Category: books and publishing


Tournament of Books 2017: Late to the Party

Posted 10 March, 2017 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in books and publishing, Reading

tournament of books 2017 bracket

First, preliminaries. I want to say that I love The Morning News  for providing interactive brackets this year. It makes writing these posts so much easier. Secondly, as the post header suggests, I’m late to this party. I did not predict (or honestly even think about that much) who would win the play-in match or the first two match-ups.

What I will say is that I’m not surprised that Underground Railroad took the first round. I’m also so happy that The Vegetarian lost in its bracket that I literally cheered when I saw the result. Aside: I cannot believe it won the Man Booker, I disliked it so much I couldn’t even bring myself to review it. Anyway. 

Currently, I’ve read about ten books in the Tournament. I hope to finish a few more before their match-ups. I also hope to bang out some more mini-reviews of the ones that I’ve read, hopefully to go live tomorrow or Sunday. Work is hectic so, we’ll see.

Based on what I’ve read, (and buzz that I’ve heard) I think that this year’s Tournament is likely to come down to four books. The Nix (read), Grief is the Thing With Feathers (review), The Mothers (review), and Underground Railroad (based on buzz). I advanced All the Birds in the Sky instead of Underground Railroad, simply because I’ve read the latter.

As the Tournament wears on, I hopefully will post to update my brackets and make new predictions.

I love this time of year, Reader. Don’t you? It’s so much more fun than March Madness, can we all agree on that? 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Friday Musings: A Return to Paper

Posted 30 December, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in blogging, books and publishing, Reading

I’ve been using a Kindle since the first generation was released in 2007, when it was going for $400. I was stationed in Europe and my parents bought it for me for Christmas that year. I loved it instantly, though being overseas I was unable to use the bitchin’ WhisperNet feature which was disappointing. Since then I’ve owned a few of the other models including the PaperWhite and I currently use the Voyage. I’ve bought Kindles for my husband, my mother, friends, and my sister. I have been a huge proponent of eReaders from the very beginning.

Lately, however, my enthusiasm for my Kindle has waned. I actually bought a couple of dead tree novels (not graphic novels or coffee table books) for the first time in years. I’ve been working my way (slowly) through the books that I picked up at BEA. I’m not sure what exactly has changed after nine years of steady reading on a Kindle. The conveniences of the Kindle are unparalleled, all the books on a tiny device, the backlight on certain models allowing me to read long after my husband has turned out the light, etc.

What has prompted this return to paper? I can’t exactly say. Maybe it’s the insidious creep of technology into all facets of our lives all the time. Maybe it’s the constant staring at screens all day, every day – sometimes even in court. Maybe it’s just simply nostalgia for a simpler time that is unlikely to come again. Whatever it is, it’s sent me into a renaissance of paper books. I was at Barnes and Noble yesterday looking forward to the Tournament of Books 2017 and I bought five…  five hard cover books. They’re more expensive, more bulky, and less convenient than my Kindle but I think I’m going to ride this train while it lasts.

What about you, Reader? I know there are those out there who have never taken to eReaders, is there anyone else who used to love them but now has a craving for paper books again?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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BEA 16: Books Off the Beaten Path

Posted 11 May, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in blogging, books and publishing, musings, Reading, Topics

BEA 16: Books off the Beaten Path

Just like most literary fiction bloggers going to BEA this go around of course I’m looking forward to and hoping to get my grubby little paws on the new Ann Patchett and George Saunders. As a apocalypse, horror, vampire blogger of course I’m looking forward to the thrilling conclusion of the Justin Cronin trilogy. The beach blogger in me admittedly might like to see what new thing Charlaine Harris will be pimping. But since I’m a little bit of an off the beaten path blogger I thought I might share some not-so-mainstream books that I’m hoping to encounter this year at BEA.

John Lennon vs. The U.S.A.: The Inside Story of the Most Bitterly Contested and Influential Deportation Case in United States History by: Leon Wildes (ABA Publishing)

“For the first time, noted New York immigration attorney Leon Wildes tells the incredible story of this landmark case – John Lennon vs. The U.S.A. — that set up a battle of wills between John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and President Richard Nixon. Although Wildes did not even know who John Lennon and Yoko Ono were when he was originally retained by them, he developed a close relationship with them both during the eventual five-year period while he represented them and thereafter. This is their incredible story.”

Truffle Boy: My Unexpected Journey Through the Exotic Food Underground by: Ian Purkayastha (Hachette)

“A self-described oddball kid from Arkansas, Ian Purkayastha found his true calling when he learned to forage mushrooms and tasted his first truffle. An instant passion for the delicacy sparked an improbable yet remarkable journey to New York to become the leading truffle importer in America in the dynamic and sometimes shady world of the exotic food trade. Today, at age 23, Ian has built a multi-million dollar specialty foods company with clients as renowned as Jean-Georges Vongerichten and David Chang. As “farm-to-table” becomes “forest-to-table,” Truffle Boy provides a unique view into the world of luxury sourcing, while delivering a coming of age story that will charm foodies and business readers alike.”

Mischling by: Affinity Konar (Hachette)

“It’s 1944 when the twin sisters arrive at Auschwitz with their mother and grandfather. In their benighted new world, Pearl and Stasha Zagorski take refuge in their identical natures, comforting themselves with the private language and shared games of their childhood.

As part of the experimental population of twins known as Mengele’s Zoo, the girls experience privileges and horrors unknown to others, and they find themselves changed, stripped of the personalities they once shared, their identities altered by the burdens of guilt and pain.”

Tacky Goblin by: T. Sean Steele (Consortium)

“An aimless twenty-something struggles to make sense of reality after he moves to Los Angeles to live with his older sister. His legs are rotting, his apartment is haunted, and he’s in charge of taking care of a human baby that might actually be a dog. On top of it all, he has trouble making friends. Tacky Goblin blunders through particularly strange but familiar misadventures to remind us that, ultimately, learning to take care of yourself is hard.”

The Motion of Puppets by: Keith Donohue (MacMillan)

“In the Old City of Québec, Kay Harper falls in love with a puppet in the window of the Quatre Mains, a toy shop that is never open. She is spending her summer working as an acrobat with the cirque while her husband, Theo, is translating a biography of the pioneering photographer Eadweard Muybridge. Late one night, Kay fears someone is following her home. Surprised to see that the lights of the toy shop are on and the door is open, she takes shelter inside.

The next morning Theo wakes up to discover his wife is missing. Under police suspicion and frantic at her disappearance, he obsessively searches the streets of the Old City. Meanwhile, Kay has been transformed into a puppet, and is now a prisoner of the back room of the Quatre Mains, trapped with an odd assemblage of puppets from all over the world who can only come alive between the hours of midnight and dawn. The only way she can return to the human world is if Theo can find her and recognize her in her new form. So begins the dual odyssey of Keith Donohue’s The Motion of Puppets: of a husband determined to find his wife, and of a woman trapped in a magical world where her life is not her own.”

The Last Days of Night by: Graham Moore (Random House)

“New York, 1888. The miracle of electric light is in its infancy, and a young untested lawyer named Paul Cravath, fresh out of Columbia Law School, takes a case that seems impossible to win. Paul’s client, George Westinghouse, has been sued by Thomas Edison over a billion-dollar question: Who invented the light bulb and holds the right to power the country?

The case affords Paul entry to the heady world of high society—the glittering parties in Gramercy Park mansions, and the more insidious dealings done behind closed doors. The task facing Paul is beyond daunting. Edison is a wily, dangerous opponent with vast resources at his disposal—private spies, newspapers in his pocket, and the backing of J. P. Morgan himself. Yet this unknown attorney shares with his famous adversary a compulsion to win at all costs. How will he do it? In obsessive pursuit of victory, Paul crosses paths with Nikola Tesla, an eccentric, brilliant inventor who may hold the key to defeating Edison, and with Agnes Huntington, a beautiful opera singer who proves to be a flawless performer on stage and off. As Paul takes greater and greater risks, he’ll find that everyone in his path is playing their own game, and no one is quite who they seem.”

So, those are some of the books off the beaten path I’ll be looking for at BEA, Reader. Any other suggestions? What are you looking forward to this fall?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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BEA16: Hopes and Dreams

Posted 9 May, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in blogging, books and publishing, Reading, Topics

BEA16 Hopes and Dreams

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks. I’ve been consistently sick for about three weeks and because of that pretty consistently hopped up on cough syrup while at home.

Work has been an unholy nightmare of the best kind. There’s a contested judge’s election that is turning into nasty politics, inter-office drama, and the usual suspects. We finished up jury trials in April and don’t have jury trials again until mid-June. I’ll admit that I’m feeling a little antsy and would like some intellectual stimulation to break things up. After trials in June I won’t have jury trials until September. I’m going to need some good reading.

BEA is near. I’ve finally started looking into where I need to be when to get the most out of it. More or less I have to admit that really what I’m most excited about is getting to hang out with Catherine (Gilmore Guide to Books) and Shannon (River City Reading). There do look to be some interesting titles being dropped and I’m hoping to find some titles that will amaze and excite me so maybe I can start reviewing a few books here and there again.

Okay, Reader. What have you been up to? Roll call for those of us going to BEA! 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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It’s Monday… Tournament of Books 2016 is ON!

Posted 25 January, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in blogging, books and publishing, Reading

tournament of books 2016 rooster

I don’t often participate in the ‘It’s Monday…’ posts, but it’s the most wonderful time of the year! I have the Tournament of Books 2016 short-list in hand and am readying myself for battle. Unfortunately all the books I decided to read from the long-list failed to make the cut, but I enjoyed most of them heartily so really there’s nothing to complain about.

So let’s take a look at the work ahead of us:

Tournament of Books 2016 Short-List

  • The New World by Chris Adrian and Eli Horowitz – review
  • The Sellout by Paul Beatty – Currently in DNF status. Will be revived.
  • Bats of the Republic by Zachary Thomas Dodson – Read
  • The Turner House by Angela Flournoy – review
  • Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff – review
  • Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf – review
  • Ban en Banlieue by Bhanu Kapil – I’m worried about the availability of this one.
  • The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli – Owned and on the list to read.
  • The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra – Read
  • The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen – Read
  • The Whites by Richard Price – review
  • Oreo by Fran Ross – Probably the next one I’ll read.
  • The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard – Read
  • The Invaders by Karolina Waclawiak – review
  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara – review

Play-In Round

  • Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving – Just bought the audio, let’s face it… I was going to read this anyway.
  • A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler – Zero interest. Might read it if it actually gets in.

Updated 28 February 16

Taking Stock…

Out of the fifteen definite books I’ve read three, I own twelve, plus the John Irving in the play-in round. To make any of it count I need to get to reading! A little sad that Look Who’s Back from the long-list didn’t make it but, c’est la vie, this gives me more books to read! I also may still review Mort(e) from the long-list because, man, that book was weird.

Anyway, Reader… are you taking part in the fun? What books from the Tournament of Books 2016 short list look like they appeal to you? 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Threesome: Shirley Jackson’s Women

Posted 16 November, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Authors, books and publishing, Genres, Reviews

shirley jackson threesome

So I love me some Shirley Jackson, but it wasn’t until I recently finished A Bird’s Nest that I had perhaps the belated revelation that Shirley Jackson writes primarily about young women who are suffering from some sort of arrested development.

Consider Eleanor Vance, from Jackson’s classic The Haunting of Hill House. One of the first lines in the novel is:

“Eleanor Vance was thirty-two years old when she came to Hill House. The only person in the world she genuinely hated, now that her mother was dead, was her sister. She disliked her brother-in-law and her five-year-old niece, and she had no friends.”

If that’s not a description of someone who is emotionally stunted, I’m not sure what is. Eleanor is consistently unsure of herself and lacks self confidence in the worst of ways. While she is supposed to be thirty-two, her character often feels no older than sixteen or seventeen. Her self consciousness is exacerbated by the stresses of Hill House, makes her teeter even more off balance than she was before.

Looking at Eleanor next to the lively and confident Theodora, one has to stop and wonder what emotional juxtaposition that Jackson was going for. Does Theodora genuinely become irate and hostile towards Eleanor or is this completely happening in Eleanor’s perception?

Next we have both Merricat and Constance Blackwood, from We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Merricat is supposed to be eighteen years old, but her rhetoric and behavior make that incredibly hard to remember. It took several close readings before I realized that she wasn’t supposed to be a thirteen year old adolescent. While Constance does play a central mother figure in the novel, girl hasn’t left the house in six years. At the climax of the story instead of pushing forward and growing into themselves, we see both women retreat farther into themselves, continuing to stunt their emotional growth and we are left wondering how they can possibly survive.

Finally, we have Elizabeth Richmond, from The Bird’s Nest. Meant to be 23, Elizabeth is tormented by three other personalities of varying ages. This is a novel about dissociative identity disorder (not to be confused with schizophrenia, don’t cross Heather on this one). Interestingly, this book also has a mother figure that is less than motherly with Aunt Morgan. I find Aunt Morgan interesting the same way that I find Theodora interesting, she seems to care for Elizabeth, but at times she seems downright hostile. Is she? Ah, the wonder of unreliable narrators and partial information.

I’ve probably read The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle five or six times each, but this was my first go at A Bird’s Nest, and if you look at the publication date, you realize that Jackson pre-dates the modern tropes of multiple narrators and psychological fiction nearly twenty years before Sybil made it popular.

Anyway, Reader. What do you think of women in Shirley Jackson’s novels? Do her other novels conform to these patterns? What does it mean?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Best Books: 2014

Posted 30 June, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in books and publishing

best books 2014

It’s that time of year y’all! If you were here ’round this time last year, you know that I don’t do my best of list until the end of June, mostly because everyone is so sick of best of lists in December that they want to throw up. So, here’s my best twelve books of 2014 list while you’re fresh and ready!

  • The Word Exchange by: Alena Graedon – Mostly this list is in no particular order, but The Word Exchange blew my socks off so early in the year that very little else came close to me. I love dystopia, I especially love a near future dystopia where words are at stake. I loved this book.
  • Pro by: Katha Pollitt – This might have been the most important book published in 2014. It’s a call to stop shaming women who choose abortion and how access to abortion for all is not only something that women should never feel guilty about — it’s actually a morally righteous decision. Anyone who is on the fence about abortion or who thinks that exceptions for abortion are okay in rape and incest situations need to read this book.
  • The Magician’s Trilogy by: Lev Grossman – Okay, so only The Magician’s Land was actually published in 2014, but I gobbled up the whole 1,200 page trilogy in a matter of two weeks. I hate that I had the opportunity to see Lev Grossman speak (and did!) at The Decatur Book Festival last year but did not secure myself a signed copy of The Magician’s Land. Hailed as a ‘grown up Harry Potter’, I absolutely must agree. Except maybe it’s all the best parts of Harry Potter and all the best parts of the Narnia series. Go forth, read them all. Immediately.
  • Revival by: Stephen King – I loved the slow burn of this novel and the feeling of creepiness slowly coming up on you, along with the balls to the walls scareded-ness that come at the end. Yes. Absolutely a must read for Stephen King fans young and old.
  • Bellweather Rhapsody by: Kate Racculia – If you’re a band nerd, former or current, or if you love some crazy, quirky, mysteries this is a fabulous book for you. There was so much about this book that rang true to me — from being a former band nerd to the fact that it had almost a Stephen King-eqsue feel with the hotel (The Shining is what I’m thinking of) this book is unique and wonderful.
  • Dear Committee Members by: Julie Schumacher – Are you sick of the rash of epistolatory novels? DON’T BE! Dear Committee Members is delightful and laugh out loud funny at times. Anyone who has worked in an office setting or especially  in higher education in an underfunded department will find plenty of delight and fabulousness in this novel.
  • Station Eleven by: Emily St. John Mandel – Won the Rooster in this year’s Tournament of Books. It was a fantastic and beautiful literary dystopian novel that was absolutely enchanting.
  • How to Build a Girl by: Caitlin Moran – The most important coming-of-age novel since Judy Blume. I adored this novel. I laughed, I teared up, I was always team Johanna.
  • The Bone Clocks by: David Mitchell – Yes. Just do it.
  • An Untamed State by: Roxane Gay – I was completely entrenched into this novel, the most important part of it wasn’t, for me, the rape of a woman of color, but it was dealing with the aftermath of that rape and finding hope and understanding in the most unlikely places. A fabulous debut novel by Gay.
  • Yes Please by: Amy Poehler – YES PLEASE! A fabulous feminist manifesto full of positivity and laughter. Poehler’s memoir was everything I wanted to to be, and more.
  • All the Birds, Singing by: Evie Wyld – Another book that I read thanks to the Tournament of Books. I found this book to be so beautifully complex and such a great puzzle. So much for discussion in a book club, so much symbolism and such great writing.

So, Reader, what were your favorite books of 2014? 

April

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Thrilling Thursday: The Shore

Posted 28 May, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in books and publishing, Reviews

Thrilling Thursday: The ShoreThe Shore by Sara Taylor
Published by Crown/Archetype on May 26th 2015
Genres: Contemporary Women, Fiction, Literary, Sagas
Pages: 320
Goodreads
five-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Shore: a group of small islands in the Chesapeake Bay, just off the coast of Virginia. The Shore is clumps of evergreens, wild ponies, oyster-shell roads, tumble-down houses, unwanted pregnancies, murder, and dark magic in the marshes. Sanctuary to some but nightmare to others, it's a place that generations of families both wealthy and destitute have inhabited, fled, and returned to for hundreds of years. From a half-Shawnee Indian's bold choice to escape an abusive home only to find herself with a man who will one day try to kill her, to a brave young girl's determination to protect her younger sister as methamphetamine ravages their family, the characters in this remarkable novel have deep connections to the land, and a resilience that only the place they call home could create.

The Shore is a remarkable piece of fiction. I love finding debuts that are so compelling and readable. Told in a series of interwoven narratives, many of the pieces can stand alone as short stories, but when you put them all together there is something truly special to be found in the novel as a whole. It fills a hole that has been gaping in southern gothic fiction and even more delightfully it’s filled by a young woman with much promise.

This book reads a little like Rebecca Makkai’s The Hundred Year House, in the sense that it is a family saga that isn’t necessarily told in a linear order. But The Shore is something more than that as well, it’s about the deep bonds and petty hatreds that can build in a small community throughout time and the way just one resentment can destroy an entire community.

I know in the finished edition there is a family tree (or a series of family trees) but I enjoyed sketching out who was related to whom on my own. It was a fun exercise in puzzle solving, so if that’s your bag, maybe ignore those family trees and then check your work at the end.

Absolutely a must read.

What about you, Reader? Have you been needing some southern gothic in your life? Have you read The Shore? Does it sound like something you might need to get to soon? Don’t forget we’re going to have an EPIC conversation about this one on The Socratic Salon next month!

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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#CloudAtlasAlong: Week One

Posted 2 April, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in books and publishing, Reading

cloudatlasalong

Cloud Atlas by: David Mitchell

Parts One and Two

Note: As this is a read along spoilers are gonna spoil ladies and gentlefolk. But it’s gonna be hella fun. Don’t forget to stop by other links in the link-up and definitely visit my lovely co-host Katie at Bookish Tendencies.

If you want to read along later pick yourself up a copy and get thee to your favorite reading nook! 

Note Two: These post may or may not have all the language. But on the bright side, it’ll be colorful. 

Final Note: This post differs from many of those on The Steadfast Reader. (Of course it’s still fabulous.) But if it’s not your cup of tea, just know, we’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming, tomorrow. Also, a proper review will be published on the blog sometime in May. Read along continues every Wednesday in April.

*sigh* Confession. The first two chapters in this novel were a little bit of a trip to Yawnsville for me. I had to read the first sixteen pages three times before I managed to make it stick. I was rather taken by Dr. Goose’s crazy plan to ruin the society lady with the dentures from cannibal teeth, but other than that the journal in chapter one just didn’t grab me at all.

Chapter two picked up for me a little. Who is this guy? Who is Sixtus? I thought it was totally ballsy to hunt down a great composer who was ailing and be all “Dude. I can help you, gimme a job.” and then start banging his wife. But really, what intrigued me was who is Sixtus? And what an interesting name? I’ve over-read into chapter three, but I think that I’m officially hooked now. Keep the faith reader, it picks up.

RuPaul Can't Wait to See How This Turns Out

What about you fellow CloudAtlasAlongers? Any strong feelings yet? Talk to me! Don’t forget to add the link to your post! 

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April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Tournament of Books 2015: Final Bracket

Posted 28 March, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in books and publishing, Reading

tournament of books final brakcket

 

So, things are looking kind of messy in my bracket here. But this week came with some thrilling things happening.

Annihilation v. An Untamed State

No surprise here – An Untamed State took it, which is exactly how I would have it.

Semi-Finals

Redeployment v. Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay

It’s hard for me to have an opinion on this one since I didn’t get around to Those Who Leave, I can say that Redeployment was excellent and I was sad to see it go – but didn’t expect it to take the whole Rooster.

A Brief History of Seven Killings v. The Paying Guests

Unsurprisingly A Brief History took this one, it seemed to be dominating the competition thus far. While I didn’t finish A Brief History I did read The Paying Guests and wasn’t too sad to see it go.

Zombie Round

The Resurrected

Station Eleven and All the Light We Cannot See came back, not particularly surprising zombies given the rabid popularity of both, but I was holding out some hope that we might see The Bone Clocks come back. C’est la vie.

Station Eleven v. A Brief History of Seven Killings

I would go so far as to call this an upset! Though it was hardly upsetting for me – I loved Station Eleven was thrilled to see it defeat A Brief History before this round I would have put A Brief History in the running to take The Rooster.

Final predictions for next week:

We’re going to see All the Light go up against An Untamed State on Monday. I predict that An Untamed State will previal. Actually – I predict that An Untamed State will take The Rooster. I know it’s ironic because in my original predictions when Station Eleven and An Untamed State were matched up I predicted Station Eleven to prevail. I’ve since changed my mind. I loved Station Eleven and it’s beautifully written but I think that An Untamed State has much more raw power.

In the event that All the Light prevails – I think it could go either way. Both Station Eleven and All the Light are beautifully written and lyrical but in that event I’ll be rooting for Station Eleven – I just found it more enjoyable.

I guess we’ll find out next week!

What about you, Reader? Any last minute predictions? Thoughts? Feelings?

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April @ The Steadfast Reader

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