Friday, July 5, 2013

Literary Loot

Literary Loot is where we share our latest bookish acquisitions.  

Part three of my Santa Cruz Spring Sale loot!

I'm pretty sure The Three Musketeers should be part of everyone's library if they're a lover of classics. I have yet to read this one, but I look forward to going on this legendary adventure.

I've heard rave reviews about The Poisonwood Bible. I am almost ashamed I haven't read it yet.

I have this thing that I like reading books about books, so The Club Dumas sounds like it will be right up my alley.

The White Tiger is on the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list (in one of its many revisions). I'm working on the combined list and this one sounded pretty great.

I'm actually reading The Secret History as I type this up. If you're a fan of the Dead Poets Society or reading about secret clubs, this story should interest you. You should also check out our side read of The Year of the Gadfly

Did you pick up any loot recently?

Thursday, July 4, 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.

In Kathleen Tessaro's The Perfume Collector Grace Munroe receives a mysterious letter informing her that she's the beneficiary to a will. The problem? She doesn't know the deceased. Grace leaves her life in England, a life where she's barely happy in social circles she doesn't want to be in and married to an absent, and probable cheating husband, to travel to Paris to find out more about the woman, Eva D'Orsey who has left her a fortune. In doing so she starts unraveling a mystery that spans from New York in 1927, to Monte Carlo in the 1932 to rural England in 1935 and back to Paris in 1955.

I was charmed by this book. It swaps from Grace's story to Eva's in a way that you're learning about this mysterious woman along with Grace instead of knowing things the main character doesn't which can get a little frustrating. Eva's history is spell binding. She's not a completely pure character, but she's got the right motivations. To see where she starts and how she ends up is a pleasure in story telling. Grace also gets to go through great character development. I actually found myself at the end surprised I was there already and wishing for more.

There were a few things I really enjoyed about this book. One was that it was about perfume, which is really funny because I rarely wear it and when I do, it's one scent that I buy over and over (I'd tell you what it is, but then you'd accuse me of product placement). Much like The Language of Flowers did with flora, Tessaro makes perfume about more than just smelly stuff that causes people to sneeze, but about the meaning of the scents. How different smells can bring out memories, both good and bad. 

The second thing I really liked about this book was that it wasn't about a woman needing to do something for the love or even approval of a man. Grace and Eva both did things for themselves. Grace's husband is, for the most part, a foot note in the book. She leaves for Paris with barely a thought, forget about permission as might have been the law of the land in those days. And Eva...Eva lived for Eva, but I wouldn't say in a selfish way. She might have taken up with men, but it was never for them unless she wished it to be. 

The Verdict


Freedom Fighters in Literature

A 4th of July Look at Freedom in Literature

In honor of Independence Day, this post is dedicated to characters in literature that must fight for freedom, both literally and metaphorically. Each of these books has characters that must face adversity to gain their freedom. We the readers, root for each of them along the way, feeling the relief they feel as they finally attain the freedom they so diligently fight for.
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

Although there is no specific character who gains freedom in this novel, the world works together to fight off the zombies and infection in order to save humanity. Now that is something worth fighting for!

Chains (Seeds of America, #1)

A young adult historical fiction about a slave girl in New York, Chains is unique because it focuses on slavery in the north, rather than the south. By no easy path, Isabel fights to free herself from slavery in New York.
The Golem and the Jinni

In this beautifully written blend of historical fiction and fantasy, Chava is a golem, a creature created to serve every whim and desire of her master, and Ahmad is a jinni, bound by a centuries old spell to a Bedouin wizard. Chava and Ahamad, with the help of each other and a few acquaintances they meet along the way, must face challenges and misfortune in order to gain the most fundamental privilege humans take for granted each day: free will.

What books have you recently read that have characters who fight for their freedom?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Book Association

Every month we find themes in our Book of the Month and find books within those perimeters. July's book is The Phantom of the Opera, and our first theme is the antihero.  The Phantom is a complex character. Is he the villain? Is he a misunderstood hero? Here are some other books that feature characters with the same complexity.

Edmund Dantés is the antihero in Alexander Dumas's tale after he's betrayed and then seeks vengeance on those who wronged him.

Albert Camus tells a story of a man who is unknowingly brought into a murder. Meursault is described as being someone who rejects society's values. 

Rabbit, Run

Rabbit, a former basketball star turned kitchen gadget salesman, impulsively deserts his wife and child and is conflicted in life's complexities. 

Since we can't add every book, let us know a few of your favorite books featuring an anti-hero.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Tator Tuesays

Every week we ask our Tators bookish questions. This week's question is:
What was the first chapter book you remember reading? 



I don’t quite remember, but I do know that Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins is the first book I ever read more than once.


Charlotte’s Web. There are others, but I don’t remember.



Honestly, I don't remember the first. I remember really loving the Fudge series.


Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff 

What was your first chapter book?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Ep #15: Mr. Lem, Kinda Like Phlegm...We'll Leave it at Lem

What happens when you mix Solaris, alcoholic Otter Pops, and three Tators? The fifteenth episode of the podcast! Jeane, Jared and Karena talk about their favorite books this month along with Jared's many degrees of separation for Solaris's author Stanislaw Lem and they find out what books will be on the next polls! 

Where's My Bookmark? And other books we mention

Websites we Mention:

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Required Reading

Our Tators are always reading. Here are their favorite books for the month of June.

June's Required Reading

More of the Tator's books »

Book recommendations, book reviews, quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists


The Golem and the Jinni: This book was amazing to read. It is the perfect mix of fantasy and realistic fiction. The imagery is vivid, and the characters are well-developed. 


Michael G. Santos' Earning Freedom: Conquering a 45-Year Prison Sentence. Mr. Santos' book is equal parts engrossing and remarkable. This story is the epitome of finding strength within oneself in the face of great adversity; it's much more than turning lemons into lemonade. The lessons Mr. Santos learns while in prison and shares with readers aren't limited to the confining concrete walls of incarceration -- they're lessons all of us can learn about how to lead gracious, focused, and goal-oriented lives while managing the obstacles life throws our way.

I like the science of it [Solaris]. 


Hilarious! Perfect story for anyone who likes science fiction, or humor, or just a light hearted action book. Redshirts by John Scalzi will make you laugh out loud and as a bonus Wil Wheaton narrates the audio book! Awesome! 


I have two this month. I really enjoyed Gone Girl and Hunted. I hesitated to submit GG for my pick because I really don't have much more to say about it than anyone has already, but I liked the unpredictability of it and the characters were though unlikeable, intriguing.  And Hunted was a fun, action packed read. If you are looking for an Urban Fantasy series to try, I HIGHLY suggest the Iron Druid Chronicles. 


Behind the Attic Wall  - I read this book during my lunch time at work. I usually eat lunch alone because of how the schedule works out, and I often feel lonely, so I identified with Maggie who drinks tea and eats crumpets with her new family of dolls. This is a very touching and magical book that would make for an amazing movie. 

Did you have any favorites this month?

Book It: Events for Bibliophiles

Welcome to Book It: Events for Bibliophiles! We publish this column on the first Sunday of each month. Let's take a look at some popular authors that are on tour as well as other special book-related events for the month of July!

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: Comic-Con International

Comic-Con International: San Diego
Dates: July 18-21
Times: Th, Fr, Sa: 9:30am - 7pm; Su: 9:30am - 5pm
Location: San Diego Convention Center
111 W. Harbor Drive
San Diego, CA

Comic-Con is one of the most exciting and sought-after events of the year. It began in the 1970's with a focus on comic books and sci-fi/fantasy literature and has come to encompass all forms of popular culture and media. To learn more, head over to their website.

Credit: Riverhead Books

Anton Discalfani wins the award for "Summer Books that Make Us Blush." Her debut novel, The Yonahlosee Riding Camp for Girls, takes place in the South amidst the Great Depression. Readers follow the story of 15 year old Thea Atwell as she is shunned from her home in Florida and sent to an equestrienne boarding school in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Discalfani's book tour runs through October and spans many locations from the Bay Area to Mississippi to Tennessee. To see if the author will be at an event near you, click here. You can follow Anton on Facebook and Twitter.

Credit: Simon & Schuster

Another debut novel making waves is Sahar Delijani's Children of the Jacaranda Tree. The novel is based on Sahar's own experiences as well as those of her family and friends in the wake of the Iranian revolution. Children follows the stories of three generations worth of characters as they live through political strife in Iran. Promising to be the most international novel you will pick up this summer, it has already been translated into 25 languages and published in more than 70 countries. Delijani's tour is finishing up with stops in Seattle, Portland, Mountain View, and the Vicalvi Castle in Italy. For more information on her tour, please click here. You can like Sahar on Facebook.

Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 

Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway is the second installment in the Claire DeWitt series by author Sara Gran. It's a whodunit mystery with the world's most amazing detective, Claire DeWitt, at the center. Bookriot named it as one of their top five books to watch for in June. Gran is embarking on a limited book tour with stops in Brooklyn, the Bay Area, and Los Angeles. If any of those stops are near you and you're interested in more information, click here. You can follow Sara on Facebook and Twitter.

Credit: Random House

Katie Hafner's Mother Daughter Me: A Memoir is garnering popularity and praise. Named one of Goodreads' July 2013 Movers & Shakers, it is the story of the author, her teenage daughter Zoë, and mother Helen as they live together in San Francisco and work through a complex myriad of emotions. Hafner's book tour runs through early August, with stops all over California along with ones in New Jersey, Kentucky, and Massachusetts. For more information, please click here. You can follow Katie on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads. 

Credit: HarperCollins Publishers
You probably already know of Aisha Tyler -- she's an actress, comedian, and director. You've heard her voice on FX's Archer, or seen her co-host on CBS' The Talk. For her second book, Tyler has written a series of essays entitled Self-Inflicted Wounds: Heartwarming Tales of Epic Humiliation. In it, she shares some of her most embarrassing stories and how she's been able to turn them from terrible tales to life lessons. Self-Inflicted Wounds goes on sale July 9th. Tyler will be embarking on a short tour with stops in New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, and Los Angeles. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here. You can follow Aisha on Facebook and Twitter.