Showing posts from January, 2019

Sunday Salon: A Booksih Spring to Celebrate in Des Moines

I love living in Des Moines, but one of the things I miss most about Atlanta is the literary community. I absolutely adore the bookternet and the connections with readers and writers I've made through this blog, Twitter, Instagram, and Litsy, but I do miss that in-person bookish community. Authors don't come to Des Moines on book tours (some go to Iowa City, home of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, but that's two hours away.) We do have an excellent public library, and they sponsor an annual series of events called AViD: Authors Visiting in Des Moines. There's usually one or two authors I'm interested in seeing, and it's wonderful. This week, the 2019 line-up was announced, and it's a great one. It's also the first year of the DSM Book Festival, which is really exciting. Without leaving Des Moines, these are the authors I plan to see this spring (in chronological order):

Nnedi Okorafor and Susan Orlean, Saturday March 30 
I reviewed The Library Book last …
Yesterday, I reviewed The Library Book, which is partially about the 1986 fire at Los Angeles's Central Library. I realized after I wrote my review that I wanted to see some pictures from the fire, as there wasn't a pdf of images that came with my audiobook as there sometimes is. Orlean describes them vividly, but I still wanted to see for myself. I discovered this wonderful profile of Susan Orlean and The Library Book by Carolyn Kellogg. It has some wonderful pictures, including of the fire and the suspect Harry Peak, but it also includes this great video of Susan Orlean explaining how she came to write the book and highlighting some parts of the library:

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book thoughts: The Library Book by Susan Orlean

The backstory: The Library Book is the January 2019 pick for the Hello Sunshine book club. I started listening to it December 27th, but it was nice to be well into it when Reese announced the January pick.

My thoughts: I saw Susan Orlean speak at the American Library Association conference in New Orleans last June. I had heard she had a book coming out in the fall called The Library Book, but I didn't know anything else about it. After moving to Los Angeles, her son had an assignment to interview a city employee, and he chose a librarian. While visiting Central Library in Los Angeles, a librarian mentioned to Susan that you can still smell smoke in some of the books. She was shocked to learn there had been a major fire at the library in 1986 and she didn't know about it. The Library Book is an investigation of the fire, which was intentionally set and still unsolved, but it's also an exploration of the long history of the Los Angeles Public Library and the current state of …

book thoughts: Blessed Are the Dead by Kristi Belcamino

The basics: Blessed are the Dead is the debut mystery for Kristi Belcamino. It introduces San Francisco crime reporter Gabriella Giovanni. It was nominated for the Anthony Award for Best First Novel in 2015.

My thoughts: I majored in journalism in college, and I'm drawn to books written about journalists (despite, or perhaps because I have zero professional interest in every working as a reporter.) Still, lines like these remind me of why I pursued the field in college: "I try not to eavesdrop, but hey, it's what reporters do. We are natural observers of everyone and everything around us." I think the same is true for novelists, and Belcamino's observations were wonderful in this novel.

I also like mysteries, so a contemporary mystery with a fantastically flawed heroine who happens to be a crime reporter, and is also written by a crime reporter? It sounds perfect. I bought this book for my Kindle as soon as I saw the 2015 Anthony Award nominees. I have no idea why…

Making Lists

Readers of this blog know I have a thing for making lists. For Christmas this year, I decided to participate in a bookish Secret Santa, and my favorite gift from Booksnob's Blog was this: Listography: One List a Day, A Three-Year-Journal. Each morning when I wake up, I look at that day's prompt. Some mornings I know immediately what I want to write for one or all of the lines on my list, but other mornings, I've been stumped. Three things I want to stay away from? After reading about nitrates in bacon, that was the first things I thought of. But two more? It took me all day. So far, I'm really enjoying the time I spent writing and thinking about my little lists each day. I'm excited to have this be my new habit, as it will be even more fun next year, when I can also look back at what I wrote each day this year. But perhaps my favorite thing about this book is that it's something I would never have discovered or bought for myself, yet it's the perfect littl…

Reading Art History: The Beginning

This weekend, as I was putting away our Christmas decorations in the basement, I stumbled across a pile of books I'd forgotten about. Really, I am always stumbling upon piles of forgotten books, but this particular pile I hadn't seen since before we moved into our house five and a half years ago. On top was my college textbook for Art History 101 and 102:

I don't think I've seen this book since 2008. This beautiful, 1000+-page book was a resource throughout my art history major. It wasn't a textbook we had to read cover to cover, so when we were assigned sections, I read them. They complemented the lectures and were great to refresh my memory. I decided to bring it upstairs and started flipping through it. I wondered, how many pages would I have to read each day to read this book by January 1, 2020? 3-4. I can read three or four pages of an art history textbook each day, I thought. Then I turned to the first page and discovered it was already page 15. How fortuitou…

book thoughts: An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkannen

The backstory: I enjoyed the first thriller co-authored by Hendricks and Pekkanen, The Wife Between Us(my review).

The basics:  "Seeking women ages 18–32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality. Generous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed.

When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave.

Question #1: Could you tell a lie without feeling guilt?

But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking…and what she’s hiding."--publisher

My thoughts: I had low expectations going into this book. While I didn't end up loving The Wife Between Us, it was really fun to read, and that's what I was hoping for with An Anonymous Girl: a fun read. And it was. As I read, I was transfixed. I fo…

Sunday Salon: Strong and Fit by 40

turned 38 in August. Since then I've been thinking about turning 40, a milestone I'm actually looking forward to. So far, each decade of my life has been better than the last. My 30's have been pretty transformational, and I'm excited to see what the next decade brings. Still, I'm not in a rush to leave my 30's, and I've been thinking about what I want to accomplish before 40. I know I want to get healthier. I want to be stronger. I want to be fit. I've been thinking about what makes sense for me. I'm a person who loves eating and drinking, and I don't want to lose those activities or feel guilty for indulging. I also don't want to spend a lot of money on exercise; there are lots of things I'd rather spend money on than a gym membership. I spent a few months thinking about how I could fit exercise into my routine. Really, I thought about what I could do to want to fit exercise into my routine. The last time I went to a gym was before I…

2019 Reading Resolutions and Goals

Coming off my worst reading year since I started keeping track (2009), I was hesitant to make many elaborate resolutions or goals. Then, I looked at last year's goals, which were good for quite a few laughs, as I accomplished none of them. But, I realize, I like making goals, even if I won't actually meet them. I'm not quite sure why that is, but perhaps it relates to my love of making lists. So, I have two sets of goals this year: the realistic (resolutions) and the less realistic (goals).

Call me cynical or call me realistic, but I will be shocked if I manage them all. And, really, isn't it more fun to have fun?

2019 Reading Resolutions:

1. Read more than in 2018.
This should be easy, right? The bar (54 books) is so low. If I'm being honest, I'm really hoping to read 104 books, which is two a week. That should be relatively easy too, as that's more in line with a typical year.

2. Write about each book I read in 2019.
Since I got into Litsy, I realize I writ…

book thoughts: Still Lives by Maria Hummel

The basics:  "Kim Lord is an avant-garde figure, feminist icon, and agent provocateur in the L.A. art scene. Her groundbreaking new exhibition, Still Lives, features portraits in which she depicts herself as famous, murdered women—the Black Dahlia, Chandra Levy, Nicole Brown Simpson, among many others—and the works are as compelling as they are disturbing, implicating a culture that is too accustomed to violence against women. As the city's richest art patrons pour into the Rocque Museum's opening night, all the staff, including editor Maggie Richter, hope the event will be enough to save the historic institution's flailing finances. Except that Kim Lord never shows up to her own gala."--publisher

My thoughts: I am perhaps the perfect audience for this novel: it's a mystery, but it's also a thoughtful examination of the contemporary Los Angeles art world, the role of women in art (as artist and subject), and how we view violence against women. I would glad…

My Favorite Reads of 2018

So long, 2018! You were my worst year of reading and blogging to date. I managed to read only 54 books, and I've reviewed almost none of them, but I have the urge to start fresh in 2019, so today I'm sharing with you my favorites and clearing my LibraryThing To Be Reviewed shelf. I hope I've (finally) found my reading and blogging momentum again, but I've learned not to make promises I hope to keep. Despite my disappointment in the amount of reading and blogging I did, I read some great books, and I'm excited to share them with you.
Best Comic

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
I devoured this delightful young adult comic in a single sitting, and it was a delightful, heartwarming tale. It's the kind of book I'm so glad exists for those growing up as it addresses gender identity in great ways without it being a book that's about gender identity; it's simply part of a wonderful story, as it is in real life. Jen Wang is one to watch. Best Essay Co…