Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Gone Reading!

August is Summer Reading Program go-time!

Looking for a good book? E-mail me for suggestions, or pick a title or two from my summer reading list:

  • The Descent
  • Wolf Hall
  • Bone Season
  • The Keeper of Lost Things
  • The Book of Harlan
  • The Clockwork Scarab
  • Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter 
  • The Sixth Extinction


See you in September — let's compare our reading list successes then!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Summer Reading: The July Update

My summer reading is progressing deliciously. I continue to savor the wonderful Pride and Prejudice, days after the final words were spoken to me by the lovely Rosamund Pike.

I loved that book not just because the audio version was wonderful, but the book itself was amazing. I knew the story from various resources, but each different performance could nowhere nearly match the magic of the original. I suspect I shall re-read this classic more than once in the coming years.

Additionally, I think I found another Desert Island Book.

But Darcy Love aside (and I mean Elizabeth), I am enjoying the summer. I stay up much later than I should and choose books based on my whim.

To date, I have finished the following:
  1. Ruined
  2. The Burning Page
  3. Speaking from Among the Bones
  4. The Inexplicable Logic of My Life
  5. Big Little Lies
  6. Anna Karenina
  7. The Lies that Bind
  8. My Best Everything
  9. Forgotten Bones
  10. The Handmaid's Tale
  11. Pride and Prejudice


I am currently reading:
  1. Star Wars: Jedi Academy
  2. The Miniaturist
  3. The Clockwork Scarab
  4. The Fall of the House of Cabal
  5. The Reluctant Fundamentalist


Yes, I really am reading five books at a time. I will need to restart (again!) my final Cabal book because it's a little slower-moving than the previous ones. Jedi Academy is way too cute to postpone, and I am on the fence on whether I appreciate steampunk London. I read the first two chapters of #6 as soon as it arrived in the mail, and I can't wait to return.

I do not expect to break any reading records this summer, but I am fine with that. What I want to do is enjoy a few books, and I have been able to do so thus far.

How goes your summer reading?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Listening to the Classics: How They Were Intended?

What if we are meant to listen to classic novels?

I asked myself that as Rosamund Pike thrilled me this evening with her reading of Pride and Prejudice, a well-known romance novel with a timeless plot and enjoyable characters. (My personal favorite re-telling is set in India with a cast that included the former Miss World. And elephants. And hijra.) 

As I listened to the actress who played Jane in a Hollywood version reading (and appreciate the stuffy and breathy Mr. Collins all the more because of her), I realized the cadence and presentation of the language easily lent itself to audio enjoyment. (Thanks, Audible!)

I also thoroughly enjoyed Juliet Stevenson reading Sense and Sensibility last year — so much so that I purchased the book to enjoy again. 

I have listened to Anna Karenina being read by Maggie Gyllenhaal (but only snippets so far), and was transfixed by the throaty tones of the reader and her obvious affection for the work.

David finished The Picture of Dorian Gray with the assistance of Simon Vance, another favorite narrator.


I have to admit, I was very skeptical about audiobooks until my friend Melanie began listening to them, and Caitlin Moran wooed me with her self-narrated memoir How to Be a Woman.

To be fair, I have not found all audiobooks to be enjoyable, usually when I was not in the mood to listen to them. However, every classic novel I have read I have enjoyed, and the luxurious language has been delicious when delivered directly to my ears by a favorable reader.

Are you inclined to listen to a classic novel via audio? If so, which have you enjoyed? If you haven't ventured into the world of audio classics, which would you choose to start your journey?

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Summer Reading: How is it Coming Along?

Summer is in full swing now, and so is summer reading. 

Well, it can be. 

It should be. (I mean, it's summer!)

So, how is your summer reading coming along?

My summer reading is ebbing and flowing. When we last met this intrepid reader, I was experiencing a surprising level of book ennui. I could not find my groove. I looked, I skimmed, and yet nothing launched me into the book frenzy I sought.

I have completed eight books in seven weeks. Not bad, but I have done better.

What am I reading now?


  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. I read it when it was first released 31 years ago, and it chills me as much — if not more — now than then. This time, I am listening to Claire Danes read it to me, and I am enjoying her narration. When I read the book without her, I still hear her in my head. (Thanks, Claire!)
  • The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes. He makes his case, relentlessly. It's an interesting book, but I think he's trying to trim a bonsai with a power saw. It may be me, but I'll keep on keeping on.
  • The Day the World Came to Town by Jim DeFede. I love the musical Come from Away and am intrigued about how a small town managed to host 7,000 strangers during one of the most stressful times in recent history. Full disclosure: I want to know how (or if) the municipal government managed it. It will be a slow read: I get to the comments about what a stunningly beautiful day it was, and I have to stop and think about that stunning day. Wish me luck.

What is on deck?


  • A Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason. Karen gave this to me, and I am totally intrigued!
  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. My book club will follow this with a tour of the graveyard from this book. The tome seems daunting, but I shall try.
  • Little Dorritt by Charles Dickens. My friend Carole and I are reading "weighty tomes," and this is the latest tome. We just finished Anna Karenina, so why not a little light reading about poverty in Dickens' England?
  • Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen. I have this in print and audiobook, and I will read it this summer no matter what!
  • The Magicians trilogy by Lev Grossman. He will be at Fall for the Book this year, so I have to catch up!
  • Exit West and The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid. Another Fall for the Book author, and the narrator the second novel mentioned captured my attention.
  • The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead, or maybe The Noble Hustle. Guess who else will be at Fall for the Book this year? It is going to rock again this year!
  • The Wide Circumference of Love by Marita Golden. A quick review of her books shows that readers seem to prefer her fiction that focuses on family life, and I want to know why. Plus, four words: Fall for the Book.

Of course, by listing them, I have put the Reading Whammy on them, which means I will read entirely different books beginning today — but, hey, you never know.

What's in your TBR pile?

Don't forget: it's never too late to join the summer reading club! And it's not too late to start your summer reading!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Library Loot: Bones, Bookbinding, and a Mystery

When it comes to Library Loot, I'm a slacker.

Upon reviewing the last few Library Loot articles, I discovered I did not read those books in their entirety. If anything, my eyes are too big for my bookshelf.

At any rate, I persist. And who knows: I may read at least one book from this recent looting!

First of all, book displays were meant for me to loot. I don't care who the intended audience is, when I'm intrigued, I take a book. The slim volume of Forgotten Bones will be an introduction into slave burial sites — this one in New York. Our past is never very far behind us, and this is an excellent reminder.

I also can't wait to delve into the Roanoke settlers mystery — I read about this new book, and about a recent finding announced in the Smithsonian, which makes me very excited.

David is a fan of comics, and I thought he'd like to learn more about comic books.

Finally, I needed to visit Brooklyn Wainwright again. This will be the third try at reading the third book in her bibliophile mystery series, so let's hope it's the charm. I don't mind skipping it if it doesn't tickle my fancy, which is why I also picked up the ninth book in the series, the one I saw at the bookstore that made me ask, "Wait, a cat and books on the cover? I must find out more!"

Of course, I also spent a few hours at a used bookstore today, and that may impact how long it takes me to read these delectable books, but we shall see.

Thanks to Linda (Silly Little Mischief), Claire (The Captive Reader), and Mary (The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader) for originating the Library Loot column. Check out what they're checking out!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Discovering a Wonder-Full New-to-Me Bookstore

I have tried to expand my resources for books. I am a sucker for used books, but it's not always easy to find a reliable, interesting, and affordable used bookstore in the real world.

Oh, we always have the online behemoth, and a few other Web favorites, but sometimes you just need a room full of books you haven't yet purchased or borrowed.

So began the adventure: choosing the new-to-me bookstore within driving distance. We discovered the lovely Hole in the Wall on a whim, so why not meet Wonder Book and Video?

When I walked in, I knew I came to the right place. This was similar to Acres of Books, may it rest in peace, and Hole in the Wall Books, with narrow corridors of bookshelves. Wonder Book featured lots of narrow corridors that lured book lovers deeper and deeper into the labyrinth.

"Chris?" I heard David call once.

"Hey honey, I'm in Modern Fiction. Mostly hardbacks and trade paperbacks. To your left." Moments later, he peeked down my row, relieved. With me, he could never tell: he has lost me in smaller bookstores.

"You know, the classic literature is back that way," he said, gesturing over his shoulder.

"Yeah, I saw that. I'm looking for Fall for the Book authors, in case they're here." (Spoiler alert: I didn't see any books by authors scheduled for the 2017 event, but I found plenty of books by authors from previous festivals.)

I bonked my head once or twice as I stepped back to peruse titles and discovered a few odd-shaped books sticking out of the shelves, but one expects that. I just adjusted my stance and kept reading.

I was surprised that the only Connie Willis I found was a mass paperback, but that just meant she was not long for the shelves.

I found a few classics for the local Little Free Library, which is in heavy use during pool season (its neighbor, and the most brilliant location in the neighborhood). Doesn't everyone want to read about romance and monsters in the summer sun? Happy reading of Frankenstein, Emma, Wuthering Heights, and Home Front, neighbors!

David found a few books for his studies on gems and healing.

Me, I mostly stuck to modern fiction — with a dip into Lillian Hellman's classic plays. I also found the first of the Persia Wooley series on Guinevere, which I intend to own as I come across the books.

Lastly, but not leastly, I found a jolly Christmas bookmark and David found a couple of music CDs.

As we checked out, David talked me into what was the most delicious chocolate soda I have ever tasted. I'm sure it wasn't the result of just spending an hour or two in an old, dry building full of books and discs that made it so tasty, but it was.

I will continue to shop Wonder Book both online and in person. The other stores under this name are farther afield, but I can think of at least one other book lover who may join me in an adventure. I'll take back the reusable bag they gave us and find a few more gems, no doubt.

How do you find your new-to-you bookstores: online, word of mouth, driving until you encounter it? What was the last gem you found, and what gems did you find in it?


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Library Loot: Roy, Tolle, Fellowes, and Knots

This week's library loot experience took me to a rarely-visited branch of my library system for a book not for myself.

My husband David wanted to read a book by Eckhart Tolle, which was available at a branch of the library he passes in his travels every week. Apparently I never took him into that library, which I find hard to believe, but it could happen. (In a strange alternate universe, but still.) We resolved that issue immediately.

I took a lap around the lovely little library, checking out the "new books" section, the audiobook shelves, and the "Friends of the Library Book Sale" shelves. My audible gasp caused at least one patron to turn toward me (sorry!), but as I reached for Arundhati Roy's new release, I couldn't help it. It's a 14-day book, so heaven help me finish it on time, but I'll give it the old college try.

(Full disclosure: I began listening to The God of Small Things last year, but stopped after a very short time. That was about the same time I couldn't get into Uprooted, so I will call that timeframe "my bad.")

On the book sale shelves, I found a lovely hardback copy of Belgravia, which has intrigued me since its publication. The buzz hasn't been off the charts, but one cannot make all the people happy all the time, so I'll check it out.

David also was lured to the used book sale, but by fly fishing. There were two books, and one caught his eye. It was the knots, I believe.

All in all, it was a very successful trip to the library.

What treasures have you found at your library recently?

(Shout-out to Clare, the Captive Reader, for the original Library Loot column, and fabulous logo.)

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Summer Reading: Book Ennui

Entire weekends of reading! Long nights of nothing but book time! It's summer! Woo hoo!

Well, don't spill your lemonade, but this year's summer reading is starting off very slowly for me.

You'd think that I'd have more than two book under my belt after three weeks of summer reading.

Nope, just two. A whopping 461 completed pages. A fabulous 461 pages that includes a Pulitzer Prize-winning play, but still a paltry sum of pages and books.

Oh, don't get me wrong: I'm reading. My nightstand reading stack is dwindling, somewhat. I am nearly halfway through Anna Karenina, and I can see the end of Speaking From Among the Bones (which I began months ago — yes, months).

I'm just not tossing back the books at a breakneck speed as intended.

I will continue to plug along, and pick up interesting books along the way. I won't break down, but I will limp along a little slower than anticipated. Wish me luck!

What do you do when you experience book ennui? Do you dial back the reading to give your psyche a rest, break on through to the other side no matter what, or wallow the ennui until it dissipates?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Library Loot: Three Print Books and an Audiobook

I went to the library this week and got some loot: I borrowed two books and purchased a third, only one of which is on my original summer reading list. 

(Like that's a surprise. We all know I make the list, I chuckle, and then a I reach for whatever I darned well please. Hey, it's summer reading: no rules, just reading! Plus, can you blame me if I stray with so many great choices?)

I shall read at least one this weekend, possibly two (if I am ambitious). 

I am excited that one is Ruined, a Pulitzer Prize-winning play by a playwright new to me, and the others are by authors I know and enjoy. I have encountered Lynn Nottage in numerous articles lately, so it's really a sort of sign that she is in my loot today.

I also am excited about listening to Eric Weiner's new book. I so enjoyed his Geography of Bliss and I can't wait to see what he has to say about "genius."

As for Cristina HenrĂ­quez's book, I almost didn't leave the library before starting it. Her novel made my Favorites of 2014 List, so I am very hopeful about this tome.

The book I purchased at the ongoing Friends of the Library book sale, Being Mortal, is one I'm rather intrigued to read. I have read Atul Gawande's  The New Yorker articles and enjoyed them immensely. I heard his interview on Fresh Air about aging and medicine. 

Thanks to Clare, the Captive Reader, for such an inspirational column! I love my library, and what it gives me, and it's nice to share that love.

So, tell me: what did you get from the library this week?

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Summer Reading Has Begun!

Summer means reading — and summer reading club! 

Remember back in the day, when reading came with rewards? In my local library, readers would have their names posted with the number of titles read during the summer. One year, I read 4o books. My librarian was skeptical — then she remembered how I sat in the library for hours at a time, reading. Forty it was.

Getting a shout-out on Hedgehog Lover may not be as cool as having your name posted on the Norwalk Library children's section activity board, but it's still not bad. 

Visit your library (public or private), your local bookstores and thrift shops, yard sales and online book suppliers, friends and family, and choose what books look like they need to be read this summer.

So here's what I hope to consume this summer between the Memorial Day weekend and the first weekend in autumn. This year, that date is Friday, May 26 through Sunday, September 24.

First of all, please take a moment to think about Memorial Day, and understand what it really means, 149 years after it began as Decoration Day in an Illinois town. May we strive for peace, and love, and the things that bring us together.  

In that vein, we may want to add a book to our list that reflects Memorial Day, and an article published by the Los Angeles Times may be a good place to start. 

My list is more a "wish" than carved in stone, but here it is, in no particular order:
  1. Hamilton: The Revolution
  2. Evicted
  3. Anna Karenina
  4. Lady Cop Makes Trouble
  5. The Burning Pages
  6. Dark Money
  7. Map of the Sky
  8. The Intuitionist
  9. Ready Player One
  10. The Labyrinth of Dreaming Books
  11. The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu
  12. Me Before You
  13. Yesternight
  14. The Fall of the House of Cabal
  15. The Descent
  16. The Book of Harlan
  17. At the Water's Edge
  18. Thank You for Your Service
  19. The Glass Sentence
  20. The Keeper of Lost Things
  21. The Lost City of Z
  22. Wicked
  23. Bone Season
  24. The Gun Seller
  25. Wolf Hall
  26. The Lowland
  27. And the Mountains Echoed
  28. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter 
  29. The Sixth Extinction
  30. Revival
  31. Bellman and Black
  32. Just Mercy
  33. Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits
  34. Redeployment
  35. The Handmaid's Tale
  36. The Case Against Sugar
  37. The Magicians
  38. The Unbanking of America
  39. The Inexplicable Logic of My Life
  40. Welcome to Night Vale
  41. Hidden Figures
  42. Speaking from Among the Bones
  43. Ruined
  44. The Bear and the Nightingale
  45. Uprooted
I suspect this list will change. As soon as something looks or sounds good, it will be on the list. I can't help it!

Join the Summer Reading Club and put yourself in the running for a new book. Read as much as you wish from Friday, May 26 through Sunday, September 24, and if you read the most books, you will win a book of your own.

To join the club, just send me an e-mail or leave a message below. Then, at the end of the summer reading period, send me a message or include your reading list in a blog comment. If you read the most, congratulations! If not, you still are a winner because you spent your summer reading.

I've already had a few e-mails from eager readers, and I can't wait to read your list!

I make sure summer reading is beneficial to my community. As I have done in years past, I will  donate $5 per book I read to Main Street Child Development Center (minimum $150) (I know, no sweat, right?), and I will buy three new books for the Fairfax County Public Library from its Amazon Wish List


Hopefully, reading club members also will find a way to help their communities through their reading, or to help share the love of reading with their communities. It's not a requirement, of course, but it certainly is a worthy effort. It doesn't have to be financial support, either — think of what the community wants and needs. Every reader can determine what is within her or his power to bestow.

Even if you don't join the reading club, I still would love to know: what's on your summer reading list? Tell me!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Getting Excited Yet About Summer Reading?

Memorial Day is right around the corner, which means...

 ...summer reading!

If you're anything like me, you've been perusing your own bookshelves, reviewing your library wish list, pondering the bookstore inventory, and just thinking about books.

I also am pondering summer reading lists of the past. Every year, I come up with a list, and every year I veer off-course almost immediately. (I mean, 2016. And 2015!)

Want to join the fun? Join the Summer Reading Club! (You may even win a new book.)

The "rules" of the Summer Reading Club, if any summer fun can have real rules, are singular: read as much as you wish from Friday, May 26 through Sunday, September 24. If you are the club member who's read the most book, you will win a book of your own. 

To join the club, just send me an e-mail or leave a message below. Then, at the end of the summer reading period, send me a message or include your reading list in a blog message. If you read the most, congratulations! If not, you still are a winner because you spent your summer reading.


I've already had a few e-mails from eager readers, and I can't wait to read your list! I will publish mine this month.

I make sure summer reading is beneficial to my community. As I have done in years past, I will  donate $5 per book I read to Main Street Child Development Center (minimum $150) (I know, no sweat, right?), and I will buy three new books for the Fairfax County Public Library from its Amazon Wish List

Hopefully, reading club members also will find a way to help their communities through their reading, or to help share the love of reading with their communities. It's not a requirement, of course, but it certainly is a worthy effort. It doesn't have to be financial support, either — think of what the community wants and needs. Every reader can determine what is within her or his power to bestow. 


Even if you don't join the reading club, I still would love to know: what's on your summer reading list? Tell me!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

How Does Your Nightstand Reading Stack Up?

As I was dusting my nightstand, I found myself rather impressed by my stack of books to be read.

I think I need to have my head examined because I haven't finished Hamilton: The Revolution. I even have it on Audible. And yet. Unlike any other Hamilton-related experience, I am savoring the book. Plus, I just finished the chapter about Christopher Jackson, my Washington, and I want to spend an extra moment with him. I think I'll make it a summer read.

Interestingly, the book I am reading on my Kindle I also own in print — the latest translation of Anna Karenina, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. I hadn't really pondered translations until recently, when Oprah Winfrey's embrace of the new translation was chosen for her book club, and I heard a podcast featuring a strongly praised audiobook version of Don Quixote.


I have another translation on my Kindle, and whenever I read a delicious line in the newer book, I pull up the other translation to compare. So far, I have always, always preferred Pevear/Volokhonsky's translation. I may download the recorded book of the older translation that was so well-received last year, just to compare the page to the ear.

I actually read the first 300+ pages in January, but chose to start over this month so the entire book is fresh in my mind for my discussions next month with Carole. (This is our current Weighty Read.)

I have taken a bit of a break from Anna to read another book with Carole, The Persuasion of Mr. Cave. We read The Humans a couple of years ago, and it was one of the best books I had read in a while — so we decided to give this modest little tome a try. The foreshadowing is intense.

Of this list, I'm surprised that I have read some of every volume, except for one. I have started, put down, started another, put down, and re-started more than usual.

I must blame it on Elizabeth Kostova.

Her latest, The Shadow Lands, was not the book I expected. It's a love letter to Bulgaria, which isn't a bad thing, but the book jacket focused on what I consider the weakest storyline of the book. Had it been more aptly characterized, I would have liked it better; instead, I have to adjust my notions now the book is finished. I would have read it, anyway, mind you. I just prefer when the jacket blurb relates to the story more directly.

To be fair, she used her tools wisely, weaving between media and characters, which has served her well in the past, so the novel wasn't a disappointment. It was, however, a surprise (and not in the more pleasant way).

I am a huge fan of Cat Winters, but I don't think Yesternight is her strongest novel, either. Post-WWI America, West Coast, supernatural (but maybe not), women nearly thwarted, and trusting your own instincts — they're all interesting, but it doesn't get to where it should quickly enough, and there seems to be a stronger story not being told in the novel. (It's another I've put aside, just for a while.)

I started The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu a few times, but my mind wanders during the history portion of the book. I've tried the print and electronic books, so I think I'll give the audio a try next. (The library will come through soon, so I'll keep you apprised.)

Finally, I am working on two series: Johannes Cabal and Flavia de Luce. (Ne'er the twain shall meet, thank heavens, except on my nightstand.)

What are your reading challenges? Are you stopping and starting books? Or are you plowing through everything immediately, no holds barred? Let me know!

Monday, April 3, 2017

National Poetry Month: A Stunning Poem from NPS 2013


Celebrate National Poetry Month with a daily dose of poetry. Visit our sister blog, Hedgehog Lover, in April for a poem every day.

Got an idea for a poem? Send me a message and share you ideas!

Meanwhile, watch a stunning performance at National Poetry Slam 2013.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Polar Book Club 2017: Discussion Starts March 6!

Well, for some of us, this winter hasn't really been all that "polar." For the rest of us: have you dug out yet?

No matter your frost level, there's still time to catch up on this year's Polar Book Club selectionThe Bookman's Tale. I have been slowly savoring it, and it's coming along nicely.

If you haven't started it yet, maybe this description of Charlie Lovett's will tickle your fancy:

Hay-on-Wye, 1995. Peter Byerly isn’t sure what drew him into this particular bookshop. Nine months earlier, the death of his beloved wife, Amanda, had left him shattered. The young antiquarian bookseller relocated from North Carolina to the English countryside, hoping to rediscover the joy he once took in collecting and restoring rare books. 
But upon opening an eighteenth-century study of Shakespeare forgeries, Peter is shocked when a portrait of Amanda tumbles out of its pages. Of course, it isn’t really her. The watercolor is clearly Victorian. Yet the resemblance is uncanny, and Peter becomes obsessed with learning the picture’s origins. 
As he follows the trail back first to the Victorian era and then to Shakespeare’s time, Peter communes with Amanda’s spirit, learns the truth about his own past, and discovers a book that might definitively prove Shakespeare was, indeed, the author of all his plays.

All you have to do to join the club is pick up the book and start reading! 

Okay, two things: get the book (from the library, bookstore, thrift store with a book section — or share with a friend) and email me so we can coordinate our discussion.

Right now, the schedule is to finish the book by March 5, so the conversation can begin the following day. (Give yourself a chance to savor the book, give it some thought, maybe even re-read it.)

The conversation will be relaxed and friendly. We all are book lovers who read the same book, and we want to know what others thought of it.

However, the conversation is better when readers offer details and examples of why they hated something, or how a particular character development changed the whole tenor of the story. Or, you know, whether you think William Shakespeare was really another writer using a pseudonym.

So, are you in? Let me know!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Review: Conclave

What a difference a few months make. Conclave was released in November 2016, before the political and cultural turmoil of the Trump presidency. I finished this book weeks into the tenure of the new U.S. President, and the politics of the Catholic Conclave struck me completely differently than they would have a scant month before.

Conclave sounded like such a great read: suspenseful, intriguing, and just fluff 'n trash enough to feed a craving. When I saw it on sale as I just happened to be strolling past the display, I thought it was kismet.

Imagine my surprise at finding myself bored early in the story.

A snap of excitement occurred as the story began with the death of the Pope (hopefully no spoiler alert was needed). Then author Robert Harris introduced so much expository information that was, frankly, tedious.

Harris takes readers inside the otherwise closed doors of this select society. Cardinal Jacopo Lomeli, Dean of the College of Cardinals, is riddled with guilt and susceptible to suspicion, and it is he whose tasks are conducted with mind-numbing detail.

To be fair, it's an accurate revelation of the tedium behind the beauty. The author faithfully shared details, facts, history, and trivia early in the book that, alas, dragged the momentum of the story to a crawl.While that may have been the point, I would have preferred a more balanced tapestry.

Thankfully, Harris softballed a few clues to reward faithful readers, starting with an unexpected range of international representation and a surprise contestant who slipped into the Conclave as the doors were closing to the world. (Well, almost closing: Lomeli stayed abreast of literally everything inside and outside of the Conclave, which seemed disingenuous to the spirit of the proceedings.)

The intrigue finally got intriguing as we met the international Conclave, the lead contenders of whom, in turn, revealed how they were less deserving than the next. These are the people with power in the Catholic Church: older, wealthy (mostly white) men with naked ambition they unsuccessfully concealed with faltering piety. Each had a sin ripe for exposure, and each was surprisingly similar to the rest (individual sensational sin aside). Each clique was power-hungry and clamoring for their seat at the right hand of the Father. No one was spared. Well, almost no one.

Only one character stood out, in the end: the perfect divergence from the parade of flawed men who all thought they deserved The Prize. That character, that antidote to Power, is the entire reason people should read this book.

The author completely lost me when he introduced the explosive ending that occurred outside the Conclave. Perhaps it was realistic, perhaps it was suitable for the world stage, but I am weary of what feels like the fallback position of every writer drawing "evil" with the same splotchy, faulty pen. Also, I was surprised the invisibility of women, except in certain circumstances, usually of servitude to the men — which may indicate more about the church than the author, but still struck me as antediluvian, even in context.

I cannot describe it with the same breathless praise of other critics whose reviews were published when the book was first published in November 2016. Perhaps that alone is praise enough: that the landscape in which I find myself is as merciless as the fictional world of power-hungry, flawed Catholic cardinals in Conclave.

Despite its flaws — maybe even because of them — I would recommend this book, if only to discuss it with other readers who may have a different perception than I.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Library Loot: Dinosaurs, Bookbinding, Poetry

What does a reader do when all of her books on hold at the library come forth at once? Collect them, of course!

To be fair, not all of the books pictured (left) were from my hold list. One was a surprise: I wanted to read a short story collection, and My Friendly Neighborhood Librarian suggested The Tsar of Love and Techno, with a distinct Soviet feel.

The African American poetry collection was on a display at the middle of the library. (I usually steal from those displays, often from the Youth or Juvenile-themed ones, and always when there's a DK book on display.) I have been lax at posting poems, but I promise I shall be better as time goes on, and not just during National Poetry Month.

The Bibliophile Mystery has been in my hands three times now. I really enjoy the series, but this particular one just leaves me a bit cold. (However, I see a cat on the cover, so I may have to persevere.) I am loathe to read a series out of order, but I did manage to live after reading #7 when I was on a cookbook kick...

The Cat Winters book is one I want to want to read, but not as much as the other of her novels the library doesn't yet own — so I may have to return this one for the next reader. (Fun fact: she publishes both in the YA and Adult fiction categories, and I enjoy books in both, so go Cat!)

Finally, I can't remember if I read about Dinosaurs in the Attic from Brain Pickings or my dinosaur illustrator buddy on Twitter, but there it is. Written by Douglas Preston. How could I resist?

Career advice: that one definitely came from Brain Pickings. I think. Or Life Hacks. Either way, I'll gobble that up this weekend to help get my career wherever it's going.

Thank goodness it's a holiday weekend, or I may not get it all done.

What gems have you borrowed from your library? Do tell!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Recommending Books, Sharing Books: Do You?

A few days ago, my stepdaughter Valerie asked me if I had heard about/read/owned a few books.

And my response was:
What are you looking for, my pretty?
To be fair, many of them I had read, owned, and would recommend. For example, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and Everything I Never Told You are two I am thrilled to recommend. I've heard good things about Room, but I just cannot safely approach it. I started Wild, but I couldn't get too far because it hit too close to home. I enjoyed the perspective of Americanah, but I gave away my copy a week before Valerie mentioned it.

So, I grabbed the handful of Jodi Picoult novels I had been collecting for her, tossed in a few others I really wanted to share with her (including one I had purchased an extra copy of, just in case), and high-tailed it over to her place before she could change her mind.

Oh, and on the top of the stack was the copy of Room from my library. I truly hope Valerie reads Room right away, for my sake. To be fair, I have had the book since the days of Borders because it was so well-received by the reading community. I worry that it may be hard to read for the mother of two small children. I'm the grandmother of four small children and I didn't have the courage. I had strangers offer me encouragement, and I still wasn't brave enough. Let's hope Valerie's courage will buoy my reading of that well-received book.

To be fair, I am a dangerous person to ask about a book. As soon as my friend Melanie uttered the phrase "looking for a good book," I was off to the races.
This would have accommodated
the Children's Classics delivery. Part one.

She got books. Her sons got books. I'm sure there were a couple in there for the dogs. I included classics, new releases, and a variety of genres.

I gave her so many books, she brought them back in stages. I had forgotten which books I shared with her. However, her rule was, "If it didn't belong to me or the boys, it must be Chris'." (For the record, she was right.)

When Melanie ventured into the world of audiobooks, I was at a loss. I knew nothing about them: how to listen to them, how to buy them, where to buy them, how to share them, how to find recommendations and ratings, and how to give them as gifts.

Oh, don't worry, I figured it out in no time, and Melanie has been subject to unsolicited audiobooks from time to time. (I warn her beforehand in case she needs to wave me off the carrier deck.)

This has renewed my interest in book hunting. As a book lover and avid, er, collector, I like to peruse every new and used resource I can find. Alas, lately the quest has bored me. My collection is so ample that if I don't currently own it, I've read it and given it away. Now, however, the hunt is not only for a book or two I might enjoy, but for others and their reading interests.

When someone asks for a recommendation, or wonders aloud if you have or can recommend a book, how do you respond? Are you enthusiastic, or do you approach the topic with caution? Do you keep extras of some books around so you can hand them out as needed? (Please tell me I'm not the only one who does that...)