Monday, May 27, 2013

Five from NetGalley

I've been working through my list of approved titles in NetGalley by expiration date (reading the next to expire first).   If you are a book blogger or librarian and haven't signed up for an account, you should give it a try.  I only ask for books that I'm interested in, and if I'm not into what I try, I don't feel bad about setting it aside and letting the publisher know why.  I don't always get approved for everything I ask for, and that's okay too.  I only sign up for what I actually think I want to read, so I hope that helps.

Books from NetGalley are usually either review copies and so far unpublished, a pre-published draft, or a recently published title that they are trying to get extra press for.  Sometimes I'll read a book I really like months before it comes out.  This happened with The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes.  I read and reviewed it in February, but it won't come out until June 4th in the USA.

In the past month, I have tried five books, but only finished four.  I thought I'd run through the titles in case someone who reads this blog sees something they might want to try too. 

The Yonahlosee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani
Publication Date: June 4, 2013 (USA)
Brief Description: A lush, sexy, evocative debut novel of family secrets and girls’-school rituals, set in the 1930s South.
My rating: 3/5 stars
What I liked: The setting (1930s Appalachia, girls camp), honest discussion of teenage sexuality, how the author keeps important details from the reader for most of the book.
Who I'd recommend it to: People who liked St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell (although it has less magic and more reality).

The First Rule of Swimming by Courtney Angela Brkic
Publication Date: May 28, 2013 (USA)
Brief Description: A woman must leave her island home to search for her missing sister-and confront the haunted history of her family.
My rating: 4/5 stars
What I liked: I'm interested in stories set in the Balkans, especially those that deal with the rebuilding or immigration of families. The story revolves around a mystery that travels between a tiny island in Croatia and New York City.
Who I'd recommend it to: People who have read The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht, or anyone wanting to read more books set in the Balkans!

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
Publication Date: March 12, 2013 (USA)
Brief Description: In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao first plans to document the life of her great grandmother. Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox.
My rating: 3/5 stars
What I liked: Another cold weather island, the recent connection to the tsunami, the intertwining stories.
Who I'd recommend it to: Someone who likes the slightly bizarre attempts of a lot of Japanese authors to infiltrate reality with touches of magic (or in this case, quantum reality).

Sea Change by S.M. Wheeler
Publication Date: June 18, 2013
Brief Description: The unhappy child of two powerful parents who despise each other, young Lilly turns to the ocean to find solace, which she finds in the form of the eloquent and intelligent sea monster Octavius, a kraken.
My rating: N/A, I stopped halfway through
Who I'd recommend it to: Anyone obsessed with the kraken, and I know you're out there.  People who enjoy fantasy novels and are looking for a different take or setting, especially those who don't mind quests and magic and spells.

Glass House 51 by John Hampell
Publication Date: March 23, 2013
Brief Description: Information on an individual can be so comprehensive, so insidiously granular and minute, that folks can become information “specimens” kept by perverse “collectors” . . . like butterflies in a virtual bottle.
My rating: 3/5 stars
What I liked: Short chapters make for a quick read, and the beginning with the introduction of the world (programmers, virtual spaces, etc) had me hooked that I read the first 300 pages keeping me up until 3 am.  Ultimately I'm not sure it paid off, but it had a strong start.
Who I'd recommend it to: People who have enjoyed Cory Doctorow's almost-fiction like Little Brother or Pirate Cinema (but I'm not going to make the comparison of 1984 that the author is hoping for).

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Bookstore Review: Parnassus Books

When I was in Nashville for a conference, I made time to visit Parnassus Books, owned by author Ann Patchett.  Ann is the author of State of Wonder and Bel Canto, among others.

The store is beautiful, and I was there shortly after opening on a Thursday and it was pretty busy!  There is a small room with cookbooks and travel writing, and a carved out space for children and YA.  In front of that is a beautiful art book section, more in-depth than most bookstores.  While science fiction and fantasy are relegated to the back of the store (why do stores do this?), there is also a substantial section of music books.  When in Nashville....

The author has handwritten recommendation cards throughout the store, which was a nice touch.  A few of the cards are also written by her staff, but the majority seemed to be Patchett.  I bet this sells quite a few volumes!  There was a nice section of local authors, but my favorite feature was probably the shelves of local book club picks.  What a great idea, and a service to the community (also probably selling quite a few books.)

As someone living in the southeast, I know how few authors bother to come down to visit the readers down here.  It is really unfortunate, but clearly having a known author as a bookstore owner has made a difference at Parnassus Books, just check out this line-up:

Maria Semple! Isabel Allende!? Augusten Burroughs! Jess Walter! I wish I lived closer. I didn't buy a book.  I didn't buy a $15 poster of the store either.  I was in the mood to produce, not consume, so I bought an empty journal to fill up with my own words.