Monthly Archives: November 2015

Would You Rather?

I’ve been seeing this meme kicking around, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

*Would you rather only read trilogies or only read standalones?*

Standalones. For one because there’s no law against how long a standalone can be, for two because the story beats that make up a trilogy can get old after a while.

*Would you rather only read male or female authors?*

It’s actually a goal of mine in 2016 to only read female authors. Many men are among my favorites (David Mitchell, Jo Nesbo, Haruki Murakami), but I kind of need a break from the male POV right now.

*Would you rather shop at Barnes and Noble or Amazon?*

Barnes and Noble. As I’ve mentioned before, Amazon makes me feel icky. B&N isn’t the greatest, either, but I’ve worked for them and I kind of have a soft spot for them, too. I currently have to drive an hour to get to one, though, so not really feasible…

Would you rather books were made into TV shows or movies?

Depends on the book, which is totally a cop-out but is also really true.

*Would you rather read only 5 pages per day or 5 books per week?*

5 books per week duh. Can whatever magic that makes that possible also clean my house and cook my meals and give me a paycheck and go to the gym for me?

*Would you rather be a professional author or reviewer?*

Author. Hands down.

I’m growing as a writer. I’m worlds away from where I was ten years ago, when I was so sure I was going to be the next wunderkind author without actually having produced any work to back that up. And I’m managing to sell a few stories a year, which for now results in a little thrill each time I sign a contract, swiftly followed by a you’re kidding me, right?, and feelings of insecurity and nausea the minute something comes out.

So I have a loooooooooong way to go. I may never get there. But at this point I am trying to look at it as a personal journey and not focus so much on external validation. If I have something to say, and can find the right way to say it, maybe one day I’ll hold a book with my name on the cover in my hands.

*Would you rather be a librarian or a bookseller?*

So I’m in a bit of an odd position with this one. Because I have been both a bookseller and a librarian, but I was never a “real” bookseller, and I’m not actually a “real” librarian, either.

When I worked in a bookstore my official title was bookseller, but I actually worked in a building across the way that sold college apparel and souvenirs. (That was kind of crummy, but at least I got my discount!) And now I’ve worked in libraries for a few years, both academic and public, but I don’t actually have a library science degree, and I work in collection development, which is kind of hidden away from the rest of the library.

So I don’t know! They both have benefits and drawbacks. Probably a librarian, I guess, because as anyone who has worked retail knows, it sucks. Even if every single customer loved books and wanted to buy on my recommendation, I’d probably end up losing little pieces of my soul every day.

*Would you rather only read your favorite genre, or every other genre but your favorite?*

I am totally prepared to cheat with this and say I don’t have a favorite genre. Because I really don’t. I have moods that certain books fit. I certainly grew up with a specific genre (fantasy), and only gradually learned to branch out, but I read pretty evenly across a range of styles now. So cutting one out would be kind of impossible and pointless.

*Would you rather only read ebooks or physical books?*

ebooks. There are still a lot of design errors slipping through, and to my mind they are still far too expensive, but it all comes down to the fact that I could read basically an infinite number of books on one small device. If all the physical books in the world disappeared tomorrow I’d be really, really sad, but if I had ebooks I’d eventually get over it.




Filed under Book Talk

The TBR Pile Challenge

One of my goals for 2015 is to get some of my TBR pile pared down. It’s not easy. I am constantly putting limits on how many new books I’m allowed to buy, and then breaking them. Then I just look at the overburdened shelf and sigh, because how am I ever going to read so many books?

So in an effort to get some books off my shelves (and my ereader), I’m going to try Roof Beam Reader’s TBR Pile Challenge. I’ll be reading and reviewing these throughout 2015, and linking back here.


My 2015 TBR Pile Challenge List:

1 Carol Rifka Brunt- Tell the Wolves I’m Home (2012)
2 Scott Lynch- The Lies of Locke Lamora (2006)
3 Jhumpa Lahiri- The Lowland (2013)
4 Charles Belfoure- The Paris Architect (2013)
5 Diana Gabaldon- Outlander (1991)
6 Elizabeth Wein- Code Name Verity (2012)
7 Annabel Lyon- The Sweet Girl (2013)
8 Kristin Cashore- Graceling (2008)
9 Wendy Webb- The Fate of Mercy Alban (2013)
10 Justin Cronin- The Summer Guest (2004)
11 Laura Moriarty- While I’m Falling (2009)
12 Wilkie Collins- The Moonstone (1868)

1. Alissa Nutting- Tampa (2013)
2. Kelly Braffet- Save Yourself (2013)

My Progress: 9 of 12 completed/ 9 of 12 reviewed. 



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Review: The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

1057912Title: The Moonstone

Author: Wilkie Collins

Rating: 3 stars

This book is part of my personal collection. 

I must confess at the outset that I think I’ve been confusing The Moonstone with The Woman in White for years. They don’t seem to have much in common other than their author, but I went into The Moonstone completely expecting a spooky ghost story. Turns out it was a detective story! Brain, what are you doing?

Anyway. Once we step aside from the mistaken identity, it’s time to look at The Moonstone on its own merits. This is the ninth book I’ve read for this years TBR Pile challenge (which I am now incredibly behind on.) It’s the oldest, and the longest. It had plenty of high points, but ultimately was far too long and far too racist for me to recommend it highly.

I’ve wanted to read Collins for about ten years now. He’s one of those authors that I’ve seen referenced often, but not had any experience with. The Moonstone, referred to by many as the first detective novel, features many different narratives all relating to the theft of an Indian relic after it is presented to a young English girl for her birthday.

I was not expecting this to be satire, so that was a pleasant surprise. The sections written by the oblivious servant Betteredge–who continually turns to Robinson Crusoe as a prophet–and Miss. Clack–the tedious evangelist–often had me laughing out loud. They were just so sharp, even though they were written for a Victorian audience there was still a lot of humor to be found in them.

The other narratives were a bit more prosaic. And here is where the length started to drag me down. I’m not sure if The Moonstone was serialized or not–it certainly feels like it. No character says something in one line if he can take three pages to say it. There is an overabundance of filler and repetition in these pages. People do really simple things in really complicated ways, and then write twenty page letters about it. The solution to the mystery, also, was entirely ridiculous. I won’t get too far into it, but it involves opium, a number of misunderstandings about how science experiments actually work, and brownface.


Using brownface as plot twist…yeah. The idea that someone wouldn’t recognize their own relative because of a little dark skin paint and a fake beard…again…yeah. I don’t even know how to properly analyze that whole turn of the novel, because it was so absurd and offensive.

There are three “Hindoo” characters that pop in and out of this narrative menacingly (and silently–lots of white people presume to speak for them, but we never hear their own voices), leading to a lot of really racist claptrap. Perhaps that should be expected of 1868, but just because something is expected doesn’t mean it is excusable.The diamond is stolen by a white man and passed along through is rich family, and all these white people are so incensed that the people it was stolen from might want it back. I have to say, I was rooting for the Indians the whole time, even though they were written with about as much depth as a piece of onionskin paper. I would love to see The Moonstone deconstructed in a post-colonialist point of view.

There were things I enjoyed about The Moonstone, but there was a lot that was unsatisfying about it, too.

Now, to start chipping away at book number ten for this challenge…


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Librarian Woes

Welcome to a new thing! This may or may not become a reoccurring feature, but I wanted to get something off my chest. So here is a space for highlighting stuff librarians hate.

Yes. I am going to pretend that I speak for all librarians.

I bet in this instance I do.

My current librarian woe involves a new trend in book design. A lot (and I mean a lot) of publishers are now doing this thing with their hardcovers where the dust jacket is see-through and covers up some cool design printed on the cover of the book.

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(pictures don’t quite get the effect, but these are all recent overlay covers.)

Eyecatching? Maybe.

But when it comes to covering these suckers, I am losing my damn mind.

We have a book distributor that sends us our books already processed in plastic jackets. Occasionally certain books are not in plastic jackets, and usually that’s fine. It takes me like 30 seconds to pop on a cover protector.

Except with these damn books.

Because of the see-through designs, I can’t use our book jackets the way I am supposed to. They have white paper backings that cover up the whole book–not normally an issue with a regular dust jacket. But for these I have to tear away the white paper backing and work only with the plastic. Cumbersome, but okay, this is fine.

But then the damn white paper never comes completely off. It is impossible to get it all off. It leaves a really sloppy white border around the top of all of these books.

And then the covers don’t fit right anyway. Because the see-through plastic of the dust jackets is heavier, it doesn’t wrap around the book properly, and it doesn’t tape neatly either. It always bulges out in weird places.

So on the library shelves these books look cheap and messy, and I’ve torn out half of my hair to even get them to that state.

I can’t imagine them looking all that great on people’s shelves without plastic cover protectors, either. Because the dust jackets don’t fit. Hello, massive pet peeve of mine.

tl; dr: publishers, why are you doing this? Stop. This is a trend that needs to die.

(Counterpoint arguments? Is it possible that I don’t speak for all librarians? Let me know in the comments!)


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Top Ten Tuesday: Gimme More


The topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is Top Ten Debut Authors Who Have Me Looking Forward To Their Sophomore Novel.

This is the type of post where I can’t make it to ten. Only seven this time. A lot of authors have had enchanting debuts…and then a lot of other books that I love, too! Coming up with ten authors who have only had one book so far was difficult for me.

(This is also the type of post where I make it painfully clear that I don’t know how to add accent marks to the font in WordPress. Some of these women do, more properly, have accent marks in their names. Someone help me internet.)


158190281 Helene Wecker- The Golem and the Jinni

An absolutely enchanting tale of supernatural, turn-of-the-century New York City. I’ve been impatiently waiting for a new book from her pretty much since I read the last sentence.

2 Carol Rifka Brunt- Tell the Wolves I’m Home

A strong contender for the best book I’ve read this year. Just go read it; you can thank me later.

3 Cecilia Eckback- Wolf Winter

This is an atmospheric, very creepy novel about a place in history I knew almost nothing about–Swedish Lapland in the early eighteenth century. The characters were very well drawn and the writing in general was fantastic.

4 Erin Lindsay McCabe- I Shall Be Near to You

This Civil War novel almost wrecked me, which was all the more poignant because I didn’t expect it to. I’m curious to see what McCabe will get up to next; whether she’ll stick with the era and become a sort of Jennifer Chiaverini, or whether she’ll tackle a new time period.

5 Suzanne Rindell- The Other Typist

This roaring twenties thriller made a big impression on me a few years back.

6 Tea Obrhet- The Tiger’s Wife

I’m not sure what happened to Obrhet. A few years ago, she was the buzzy author everyone was talking about and I’d have expected her to have a follow-up by now. Whatever it will be and whenever it will end up appearing, I’ll be excited to read it.

7 Paula Hawkins- The Girl on the Train

This is undoubtedly the debut of 2015. It has been tremendously popular and, at least as far as I was concerned in library-land, came out of nowhere. I wasn’t completely blown away by it, but I did think Hawkins made some interesting choices and it was an interesting read. Whatever she does next is sure to get a lot of attention.


Who are you waiting to see a sophomore effort from?



Filed under Book Talk

October round up



I finished 9 books in October.

Reading Diversely

Two of the books were nonfiction. Five books were written by women, three by men, and the anthology included various writers. To my knowledge, every book was written by white authors except the authors in that anthology. Three books included QUILTBAG characters…well, a fourth book had a character who was stated to be bi, but that wasn’t really followed up on in any meaningful way (I don’t necessarily need to see characters boning to “prove” they’re queer or anything like that, but in this particular case it was a minor character and a very off-hand mention that felt somewhat forced).


A couple “close but no”s, a couple stories still in sub, a few quick nos, and one acceptance (yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay) that I can’t talk about because I haven’t signed the contract yet.

This month I’ve been participating in a MOOC put together by the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. I’m…still not sure how I feel about it. It’s given me some interesting prompts and projects to work on, but overall I’m feeling quite glad that I ultimately did not go for an MFA. Not that my MA has turned out particularly well for me, but the MFA as I’m seeing it presented feels kind of…hollow, and not at all the writing I want to be doing.

TV Junkie

I finally got around to finishing Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. It was interesting and visually stunning but the ending was unsatisfying.

I’ve been really enjoying this season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Fresh Off the Boat. That (and my beloved Bob’s Burgers) means I’ve been laughing quite a bit.

And then there’s How to Get Away With Murder. Which…holy shit. It is so hard to keep straight but it is so crazy good. That guy who plays Caleb is quite the eye-candy. I am in love with Conner & Michaela’s friendship. If anyone hurts Oliver I am going to RAGE. Can Wes be next on the murder menu, cause I’m so over his shtick. There are a lot of plates spinning this season, but I’m really excited that soon we’ll find out who shot Annalise (my money’s on Asher, though I am almost definitely wrong). Which is such a weird thing to say. But I think the flashforward mystery has been more interesting this year than last year.

Mix Tape

Hamilton, Hamilton, Hamilton.

Wait, what? You want actual, non-theater music?

Sorry, can’t hear you, “The Room Where It Happens” has been stuck in my head for three days.

(mostly kidding. Believe it or not I do listen to other music. But nothing has been new this month except that Adele song, which…eh, I’m going to hear it approximately 10 billion times in the next three months, I assume, so I’m not that into it right now.)

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