Tuesday, August 31, 2010

REVIEW: The Wedding of Zein, by Tayeb Salih

The Wedding of Zein, by Tayeb Salih. Published 2010 by NYRB Classics. Literary Fiction. Translated from the Arabic by Denys Johnson-Davies.

The Wedding of Zein is a comic novella by Sudanese author Tayeb Salih centering on the unlikely nuptials of the town eccentric, a fellow named Zein. Tall and odd-looking, with just two teeth in his mouth, Zein has made a reputation for himself as the man who falls in love over and over with girls who promptly marry other men- to the point where mothers seek him out in hopes that he will draw the eye of available suitors to their eligible daughters. No one ever thought of Zein as marriageable himself.

As the town reacts to the idea of Zein's marriage, the reader gets to know a whole community- its factions, its backstories, its characters and rituals. We see how differences in approaches to politics, religion and lifestyle work themselves out and make this community come together over its favorite oddball. Zein befriends others marginalized in this tight-knit town- the disabled, the enfeebled and the outcast, so it should come as no surprise that Zein's intended is a headstrong young woman considered eccentric herself.

The Wedding of Zein is a delightful, well-paced quick read about a colorful community and the very lovable man at its center. It's the perfect off-the-beaten-path book for readers of literary and world fiction. The setting, a traditional Muslim Sudanese town on the cusp of growth and modernization, is beautifully rendered and the culture is portrayed with love and affection. The wedding celebration itself is so lovingly and vividly described that I felt like I was there among the revelers. And by the end, I was celebrating Zein's wedding, too.

Rating: BUY

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Musing Mondays: Putting it into Practice

This week’s musing asks…

How often do you actually put into practice what you learn from reading nonfiction books (if you read nonfiction, that is)?

If I'm reading a how-to book, it's because I want to learn how to do something, so I would say I put that sort of thing into practice fairly often. One of my hobbies, for example, is baking, so if I read something about a new technique for, say, rolling a pie crust, chances are I'm going to try it out. Or a technique for quiltmaking or bookmaking. And so on. What's the point of asking for advice if you don't want to take it, right?

Musing Mondays is hosted by MizB at ShouldbeReading.wordpress.com.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday Salon - A Day of Travel and Rest

The Sunday Salon.com

This Sunday finds me home after a fantastic week in South Carolina visiting family. Yes, a post about the bookstores is forthcoming, but for today I'm unpacking and unraveling after a busy week running around to beaches, cities and tourist attractions.

I read several books this week, starting with Dorothea Benton Frank's Bulls Island. Set in the Charleston area, it was a fun way to start off the week. It was also a quick read and from there I moved on to Massimo Carlotto's heart-pounding thriller Death's Dark Abyss and the tragically funny Wish Her Safe at Home, by Stephen Benatar. Today I'm relaxing with Avner Mandelman's The Debba and putting away the books I bought in South Carolina.

We stayed in the Beaufort area and got to see lots of different things. The highlights for me were the city of Charleston and the incredible Edisto Island. We went to cute bookstore there, a beautiful beach and an attraction called The Serpentarium, featuring reptiles large and small. So fun.

We saw this little beauty near the beach at Hunting Island, a relatively isolated but incredibly gorgeous stretch of sand. Our friend here was lounging in a pond a short distance away from the beach. What a cutie, right?

So anyway I'm home now and will post about the bookstores later this week. What are you reading today?

Click on the Sunday Salon icon above to read more posts.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Finds- The Personal and The Professional

Effective Blogging for Libraries, by Connie Crosby, is a professional book about- you guessed it- blogging for libraries. For the past several months I've been contributing to the blog of the Association of Jewish Libraries. It's very different from running a personal book blog and it's time for me to start using professional resources to do a better job.

Elizabeth McCracken's love story The Giant's House, about a librarian and a very tall young man, is a book I've been meaning to read for years. I saw her at a writer's conference in Salem years and years ago and I've been following her lately on Twitter and I simply must read her celebrated first novel.

Julia Wertz's new book, Drinking at the Movies, came from Random House. I'm a big fan of her previous comic collections and am reading this as I type.

Finally, I treated myself to the Barnes & Noble edition of The Chronicles of Narnia, because I love their special editions of classics with wild and beautiful covers, and this is a particular childhood favorite.

What did you find this week? You can see more Friday Finds at ShouldbeReading.wordpress.com.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

New in Paperback, Reviewed Here- Labor Day Weekend Reads

While browsing in my local bookstores, I noticed a bumper crop of great new paperbacks out. Here are some favorites that I reviewed in hardcover:

A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book. I loved it; granted, it's not for everybody but historical-lit-fic types will love it.

The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood. Page-turning dystopia from one of my favorite writers. And what a pretty paperback it is!

The Night Counter, by Alia Yunis. This is a terrific light book for those who loved The Hakawati or just enjoy Middle Eastern-themed fiction and family stories.

Going Away Shoes, by Jill McCorkle. Short stories about women and relationships. A nice read from the always-reliable Algonquin Books.

This is Where I Leave You, by Jonathan Tropper. The paperback came out a while ago but again, a great read for summer. Hysterically funny.

Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel. Last year's Man Booker winner is a fantastic historical novel about Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell.

This list also counts as my dog-days-of-summer, last-ditch-vacation-reads recommendations. Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

REVIEW: The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, by Helen Grant

The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, by Helen Grant. Published 2010 by Bantam Dell. Literary Fiction.

I read this book courtesy of LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program.

The Vanishing of Katharina Linden tells the story of a series of disappearances in a small German town. The first girl to disappear, the titular Katharina, goes missing after a fair. The mystery throws the town into an upheaval as parents wait for the police to find the kidnapper- and, hopefully, Katharina. The story is told through the eyes of young Pia Kolvenbach, a middle-schooler who has become a pariah among her peers following the bizarre Advent-related death of her grandmother. But one of her classmates still wants to be her friend, fellow outcast "Stink Stefan," and together they start their own investigation into what happened to Katharina. In doing so, they uncover town secrets and do a little growing up, too.

I enjoyed reading Katharina Linden. I didn't love it, but it was a good page-turner mixed with a nice coming-of-age story. Pia is a plucky and likable heroine though I thought her home life was a little too dramatic and distracted from the missing-girl storyline a little bit too much. There's a passages involving Pia's trip to England and the martial woes of her parents which could be extracted to form an entirely separate book. The best parts for me were the parts about solving the mystery and exploring the town's checkered past.

A good read-alike for Katharina Linden would probably be last year's Mathilda Savitch; if you enjoyed that one, you'll enjoy this one, too. Like Mathilda, Katharina is a light read told from the point of view of a teen, has YA crossover appeal and a strong story with an unexpected ending. If that sounds like your cup of tea, I'd recommend picking it up right away.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from LibraryThing.com.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Home Libraries: Diversity in the Collection

From my Home Library Mission Statement:

Item #2: My home library is a safe space, where I can relax in private, with books enriching, entertaining and utilitarian
. My library will be home to a variety of genres and forms, including literary and functional works such as cookbooks, craft books and blank books for inspiration and my own writing. Done.

Well, not really done, just, you know, in progress.

There are definitely a few things missing from my supposedly well-rounded collection. For one thing, I don't have a Bible. I should probably get one, along with a book on Catholic catechism for the reference section.

My poetry collection is hopelessly out of date because I don't really read contemporary poetry anymore. I'm probably not going to do anything about that.

As for a variety of genres, I read what I read- mostly literary fiction. Once a year I go to a science fiction convention and pick up a book or two to broaden myself a little but I'm happy leaving it at that.

I read very little nonfiction these days, almost none. I have a handful of newish nonfiction books, biographies and memoirs mainly, but I don't really seek them out. As I showed you last week, I've assembled a small collection of Jewish nonfiction as well.

Most of my nonfiction collection lives outside of my living room, in the kitchen and the spare room, which is really my craft room. I divide utilitarian books into two categories in my mind- basic books and special-topic books.

In the kitchen, basic books include things like the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, which is one of those old-school catch-all cookbooks with recipes for everything from cookies to sauces to stews. It'll tell you how long to roast a chicken and how to make elaborate meals from scratch. I never learned to cook from my family so it's the kind of book I need, and I've referred to it many times. A special-topic book would be something like François Payard's Chocolate Epiphany, a book of challenging chocolate recipes.

On the crafting side, I have a couple of key reference books- The Encyclopedia of Needlework, Heirloom Machine Quilting and Your First Quilt Book (or it should be!) plus a solid collection of other quilting and embroidery books on special topics like miniatures or paper piecing.

What's to do here? Not much. My nonfiction collection meets my needs in terms of breadth and depth, for the most part, though there are a few gaps left to fill. Do you see gaps in your collection? Where?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday Salon- The Summer is Ticking Away

I can't believe it's already the middle/nearly the end of August. Where has the summer gone?

Today I'm relaxing as I usually do on Sundays; there's a nice breeze coming in and I'm just soaking in the summer. Reading? Yeah, I'm doing a little of that, too! I've got Dorothea Benton Frank's book Bulls Island going, and I'm really enjoying it. There's a story I should tell you someday about the time a friend and I crashed her table (by mistake!) at a library conference dinner (she was really nice about it), but for now let's just say that I'm glad to be finally getting around to her book. I know it's been out for a while, and there are already several sequels, but hey.

After I'm done with this, and it's going quickly, I'm moving on to The Debba, by Avner Mandelman, an Israeli thriller that came out this spring from the wonderful Other Press. It looks great; I've yet to read anything from Other Press which is anything other than wonderful.

For now I'm going to sip some more iced tea and enjoy the day. I hope you do, too! What are you doing to make it great?

More Sunday Salon here.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Finds- Cool Stuff and Essential Fall Reading

A beautiful finished copy of Joseph Skibell's new novel A Curable Romantic arrived from Algonquin Books. I can't wait to read this- a big, sprawling Jewish historical fiction novel, it's one of my most-anticipated books for fall.

The Fifth Servant
, by Kenneth Wishnia, is a new novel in a similar vein, and also a top pick. This one arrived for review from HarperCollins.

Season of Water and Ice, by Donald Lystra, is a moving coming of age story from Northern Illinois University Press. It arrived for review via the book's publicist. The folks sending me pitches seem to be actually reading my review policy- I've had a noticeable uptick in offerings of literary fiction from small presses and I love it.

Finally, The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia, by Mary Helen Stefaniak, came via LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program. I have two to review for them now- I really need to get cracking!

What do you need to get cracking on this week?

More Friday Finds at ShouldbeReading.Wordpress.com.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Artist's Bookmaking, Week 8- Last Class

Well, I can't believe it but my Artist's Bookmaking class is over.
I had so much fun this summer going to this great class every week and coming home with some new skills and a new craft to enjoy.

The last night was devoted to two things: finishing up the box from last week, and quickly learning some additional signature-sewing stitches.

At the top is the completed box that we started last week, laid out flat. It closes into a book shaped thusly:

Mine came out okay. There were some glue-control issues, which you may be able to tell from the spine (I hid the worst side in the box's interior) and some alignment things, too, but I'm sure I'll get better if I keep practicing.

I used commercial bookcloth for this project but I found directions on how to make my own- and I have a whole room full of quilting fabric, fusible web and tissue paper to practice with.

The signature stitching was fun but I've already forgotten the stitches, sadly.

Here's the scrapbook I made for my upcoming trip:

I like the way it came out. Inside it's an accordion book with endpapers that match the cover. I'll fill it with souvenirs and photos when I get back. It'll be a fun way to relive the trip, I'm sure.

I'm going to continue to document my book- and box-crafting over on my craft blog; stop by sometime if you want to see what I'm up to next!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

REVIEW: Earth and Ashes, by Atiq Rahimi

Earth and Ashes, by Atiq Rahimi. Published 2010 by Other Press. Literary Fiction. Translation.

Afghan writer, director and activist Atiq Rahimi doesn't so much write novels as prose poems; his books have a power to affect his readers disproportionate to their small size. Earth and Ashes is a slim novella about an Afghan man, a grandfather named Dastaguir, urgently seeking to find his son Murad after his village has been bombed and his entire family, save Murad's son Yassin, has been killed. But the blast has left Yassin deaf and Dastaguir must navigate a confusing landscape bearing the tragedy of his shattered family to Murad, now working in the mines. What he finds isn't quite what he expects.

Earth and Ashes is short enough to read in one sitting but if I were you I'd take two to savor and pick through Rahimi's delicate prose and careful storytelling. Rahimi's economic use of language allows him to create a small but vivid cast of characters, especially Dastiguir and Yassin, who come to life and force their way into your heart. I don't know much about the Russian invasion of Afghanistan but I could feel for this lost old man trying to piece together what's left of his family and his overwhelming grief at losing his wife and family, and his dread of facing his son who toils ignorant of what's just happened. The reader will feel his pain every difficult step of the way.

Rahimi's work is accomplished literary fiction of a very high order and I'd recommend it for readers looking for an emotional experience with a very intelligently-written novel of feelings and ideas. Other Press also published an English translation of his Prix-Goncourt winning The Patience Stone, a similarly tightly-written masterpiece. Literary fiction readers and those interested in the specific social and political issues he writes about will absolutely want to pick up Earth and Ashes but Rahimi is the kind of writer who should be read by everybody.

Rating: BUY

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from the publisher.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Happy Blogiversary to Me! And A Giveaway for You!

Today is my third blogiversary! Yay!! Starting my blog and watching it grow has been really fun and I want to thank everyone who's ever read it or commented on it for your interest and support. When I started it back in 2007 I don't think I ever expected anything to come of it.

It's been such a pleasure and a privilege to get to know all of you, and this year has been the best so far, with BEA, Book Blogger Con and lots of great book events, activities and more.

My husband is taking me out to a nice French restaurant in Boston tonight for beef Wellington, but the presents are going to be for you.
To celebrate my third blogiversary, I'm doing a giveaway of two signed Brunonia Barry galleys- her 2008 hit The Lace Reader and her latest, which came out in the spring, The Map of True Places.

Even if you've read one or both, signed galleys are great to collect.

So it's two giveaways, one book to one winner and the other to another winner. The contest is open worldwide and is open until midnight EST September 3, 2010.

The rules:
  • Leave a comment with your email address, stating which book you'd like to win. You can enter for both but you can only win one.
  • Entries without an email address AND a book preference will be disregarded.
  • Tweet the giveaway and leave a link for two extra entries.
  • Become (or be) a follower for two extra entries.
I will use Random.org to pick a winner sometime the weekend of September 4-5 and announce the winner the following week. I'll email the winner and he or she has 48 hours to respond before I pick another winner.

Thank you for everything these past three years and good luck!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Musing Mondays: What books are you wishing for?

This week’s musing asks…

What books are you wishing for MOST right now?

Honestly, there aren't many. My shelves are pretty full and I have a good selection of fall releases, current books and older titles waiting to be read.

But, having said that, I'd like to read
  • The Bells, by Richard Harvell, and
  • C, by Tom McCarthly.
These are all fall releases and the last two are Man Booker nominees. You?

Musing Mondays is hosted by Miz B at ShouldbeReading.wordpress.com.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday Salon- Jewish Book Carnival!

So today is the second monthly Jewish Book Carnival, a monthly community-building blog roundup of links about Jewish books from a variety of bloggers. It lives on People of the Books, the blog of the Association of Jewish libraries. I hope you can stop by, and maybe even visit some of the participating blogs. If you'd like to participate next month, drop me an email at mcloutier at jewishlibraries.org with your blog URL and the link you'd like to share.

You can see a full list of participants, schedule and more on the AJL blog here.

Today's going to be a pretty laid-back day for me. I picked up some stomach bug and plan to spend the day reading and maybe working on some craft projects. I just started The Wrong Blood, by Manuel de Lope; I'm loving it! It's set during and after the Spanish Civil War and it's lovely literary fiction. I'm also reading Robert Musil's short stories, Five Women, which is very different but also very, very good.

Craft-wise, I got the rest of the materials I need to finish the scrapbook that was my personal project for my bookmaking class, so if I feel up to it I'll do some puttering on that, as well.

What are you up to today? I hope you have a great Sunday. More Sunday Salon here.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Finds- Just a Few Fun Finds

A few fun finds this week.

The Tattered Cloak, a collection of short stories by Nina Berberova, came via Bookmooch. I'm a fan of hers and this collection looks great.

At Home: A Short History of Private Life is Bill Bryson's latest and came for review from Random House. I love him and can't wait to read this!

The Girl who Trod on a Loaf, by Kathryn Davis, is a used-bookstore find that just looked intriguing. Anyone read it? Or any of these?

What did you find this week? You can see more Friday Finds at ShouldbeReading.wordpress.com.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Artist's Bookmaking Week 7: Boxmaking

Last week in my Artist's Bookmaking class we made three different kinds of boxes. From left to right:
  • a cardboard tray from a single sheet of cardboard,
  • a cardboard clamshell, also from a single sheet, and
  • a tray from book board, covered in bookcloth.
The first box was pretty easy; we made our measurements, scored with cardboard with a bone folder, folded it up and glued. We pulled the corrugation from the tabs at the end of each corner so that the corners glued up neatly. The second was more difficult for me and I had to make a couple of attempts, and I still wasn't happy with the results. It was more of a pizza-box design and required more measuring and cutting.

The third was similar to the first but we used five pieces of book board and the pieces were glued together instead of folded. It wasn't too difficult to get the measurements right but the trick was covering it; since we're doing everything in class, we often don't have time to let things dry properly and flipping a box around and manipulating fabric over it is difficult when it's still wet from the glue. But I managed! Actually if I showed you the other side you'd see it's pretty messy; I had some glue-control issues!

Tonight we're going to continue to work on our book-board boxes and make a more elaborate structure out of them. It's our last class, so next week I'll show you the completed box and also some pictures of my personal project. I can't believe it's almost over- it's been so fun having this class to go to every Thursday. I'm going to miss it!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

REVIEW: Beautiful Maria of My Soul, by Oscar Hijuelos

Beautiful Maria of My Soul, by Oscar Hijuelos. Published 2010 by Hyperion. Literary Fiction

Beautiful Maria of My Soul is Oscar Hijuelos's follow-up and companion novel to the wonderful The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, his 1989 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about Nestor and Cesar Castillo, two musicians from Cuba who come to America to make a life. Beautiful Maria is partly Nestor's back story, the story of the woman and the love affair that inspired his most famous song, and part story of an independent woman trying to make it in pre-Castro Cuba and later, in post-Castro Miami.

First of all, I have to say Mambo Kings is one of my favorite all-time reads; I just loved it, and I was so excited to find out that Hijuelos was coming out with a new book set in the same universe. And Beautiful Maria is a wonderful way to return. Maria Garcia y Cifuentes comes to Havana from a small town in the countryside half by chance; poor but incredibly beautiful, she wants to find work, to make her way in the world. She becomes a dancer and her natural beauty makes her a hit. She attracts the attention of several men, most importantly petty gangster Ignacio and sweet musician Nestor; Ignacio takes care of her but it's Nestor who wins her heart. Their love affair is the high point of her life, but she only realizes this much later, after having tossed aside Nestor and his dreams of success as a musician for the security of life with Ignacio.

Beautiful Maria seems fluffier to me than Mambo Kings, but that doesn't mean it's not a terrific read. I think of it as a beach book for the litfic set, a fun and detailed character study of a flawed but wonderfully appealing woman and her world. I loved Maria's daughter Teresa, smart where her mother is beautiful, trying to make her own life in America. The coda, a too-cutesy, self-referential indulgence where Maria meets a writer named "Oscar Hijuelos" who's written a novel about Nestor, could have been left out, but leaving that aside I thoroughly enjoyed this charming, erotic romp. (If you don't like a lot of explicit sexual content, you might want to skip this one!) It's required reading if you enjoyed Mambo Kings; if not, give it a try if you're looking for something light and smart to while away the last days of summer.

And if you haven't read Mambo Kings, what are you waiting for?

Rating: BEACH

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Home Libraries: Putting the Mission Statement into Action

Last week I wrote out my Home Library Mission Statement.

#1 was:
My home library is the intellectual and spiritual center of my home. It’s a place dedicated to storing and displaying the books I’ve read and the books I want to read.
My home will have dedicated space for books and I will respect that space and leave it free of knicknacks and other flotsam. Shelves will be kept tidy.

As you can see, I have a ways to go.

CDs, a plush Adipose and a Borg teddy bear are only some of the random stuff living on my bookshelves. There are also puzzles and a coin collection and even film cell-souvenirs from a movie screening. I don't really know where to put these things. They live on my bookshelves because I don't have any better ideas about what to do with them.

At my age I may be too old for TV-tie-in plushies. But one was a gift and one was a travel souvenir. And so on.

What to do?
I know- start with something easier.

This bank of shelves is home to my nonfiction. Here, I spent a little while moving some books around, weeding and tidying. The Christmas cards are now gone;
the ancient Tolstoy paperback (the green book on top of the TV) is gone, the CDs are put away with the rest of my CDs and the collection is weeded. This photo was taken mid-project; I had already weeded a bunch of books.

I ended up with a nice new shelf of biographies and travel; history and literary criticism; and a selection of Jewish-studies nonfiction and the stuff that didn't fit anywhere else:

I also weeded a ton of books from all three sections of shelves and made some room for new things. A good day in home library management!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Musing Mondays: Decisive Factors

What element, if a book has it, will make you almost always read that book (and name a book –or books– that contain it)! ((for example: romantic reunions))

There's probably no one factor that guarantees I'll read a book. Lots of things grab my attention- books about France, books about Russia, books about Jewish subjects, or just unusual-looking or interesting-looking literary fiction, especially European. The last two are pretty nebulous and subjective, but it's one of those "I'll-know-it-when-I-see-it" things. Some recent examples include Five Women: Stories by Robert Musil; The Door, by Magda Szabo; Love Burns, by Edna Mazya. Booker Prize winners are a no-brainer and books by favorite authors as well.

Musing Mondays is hosted by Miz B at ShouldBeReading.wordpress.com.

Your regularly scheduled Graphic Novel Monday will return soon.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sunday Salon - What a Nice Summer

I have to say, this has been one of the nicest summers I've had in several years. The weather has been great in New England- hot and humid, yes, but in a good summery way. Summer here is humid- it's a fact of life. To expect otherwise is to court disappointment. And anyways, it's nothing that an ice cream and an air conditioner can't fix. And a good book.

If you're interested, on Tuesday I was interviewed by Carina at Reading Through Life. You can see that post here.

This week's bookish event was a terrific talk by the charismatic Mary Roach at Porter Square Books in Cambridge; it was a standing-room-only event! She talked about her latest book, Packing for Mars, about all the things you never knew you wanted to know about the space program. I saw her at Book Expo promoting the book at the Adult Author Breakfast; she was great then and even better in a smaller-group setting. It was also a mini-reunion of sorts for a bunch of my bookish and/or nerdy friends. Awesome.

Today we're headed to a barbecue for a friend's birthday but I hope to make some tracks in Running the Books and if there's time, I'm going to start Manuel de Lope's book The Wrong Blood, which just looks awesome and has received lots of raves from friends. Should be a great day. I hope you have a great Sunday, too.

More Sunday Salon here.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Reason #10,456 Why Bricks and Mortar Bookstores Beat Online Shopping Hands-Down

A week ago: I placed an order with a large online bookseller for a book unavailable in the US.

A week later, now Day One: I get an email from the bookseller saying my order has been cancelled. No explanation is offered. The email says to respond directly to this email with questions, so that your order number is attached.

I replied to the email and asked why my order was cancelled.

Day Two: I receive an email from the bookseller asking for the order number. I hit reply and copy/paste it from the original email.

Day Three: I receive an email from the bookseller asking me for "the nature of my enquiry." I hit reply and type "I would like to know why my order no.##### was cancelled.

Day Four: I receive a reply from the bookseller stating that my order was cancelled because the book was temporarily out of stock. But the book is now in stock again, and I can re-place my order if I want.

I send an email back saying that there was no reason for it take 3 days to answer a simple question and no need to cancel my order simply because the book was out of stock for all of one or two days, and now thanks to your lousy service I'll give my bookbuying business to a bookseller who can act like they actually want it.

I place an order for the book elsewhere.

Ever have this problem with a bricks and mortar store? I didn't think so.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Friday Finds- I Swear I'm Doing a lot of Weeding, Too!

Some fun things came in this week.

Barnacle Love, about a Portuguese family emigrating to Canada, came for review from Algonquin. It was a finalist for the Giller Prize and looks really good.

Also for review is Five Women, a book of short stories by German writer Robert Musil, from Godine. I've already dipped into it and it looks fabulous. I'm planning to start it today.

Booker Prize winner The Life and Times of Michael K, by the brilliant J.M. Coetzee, arrived via Bookmooch.

I picked up Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil at the library's book sale table. My trip to Florida is now a trip to Beaufort, SC, and we'll be visiting Savannah while we're there.

Finally I've always kind of wanted to read Robertson Davies, so I was glad to get What's Bred in the Bone via Bookmooch.

What came your way this week? Have a great Friday and see more Friday Finds at ShouldBeReading.wordpress.com.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Artist's Bookmaking Week 6

Last week we did hybrid books- combinations of different binding methods. I chose a combination of the accordion and the folio.

I created a longish accordion and mounted it, clumsily, into a folio structure. It came out okay; I think of it as practice for my personal project, which I also started this weekend. I threw it together quickly because I had to leave class a little early to get to the Fall Winedown at the Harvard Book Store.

For homework we were supposed to make another hybrid structure at home; I didn't get around to it but maybe I will later today.

Tonight we'll be learning a little about box-making and continuing to work on practice books and our personal projects.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

REVIEW: The Frozen Rabbi, by Steve Stern

The Frozen Rabbi, by Steve Stern. Published 2010 by Algonquin. Literary Fiction.

I'm at a little bit of a loss as to how to begin my review of Steve Stern's latest novel, The Frozen Rabbi. A novel that combines a fantastical story about an old-world tzaddik who, thanks to long-term cooling technology, winds up the head of a mega-cult in suburban Memphis, with a colorful and entertaining multi-generational immigration story, it's a lot of different things at different points.

It all begins when fifteen year old Bernie Karp, a Memphis teenager from an assimilated Jewish family, finds the crystallized sage in his basement freezer. From here the narrative alternates between the newly-thawed holy man's adventures and the story of how he came to that Memphis basement in the first place.

The reader meets Bernie's great-grandparents Shmerl and Jocheved, shares their unlikely but incredibly sweet love story and the sad adventures of their wayward son Ruby. As the Karp family and its icebound companion winds its way through Europe, America, Israel and back, we also follow the rabbi and Bernie's adventures in the present day. The rabbi adjusts quickly to contemporary Tennessee and prospers, starting a strip-mall new-age counseling center that balloons to a stadium-sized congregation. Not some straight-laced, modest philosophe, this ancient rabbi is an opportunist, a capitalist, and a ladies' man. Bernie, meanwhile, negotiates his relationship with kvetchy teen Lou Ella and becomes absorbed with kaballah, his own out-of-body experiences and his adolescent sexuality.

The Frozen Rabbi is as much fun to read as it sounds. Peppered with Yiddishisms and lively, colorful prose, even as strange as it gets sometimes it's quite delightful. And it does get strange, especially towards the end. I'd recommend it to readers with an interest in Jewish culture and literary readers looking for a walk on the magical-realism side. I really enjoyed following this family's wild adventure, right through one of the most bizarre endings I've ever come across. Stern has written a ribald, earthy and explicit tale about the search for meaning and the ultimate destiny of one family, which seems to be to return to the source from whence it came, but in a way I never expected.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from the publisher.