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Showing posts from September, 2011

book review: The Submission by Amy Waldman

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The basics: The Submission is a story of building a 9/11 memorial. A committee has chosen a winner (although not quite unanimously) through a blind submission process. When they open the envelope to discover the winner's identity, they discover he is Muslim.

My thoughts: I started this novel on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, and initially I loved it. I'm an art and literature lover, and I believe both can help us heal from collective wounds, honor those who died and who lived, and be a useful part of conversation. The premise of this book is lovely, and Waldman served as co-chief of the South Asia bureau for The New York Times. This novel had immense potential, but unfortunately it did not deliver.

I adored the first third of this novel. I did opine I wasn't sure how one could end a novel with all of these narrators and conflicting viewpoints, but I was eager to see where Waldman took it. Soon, however, it was clear Waldman was breaking the cardinal rule of debut novels: th…

book review: Waiting for Robert Capa by Susana Fortes

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Translated from Spanish by Adriana V. Lopez

The basics:Waiting for Robert Capa is the story of Robert Capa and Gerda Taro, two photojournalists covering the Spanish Civil War.

My thoughts: This novel has all of the elements you think I would love: characters based on real people, journalists, and a fascinating historical setting. I had such trouble with the writing, however, I could not relax and enjoy the story.

With a translated work, it's hard to criticize the writing. Truthfully, I don't know if it's a translation issue or a writing issue, but this novel suffered from two of my biggest pet peeves in writing. The singular/plural noun disagreement was atrocious. I know English is peculiar, but sentences such as "Each in their own place" and "When you don't have a world to go home to, one has to trust their luck" drive me bonkers. I'm a huge proponent of both gender neutral language and proper grammar; it's possible to do both. Second, and th…

More on Libraries Lending Kindle Books

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Last week I shared some helpful hints on how to borrow Kindle books from your library. After using the service for several days, I've discovered a few more things.

1. The perks of not having a Wifi Kindle
Initially, I thought it was cumbersome to have a 3G Kindle instead of a Wifi version because getting library books onto my Kindle requires connecting the Kindle to a computer with USB. I realized, however, if I have to manually load these titles onto my Kindle, I also have to manually unload them. Although I no longer have the book checked out,it's still on my Kindle. I am not able to access it from any of the Kindle apps, but I can still enjoy it on my Kindle. Obviously, this feature could be abused. It is nice, though, to have an option to have an "overdue" book if you haven't finished it yet. Different libraries have set different loan periods (happily, mine has switched from 7 to 14 day loans.) For most books, I don't need 14 days to read them. When my t…

Short Story Saturday: "Dog Run Moon" by Callan Wink

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The backstory: Confession: the first thing I do when I wake up on Monday morning is grab my Kindle and see who wrote this week's fiction selection. Sometimes I'll go on to read it immediately. Sometimes I'll wait until I've had my coffee. This week, however, I was baffled. I'd never heard of Callan Wink, the author. When I flipped to the Contributors page I learned "Callan Wink lives in Livingston, Montana. He is currently pursuing his M.F.A. at The University of Wyoming." I was so excited for Callan Wink, an unknown M.F.A. student in Montana to score a story in The New Yorker. When I tried to find out more about him Monday, this librarian discovered very little. When I tried again on Friday, I was overrun with blog posts and articles about this very story. Cheers to you Callan!

The first line: "Sid was a nude sleeper."

My thoughts: One thing I've come to love about reading short stories is how little the subject matters to me. With a novel, t…

book review: Snowdrops by A.D. Miller

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The backstory: Snowdrops is the first novel by A.D. Miller, who served as the Moscow correspondent for The Economist for many years. It was shortlisted for the 2011 Booker Prize.

The basics: Set in the last decade in Moscow, British lawyer Nick Platt narrates his story to his fiancee to explain both what happened during the time he lived and worked in Moscow and how it shaped who he is now.

My thoughts: I've read several novels set in Russia in the past few years, but all of them have been historical. In many ways, Snowdrops felt like a follow-up for me. I could see the impact of Russia's history in Platt's view of Moscow.
"In Russia, there are no business stories. And there are no politics stories. There are no love stories. There are only crime stories." This novel is part noir and part exploration of Russia, and I found both parts complementary and moving. For such a short novel to accomplish so much is a testament to Miller's writing. His descriptions and c…

On libraries lending Kindle books

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Yesterday was a big day of news on the Internet. Facebook rolled out wildly unpopular changes, Pandora changed its interface, and Amazon quietly rolled out Kindle book lending from libraries (a mere one day after news broke it was testing it at Seattle public libraries.)

I adore my Kindle and prefer reading on it to reading in print, so the availability of another way to access some Kindle books is amazing. (I still love ebook fling, but I don't often have luck getting access to the titles I want--often due to both publishers not allowing loans).

Here are a few things to know about borrowing Kindle books from your library:

1. If your library has a title as an e-book, it now has it available for the Kindle.
I used to dread seeing e-book titles available in my public library catalog because I knew they weren't Kindle compatible. Blessedly, instead of having two different e-book collections (one for Kindle format and one for epub), it's all the same. It's lovely and as no…

book review: The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear

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The backstory: The Mapping of Love and Death is the seventh Maisie Dobbs mystery novel. Here are links to my reviews of the first six books: Maisie DobbsBirds of a FeatherPardonable LiesMessenger of TruthAn Incomplete Revenge, and Among the Mad.

The basics: The mystery at the center of this novel is about the death of Michael Clifton, an American cartographer who died in World War I and whose body was only recently recovered. His parents hire Maisie to look into his suspicious death.

My thoughts: For the first time, our story opens in the United States. Knowing Ms. Winspear now lives in California made this detail even more fun to read. At times I worry the war-based mysteries will become too much of a stretch, but this one was among my favorites of the series for several reasons. First, I loved the story of Michael Clifton, an American-born cartographer who felt compelled to journey to England to fight for the country his father was born in. The duality of opening the novel whe…

BBAW: On Blogging

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Today marks the end of Book Blogger Appreciation Week 2011. I've discovered quite a few new blogs, which is always fun! It's also a joy to feel such a part of this wonderful community. Today, the writing topic is about blogging. I rarely get meta about blogging here, but I'll use this opportunity to share a few things that help me enjoy book blogging rather than feel overwhelmed by it.
1. Schedule posts Want to know something? I'm not writing this post right now. Right now, I'm in the car traveling to Ohio for the wedding of one of my best friends. I wrote this post last Sunday and stopped in yesterday only to add some timeliness to my introduction. Pretty neat, huh? 
My blogging habits have changed a lot over the years, but with my current schedule, I like to carve out a few hours on Saturday morning or Sunday evening when Mr. Nomadreader is at work and write my blog posts for the week. During the week, I like to come home from work, cook dinner with Mr. Nomadread…

Thursday TV: Parenthood

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While The Good Wife is the best show on television and among my all-time favorites, Parenthood is a contender too. (Don't get me started on why they had the same time slot until this fall either.) I mentioned my love of Parenthood before when it wasn't nominated for any Emmys. The new season of Parenthood started Tuesday, and it got be thinking about it all over again.

Mr. Nomadreader has seen Parenthood a few times and enjoyed it, but our schedules were so disparate we rarely got to watch television together. Now, however, we have the luxury of actually spending evenings and weekends together (it's heavenly), so we sat down to watch Parenthood Tuesday night when it premiered.

As much as I loved it, he loved it more. We both laughed and cried (quite normal activities for us when watching emotional programs). I lost count of the number of times Mr. Nomadreader uttered "this show is amazing" or "how do they not win every ensemble cast award?" I agree. Wh…

Waiting on Wednesday: Mrs. Nixon by Ann Beattie

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Welcome to Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, to highlight an upcoming release you cannot wait to read.
It should come as no surprise to frequent readers that I'm a huge fan of fiction about real people. American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld is my all-time favorite novel, and earlier this year Monica Ali wowed me with her re-imagining of Princess Diana in Untold Story.

When I sat down Monday morning with my coffee to start this week's issue of The New Yorker (bless you, Kindle subscriptions!), I began with the excerpt from Ann Beattie's forthcoming book, Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagines a Life. It's being described as not-quite fiction and not-quite non-fiction, and I am all parts excited for its publication!

The excerpt in The New Yorker was both wonderful and perplexing. Beattie's writing, which I've read sporadically over the years when her short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, is exquisite. I highlighted numerous pages in the …

BBAW: Interviewing Amy

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Happy Book Blogger Appreciation Week! This year's theme is Cultivating a Community of Bloggers and Readers. Each day, I'll be posting about the suggested topic for the day. Today's topic is blogger interviews.
This year, I have the honor and privilege of interviewing Amy from My Friend Amy who founded Book Blogger Appreciation Week! 
What is your most treasured literary memory? What an impossible question! I actually think the complete experience of book blogging is my most treasured memory (I know I'm a cheat) because making friends around books, being exposed to new authors and books, and also new ways of looking and thinking about books has been very rewarding.
We're both big fans of books and tv. How does your all-time favorite book stack up against your all-time favorite tv series. Hmm. My all time favorites are difference from each other. Silence, my favorite book, is very serious and sobering, but it made me think about faith and suffering a lot differently. L…

book review: Displaced Persons by Ghita Schwarz

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The basics: Displaced Persons is the story of Polish Jewsish refugees who have just been liberated from a concentration camp. They are alive, and they are free, but they are essentially homeless. The novel follows them from 1945 to 2000.


My thoughts: I seem to be reading a inordinate number of Jewish World War II novels lately. Displaced Persons carves out its unique niche well, but I imagine it would have impacted me more greatly if I weren't on such a thematic kick. For me, the book began a bit slowly because it was such familiar ground for me. When the narrative shifted geographically, I found it more interesting, partly because the move surprised me.

Displaced Persons is a unique novel in many ways. While the characters go through many changes, it is a relatively calm novel. While many things happen, there is not necessarily a strong plot. Ultimately, it's a quietly reflective and reverent novel about the lingering effects of The Holocaust.


The verdict: Displaced Persons brid…

Book Blogger Appreciation Week 2011: On Community

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Happy Book Blogger Appreciation Week, everyone! This year's theme is Cultivating a Community of Bloggers and Readers. Each day, I'll be posting about the suggested topic for the day. I'll also have my usual posts: several book reviews, a Thursday TV post, and a Short Fiction Saturday post for you. 
Today, we're encouraged to highlight a few book bloggers who have made book blogging a unique experience. As I thought about how to answer this question and which bloggers to highlight, I realized my answer to this question would have been so different over time. I'm grateful for all the book bloggers who have been a part of this incredible journey. For me, the book bloggers who have made it a unique experience are those whom I feel I know best, both through reading their blogs and through their comments on mine. These four women feel like friends, and I often find myself thinking of them when finishing a book and wondering "who do I know who would like this book?&q…

book review: Wherever You Go by Joan Leegant

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The basics: Wherever You Go follows three Americans in Jerusalem. Yona is there to make amends with her estranged sister, Mark is an scholar, and Aaron is a wandering college dropout.

My thoughts: Joan Leegant's prose is exquisite. As a reader equally drawn to writing and characters, I found myself drawn more to the writing in Wherever You Go. It is both a compliment and burden that I found myself thinking about her beautiful sentence construction more than I did about the novel's events.

The novel began with Yona's story, and I was quite drawn to her. I was struck by Yona's ability to be both guarded and open. She was mysterious, intriguing and honest all at the same time. When the narrative first shifted to Mark, I was initially less intrigued. As is so often the case, I want to stay with characters I enjoy. When the narrative shifted to Aaron, I found myself following the writing and construction of the story more than the story itself. I'm not sure why my focus …

Indie Lit Awards: It's Time to Nominate!

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September marks the beginning of my favorite time of year: fall. I love the cooling temperatures, changing leaves, and the excitement of the coming holidays. Now I can add one more reason I love September: nominations are now open for the 2011 Indie Lit Awards. The Indie Lit Awards, created by Wallace from Unputdownables last year, allow literary bloggers to be the judges. I'll thrilled to be a voting member of the fiction category this year. As a voting member, I can't nominate books, so we're relying on readers to nominate the books that will make up the longlist. Here are the categories: Biography & Memoir, GLBTQ, Fiction, Mystery, Non-fiction, Poetry, and Speculative Fiction.

Here are the guidelines for nominations:
1. The books must be published in 2011.
2. You may nominate up to five books per genre.
3. Anyone may nominate (except those who made a profit on the book, such as the author, publicist or publisher).
4. Nominations are open from September 1, 201…

Wrapping up August 2011

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August started off as another excellent reading month. The hot, hot weather kept me inside, and Mr. Nomadreader has been working a lot of nights and weekends, which leaves me with even more time to read. My reading fizzled a bit the last two weeks though, as classes started and I spent more time working to get this semester started off well. This month I read seven books.

The Excellent (rated 4.5 stars or higher):

When I Lived in Modern Times by Linda Grant (4.5 stars)
The Good (rated 4 or 4.25 stars):

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt (4 stars)
The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson (4 stars)
Far to Go by Alison Pick (4 stars)
How to Love an American Man by Kristine Gasbarre (4 stars)

The Somewhat Disappointing (rated 3.75 stars or less):
The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald(3.5 stars)
The Help by Kathryn Stockett (3 stars)

I didn't have any five-star reads this month, but I'm still pleased with the quality of what I read in August. I'm looking forward to a four-day Labor …