Thursday, April 10, 2014

It had a blue cover...

“I am looking for a book.  I don’t remember the title or the author and I think it had a woman who lived in a big house somewhere in Europe.  I do remember that it had a blue cover.  Can you help me find a copy?”  Believe it or not, this is a common conversation in libraries and bookstores.  Readers are often searching for a well-loved tale from their childhood or some compelling novel that they read several years ago.  Titles and authors fade from memory and plot lines are often fuzzy but an astounding number of these literary treasure seekers report with absolute conviction that the cover was blue – not red, white, yellow or turquoise – BLUE!  Unfortunately, this piece of information is not always very useful as there happen to be any number of books with blue covers, both in print and long since retired.  If the reader can be coaxed into remembering an unusual plot point or character detail, for example: “She always wore purple galoshes and she was searching for a letter from an undertaker about her uncle who was buried with his pet monkey…”, the fact that the cover was blue might actually be helpful as an added piece of the identification puzzle.  However, it is more often the case that the book is found despite the remembered hue of the cover.  “It was a fairytale about a girl who was kidnapped and was pulled underground and eaten by vegetables that looked like people.  I am pretty sure that the cover was blue.”  When this description was used to unearth “The Vege-Men’s Revenge”, by Florence Upton (out of print for many years), by sheer luck, the librarian assisting the reader had personal knowledge of the story and came up with the title. The reader was thrilled to be directed to an online resource for accessing the book. Unfortunately, she was quite disappointed to discover that the cover was not blue.  “They must have changed the cover when they put this book online.  I much preferred the blue one.”
In celebration of blue reads, I offer up the following titles for your memory and future literary quests:

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Happy Endings Only!

I went out to brunch recently with a longtime friend, and she asked me for some book recommendations, which I am always eager to give. She said the books must be lighthearted and have happy endings. No problem! I immediately logged onto Goodreads and shared a bunch of my favorites, and later I sent her two emails with additional recommendations (I tend to give too many suggestions). Here are a few of the titles I recommended, which are written by some of my favorite British authors.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Question of the Week: Back in the Groove

Having just spent four years on the ALA Notable Books Council, I am diving into the piles of books I've had pushed aside.  And I love catching up all the mysteries that I've missed!  But I am feeling overwhelmed and need help--give me some ideas of what a good mystery series would be for someone who has been out of the loop for a few years.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Question of the Week: What Have You Learned from a Book You Recently Read?

Occasionally I have a hard time finding non-fiction titles that capture my interest, so a couple of weeks ago, I decided to browse my library's non-fiction audiobook section. I also checked out OverDrive's eBook nonfiction titles. I found some great selections including Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat by Hal Herzog. According to the publisher's description, "Hal Herzog, a maverick scientist and leader in the field of anthrozoology offers a controversial, thought-provoking, and unprecedented exploration of the psychology behind the inconsistent and often paradoxical ways we think, feel and behave towards animals". While listening to this book, I learned about many fascinating studies and surprising statistics on topics ranging from dog breeds and vegetarianism to cockfighting and gender differences in the treatment of animals. 

Two other books that I'm thoroughly enjoying are Moonwalking with Einstein and The Mind's Eye.
What interesting information have you learned from a book you recently read?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

What is your favorite system of magic?

One of the main reasons I enjoy reading fantasy novels is because of the world building. It's fascinating to learn about a society - the history, the lore, and the magic. If I had to choose just one favorite magic system, I don't think I could - there are so many! Instead, I'll share a few of my favorites...Do you have a favorite magic system?

The Wheel of Time series - Robert Jordan
The one power is a source of energy that can be used to manipulate the world. This power is divided into two sections - saidar and saidin - with women using saidar while men use saidin. The power is also split into the five powers of Earth, Air, Water, Fire, and Spirit. Those who can use this source are called channelers, and they weave flows of the power for purposes like building a bridge of air, zapping something out of existence, or manipulating the weather. To read more about this interesting magic, start with The Eye of the World (available in print, ebook, and audiobook formats).

Darkover series - Marion Zimmer Bradley
Telepathy can be awe inspiring. Not only can it delve into the minds of others, it can also be used to build fortresses, create and manipulate weapons, mine for precious metals, and heal the wounded. This series consists of numerous trilogies and sub-series - you won't need to start reading at the very beginning. You might try starting with The Fall of Neskaya, the first in the Clingfire Trilogy.

Mistborn series - Brandon Sanderson
This series features a few different magic systems, but the one I find most interesting is Allomancy. Allomancy involves using, or burning, metals to help achieve physical or mental feats - like running extremely fast or hopping from the street to the roof. Those with the ability to use metals in this fashion are called Allomancers, and those rare allomancers who can burn all metals are known as Mistborns. The first book in the series is The Final Empire (available in print, ebook and audiobook).

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Question of the Week: Which book makes you feel like you are on vacation?

Every year around this time, I find myself thinking:  Surely spring must be coming soon!   And for a few sunny days I really believe it has happened.  But the Pacific Northwest is not so kind, and more often than not we get stuck with more rain, more grey, and more cold.

In an idea world, this is the perfect time to jet off to somewhere warm and sunny, and forget our long dreary dark winter that doesn't seem to end, but how many of us can realistically do that?  Someone has to stick around and keep things running!

So instead of a vacation, sometimes we take refuge in a book.

Two of my favorite vacation stories both happen to be about ladies escaping England (which has very similarly icky winters to us) and running of to the warmth and adventure that is Italy:

The Enchanted April @ Sno-IsleThe Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim and A Room with a View by E.M. Forster (both linked here as eBooks in case you have too much NW winter ennui to even make it to the library). each the characters discover the joy of giving in to beauty and the freedom of being away from home and all its constraints, if just for a while.  Plus: great scenery.

Which book do you pick up when you want a little staycation in your easy chair?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Books based on blogs

I'm not a huge fan of reading blogs, but for some reason I love reading them once they have been made into books.  This is becoming more and more common, and is probably seen by a lot of aspiring authors as their ticket into publishing.  That said, not all blog based books are created equal.

First you have ones that are pure fluff.  Lots of fun, but no deep thoughts required.

I really enjoy photo blogs, especially street fashion and personalities:

 And how to-blogs to inspire you to do things better:

 Then there are blogs where people share their lives:

Some of the neatest (IMHO) are ones that strive to make a difference in the world by raising awareness:

Why read the book instead of the blog?  For me it is about enjoying all that content, but getting away from a screen, allowing me to really focus in and absorb.

Which do you prefer?  The blog or the book?  And what are some of your favorites that are now both?