Friday, September 23, 2011

Bookin' Along - Updated

It has been far too long since I've talked about books ... so here we go with a gaggle of book-ish things.

UPDATES: scattered below where they seemed to fit. New things I found this morning in my interwebs browsing and wanted to share.

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK: Scott Danielson, my partner in crime at A Good Story is Hard to Find, has reactivated his blog. Just in time to remind us that Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book is perfect for October reading. How I loved that book. Not sure how I'll find time but I need to keep it in mind for rereading then.

DRACULA: now that the idea of October reading has been broached, albeit a couple of weeks early, it is perfect timing for Heather Ordover at the CraftLit podcast to begin Dracula. Heather is like the best teacher you ever had, taking you through classic books, while providing the full audiobook at the same time. In this case, she recruited people to read in the book's various voices (it is written as letters). I've been waiting a loooooooooooooong time for her to do this book, which is one of my favorites. She does talk about crafts at the beginning of each episode but if you check the bottom of the shownotes—a time code is given for each episode letting you know when the crafty chat ends and the book talk begins.

REAMDE BY NEAL STEPHENSON: I've never cared enough about this writer's subjects to make myself take the intellectual effort to finish one of his books. However, this one ... well, he addresses a lot of subjects that this review makes me think I'll be interested in reading about. I may make the leap.  (If the link doesn't lead to a full review, go to Google and find it and then click through ... that usually gives you the whole thing.)

: A reader attempting the Lord of the Rings books brings up things I'd never thought of as problems in getting through them ... but finds it worthwhile anyway. A good primer: watch the movies first.

WHY VIOLENCE IS VANISHING: Aha! What we've been saying in our household all along ... we think it is more violent these days (or equally so) to the olden times because it is shoved in our face by modern media so much that we think it permeates the fabric of life. Not so says Steven Pinker in an article adapted from his upcoming book. At least worth looking at the article.

RECOMMENDATIONS IN EARLY CHRISTIAN WRITING: Darwin Catholic answers a reader's question about good reads from early Christians and invites commenters to add to his list. There are some familiar titles and some not so familiar. Though Mike Aquilina hasn't shown up in the comments ... my early Christian reading is dictated by what he shares in his fantastic books featuring the Fathers of the Church. For example, his book Angels of God? *kissing fingertips* Amazing. (Hey, someone's gotta keep an eye on current zombie books for a good worldview, right? So I let Mike ... and Darwin ... keep up with the other stuff.) Anyway, check out Darwin's post and Mike's blog.

PREGNANCY BOOK: Sarah Reinhard's got questions about specific pregnancy situations for a book she's writing. Have experience with bedrest, depression during pregnancy, mothering alone (i.e., single parenting), mothering multiples (i.e., twins), pregnancy after abortion, stillbirth, and unexpected (surprise) pregnancies? Then go take her survey!

PRINT ON DEMAND BOOKS: Now this is a nifty idea:
HarperCollins Publishers Inc. ... said it would make about 5,000 current paperbacks available to bookstores through On Demand Books LLC's Espresso Book Machine. The desk-sized device can custom print a book in just a few minutes. That means even if a physical copy is not in stock, it's still available almost immediately.

HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX: Just finished listening to Jim Dale's superb reading of this book. I can't believe that I have forgotten such big chunks of plot (and it just gets worse with the following books). On the other hand, that allowed me to have a lot of suspense over what was actually in that Department of Mysteries.

SPOILERS follow: I was struck again that Dolores Umbridge is well placed in the position of High Inquisitor. She is on the side of right and yet what a horrible person she is. Between her delight in cruelty and Cornelius Fudge's vanity, those whose hearts are pure (Dumbledore, Harry, et al) have a war on two fronts as they struggle to stop Voldemort from obtaining the weapon he needs. All are nominally on the side of good, yet what a difference is made by intention. And that's the point, of course. Or a big part of it. Interesting to read these books again and finding that the messages I remembered have much harder points than I recalled. Equally striking and moving is hearing Harry's glimpse of Snape's innermost memory of humiliation. Snape has a choice (as do we all) of whether to be hateful and petty but he also has had a life with all too little love and/or respect. Harry is too young to understand but we then see Albus Dumbledore with even more admiration as he trusts Snape. We also realize that just because someone is on the right side, even with the right motives, this does not mean we have to like them ... or even that they are likable.

How could I have forgotten the ending of this book, with the anger and grief and conversations about death? Really well done with a solid moral worldview beneath it.


SO MANY BOOKS  ... IN FOR REVIEW: clearly the last month or so is when everyone (and I mean everyone) has books coming out. I've got a big stack of books, some of which I asked for, others which I didn't. All, however, are welcome! My only problem is figuring out what order to read them in and how to work in my monthly book club and podcast reading (Book club: A Mended and Broken Heart: The Life and Love of Francis of Assisi by Wendy Murray; A Good Story Is Hard to Find podcast: Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury). A That's a problem that every reader loves, right?

So here's the list of what's waiting at the moment, with super-brief descriptions. All look promising, but if you try one and find something you don't like ... just remember that I haven't read them yet. A flip-through is what made me want to try them. So you have to ask yourself, do you feel lucky? "Well, do you, reader?"
  • Mercury Rises by Robert Kroese: just beginning this (relatively speaking). The sequel to Mercury Falls, which I have yet to review but liked very well as a very amusing take on an angel and a girl preventing the Apocalypse. I'm about 100 pages in and the characters have just gotten into situations that I find interesting enough that I've decided to keep going. A slower start than the first book, but I'll allow it. Amazon Vine review copy.
  • Weightless: Making Peace with Your Body by Kate Wicker: a little book that looks as if it has some good things to say about women, weight, and self esteem. A formula of sorts for health of mind, body and spirit but not preachy (thank goodness!). Author review copy.
  • Centurion's Daughter by Justin Swanton: got this one out of the blue but have read the first couple of chapters and it looks like a well written piece of historical fiction set in Gaul (France) when the Roman Empire was in its last gasps. An unusual period to choose as a setting and, as I say, the writing looks good so far. Next on my list after Mercury Rises. Publisher review copy.
  • The Pope and the CEO John Paul II's Leadership Lessons to a Young Swiss Guard by Andreas Widmer: usually the title alone would make me say, "No, no" but a flip through the pages was intriguing to make my heart say, "Yes, yes ... well, maybe anyway." Worth a try for sure. Publisher review copy.
  • The Sufficiency of Grace by Sarah Fotopoulis: Grace is widowed with a young son but even more devastation is on the way. Grace is going to get a chance to learn just what her name means in this Christian fiction. That is all I can really tell from the book description. This is by the wife of a long-time family friend and I heard about it long before I got a copy. Haven't had a chance to do much more than look over the first chapter and, I have to be honest, new science fiction coming in is always going to pull me to it more than straight fiction ... so it may be a little while before I get to this one. But that first chapter looked good and the Amazon listing has a couple of good reviews. Author review copy.
  • Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life by James Martin: We all know this is probably a book tailor-made for me. Catholicism, humor, and Father Martin's writing which has always resonated with me. I'm going to be part of the blog tour for this book with my review on October 24. So I'm putting off beginning it because of other book deadlines ... but it is a hard one to skip over, I'm telling you. Publisher review copy.
  • Reiser's Ramblings by Fr. Bernard Reiser: A collection of the best columns written over the past 30 years, these look homey and straight-forward. All profits from the sale of Reiser's Ramblings go to Haitian relief efforts sponsored by Reiser Relief Inc. Publisher's review copy.
  • Shirt of Flame: A Year with St. Therese of Lisieux by Heather King: What can Therese of Lisieux teach Heather King when she spends a year reflecting on her? Probably quite a lot as I know after simply reading Story of a Soul. Looks very readable as the first two chapters go ... King alternates telling Therese's story with her own life. My sampling was interesting enough that it was hard to put down. Publisher review copy.
  • Hounded: The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne (also Hexed and Hammered): Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, and wields a magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer. Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. And so forth. These YA novels are all the rage and no one loves them more than Heather Ordover at CraftLit podcast, who I trust a great deal. So when I saw the entire series of audiobooks at SFFaudio I thought I'd try them. Just got them a couple of days ago and, what with the Harry Potter listening, haven't had a chance to try them. Publisher review copy.
  • Patient Zero: a Joe Ledger Novel by Jonathan Maberry: Joe Ledger has to kill the same terrorist twice in one week and begins to wonder what's going on. Especially after he is recruited by a very elite group to handle a new security threat in the U.S. I tried the first bit of this on my Kindle after hearing the guys at Writing Excuses podcast speak favorably of them. Once again, I saw it pop up at SFFaudio and so snagged this audiobook to try. Publisher review copy.
  • Southern Gods by John Hornor Jacobs: Recent World War II veteran Bull Ingram is hired to find Ramblin' John Hastur. The mysterious blues man's dark, driving music - broadcast at ever-shifting frequencies by a phantom radio station - is said to make living men insane and dead men rise. Disturbed and enraged by the bootleg recording the DJ plays for him, Ingram follows Hastur's trail into the strange, uncivilized backwoods of Arkansas, where he hears rumors the musician has sold his soul to the Devil. Shades of Robert Johnson, anyone? Scott Danielson saw this come in at SFFaudio and thought it looked like my kind of book. I think he just might be right. Have begun listening but am not past the first chapter yet. Rather violent (especially for listening where you can't skim to soften such things), but I'm hanging in there because that sort of thing often backs off once the story and characters are established. So far, so good.


  1. oh, my favorite local bookshop (Politics & Prose in DC) is getting one of those print-on-demand machines. It is super intriguing!

  2. Thanks so much for the mention! Minor correction: the name of the first book is "Mercury Falls."

    Hope you enjoy Mercury Rises. It gets more exciting after the first few chapters. :)

  3. Diesel = Rob Kroese. Thought I had signed in under my other account. :)

  4. D'oh! Sorry ... can you tell I was in a huge rush? But it is fixed now. :-)

  5. Used to be a big Neal Stephenson fan until the Baroque cycle. Since I'm a MMORPG player, this one should be entertaining.

  6. Julie! Thank you so much for the plug for people to come and take my survey (as you can see, I'm waaaay behind in my blog reading, and only caught this when I went to the folder of links, haven't yet read all you recommend).

    :) Hugs to ya, sister!