Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How NOT to sell books - A RANT

Please wake up and realize that the reading public can only assimilate so much in one swoop.  I just received a review copy of Noah Hawley's book "THE GOOD FATHER" last week.  Imagine my surprise when I opened my email to yesterday's edition of Shelf Awareness to be presented with a chance to request an ARC of Diane Chamberlain's "THE GOOD FATHER". 

Two books coming out in the same time frame with the same title....at least (so far anyway) the covers don't look too similar, but if I were to write down a book title from a review I read and consult my list without knowing there were two different options, I might be a tad confused when I got to the bookstore or even to Amazon or B&N to shop.

And if I were Mr. Hawley or Ms. Chamberlain, I'd be more than a tad annoyed that all my hard work is now going to sit there and become a confusing mess for readers.  What if I can't afford to buy both?  What if I'm not sure I'm getting the "right" one?  And what is the "right" one anyway?  I'm probably NOT going to buy either until I have time to go back and double check where I saw the book to begin with, and by that time, my book buying dollars have probably gone to something else interesting that jumped up screaming "buy me!" while I was diddling over which was the correct "GOOD FATHER." 

Please publishers,  let's be a bit kinder to your reading public, and let's be more considerate of authors who have worked their fingers to the quickie only to learn that they are not putting out something exclusive.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Dewey Tells Us Who We Are?

So much fun...In .Audiobooker A Booklist Blog,  Mary Burkey, a teacher, librarian, and audiobook addict, writes about listening, learning, and the joy of headsets.  Earlier this week she gave us the opportunity to take a short quiz that matches our name and birthdate to give us Dewey classifications that possibility fit our personalities.  I certainly agree with all three of mine.  I'm Italian, and periodically I actually do try to refresh what little I learned as a child.  I certainly can relate to ANYTHING having to do with books, and as for Travel, Biographies, etc etc,  well Tutu is always ready for that.  Yep, that's me.!

Take the quiz, have a great time with this one.  I'm going to be spending some time with my Mom for the next week or so, getting some reading done, hopefully visiting my granddaughter.  I'll dump a batch of reviews on you when I get back.  Stay warm, dry, and well.

Here are my results from Dewey:

Tina's Dewey Decimal Section:
455 Italian grammar

400 Language

Linguistics and language books.

What it says about you:
You value communication, even with people who are different from you. You like trying new things don't mind being exposed to unfamiliar territory. You get bored with routines that never change.
Find your Dewey Decimal Section at Spacefem.com 
Tina's Dewey Decimal Section:
095 Books notable for bindings

000 Computer Science, Information & General Works

Encyclopedias, magazines, journals and books with quotations.

What it says about you:
You are very informative and up to date. You're working on living in the here and now, not the past. You go through a lot of changes. When you make a decision you can be very sure of yourself, maybe even stubborn, but your friends appreciate your honesty and resolve.
tina's Dewey Decimal Section:
920 Biography, genealogy & insignia

900 History & Geography

Travel, biographies, ancient history, and histories of continents.

What it says about you:
You're connected to your past and value the things that have happened to you. You've had some conflicted times in your life, but they've brought you to where you are today and you don't ignore it.
Find your Dewey Decimal Section at Spacefem.com

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Review: A Test of Wills - Charles Todd

Author: Charles Todd
Publisher-Format: Recorded Books, p1999, c1996. 10 1/2 hours
Narrator: Samuel Gillies 
Subject: murder, "shell shock"
Setting: Warwickshire UK
Series: Inspector  Ian Rutledge Mysteries #1
Genre: mystery - British police procedural
Source: public library
Recommended? definitely

My LT reading buddies are always raving about Charles Todd's Ian Rutledge detective series, and I'd seen several that looked interesting.  My buds also advised me that I'd probably be happier if I started at the beginning, saying that they really build one upon the next, so I took their advice.  It's always fun when friends recommend a book, and you love what they pushed you into.  This series, along with Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series are the perfect accompaniment to my World War I reading.  Reading about war can become an overwhelming downer, and these mysteries are giving me the chance to immerse myself into the times, use my brain to try to figure out "who dunnit" with the protagonists, and enjoy a relaxing reading experience at the same time.

Home from service in "The Great War", suffering shell-shock (what we now recognize as PTSD) and bringing with him an alter-ego (or is it the ghost?) of Hamish McLeod, a Scottish soldier whose death allowed Rutledge to survive, he finds his  fiancèe has backed out of their relationship, he has lost confidence in his ability to continue what had obviously been a promising career with Scotland Yard (and they also seem to want to find a way to put him permanently out to pasture) and he now finds himself sent to investigate what appears to be a local murder in a small village that normally the Yard would not have been involved in.  So why has he been sent?

This is a marvelous British murder mystery, with engaging characters, a large group of suspects, a murder with an apparent motive that Rutledge (goaded by Hamish) does not want to believe.  The obvious suspects are all men who have served in the war, and to varying degrees are now paying the physical and/or psychological price for their service.  Rutledge has difficulties believing what appear to be blatant clues.  The portraits of a village trying to come to grips with these veterans and their problems, gives us a clear idea of the range of emotions survivors endured--from adopting the stiff upper lip, to consigning those less fortunate to the "out of sight, out of mind" dustbin. And for those of you who like good plot twists, I'll say simply that the ending was quite different.  I thought I had it figured out (and I did) but then I didn't.  No more...no spoilers, but you'll love it!

Charles Todd, actually a pseudonym for a mother-son writing team, gives us a nicely developed protagonist with just enough background and motivation to make up eager for more. They do a bang-up job of painting a picture of the time, and leave us rushing out the door in pursuit of the next episode. There are currently 14 in this series, which is obviously going to delve into the effects of shell-shock, and  the societal changes in British society as a result of changing roles during and after the War. I'm going to be haunting bookstores and libraries to get the back copies of this series.  Can't believe I missed them when they first came out.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mailbox Monday - Feb 20th

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house recently, but here's a warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

Created by Marcia at The Printed Page, Mailbox Monday, now has its own blog. Hosting duties are rotated every month.  This month one of my favorite blogs Metroreader: Reading One Mile at a Time has the hosting honors.  Be sure to stop by and discover a new and wondrous (for me anyway) addition to your blog roll and take a look at everyone's Mailbox lists.

My mailbox this week delivered an eclectic assortment.  I finally got a highly readable publication copy of Juliette Gordon Low : the remarkable founder of the Girl Scouts by Stacy A. Cordery which I reviewed yesterday.

Then I won a contest for a copy of a young adult book by Barry Hoffman.  Thanks Edge Books.  I'm going to read this one so I can hopefully recommend and pass it on to my granddaughter:
 The first of three books in the series, the blurb promises us
"When the peaceful and isolated land of the Shamra is invaded and its people enslaved, a young Shamra girl named Dara must lead a ragtag resistance to defeat the enemy.  But even as she fights the invaders, Dara grapples with self-doubt and is criticized by her own people for being outspoken and different.
Venturing into uncharted territory to seek allies, Dara encounters unusual creatures and dangerous lands.  But is her rebellious spirit enough to help her overcome the patriarchal and oppressive rules of her own people and convince them that she is the only hope the Shamra have to regain their freedom?

I'm not a big fantasy fan, but young ones are these days, so I'm going to try to expand my reading horizons with this one.  I do like strong female characters, and this certainly promises to deliver.

The Good Father ARC arrived unsolicited from Doubleday this week.  All I had to do was read the publisher's write-up to land this one on the "read very soon"pile.

As the Chief of Rheumatology at Columbia Presbyterian, Dr. Paul Allen's specialty is diagnosing patients with conflicting symptoms, patients other doctors have given up on. He lives a contented life in Westport with his second wife and their twin sons—hard won after a failed marriage earlier in his career that produced a son named Daniel. In the harrowing opening scene of this provocative and affecting novel, Dr. Allen is home with his family when a televised news report announces that the Democratic candidate for president has been shot at a rally, and Daniel is caught on video as the assassin. 
Daniel Allen has always been a good kid—a decent student, popular—but, as a child of divorce, used to shuttling back and forth between parents, he is also something of a drifter. Which may be why, at the age of nineteen, he quietly drops out of Vassar and begins an aimless journey across the United States, during which he sheds his former skin and eventually even changes his name to Carter Allen Cash.
Told alternately from the point of view of the guilt-ridden, determined father and his meandering, ruminative son, The Good Father is a powerfully emotional page-turner that keeps one guessing until the very end. This is an absorbing and honest novel about the responsibilities—and limitations—of being a parent and our capacity to provide our children with unconditional love in the face of an unthinkable situation.
 Can't you see why I'm itching to get to this one?
And finally, our local DownEast publishing sent me the perfect little volume to lighten up all the heavy heavy reading I've been doing this month. Cartoons From Maine, by Jeff Pert is not terribly intellectual, not quite politically incorrect, but certainly pokes fun at stereotypes.  Just the thing to remind us not to take ourselves too seriously.

Several of these cartoons are actually residing on my refrigerator as magnets.  We have a "Bob" in the Tutu household, and Bob takes a bit of ribbing whenever lobsters appear in the kitchen.  You can see some of Jeff Pert's work at entertainyamania.com. I'm particularly fond of his "Women Who Behave rarely make History."

Nuff said.......back to reading.  Enjoy your week.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Review: Juliette Gordon Low by Stacy Cordery

Juliette Gordon Low
The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts
Author: Stacy Cordery
Publisher-Format: New York : Penguin Press, Viking, c2012.
Subject: Juliette Gordon Low
Setting: Savannah, Georgia and various locations in UK
Genre: Biography
Source: originally from NetGalley, then hard copy from Viking
Recommended - yes, definitely for Girl Scouts, and anyone ever associated with Scouting

As I mentioned last month, I was quite frustrated and disappointed when I got this book as an electronic ARC through NetGalley.  For some reason, the file was corrupted, and just would not open consistently enough to make reading this a worthwhile experience.  The publisher and NetGalley were fabulous to work with trying to correct the problem, so I put it aside hoping to get back to it when I had more patience.  To my amazement, last week I received the finished hardback copy.  Thank you Penguin/Viking. It was definitely worth the wait.  I was a Girl Scout for years--going all the way from Brownie through Senior Girl Scouts--and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  I had visited the Juliette Low Birthplace in Savannah when I was about 12-13, and had actually planned a return visit this month (the trip got cancelled!). I was a Girl Scout leader for a year when my younger sister's troop lost their leader. And my daughter was a scout, even getting to experience scouting in Japan when we lived there.  So I was really primed to read this one. I can say the read was well worth the wait for the finished copy. 

Stacy Cordery has given us an incredibly in-depth biography, and I'm not going to do a point by point re-cap of Daisy Low's life here in this review.  What I want to focus on is the detail, the insight, and the obvious research that went into this project.  Cordery admits to a life-long fascination with her subject, and tells us of its inception many years ago.  She has followed Juliette Gordon's early life, her married years, and her widowhood, giving us almost an overload of facts, feelings, and a sense of the difficulties her deafness caused her throughout her life, but without becoming maudlin or hero worshiping.  While it could have done with some editing to cull out unnecessary details about secondary characters (particularly their family trees), it was organized, well-documented, and should serve as the definitive biography of a very special lady for years to come.

The book of Gordon Low's life can almost be divided into two stories : her early life as a Southern socialite and marriage to a member of the Bristish aristocracy, followed by her years as a widow, a community activist, and the founder of the Girl Scouting movement in the US.  Cordery introduces us to "Daisy's" friends, family, collaborators, and the few detractors who are portrayed honestly and without rancor. The illustrations are numerous and telling.  It was unanticipated fun to sit and pour through pictures that, while they were definitely before my time, did emphasize the timelessness of the Scouts, and brought back fond memories for me of my days around the camp-fire.  Through it all, Daisy Low is presented as a very down-to-earth, not without her foibles human being, bearing up to physical disabilities, personal betrayals, loneliness, and frustration who still managed to find the fun, to bring her inimitable sense of humor and grace to a life of staggering challenges, and in the end emerge as a national and on-going role model for young women.

It is particularly notable as a publication to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Girl Scouts this year.  Happy Birthday Girl Scouts, and best wishes for 100 more.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Review: Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard

A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President
Author: Candice Millard
Publisher-Format: Doubleday (2011), ARC, 352 pages
 also Audio: Books on Tape, 9 hours, 47 minutes
Narrator: Paul  Michael
Subject: The assassination of Charles Garfield
Setting: Washington DC, various other US cites
Genre: historical narrative, biography
Source: ARC from publisher, audio from public library
Recommended? Defintely.

A wonderful surprise.  I'm ashamed to say I've had this ARC sitting on my shelf since last July and while I wanted to read it, I just couldn't find enough inspiration to butt it up in the queue.  Two weeks ago, I saw it available on the library's audio download, and I grabbed it.  Once I started listening, I couldn't stop, and found myself  jumping ahead in the book. Instead of the standard biography, Millard has given us a masterful study of the era of the late 19th century when the country was finally beginning to mend from the Civil War.  She does this in a unique presentation from three different perspectives: that of Garfield and the politics of the Republican party; that of the megolamaniac Charles Guiteau, Garfield's "assassin", and the scientific influences of the times as we meet Alexander Graham Bell, and Joseph Lister the author of the theory of disease causing micro-organisms.

These seemingly disparate stories come together as Millard shows us Garfield's love of learning, particularly science. Having served successfully in the Union Army, he then served nine terms as Ohio Congressman until his unanticipated nomination for President on the Republican ticket. Our science/medicine lesson begins with an exciting glance at the United States Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876, where the Hall of Machinery featured such exhibitors as Alexander Graham Bell and his telephone.  At the same time, in another area Joseph Lister was trying in vain to convince the doctors of the US of the need to wash hands, instruments, wound sites with carbolic acid to kill germs.  He was not well accepted, and the rejection of his theories became critical in the failed attempts to save Garfield's life.  Finally, throughout the book, we follow the movements of Charles Guiteau, the mentally unbalanced self-appointed individual who considered himself "chosen by God" to "remove President Garfield" so that Chester Arthur (the vice-president) could assume the throne and appoint Charles Guiteau to a government position.

These three separate but inter-related stories are woven together in a page-turning narrative.  I knew some of the facts before I started reading this story.  I knew Garfield had been assassinated; I knew that Alexander Graham Bell had invented other scientifically valuable devices besides the telephone; I knew that Lister was credited with the discovery of the theory of germs; and I knew that Garfield was succeeded by Chester Arthur.  But the incredible detail and masterful blending of these different aspects of the worlds of science and politics kept me reading and reading and reading.  I have a different and deeper appreciation for most of the players in this tableau.

The villain turns out not to be the so-called assassin.  I doubt today that any jury would convict this man of murder - assuming his case ever came to trial.  Millard's assertion that Garfield was killed by his doctors, not by the assassin's bullet will find no argument from me.  It's a sad, depressing, discouraging story of how ego can kill, of how humans can deceive themselves, and how far we've come and how far we still have to go  in the field of medicine, and the political arena.

Other players who were fleshed out to step into the limelight include Lucretia Garfield (the President's wife), Robert Todd Lincoln, Joseph Stanley Brown (Garfield's private secretary), Dr. Doctor Bliss (the incompetent physician who self-appointed himself to be in charge of the president's care), Roscoe Conkling ( a crooked politician who mentored Chester Arthur until Arthur became President), and vice-President Arthur himself.  All of these are featured in enough detail to explain their roles in the drama, but without too much verbiage.  In fact, one of the best things I can say about the book besides the well-told story, is to praise the tight editing which gave us a story well worth reading without dragging us down with myriad unnecessary details.

Finally, it is a monumental tribute to an obviously under-rated President. By showing us his focus on education as the way out of poverty, his willingness to embrace science,  his insistence of bettering the lives of  blacks by giving them education, jobs and the vote, and his unfinished  plans to reform the Congressional system of awarding federal jobs to cronies which led to Arthur's founding of the Civil Service, Millard demonstrates his greatness as it has not been shown before.   His home in Mentor OH houses the first Presidential library, started by his wife and his personal secretary Joseph Brown.  I just may have to make a trip out there to explore this interesting historical figure in more depth.  And I know I'll have to find Candice Mallard's other book about Theodore Roosevelt and read that one too.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Review: The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat

Author: Edwidge Danticat
Publisher-Format: Penguin (Non-Classics) Paperback, 312 pages
Year of publication 1999
Subject: Genocide of Haitians in Hispaniola
Setting: Border between Haiti and Dominican Republic
Genre: historical fiction
Source: Maine Humanities Council "Let's Read About It" book discussion series
Recommended? absolutely, but with warnings about graphic violence

This was the last book in our discussion series of women's stories we've been having at my local library.  I'm not sure I was looking forward to it, because I'd heard it was "heavy" "depressing" and "a downer".  After four previous reads of the trials and tribulations and degredation and humiliation of women in various cultures, I approached this one out of obligation (I'm the group facilitator) more than enthusiasm.

I'm so glad I read it.  Whle those adjectives I'd heard can certainly be applied, the book is also lyrical in its ability to describe unspeakable violence,  revealing in its historical detail, stimulating in pushing the reader to search out more about this time and epoch.  Seen through the eyes of a young Haitian orphan Amabelle Desir who was raised by a middle class Dominican family, and her lover Sebastian Onius, a Haitian who has come to the DR side of the island of Hispaniola seeking work in the cane fields (known as the farming of bones) we learn of the extreme racial tension between the Haitians, who speak a bastardized French knows as Kreyol, and the Dominicans who are of Spanish extraction and who also number among them many blacks of African descent.  This story dwells almost completely on the massacre of Haitians who were living and working in the Dominican Republic during the reign of Generalissimo Trujillo, and certainly leaves this reader hungry to find out more of the background and history of the peoples of this island.

The story of Amabelle's life before, during, and after the massacre is bone-chilling.  It is difficult to imagine how any woman could survive such violence.  Her inner strength seems to have come from her parents, who drowned crossing the river between the two countries, while she stood on the "wrong side" and watched it happen.  In her mind, as she replayed the story over and over again, she heard her parents' encouragement, felt their love, and knew that someday she too would float off in the river to join them.  In the meantime, she accepted her fate, used her inate talents, and became a trusted member of her adoptive family (although in a servant's role.)

It was a difficult book to read, but it was so well written that once I picked it up and began, I found it even more difficult to put down.  I finished it in less than a day.  Edwidge Danticat has given us a striking picture of a woman's strength of character, and inspired us to look more into history to see what the world can do to insure no other women (or their menfolk) have to endure such atrocities in the future.  It is not a book for the timid, nor is it a book for young readers, but by late high school, it is excellent reading for all who need to be exposed to the cruelty man has wreaked upon his fellow humans.

Many thanks to the Maine Humanities Council for making these books available to us.  The series definitely did what it was billed to do-- "Open the Windows" onto women's stories around the world.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Mailbox Monday - February 13th

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house recently, but here's a warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

Created by Marcia at The Printed Page, Mailbox Monday, now has its own blog. Hosting duties are rotated every month.  This month one of my favorite blogs Metroreader: Reading One Mile at a Time has the hosting honors.  Be sure to stop by and discover a new and wondrous (for me anyway) addition to your blog roll and take a look at everyone's Mailbox lists.

This week I received two books and they both have my attention.  They went right onto the "Read them as soon as you get a chance" pile.  The first was an ARC from Ecco Publishing.  I've been reading so much non-fiction that this one is really appealing to me.  It fits one of my 2012 reading goals - to read general fiction - and since I haven't done much of that this year yet, I'm thinking it will be one I'll definitely want to fall into.  Here's what the publisher's blurb says:

 Restoration by Olaf Olafsson
Having grown up in an exclusive circle of wealthy British ex-pats in Florence in the 1920's, Alice shocks everyone when she marries Claudio, the son of a minor land-owner, and moves to San Martino, a crumbling villa in Tuscany. Settling into their new paradise, husband and wife begin to build their future, restoring San Martino and giving birth to a son. But as time passes, Alice grows lonely, a restlessness that leads her into the heady social swirl of wartime Rome and a reckless arffair that will have devastating consequences. While she spends time with her lover in Rome, Alice's young son falls ill and dies, widening the emotional chasm between her and her husband-and leaving her vulnerable to the machinations of a nefarious art dealer who ensnares her in a dangerous and deadly scheme. Returning to San Martino, Alice yearns for forgiveness. But before she can begin to make amends, Claudio disappears, and the encroaching fighting threatens to destroy everything they have built. Caught between loyalists and resisters, cruel German forces and Allied troops, Alice valiantly struggles to survive, hoping the life and love she lost can one day be restored.
My other exciting  mailbox  gift was a contest win, that is perfect for my goal of reading cozy series both new and old.   I've wanted to get into this mystery series for quite awhile, and winning this one has given me the push I need.  I'm hunting down the first in the series, State of the Onion (and I have the third one - Eggsecutive Orders-- sitting here on loan from my sister) so I'm going to have a White House Chef read-a-thon sometime before the daffodils raise their little heads.  In the meantime, I getting hungry already.  These sound like good candidates for the NOOK.  Must go track down how much is left on my Christmas gift certificates.

Affairs of Steak
(A White House Chef Mystery)
Julie Hyzy

 White House chef Olivia Paras and her arch nemesis, White House Sensitivity Director Peter Everett Sargeant, must work together to solve the double murder of one of the First Lady's assistants and the Chief of Staff-before they become the next victims of a merciless assassin with a secret agenda.
 It was a great reading week,  and since it's so cold and windy here in Maine, it promises to be an even better week to curl up with a cuppa tea, a soft purring kittie, a big warm fire and a pile of books.  When the ice melts, we'll drive to the post office to see what other wonders await us.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Mini-Reviews: More Delightful Maisies

If you read Tutu fairly regularly, you'll know that I've become quite a fan of Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs novels.  They are especially well done in audio, and make for the perfect relaxing ear-read when I want to get a break from some of the heavier tomes I'm reading at this time.  Maisie keeps my attention, makes me use my brain to follow her adventures, and the novels provide an excellent picture of England (and to a lesser extent France) between the two World Wars.

Messenger of Truth is actually probably my least favorite of the series so far.  Maisie is hired by Georgina Bassington-Hope to investigate the unusual circumstances of her twin brother's death.  Nick, who was an artist apparently fell from a scaffold while preparing to hang his defining work for an exhibit.  No one knows what this work looks like, or where Nick has stored it, and Georgina is convinced that although the police have ruled his death accidental, he was actually helped to his death (murdered?).  She hires Maisie to dig out the truth.  And of course Maisie comes through.  The story again was well written, well  plotted (the ending is stunning), but I just found parts of it a bit of a stretch.  Still well worth the time though.

The Mapping of Love and Death, on the other hand, was fascinating.  In this one, Maisie is hired by an American couple (the Cliftons) to discover if and how and by whom their son was murdered.  Mr. Clifton (the father) emigrated from England to America, and his son Michael, a trained cartographer, returns to England in 1914 shortly after the outbreak of WWI to serve in the British army.  He is killed in action, but his remains are not recovered until the time of this story - around 1930.  The post-mortem shows that Michael may not have died from enemy fire, and Maisie sets out to find the truth.  In her delving into this mystery, we are introduced into the role of the Army cartographers, a subject I found quite interesting.  It added another bit of information and filtering to use in my World War I reading. 
This one has a lot going on, and to tell anymore would be to invite huge spoilers.  I didn't realize until I was already into the story, that I had picked this one out of order -- I jumped from #4 to #7-- so I have three  more (5,6, and 8) delightful stories to look forward to before the newest one appears in bookstores the end of March.  I'm looking forward to doing a lot of swimming so I can listen to these in peace and quiet.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Mailbox Monday - Feb 6th

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house recently, but here's a warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

Created by Marcia at The Printed Page, Mailbox Monday, now has its own blog. Hosting duties are rotated every month.  This month one of my favorite blogs Metroreader: Reading One Mile at a Time has the hosting honors.  Be sure to stop by and discover a new and wondrous (for me anyway) addition to your blog roll and take a look at everyone's Mailbox lists.

I haven't done a Mailbox post for awhile, because most of the books I've gotten for review have been coming online in my virtual mailbox.  NetGalley has certainly changed the reviewing world.  For me, where often books would sit at the UPS office for weeks because the UPS truck couldn't get down our icy driveway (even though we could get out to the Post Office), and where the piles of physical galleys were becoming a fire hazard, the convenience of e-galleys, and the cost-effectiveness of this method for publishers has really changed the reviewing landscape.

Since I did my last post, the physical books arriving included gifts from family and Secret Santas:
I got Bohemian Girl using a gift certificate.  My local Indie, had this one in a pile labeled "seriously underappreciated".  I love discovering books like this, a pioneer story from the female perspective set in the American West.

Likewise, I used another gift certificate to get the marvelous George, Nicolas and Wilhelm.  This one will go perfectly in my War through the Generations World War I read.  I've been reading some battle histories, and some social commentaries, so it will be interesting to fill in with the biggies.
My secret Santa on LT sent two books, Joe Coomer's Pockeful of Names, the marvelous story of an artist and a dog on an isolated Maine island.  It's gotten many many thumbs up from all my local patrons, so I'm anxious to get into it.

The Season of Second Chances has been at the top of my wishlist for several months. One of my favorite genres, women's relationships and life stories, this one has gotten some great reviews so I'm thrilled to have it.

Some came as loaners from my sister and my daughter:

The Necklace by Cheryl Jarvis.  My sister Chèli reviewed this one on her blog Chèli's Shelves back in November.  It sounded so good I borrowed it from her when we went to her place Christmas Eve.

The Great War and Modern Memory by Paul Fussell
and Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain both came from my daughter's library.  As a history major, she has plenty more where these come from, but I'm thinking they will really provide good reading for the WWI group.
Then there were  a couple that showed up as contest wins!
WOOT WOOT,  Two of my favorite authors, Margaret Maron and Julie Hyzy, who never fail to delight are now standing by to give me a good dose of reading relaxation when the heavy chunksters get too much.

What's in your mailbox this week (or month?)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sunday Salon - spinning my techno wheels

If it seems like I've not been reviewing too much lately, your perception is correct.  I've been up to the tips of my pierced ears in E- readers, e-books, and technology in general.  First of all, the Tutu Family owns two Nooks-- Simple Touch and a Nook Tablet.  We maintain one family account so we can share books since we tend to have very similar reading tastes.  We've been adding to the e-library since Christmas since all our relatives were kind enough to give us Nook gift cards to help flesh out our libraries, and since we've been hitting the "buy" button on a number of daily/weekly freebies and bargain books, it seemed it was time to get the libraries organized into "shelves."

Now remember, I've had a Nook for over a year.  I had the original Nook (now known as the 1st Generation or 1G and no longer available) but I traded it in for the Simple Touch.   Of course, the wizards in techno world couldn't leave well enough alone, so they completely changed the system for "shelving books" on the new one. Thus making me sit back and wonder if I regret my decision to upgrade.  The old system for organizing still works the same on the Tablet, but not on the Touch. For the past three days I've been going  crazy trying to make it behave like it used to, and even went so far as to spend 50 minutes in an online chat with the Nook friendly helper only to discover that what I wanted to do couldn't be done the way I wanted to do it.  And believe me, the "new" way is totally cumbersome, time-wasting, and STUPID.  So, now that I have learned the process, I've put the Nooks aside and will "shelve" during the Super Bowl (GO PATS!) tonite.

As if the Nook didn't produce enough angst, I'm also responsible for the library's Kindle which we are getting loaded up and ready to circulate.  I wanted to catalog the 40+ books we'd purchased/or gotten in Amazon's free giveaways so they would show up in our online catalog, and people would know a) what we had on the Kindle, and b) if we had a book that it was available on the Kindle.

Unfortunately, almost 65% of these freebies (many of them self-published) do not have MARC records out there in the universe, and our online "cataloging in the cloud" program does not recognize them, so I was forced to either a) grab a MARC record from the print version (if one existed) and do some serious editing or b) just go ahead and completely  compose a new MARC record for the work.  In most instances it turned out to be quicker to just enter all the data and self catalog.  I just realized that some of you may be unfamiliar with the term MARC.  It's the MAchine Readable Cataloging record.  Libraries use this format so that if and when they change cataloging software or systems, or import or export their records they can be easily read and implanted.

Enough techie stuff......for the next few days, I'm sticking strictly to Print (I have to read Farming of Bones for our Book Club next week) and Audio ( I'm listening to another Maisie Dobbs - they are good listens, they have some great info about World War I, and the technology doesn't tax my ancient brain).  I'll get back to my e-reader hopefully by Thursday because I've been participating in Unputdownables "Moveable Feast" Read-along and I need to read the next chapters, as soon as Barnes and Noble can figure out why the download I bought is not reading correctly.  But that's another whole techno story that doesn't bear telling right now.

Anyhow, I do still love the Nook, particularly for helping me organize and keep track of review copies from Net Galley, for enabling me to sample books before buying, and for being able to read library books without having to go out into the windy, icy Maine weather to get them.

In spite of my frustrations, I'm still smiling, because I can smell that beef pot pie in the oven, and the PATS are going to win, and I'll just have to catch this week's episode of Downton Abbey on the re-run later.

Finally.....a very slow read is finished.

Author: John Paul Stevens
Publisher-Format: Little, Brown and Company (2011),Hardcover, 304 pages 
Subject: Supreme Court Justices
Genre: political narrative
Source: my own shelves - a "win" from LibraryThing Early Review program
Recommended? not unless you really like reading case law

Wow....this was a huge disappointment. I've been a fan of LT's Early Review program and have gotten several good books through it. When you enter what amounts to a lottery and indicate which books you're interested in, you essentially promise to read and review the book since you're getting a free copy. These are full hardback published books usually, not ARCs. I have always admired Justice Stevens, and saw an interview with him just as he retired in which he talked about writing the book, and how he was planning to structure it, so I was excited when I received this one back in October.
Somehow though, I just couldn't get into it, and it took me until today to make myself sit down and finish it. I had been nibbling at it for weeks, but just wanted to get it over with. I thought I was going to get some insider insight on each of the five Chief Justices under whom he served. For each of these distinguished gentlemen, I got about a paragraph's worth of non-legalese. The rest would probably make interesting reading to law clerks, law students, and maybe constitutional lawyers. There was way too much personal opinion about whether so and so made a good decision, what lead up to the case coming to the Supreme Court, and whether he (Justice Stevens was on the pro or con side of a decision).

The writing was obviously from someone used to writing legal briefs to uphold a particular point of view, and to enumerate cogent arguments. I have trouble even assigning it the genre "memoir" because it was too apologetic (in the Greek "apologetics" sense of the word). It was more a political or sociological exposé of court procedures, and even these boiled down to a recitation of who assigned the decisions to be written, and who changed the schedule. Aside from Justice Rehnquist's gold stripes on his robe, there was very little that gave me any feel for the personalities of the five. Perhaps readers with differing expectations will find it more to their liking.  It was well edited, and there were lots of illustrations, but I would have much preferred some more informal shots of the five featured subjects than the constant "class photos" that are sprinkled throughout.  I guess it just wasn't my cuppa.