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Posts Tagged ‘LibraryThing’

We were away for the long weekend over Labor Day, so I didn’t post my Friday Finds last week; here’s a quick peek at what I Should Be Reading over the next few weeks:

Ronna Wineberg sent me a copy of her short story collection Second Language.  This was published a few years ago, and I’m happy to be given the chance to review it, as I’ve been enjoying short fiction lately.  The synopsis says that the book is “home to a charmingly eclectic collection of characters who share one thing in common: choices … These characters face life-altering decisions, and when confronted with such adversity, they choose varying directions, ranging from forgiveness to revenge.”

Gayle at Everyday I Write the Book Blog is hosting an online book discussion later this month.  The book she has chosen is Run by Ann Patchett.  I’m so looking forward to reading this!  Not only does it take place in my favorite city, Boston, but I have high expectations for Run, since Patchett’s Bel Canto is one of my favorite books (reminds me, I should “unborrow” it from the neighbor I lent it to!)

Last month I snagged Reputation: Portraits in Power from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.  The publisher’s synopsis is short and to the point: “A wry, incisive group portrait of America’s ruling class.”  I have a love a history and enjoy biography/memoir, so this should appeal to me; it will be available for sale October 6.

I also received the Young Adult novel Nation by Terry Pratchett; my kids haven’t pulled this one off the desk yet, but I have a feeling it will be among the missing this weekend!  Here’s a summary from the publisher:

The sea has taken everything.

Internationally revered storyteller Terry Pratchett presents a breathtaking adventure of survival and discovery, and of the courage required to forge new beliefs.

Mau is the only one left after a giant wave sweeps his island village away. But when much is taken, something is returned, and somewhere in the jungle Daphne—a girl from the other side of the globe—is the sole survivor of a ship destroyed by the same wave.

Together the two confront the aftermath of catastrophe. Drawn by the smoke of Mau and Daphne’s sheltering fire, other refugees slowly arrive: children without parents, mothers without babies, husbands without wives—all of them hungry and all of them frightened. As Mau and Daphne struggle to keep the small band safe and fed, they defy ancestral spirits, challenge death himself, and uncover a long-hidden secret that literally turns the world upside down. . . .

My first two “finds” are already out and on bookstore shelves – have you read either of them?  Anyone else taking a sneak peek at or Reputation or NationWhich one should I open first? (I don’t juggle; one book at a time!)

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  • What We All Long For by Dionne Brand
  • Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin; 1st St. Martin’s Griffin Ed edition (November 25, 2008 )
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • ISBN-10: 0312377711
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312377717
  •  

    They all … felt as if they inhabited two countries – their parents’ and their own – when they sat dutifully at their kitchen tables being regaled with how life used to be “back home,” … They thought that thought that their parents had scales on their eyes.  Sometimes they wanted to shout at them, “Well, you’re not there!” … Each left home in the morning as if making a long journey, untangling themselves from the seaweed of other shores wrapped around their parents.  Breaking their doorways, they left the sleepwalk of their mothers and fathers and ran across the unobserved borders of the city … to arrive at their own birthplace … They were born in the city from people born elsewhere.

    Dionne Brand’s What We All Long Foris described as “a raw novel of bittersweet youthfulness.”  Set in the spring of 2002, this is an amazing story of four second-generation Torontonians in their mid-twenties.  They share the strong desire to break free from the past – from their parents’ view of the past which anchors them, and from their personal family stories which shape them.

    The four main characters are:

    • – Tuyen – an installation artist who lives in a walk-up apartment she has converted to a work studio, returning to her parents’ home only when she is in desperate need of cash. Tuyen was born in Toronto after her family escaped Vietnam in 1980. In the chaos of the evacuation, Tuyen’s brother Quy (a young boy about 4 years old) went missing. Her life has been shaped by her parents’ fruitless long-distance search for him.
    • – Carla – lives across the hall from Tuyen, and is the subject of her unrequited love. For reasons that are revealed as the story progresses, Carla feels responsible for her younger brother, who is often in trouble with the law. She has a strained relationship with her father, and an ambivalent attitude toward her step-mother.
    • – Oku – a would-be poet and musician. At age 25, Oku mimes attending college, although he has recently dropped out of a Master’s program for English Literature. He is in love with Jackie, who teases him and flaunts her relationship with another man.
    • – Jackie – she is probably the least-developed of the main characters, perhaps more of a place-holder for Oku’s love interest. Fifteen years earlier she took a train from Halifax to Toronto, where her parents promptly found low-income housing and started a routine of leaving her with neighbors to hit the clubs and dance and party the night away.

    Brand doesn’t visit the Toronto of white-collar business and tourism; she explores the daily grind and the dark alleys of the city.  These four and their companions spend nights drinking, smoking and hooking up.  Slowly and carefully she reveals more and more of their personal histories as she follows them making their way in the present day.  As the novel progresses, the four do indeed discover and confront what they each long for; we are left not with a neat and tidy ending, but with a faint hope for better times.

    Interestingly, although the majority of the novel is told in third-person narration, there are several chapters narrated in the first-person by Quy, Tuyen’s missing brother.  These chapters are left-justified only, leaving raw ragged edges on the right-hand side, which mirror the turbulent tale he tells.

    Author Dionne Brand was born and raised in Trinidad, moving to Canada at age 18 to attend Toronto University.  She has won several awards for her poetry collection, Land to Light On; her novel In Another Place, Not Here was on the short-list for two awards.  She has published one other novel, At the Full and Change of the Moon, and two works of non-fiction.  What We All Long For was originally published in hardcover in 2005 and will be released in paperback by St. Martin’s Griffin imprint on November 25, 2008.

    The copy I read was an advance uncorrected proof provided to me as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program.  Often these advance copies are not identical to the published versions; there may be slight editing or copy changes.  I do hope that the blurb on the back of the book is modified for the final copy as it focuses too much on the variety of race and sexual preference of the main characters, distracting from the main issues of the novel.  Because there are so many threads of the plot, and intricate character development, a discussion group guide might make it more attractive to book groups.  I found it to be an engaging and unique work of fiction.

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    MizB over at Should Be Reading asks what books have come into our lives this week, here’s my list:

    The LibraryThing Early Reviewers’ mighty algorithm matched me with Hurry Down Sunshineby Michael Greenberg.  The book will be published in September, so look for my review at the end of this month.  Here’s a product description:  Hurry Down Sunshine tells the story of the extraordinary summer when, at the age of fifteen, Michael Greenberg’s daughter was struck mad. It begins with Sally’s visionary crack-up on the streets of Greenwich Village, and continues, among other places, in the out-of-time world of a Manhattan psychiatric ward during the city’s most sweltering months. “I feel like I’m traveling and traveling with nowhere to go back to,” Sally says in a burst of lucidity while hurtling away toward some place her father could not dream of or imagine. Hurry Down Sunshine is the chronicle of that journey, and its effect on Sally and those closest to her–her brother and grandmother, her mother and stepmother, and, not least of all, the author himself. Among Greenberg’s unforgettable gallery of characters are an unconventional psychiatrist, an Orthodox Jewish patient, a manic Classics professor, a movie producer, and a landlord with literary dreams. Unsentimental, nuanced, and deeply humane, Hurry Down Sunshine holds the reader in a mesmerizing state of suspension between the mundane and the transcendent.

    I was asked to review The Smart One by Ellen Meister for an author tour with Blog Stop Tours.  This will be available for sale the middle of next week, on August 5, so some of you may be enjoying the book at the same as I.  Ms. Meister’s stop at She Is Too Fond of Books will be August 29.  A synopsis of The Smart One: Bev is the Smart One, who finally leaves her artistic ambitions in chalk dust (and her humor-impaired husband in the arms—and legs—of his nubile protégée) to become a schoolteacher. Clare is the Pretty One, who married well and seems to be living a designer version of the suburban dream. Joey is the Wild One, struggling to stay clean and sober now that she’s used up her fifteen minutes of fame as a one-hit-wonder rock star. They love each other but mix like oil, water, and hundred-proof gin . . . a combination that threatens to combust over family tensions, suspected infidelities, a devastating accident, a stunning confession, and the sudden reappearance of their handsome, now all-grown-up former neighbor, Kenny Waxman, who’s back in town making his mark as a TV comedy writer.  It seems they’ll never understand where their differences begin and their own destructive tendencies end. Then it happens: the sisters discover a decades-old body stuffed inside an industrial drum and begin a bold, heartbreaking, and sometimes hilarious journey that will either bring them together . . . or tear them apart for good.

    And, I received a book that I won in a trivia contest sponsored by the author and her publisher!  I was excited to find an international mailing envelope from Susan Ronald, with her book, The Pirate Queen: Queen Elizabeth I, Her Pirate Adventurers, and the Dawn of Empire.  This came out in paperback at the end of June.  The product description:  Dubbed the “pirate queen” by the Vatican and Spain’s Philip II, Elizabeth I was feared and admired by her enemies. Extravagant, whimsical, and hot-tempered, Elizabeth was the epitome of power. Her visionary accomplishments were made possible by her daring merchants, gifted rapscallion adventurers, astronomer philosophers, and her stalwart Privy Council, including Sir William Cecil, Sir Francis Walsingham, and Sir Nicholas Bacon. All these men contributed their vast genius, power, greed, and expertise to the advancement of England.  In The Pirate Queen, historian Susan Ronald offers a fresh look at Elizabeth I, focusing on her uncanny instinct for financial survival and the superior intellect that propelled and sustained her rise. The foundation of Elizabeth’s empire was built on a carefully choreographed strategy whereby piracy transformed England from an impoverished state on the fringes of Europe into the first building block of an empire that covered two-fifths of the world.  Based on a wealth of historical sources and thousands of personal letters between Elizabeth and her merchant adventurers, advisers, and royal “cousins,” The Pirate Queen tells the thrilling story of Elizabeth and the swashbuckling mariners who terrorized the seas, planted the seedlings of an empire, and amassed great wealth for themselves and the Crown.

    Have any of you read The Pirate Queen?  Is The Smart One on your list to pick up next week?  How about Hurry Down Sunshine?  I love the variety this week – memoir, fiction, and history!

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    How many books do you have cataloged in your LibraryThing account? How do you decide what to include- everything you have, everything you’ve read- and are there things you leave off?

    I opened my LibraryThing account only last month, when I became intrigued with the concept of organizing my books – being able to search and create lists by tag (author, subject … that was child’s play; now I can search by the novel’s location, whether it has won an award or is on a particular “must read” list). Being organized (in bits and pieces) really satisfies me, you should see my spice cabinet!

    I started pulling books off my shelves and entering them, beginning with some of my non-fiction titles. I entered my first 199 “free” books, loved the system, and signed up for a lifetime membership. I have 254 books listed as of this morning; I got side-tracked mid-way through the fiction shelves, and need to spend some more time inputting.

    I’m including all the books in my bookcases, as well as books I’ve borrowed from the library (not owned) and read since I joined LibraryThing. The few children’s books I’ve catalogued are either remnants from my own childhood, or children’s books that I’ve reviewed.

    I’ve rated about half the books; any newly-read books have ratings, most recent reads have reviews. I’ve listed some books I own but didn’t like; I think it’s time to clear the shelves of those offenders!

    I want to be able to refer back and give a non-recommendation if a friend asks about a book I don’t think is worth reading. Aside from a low rating and an appropriate comment or review, how do you handle these books in your online library?

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