copy of this title.

Game of Thrones App

It's apparently Game of Thrones week here. Sorry for all you non-fantasy fans, but I've been salivating over the next George R. R. Martin book for years. Seriously. The Song of Ice and Fire series has been stalled, and it's finally - finally! - moving forward again. I. Cannot. Wait.

But I ramble. I meant to tell you Martin fans about an app to supplement your reading. (or re-reading) of the Song of Ice and Fire series. Yes, there's an app for that.

Mind you, I've never read a book with an app supplement, but in this case, I'm intrigued. The series is complex, with characters overlapping, family trees intersecting, and power changing hands every five pages. Not to mention the history. There's tons of it. So as we all start re-reading to gear up for the Game of Thrones miniseries on HBO and the release of Dance of Dragons in July, this here seems to be a tool for keeping us company. And on track.

Characters, glossary, maps? The perfect refresher for those of us who have been out of the loop - and out of the series - for too long. Once I wrap up my re-read of The Wheel of Time (I'm up to Book 11 of 13), I'll be delving back into Song of Ice and Fire. And I'll be doing so with app in hand.

Game of Thrones Trailer AND Publication Date Set for Dance with Dragons

Whoooooaaaa Nellies. This week was starting to look a little glum - and it's only Monday - and then this link landed in my inbox, courtesy of the never-disappointing Shelf Awareness. HBO has released another trailer for the new HBO mini-series, Game of Thrones, set to premiere April 17. Plus, there's a sneak peek scheduled for April 3. Too bad I don't have HBO... yet. I'd embed the video for you, but I can't. So go to the EW Inside TV page to watch. It's worth it.

BUT IN ADDITION TO THAT, there's a sneaky little link at the bottom of the EW article about the trailer that leads to this amazing page for a discussion of Dance with Dragons. You know, that elusive fifth book that we've been waiting for George R.R. Martin to write for quite literally years and years and years. And it's coming. In July. Another volume for the Song of Ice and Fire series. Now, in addition to re-reading the Wheel of Time series (I'm up to book 11 on that particular venture), I have to re-read the first four Song of Ice and Fire books. But it's ok. It's a good problem to have.


Not enough Game of Thrones linkage for you? Check out the HBO page for more videos, stories, casting information, airtimes, etc.

Book Review: Among Others by Jo Walton

Remember back in January when I said I was throwing my reading goals out the window so I could read Among Others, a book I hadn't heard of until it released but immediately knew I had to read?

Man oh man, am I glad I did. This, after all, is why I don't believe in strict to-be-read piles, lists, or limits. There are just too many books out there that I don't yet know about. How could I possibly limit myself to a list?

Among Others, despite its somewhat cliché cover design, is a an unusual and compelling of a young girl struggling to find her place in the world after the death of her twin and separation from her mother. Through her diary entries, we are entered into Morwenna Phelps' world: a world of twins and half-existence, fairies, estranged family member. Morwenna is different, but like any teenage girl, she is trying desperately to figure out where she belongs, what she will grow up to be, and who she is.

Many of the themes here are familiar: a twin fighting for a sense of identity and independence; the child of divorced parents examining a past relationship; an orphan looking for a family; a schoolgirl looking for friends; a cripple seeking acceptance. But told all together in a world in which fairies influence events, magic can be seen and understood by those willing to look for it, and books provide a powerful force in shaping young adults' lives, Jo Walton's novel is nothing familiar.

On reading the first pages, I was disappointed to find I had signed up for 250+ pages of journal entries. Again? We've done the teenage-girl-diary before; Anne Frank cornered that market. But Walton pulls it off, moving things along nicely enough but peppering entries with those standard high-school concerns: cheating, boys, grades, holidays, and status.

Despite an occasionally slow pace, the insight we get into Mor's thinking is worth waiting around for. Her world revolves around the fairies, making sense of what happened to her sister, and the science fiction books she devours by the week.

Magical forces are laced through every experience she has. But this is not a world of fairy-godmother figures and wands and spellcasting. This magic is of an earthy sort, with fairies that may or may not speak any intelligible language and spells that are innately tied to the earth and the inherent magic of place and the connections we have with things, places, people:
"It wasn't that we didn't know history... It just didn't connect to the landscape. And it was the landscape that formed us, that made us who we were as we grew in it, that affected everything. We thought we were living in a fantasy landscape when actually we were living in a science fictional one. In ignorance, we played our way through what the elves and giants had left us, taking the fairies' possession for ownership." (p. 34)
It is a magic of coincidence, of setting things in motion, of preventing one small event that will change the outcome years down the road:
"It's like if you snapped your fingers and produced a rose but it was because someone on an aeroplane had dropped a rose just at the right time for it to land in your hand. There was a real person and a real aeroplane and a real rose, but that doesn't mean you have the reason you have the rose in your hand isn't because you did the magic." (p. 40)
See? It's no expelliarmus or expecto patronum or anything with wands and wizard hats and spells and wards. But it is still magic, and despite the fact that it is a crucial factor in shaping Mor's self - it is published by Tor, after all - Mor's existence is perhaps even more dominated by her reading. She discoveries books and libraries and reading and the escape that they provide in the way that we all wish we could revisit for the first time:
"Interlibrary loans are a wonder of the world and a glory of civilization. Libraries really are wonderful. They're better than bookshops, even. I mean bookshops make a profit on selling you books, but libraries just sit there lending you books quietly out of the goodness of their hearts." (p. 59)

"They could take all the money from building enough nukes to kill all the Russians in the world and give it to the libraries. What good does an independent nuclear deterrent do Britain, compared to the good of libraries? Somebody has their priorities wrong." (P. 246)
Don't you want to rediscover the wonder that is the library, a home for books to be shared?

Bottom line: Mor's story starts out with the end; like Tolkien, her idol, she understands "the things that happen after the end" (p. 60), and her end is the death of her twin. But slowly, through new relationships, books, and yes, magic, Mor comes to understand that this is just an end, not the end. She matures, her reading matures, and her writing matures, culminating in a satisfying conclusion that still manages to leave much to the imagination.

Among Others is a must-read for anyone who has ever been touched by the magic they read about in books, or ever felt that there is something more to this existence than meets the eye. This coming-of-age story takes a step back from the standard high school experience, deftly blending science fiction and the very real experiences of high school (friends, family, money, grades, and dating) in a book that is sure to carry you along in its currents. Not to mention the list of books merely mentioned will triple your reading list in the few short days it will take you to finish it.


More from Jo Walton:

Farthing (Tor, 2006)
Ha' Penny (Tor, 2008)
The King's Peace (Tor Fantasy, 2002)
The King's Name (Tor Fantasy, 2001)


Thoughts from other bookworms:

Stainless Steel Droppings
Things Mean A Lot
Fantasy & SciFi Lovin News & Reviews
io9 - Loving books and doing magic might just get you through puberty


Many thanks to my husband for providing my copy of this book.

Book Bandolier

After last week's discussion of my writing-in-books habit, this seemed like a fitting new toy: