Book Love: Review of Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman

Ex Libris: Confessional of a Common Reader; Anne Fadiman

I chose this book for the Book Riot Reader Harder 2017 (Read a story collection by a woman), but it was so good I had to share it in more detail.

Because, really, y’all should read this book. 🙂

I’m the target audience for this book, with Fadiman’s interests aligning so near perfectly with mine, that this book is the equivalent of a cup of tea and warm blanket on a cold, rainy day. Perfect and cozy.  Every once and awhile, people need a book like this. And because it’s a collection, you can spread out the cozy feeling if you like. (I disagree with her on the use of ‘they’ as a singular pronoun–I find it acceptable as the best choice for some people, and she does not, though she has no better option.)

Like all true bibliophiles, Fadiman loves the sight and smell and feel of books. She loves immersing herself in stories, talking with fellow book lovers about books, marking her life events with books, and searching for treasures in used bookstores. Her whole family is guilty of hunting out grammar/punctuation mistakes and trading them, of loving books to pieces, and of strange and esoteric shelving organization. (There’s a chapter on Fadiman and her husband merging their libraries, which focused a great deal on how he organized his books versus how she organized hers.)

She includes plenty of personal stories to anchor her topics–this isn’t a vague or philosophically generalized collection that talks about books as an ideal. Instead, these essays contain plenty of colorful examples–phrases written in beloved copies of books, quotes from favorite stories, and humorous family anecdotes.  This specificity is what makes it work, as any reader’s likely to recognize themselves in there, too. Ever been scolded for laying a book flat? Then there’s a section that should make you chuckle, just as it did me. The end has recommended reading on more books with similar subjects, though I’m not certain how available all of them are. (Certainly the ones I looked at weren’t available at my library.)

This is a book about books, readers, and writers, and I love those kinds of books. If you do, too, you should love this book as well. Happy reading!

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Top Ten Tues: Food

Top Ten Tuesdays are hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, and feature lists related to all things bookish–characters, authors, titles, and favorites. They’re an excellent way to find new interesting books on a variety of topics, and to find bloggers that love the books you do.

Check out their blog for their top ten and lists by other bloggers!

October 17: Top Ten Yummy Foods Mentioned In Books (Does a character eat something you’d love? Or maybe the book takes place in a bakery/restaurant that makes yummy things? You could also talk about 10 of your favorite cookbooks if you don’t read foody books.)

  1. Restaurant at the End of the Universe; Douglas Adams. Not sure how I’d feel about talking to my food, but it sounds like an excellent steak.

2. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; Roald Dahl. So the factory is a little dangerous, but the candy sounds magical.

3. Killer Pancake; Diane Mott Davidson. Cozy mysteries about food are to die for. 😀

4. The Great Gatsby; F. Scott Fitzgerald. Go to the parties for the food.

5. Chocolat; Joanne Harris. I want to eat all these sweets.

6. Baking Cakes in Kigali; Gaile Parkin. Several delicious cakes in this one.

7. Harry Potter; J.K. Rowling. I want to try butterbeer, and chocolate frogs, and all those wizard foods except the every flavor beans.

8. Kitchens of the Great Midwest; J Ryan Stradal. This book is about a chef trying to give his love of food to his daughter.

9. Joy Luck Club; Amy Tan. The feasts at the Joy Luck Club all sound amazing.

10. Chicken Every Sunday; Rosemary Taylor. Nothing like a home cooked meal.

Weekend Writing Warriors: 10/14

This 8-10 sentence blog hop is hosted by The Weekend Writing Warriors. (Click the link for the list of participants, or rules if you want to join!)

This is a WIP, NaNoWriMo 2016, currently called River, Tree, Mountain. It’s science fiction, set on a colony planet, six generations in–with 10% of the population born “marvels,” who have special abilities like dowsing, healing, or creating fire. The protagonist, Rekka Lang, is a spark (fire), signed a contract with Brenton to provide him a child (NOT married/permanently paired), moves in with him–I’ve skipped back in time because some people were curious about Brenton–to a family dinner. (Acacia, Brenton’s daughter, is 2 and 1/2, by the way.)

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“Any idea where our sister is?” Brenton asked his brother, Haydn. “Lunch is scheduled in…” he glanced at his phone, “three minutes.”

Rapid footsteps sounded from down the hallway, and they turned to see Phoenix clicking down the hallway, her low heels ringing on the wood floors. She hurried into the room, and stopped at the loose clump of people, turning toward her mother with an impatient frown pinching her eyebrows together.

“Now that everyone is here, please find your seats,” Yulia, Brenton’s mother, invited.

As the first course was brought out, Rekka turned to Brenton’s daughter Acacia, who was swinging her feet, perched on a pillow. “Hello, Acacia. Do you know who I am?”

“Daddy’s friend!” Acacia chirped. Her halo of dark hair was held back from her face with a green headband embroidered with butterflies, which matched her dress and blousy shorts, and the shoes on those swinging feet.

*    *    *

Life on the colony planet of Kaibou was going uneventfully until the second generation of colonists was born on the planet, at some, at a young age, began showing various psychic abilities. When those people, called marvels, grew up, many of them formed companies, building compounds to live in and raise their children.  Due to population diversity issues, many colonists have children using genetic bank material, or choose a succession of partners. Now on the seventh generation, marvels are born both within and without company walls, and all must work together to use their gifts and make a living on a still wild land. Some of these outsider marvels sign contracts with company marvels, agreeing to give them a child raised within the company, in return for a permanent home in the company compound, a stipend, and other concessions.

Taiko: A Poem

Taiko are Japanese percussion instruments, and the word is also used (outside of Japan) to refer to the drum ensemble performances. A few days ago, I was lucky enough to see a group perform several different styles of music. One set was telling a story about two imprisoned samurai, and included singing; another had a bamboo flute and small metal gong to accompany the drums; and in another the drummers moved around the drums, switching sides mid song. In nearly all the performances, the drumsticks were swung in stylized, exaggerated movements, accompanied by something like kicks, like a dance.

It certainly looked athletic, and they were all sweating and out of breath by the end. Though it wasn’t loud enough to make my ears hurt, I could absolutely *feel* each beat of the drums.

 

Taiko

Audience of reverberating rib cages

thrumming feet and hands

The whole world is the beat

Drumsticks swinging up

out

down

taking flight like birds

wings dipping and wheeling

And through it all

boom! tap! clunk! thump!

Sometimes so fast the sound blurs

others slow

measured

solemn

a dance song told in rhythm

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Fall

Top Ten Tuesdays are hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, and feature lists related to all things bookish–characters, authors, titles, and favorites. They’re an excellent way to find new interesting books on a variety of topics, and to find bloggers that love the books you do.

Check out their blog for their top ten and lists by other bloggers!

October 10: Ten Books With Fall/Autumn Covers/Themes (If the cover screams fall to you, or the books give off a feeling of being Fallish)

All books judged solely on their covers. 🙂

  1. An Autumn Stroll; Leah Atwood.

2. Little Yellow Leaf; Carin Berger.

3. Jane Eyre; Charlotte Bronte.

4. Lioness in Winter; Ann Burack-Wiess.

5. A Home at the End of the World; Michael Cunningham.

6. When Autumn Leaves; Amy S. Foster.

7. Until You; Judith McNaught.

8. Iniquities of Gulch Fork: Bob Smith & Sara Rhodes.

9. Attack of the Jack O Lanterns; R.L. Stine.

10. Before Winter; Nancy Wallace.

Weekend Writing Warriors: 10/7

This 8-10 sentence blog hop is hosted by The Weekend Writing Warriors. (Click the link for the list of participants, or rules if you want to join!)

This is a WIP, NaNoWriMo 2016, currently called River, Tree, Mountain. It’s science fiction, set on a colony planet, six generations in–with 10% of the population born “marvels,” who have special abilities like dowsing, healing, or creating fire. The protagonist, Rekka, is a spark (fire), signed a contract with Brenton to provide him a child (NOT married/permanently paired), moves in with him, and more than a year later, is outside painting when L, the pink haired man, offers to listen to her problems over a meal, asks if any of her other companions look as good, and Rekka says it’s a tie.

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Rekka’s stomach rumbled audibly.

Flashing her a crooked grin, L neatly lifted her box from her hand, and said, “Follow me, I know a great place nearby.”

Obediently, Rekka followed.

“Actually, ” he reached back with his free hand, capturing her wrist in a light grip, his big hands callused but neatly manicured, “it’s better to keep you where I can see you, troublemaker.”

“Troublemaker? Hmm, tempting,” Rekka said.

They walked for a little while, L keeping his gentle hold on her wrist, using it to lead her through a turn, and down a flight of stairs.

“Tempting?” he repeated, as they headed down a tree-lined path, lightly littered with fallen leaves.

“Tempting to prove you right.”

“Most people would take that as a challenge to prove me wrong,” L said.

*    *    *

Life on the colony planet of Kaibou was going uneventfully until the second generation of colonists was born on the planet, at some, at a young age, began showing various psychic abilities. When those people, called marvels, grew up, many of them formed companies, building compounds to live in and raise their children.  Due to population diversity issues, many colonists have children using genetic bank material, or choose a succession of partners. Now on the seventh generation, marvels are born both within and without company walls, and all must work together to use their gifts and make a living on a still wild land. Some of these outsider marvels sign contracts with company marvels, agreeing to give them a child raised within the company, in return for a permanent home in the company compound, a stipend, and other concessions.

NaNoWriMo Woes

How did it get to be October again? At the beginning of this year, I decided I would finally, finally! finish one of my previous National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) novels. (NaNo, is for those not aware of this craziness, where you write 50,000 words in November.)

It’s October, where the plotters are brainstorming, researching, and outlining, to whatever degree they do so, and the pantsers are probably thinking about what they want to write. I plot, because otherwise it’s easy to write myself into a corner. I can do a short story by the seat of my pants, but anything complicated and I start forgetting important details, like what time of year it is in the story, or what hair color a character has.

(And I find research and world building enjoyable, which is why I write so much fantasy. You get to make the rules.)

It’s October, and I have 65,000 words–a mere 14,000 more from last November. So, in a last-ditch effort, I’m trying to plan one story and finish the other. This should be exciting!

Are any of you doing NaNo this year? Have you written to “The End” or gotten distracted like me?

Top Ten Tues: Bookfriends

Top Ten Tuesdays are hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, and feature lists related to all things bookish–characters, authors, titles, and favorites. They’re an excellent way to find new interesting books on a variety of topics, and to find bloggers that love the books you do.

Check out their blog for their top ten and lists by other bloggers!

October 3: Top Ten Book Boyfriends/Girlfriends (Which characters do you have crushes on?)

I don’t usually crush on fictional characters, so here’s my Top Ten Best Book Boyfriends/Girlfriends. To avoid spoilers, I’m not saying why they’re good. But they’re all supportive, competent,  interested in more than just their bf/gf, willing to change the world for their love, and/or have saved their love from death.

  1. Nevada Baylor.

2. Adora Belle Dearheart.

3. Sophie Hatter.

4. Torin Kerr.

5. Kitty Norville.

6. Dag Redwing Hickory Oleana.

7. Cam Rohan.

8. Park Sheridan.

9. Sicarius.

10. Ron Weasley.

 

Book Riot Read Harder 2017: September

And the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge is here again! There’s 24 prompts to encourage you to read harder, and I urge you to check it out if you want to get outside your comfort zone. 🙂

(Click the link to see the challenge, and to download a PDF of the challenge list.)

book riot

To quote the article: “We encourage you to push yourself, to take advantage of this challenge as a way to explore topics or formats or genres that you otherwise wouldn’t try. But this isn’t a test. […] We like books because they allow us to see the world from a new perspective, and sometimes we all need help to even know which perspectives to try.

  • Read a story collection by a woman.

Ex Libris; Anne Fadiman.

This story collection is by a woman.

I am the target audience for this book, with Fadiman’s interests aligning so near perfectly with mine, that this book is the equivalent of a cup of tea and warm blanket on a cold, rainy day. Perfect and cozy. (I disagree with her on the use of ‘they’ as a singular pronoun–I find it acceptable, she does not.) Fadiman loves the sight and smell and feel of books. She loves immersing herself in stories, talking about books, marking life events with books, hunting for treasures in used bookstores. The whole family is guilty of hunting out grammar and punctuation mistakes, of loving books to pieces, of strange and esoteric shelving organization. She includes plenty of personal stories to anchor her topics. This isn’t vague or philosophically generalized, these are concrete examples–phrases written in beloved copies of books, quotes from favorite stories, and funny family anecdotes.  The end even has recommended reading on more books with similar subjects.

This is a book about books, readers, and writers, and I love those kinds of books.

If you do, too, you should love this book as well.

 

  • Read a book set within 100 miles of you.

The Devil Went Down to Austin; Rick Riordan

This is set in Austin, which is within 100 miles of where I live.

Though fourth in a series, I picked it up and read it as a stand-alone, and that worked fine. Backstory is mentioned in passing with enough detail that you get the idea.

A pretty straightforward mystery, aimed at entertainment. It’s a story about a tense relationship between brothers, as well as a murder. Tres Navarre is a P.I. and a teacher, and he teaches while trying to figure out whodunit. He has a seriously personal motive–his brother is implicated in the crime, but Tres knows that Garrett didn’t do it. As the evidence piles up, it’s clear someone is framing Garrett, though, so Tres has to be quick and clever. Mostly, he succeeds in that, picking apart the threads of lies and secrets, though sometimes he–and the plot–stall a bit.

What shone the most for me was the setting. Riordan knows the area, and it shows. These lines caught my eye and made me smile:

“San Antonio and Austin are like estranged siblings. San Antonio would be the sister who stayed home, took care of the elderly parents, made tortillas by hand in the kitchen […] Austin is the sister who went away to college, discovered rock ‘n’ roll, and dyed her hair purple.” –Rick Riordan

I know both these cities pretty well, and I have to say it’s fairly accurate. I enjoyed the read, but I won’t be bothering to pick up any more of the series.

 

 

Weekend Writing Warriors: 9/30

This 8-10 sentence blog hop is hosted by The Weekend Writing Warriors. (Click the link for the list of participants, or rules if you want to join!)

This is a WIP, NaNoWriMo 2016, currently called River, Tree, Mountain. It’s science fiction, set on a colony planet, six generations in–with 10% of the population born “marvels,” who have special abilities like dowsing, healing, or creating fire. The protagonist, Rekka, is a spark (fire), signed a contract with Brenton to provide him a child (NOT married/permanently paired), moves in with him, and more than a year later, is outside painting when L, the pink haired man, gives her a hand carved wood goldfinch, and offers to listen to her problems over a meal.

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge

 

 

“I have other people to listen to me complain,” Rekka said.

“But will they feed you before you perish from hunger? Or be this charming and lovely a companion?” L asked.

“I don’t know, how do you look in a low-cut top and mini-skirt?”

The teasing light back in his violet eyes, L spread his arms as an invitation to admire him.

Since he was offering, Rekka studied the muscles of his arms, and skimmed her gaze down the part his chest framed by his unzipped blue and gray checked jacket. She took a few steps toward him, then circled around his back.

He half-twisted, tracking her, and then laughed when he realized she was contemplating his rear, thoughtfully rubbing at her chin.

“Hmm,” Rekka lifted her gaze to his, done teasing, though she had to admit the worn fabric  of his pants cupped a very fine behind. “I’m not sure–it might be a tie.”

*    *    *

Life on the colony planet of Kaibou was going uneventfully until the second generation of colonists was born on the planet, at some, at a young age, began showing various psychic abilities. When those people, called marvels, grew up, many of them formed companies, building compounds to live in and raise their children.  Due to population diversity issues, many colonists have children using genetic bank material, or choose a succession of partners. Now on the seventh generation, marvels are born both within and without company walls, and all must work together to use their gifts and make a living on a still wild land. Some of these outsider marvels sign contracts with company marvels, agreeing to give them a child raised within the company, in return for a permanent home in the company compound, a stipend, and other concessions.