Friday, June 21, 2013

Literary Loot

Literary Loot is where we share some of the recent bookish gems we've brought home. 
Source: Karena Fagan
As promised, here's part two to my loot from the Santa Cruz Public Library's Spring Sale.

The Blind Assassin. I read Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale last year and, while I didn't love it, I was fascinated with her writing. I hope to give this one a shot in September if The Handmaid's Tale wins the book poll. 

The Yellow Wallpaper has come up a few times on our Goodreads forums, so I thought I'd give it a shot and it sounds great!

I've never read any Virginia Woolf. I can't decide if I should start with Mrs. Dalloway or To the Lighthouse, which I also picked up on a previous Lit Loot excursion (which apparently never got published because I can't find it, but trust me, I have it!).

Unless was an impulse grab; however, it is on the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list. It looks great.

Rabbit, Run is for my Author Challenge (reading one book from each letter the alphabet using the author's first or last name). I need Mr. Updike for the letter U. I've heard this is a great series as well. 

Have you picked up any great literary gems lately? 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Mom Says/Kid Says

Courtesy of

Welcome to Mom Says/Kid Says where we take a journey around the world with My Father Flies by Jennifer Ginn. The book chronicles a boy whose father travels around the world for his job. The 32 page book is not just an adorable story about a son's relationship with his father, but educational as well. The reader sees the world from the child's perspective as he receives postcards, shown in illustrations, from his father throughout his worldly travels. We see bits of information about each part of the world the father travels, such as a proper greeting in French is "bonjour."  We also see maps of the countries the father has visited. I enjoyed the pictures and details contained therein, such as the little boy's room which has cars, crayons, and even a Batman doll, which my son also has.

Mom Says
This is a well written and well illustrated book that is as much a story of a boy missing and living vicariously through his father's travels for business, as it is an educational book teaching about the different cultures of the world. I like how the book does not talk down to the reader. The vocabulary used is at a first grader, if not higher, level. Still, it is a great way to teach a younger child advanced concepts through discussion. I would recommend this book to any child 4 and up as well as advanced readers.  

Kid Says
Sammy was looking forward to reading this book with us for days until we received our copy from He would ask for it by name and was disappointed when it wasn't available at first. Once we did receive it and read through it, he enjoyed it. He related to the little boy, as he had the same toys and interests.  He also enjoyed the rhyming scheme of the story. The details of the illustrations caught his eye. Since Sammy is 4 years old, he did lose some interest toward the end as this book is a little longer than his normal readings. I look forward to re-reading it to him in the future.  

Bookshelf.  Because it is educational and fun, I recommend it be placed on your bookshelf. My favorite part of the book was the final lines. "But of all the countries he's been to and all the places he's gone to see, my dad says his most favorite spot is back home here with me."

*Reviewer was provided with complimentary copy from*

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Book Association

It's week three of Solaris. Last week we pulled up classic science fiction titles, and the week before we linked Solaris with other George Clooney movies that were previously books. This week the theme is classic (traditional and contemporary) fiction books written by doctors. Stanislaw Lem was actually a research assistant who purposefully failed his final examinations to avoid becoming a military doctor, but for our purposes, we'll use that. 

Khaled Hosseini was an internal medicine physician who practiced for ten years until a year and a half after The Kite Runner was released. 

W. Somerset Mougham was a physician, but quit when his book Liza of Lambeth sold out in a matter of weeks. 

 Fran├žois Rabelais seems to be a man of his time, a true Renaissance man as he was not only a physician and writer, but also a humanist, monk and Greek scholar. 

As always we can't add every book to the list, so what are some of your favorite books by doctors turned writers?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tator Tuesdays

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

Who do you credit for your love of reading?


My dad


There are two people, really. My mother and her father -- my grandfather. I credit my mother because, as a child, not only did she read a lot, but there was a bookshelf in her old room at my grandparent’s house. Many summers were spent perusing her old bookshelf and reading the books that she read growing up. I also credit my grandfather because he was a prolific reader despite the fact he could see out of only one eye. He read almost primarily nonfiction books -- a good portion of them about the Pacific theatre of World War II, where he fought.


I don’t have a love of reading, but I don’t hate it. I enjoy reading. I don’t credit it to one person, but three. My parents are two, and my senior year English teacher.


My mom and Cam Jansen


My mother. She took us to the library constantly. I think it backfired on her though when by the time we had arrived back home from the library I had already read all the books I'd picked out. She told me "If you read, the world is yours" and it's been so true for me.


My parents. They both love to read, and growing up, they gave me much praise and encouragement in terms of my reading abilities.

Source: Jared Fagan

Who do you credit for your love of all things literary?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Ep #14 Happy Birthday CWAtC!

It was ladies night for this episode as Karena and Jeane leave Jared out (ok ok, he was actually stuck in traffic) to celebrate Classic Without All the Class's one year anniversary. Jeane reveals a possible change in opinion for a certain well-known book and the ladies keep it laid back talking book to movie adaptations and book spoilers and more.

Where's My Bookmark?

Websites We Mention:

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Buddy 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 this edition, BookTator Karena and ShelfTator Angie have teamed up to review this book. As we both came to the same conclusion about the book, we decided it would be more comprehensive if we used the pronoun "I", instead of each of our names.

The Village by Nikita Lalwani is about a three person BBC crew sent to Ashwer, India to film a television documentary on a unique prison structure. Ashwer is a community, a city, in fact, of convicts, all convicted of committing murder. These convicts are allowed to work and live with their families so they continue to contribute to society and to the care of their spouses and/or children. Ray, the main protagonist, is a mid-twenties female, who happens to be British and of Indian descent, speaks Hindi, and struggles with her identity while in India. Serena, is the older, more experienced woman in her mid-thirties, and is there to offer guidance and assistance to Ray, as the documentary was her idea. Unfortunately, these two women, in rather cliched form, regularly battle with female jealousy with each other about everything from the clothes they wear to Nathan, the third member of their group. Nathan, is in his mid-forties, an ex-con, which is supposed to be an added benefit because he will then be able to identify more with the convicts in Ashwer, and a complete male chauvinist, obsessed with sex, drugs, and himself - basically, a self-identified narcissist.

In many ways, The Village is beautifully written. Lalwani's vivid imagery really illustrates what Ashwer looks like: the short walls, huts without real windows, the woman who wears purple and mans (wo-mans?) the water pump. I could, with ease, see the scenery in which the characters are surrounded. However, even though the book is enmeshed with stunning descriptions, The Village also lacks a great deal in other ways.

I wish Lalwani would have spent more time on the inmates' stories. Their narratives were some of the most interesting aspects of the novel, definitely a strong point. Knowing all the inmates are in Ashwer for the crime of murder is one thing, but the stories behind each can go from one end of the spectrum to the other. An inmate convicted of murder in self defense alongside another who killed out of jealousy is intriguing, especially since they are all free to leave during the day, as long as they return at night. It makes you wonder if it could possibly work in a place like the United States. I doubt it, but that's another discussion. Unfortunately, we only are given the opportunity to learn about a few of the inmates, and why they are there.

The problem I had, the thing that stopped me from really liking this book, were the character descriptions. It seems like the author was so concerned with getting the descriptions of the setting right that she failed to draw interest to any of the main characters. The only person we really get a sense of is Nandini, a prisoner and liaison to Ray.

Finally, the novel fails to have a very exciting conflict that keeps the reader interested. Instead, Lalwani presents us with an internal conflict. Ray, cannot find her middle ground between being British, and Indian, while communicating and living around the Ashwer citizens. She regularly contradicts what she says about herself and her dedication to being Indian. For instance, she claims to be a "veg," which not only means that she is a vegetarian, but also takes on the association of other traditional Hindu cultural norms, like being a non-drinker and having certain expectations for sexual behavior. However, Ray sneaks chicken into her diet, drinks and partakes in other drug use, and, although still a virgin, behaves in questionable sexual behavior. As a reader, I should have felt more invested in Ray's experience and internal conflict, but I kept wondering when the big conflict was going to take place, and it never happens. 


Library Bag

Lit Starter: Bringing You the Best in Bookish Projects

Welcome to another installment of Lit Starter! This is a regular look at some of my favorite projects discovered through two popular crowd funding websites: Kickstarter and Indiegogo. The featured projects will be related to literature and comics, but not limited to publishing or writing projects.

Author Greg Stolze wants to get his upcoming novel, Sinner, into as many hands as possible. In order to do that, he's turned to Kickstarter. The novel is finished and edited. In an effort to reduce costs, he's having copies of the book printed on-demand and will be shipping them directly to backers.

Stolze has created and successfully funded nearly two dozen projects on the crowd-funding website. He's written many novels, worked on games, and has a healthy fan base. Based on his history, it's safe to say that if he's promising something, he will most likely deliver.

Sinner is about super villain Hector "Sinner" Lear, who hands over his bad man cape and turns himself in to the authorities. The story is told from Sinner's perspective and is his memories of  the journey from living a life of crime to doing time. 

I grew up reading a lot of mystery novels. A lot. Pretty much any mystery I could get my hands on. The more novels I read, the more curious I became about the bad guy. Many mystery novels are told from the perspective of the detective or other person investigating the case -- the person, or persons, looking for the perpetrator. But I started to wonder: what about the bad guy? What does he think? Why does he do horrible things? 

That curiosity is what interested me in Sinner. While it's not a mystery novel of the traditional whodunit sort, it does tell the story from the villain's point of view. The reader gets an inside look at the how, what, and why of Sinner's crimes as well as his transformation.

If you want to learn more about Sinner or back the project, you can click the Kickstarter widget above or simply click here.

You can learn more about Greg Stolze and his work on his website.