Saturday, June 8, 2013

Literary Loot

Source: Karena Fagan

I recently had the chance to visit the Santa Cruz Public Library's Spring Sale at the Downtown branch. I picked up so many books that I'm going to have to divide up my posts. So without further ado, here is Part One!

I recently read and reviewed Kate Atkinson's latest novel, Life After Life so when I came across When Will There Be Good News?, I scooped it up. It wasn't until I got home that I realized it's third in her Jackson Brodie series, none of which I've read, but I probably will come across the first two eventually. 

This Side of Paradise was quite a find. I was excited to pick up Fitzgerald's first book loosely based on his experiences at Princeton (previously called The Romantic Egotist). I had a hard time getting into Tender is the Night, but I'm not ready to give up on this great writer yet.

David Sedaris was on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart promoting Let's Discuss Diabetes With Owls and I realized how hilarious he was so when I ran across When You Are Engulfed in Flames (along with Naked and Me Talk Pretty One Day, but those two are in a future post) I figured it was a sign. 

Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth has been recommended to me for awhile now. Finding it at the library sale seemed like a sign I should listen. Hopefully I can push it up towards the top of the TBR pile.

Lastly, in this batch at least, I found a book-of-the-month edition combining three of Chinua Achebe's books. As I'd recently spoke to author Kevin Smokler on the CWAtC podcast about Things Fall Apart as it was on our August book poll, my interest was piqued. No Longer at Ease is second in the Africa Trilogy which Things Falls Apart begins, but instead of finishing it up with Arrow of God, the third in the series, the publisher inexplicably added Anthills of the Savannah. Still, these promise to be interesting reads!

What were some of the best finds you've come across at a library book sale?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Friday @ the Forums

It's that time of the week again, to check in with what is going on at the Goodreads forums of the CWAtC book group. 

Solaris - It's June so that means it's time for us to start Solaris. It's one of our Quick Reads at under 250 pages so we actually have a lot of people done with the book. Are you one of them? You can share your thoughts here!

Book Rating - One of our book club members, Chahrazad, wants to know what everyone takes into consideration when they rate a book. Share your thoughts here!

Where's your bookmark? - The Tators answer this one on the podcast and this thread is where our CWAtC'ers can. It's almost summer break for some of you. What's going in your summer reading list?

Source: Jared Fagan
The above photo is City Lights Books in San Francisco, CA. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Playing With History

Playing With History is a monthly column dedicated to books that are history based, but with a fictional plot. I tend to gravitate toward Henry the VIII's England or the Italian Renaissance, but here or there I plan to step out of my usual if the plot sounds promising enough. I will use our usual rating of Bookshelf, Library Bag or Donation Box.

The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell is a fictional account of a woman who left her parents' home to start over after her husband abandons her. Leaving her daughter, with the intention of sending for her later, Lucy cut off her hair, put on her brother's clothes, and began a school of dance for young ladies all while living as a man named Joseph. After awhile Lucy actually becomes Joseph, identifying as male. Joseph is found out and leaves, but it is only the beginning of his adventures as he goes into the territory of Minnesota to guard a land claim over the harsh winter and then attempts to start a horse farm. He also faces a trial for impersonating a man after he's (again) found out to be a woman. The novel follows the journey which includes some instances in his life where he's plagued with mental illness, but also the attempts to regain his daughter, Helen and his struggles with religion and what it meant in those days. 

I am outside my comfort zone with this book, not because of its content at all, but because of its time period, which is just where I like it. As with last month's post where I reviewed a book which takes place on a Southern Plantation, I am trying to read more that I wouldn't have reached for previously, expand my horizons. Sometimes I'm disappointed, but a lot of what I've tried this year has delighted me.

The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell is one of the latter. I had to force myself not to stop reading and Google everything about this incredible historical figure. I am intrigued by anyone who breaks the mold they are told they must live in and Joseph does this incredibly. William Klaber takes fiction and what he was able to find in letters, newspaper articles and other documents and weaves them into something that is engaging and riveting. 

Reading it in the current time where gender identification is still a taboo and complicated matter, it was incredible to read about someone who was able to live as he wanted even though society was against him.  The relationship between Joseph and Marie (Joseph's wife) is both comforting and beautiful. I also enjoyed when Joseph would read books we now would refer to as classics and give his opinion of them. Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter is mentioned as is Adam Bede by George Eliot. 

The Verdict

Bookshelf: I had a hard time starting the  book which had nothing to do with the content, but only because I was not in the mindset for a historical fiction. Once I started, however, I couldn't put the book down. This was a well written tale of a individual who was brave and honest even though others thought he was being deceitful. Now, I'm off to find out more about the true story!

*Review is based off a galley provided from

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Bookshelf, Library Bag, or Donation Box

In Bookshelf, Library Bag or Donation Box, our Tators give their verdict on the books they read, whether they're keepers for the shelves, one you borrow from your local library, or just give to your local used bookstore.

In A Clockwork Heart, the second book in The Chronicles of Light and Shadow series, author Liesel Schwarz combines steampunk and urban fantasy, and its result is Elle Chance and Hugh Marsh in their honeymoon period after the events of the first book A Conspiracy of Alchemists. Elle, the newly minted Countess Greychester, is fighting to keep her independence in flying as well as manage being the Oracle and a wife to Hugh, newly retired from the Council of Warlocks. To keep busy while Elle's away taking charters, Hugh takes on a case of a nobleman's missing son and then becomes missing himself. All the while, there are reports of strange beings lumbering about in the night with a ticking coming from their chests. 

Elle, along with the Nightwalker Loisa, have to track down Hugh. When they find him, they find his heart has been replaced with a clockwork mechanism and he is not quite himself. Elle and Loisa must find Hugh's heart before it is too late.

I read the first book in the series and was mostly entertained by it, which is surprising because I'm not a steampunk fan. I had also tried Gail Carriger's Soulless, which is similarly steampunk and urban fantasy combined, but found it to be not my speed. 

I enjoy Elle's character, as she's generally snarky and stubborn (something I can relate to), as well as the fairy Adele and her temper tantrums. I could have done without the "your place is by my side" routine from Hugh, however.  He knew Elle was a pilot when he met her. Hell, that's the whole reason they meet in the first book. This is definitely one of the faults of the period, but if we're trying for some enlightenment in the era, this would have been a good place to start. Her friend, Ducky, doesn't make it any better when he threatens to "put you over my knee and spank you for being a brat." Wow, really? 

I would have liked to see more of Elle learning to be an Oracle and strengthening her powers. Little was spent on it, and it seemed, while she has some knowledge of it, watching her learn to harness her powers would have been nice.

The general plot was interesting, which distracted me from the sexism in the beginning of the book. Loisa was a great partner for Elle on her search for Hugh and then his heart. I would love to hear her story at some point, and if she and Elle partnered up in future books, I'd be okay with it. 

The Verdict

Library Bag: I was left wanting more, so I'll probably read the next. The author was able to surprise me with the ending by not tying everything up in a nice neat bow. However, there was something missing that I can't put my finger on to elevate it to a Bookshelf read. It was probably sexism, but I think it was more than that. 

*Review is based on a galley received from 

Book Association

June's book is Solaris.  Our first Book Association for this month is "George Clooney Movies that are actually book adaptations." George Clooney starred in the movie adaptation of Solaris so we thought this would be fun.

 The fictional account of the battle between American and Japanese troops on the island of Guadalcanal in World War 2.

The movie O'Brother Where Art Thou, while not technically an adaptation of The Odyssey, is stock full of references from the epic poem written by Homer.

A story about a group of fishermen who are caught in a huge gale in 1997 and disappear along with their boat without a trace.

I bet there a few more. Do you have a favorite Clooney adaptation?

Tator Tuesdays

Every week we interview our Tators and ask them bookish questions. This week's question:

What book always makes you laugh out loud? 




Karena read parts of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened to me on a car trip. Otherwise I don’t read a lot of funny books since I lean toward non-fiction.


Any Stephanie Plum Book


Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess). That woman cracks me up. I mean look at the cover, hilarious!


What book makes you giggle, chortle, or guffaw?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Ep #13 Anna Karenina

The Anna Karenina episode has Jeane MIA in The Netherlands, so Jared and Karena have to trudge through without her. The Tators, dubbed the "Fantastic Fagans" for this episode, recount a recent trip to Solvang, California to visit the Hans Christian Andersen Museum, then envy everyone who made it to Book Expo America 2013. The main event is all Anna though, as they discuss May's book selection of Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (including Jared's Six Degrees of Separation!). Wrapping up the podcast, they announce the winner of August's book poll and set up the selections for the Tators' Choice for September. 

Websites we mention:

Where's My Bookmark (and other books we mention):

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Book It: Events for Bibliophiles

Welcome to Book It: Events for Bibliophiles! You may have noticed that this column no longer runs weekly. Starting today, we will be publishing it on the first Sunday of each month. Let's take a look at some popular authors that are on tour as well as a special event happening this month. We also want to say thank you for your patience as this column evolves!

If you would like to see your event listed in a future post, please contact me via e-mail at heather [dot] varanini [at] gmail [dot] com.

Credit: The Commonwealth Clubof California
The 82nd Annual California Book Awards
Date: Thursday, June 6th 
Time: 5:15pm check-in, 6pm ceremony, 7:15pm signing & reception
Cost: $20 general/$15 members/$7 students
Location: Commonwealth Club of California
595 Market Street, 2nd floor, San Francisco, CA
For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.

Authors confirmed to attend:

Gold Medalists 
FICTION: Adam Johnson: The Orphan Master's Son, Random House
FIRST FICTION:  Jennifer duBois: A Partial History of Lost Causes, Random House
NONFICTION: Victoria Sweet: God’s Hotel: A Doctor, A Hospital, and A Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine, Riverhead Books
JUVENILE: Katherine Applegate: The One and Only Ivan, Harper Collins
YOUNG ADULT:  Morgan Matson: Second Chance Summer, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
CONTRIBUTION TO PUBLISHING: Ken and Melanie Light: Valley of Shadows and Dreams, Heyday Press

Silver Medalists
FIRST FICTION: Mariah K. Young: Masha'allah and Other Stories, Heyday Press
YOUNG ADULT: Marissa Moss: A Soldier’s Secret: The Incredible True Story of Sarah Edmonds, a Civil War Hero, Amulet Books

Credit: Penguin Group USA

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics is Daniel James Brown's third non-fiction book. The launch celebration will be on June 4th in Seattle. Brown will be touring the United States through mid-July. He has quite a few stops on his tour. To see if Brown will be visiting your town, click here to see a list of his appearances. You can watch the book trailer and keep up-to-date by liking the book's Facebook page.

Credit: macmillan publishers

Famous for his tattoo artistry and the subsequent clothing line bearing his name, Ed Hardy has become a household name. He is currently on a limited book tour after the release of his memoir, Wear Your Dreams: My Life in Tattoos, with stops in New York City, San Francisco, Santa Monica, and Honolulu. Do not miss an opportunity to meet this legend! For details, please click here. And to read an excerpt, click here.

Credit: Penguin Group USA

The book that everyone has been buzzing about: Khaled Hosseini's third novel, And the Mountains Echoed. Famous for The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, the author has written another novel that is sure to be a hit. His tour is concentrated on the east and west coasts, with some stops in the middle. Since Mr. Hosseini is in great demand, most of the events require advance tickets. Please click there for a list of his tour dates and destinations. Hosseini not visiting your city? Like him on Facebook to follow his travels.

Credit: Random House

Author Anthony Marra's book tour is winding down, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to catch him at his last few stops. His debut novel, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, has been receiving a lot of positive attention. It's about war and love in Chechnya. You can read an excerpt here. He will be speaking in Corte Madera on June 9th and Santa Cruz on June 20th. Click here for more details. You can like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter for updates.

Credit: Random House

Irish author Colum McCann kicks off his extensive American book tour on June 4th at Barnes and Noble in New York City. The tour for Transatlantic runs through the middle of November. To see if McCann will be in your city, click here to see his list of appearances. The novel has received a lot of praise and the author was recently profiled in The New York Times. You can read an excerpt of the book by clicking here (the link will start a download of the .pdf).

Credit: Penguin Group USA

The country's most famous sex-advice columnist, Dan Savage, is promoting his new book American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love, and Politics. With only a handful of tour dates, Savage makes his way across the country from Seattle to DC. Click here for a listing of his appearances. You can follow him on Twitter or read his famous column by clicking here.

Credit: Simon & Schuster

Author Lauren Weisberger, famous for writing The Devil Wears Prada, celebrates the release of her second novel on June 4th at GILT City in New York. The sequel, Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns, promises to be another runaway hit. Weisberger will be on a limited book tour along the east coast with one stop in California. To see if she will be in your city, click here. You can follow Lauren on Twitter as she promotes her book.