Month: March 2016

Bookish Adventures: Library Hopping in Dublin, UNESCO ‘City of Literature’

It’s that time of year – with something like 4 weeks left before AP Exams,  with my seniors in major “senioritis” mode, with spring air in general stifling my students’ motivation to work – and with me majorly  freaking out about everything from a decline in homework completion to [fill in the blank with anything AP Calc related].

Thankfully, it’s also the time of year for Spring Break – and it couldn’t have come at a better time for my poor darlings, because I was really getting to be a bit too much there (huge Spring-Break Packet worth of too much, bless their hearts). Anyway, at first I was going to stay home, sleep, and enjoy the greenery in my new neighborhood outside of the City, but then several things happened: I got a sudden and irrepressible urge to just get out,  DC got waay too hot for my liking (we had almost hit 90F one day before I left), and then I found a cheap direct flight NORTH to a place that promised 40F-degree weather,  and that isn’t a hugely popular destination this time of year (so everything was easy and relatively cheap to book, even at the last minute). (more…)

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Seeley Probes the Depths of Human Denial, Repression, and Addiction in Cambodia Noir, an Electric Debut

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Cambodia Noir by Nick Seeley
Published on March 15, 2016
Scribner
Source: I bought it
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“A high-octane thriller with a heart-stopping conclusion about a mysterious American woman who disappears into the Cambodian underworld, and the photojournalist who tracks her through the clues left in her diary.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia: The end of the line. Lawless, drug-soaked, forgotten—it’s where bad journalists go to die.  Propulsive, electric, and filled with unforgettable characters, Cambodia Noir marks the arrival of a fresh new talent. Nick Seeley is an ambitious, wildly imaginative author and his enthralling debut explores what happens when we venture into dark places…when we get in over our heads…and when we get lost.” Source: Simon & Schuster.

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Review

“She didn’t care about the money… She didn’t care about the story. Or me, or Sam, or even drugs. She didn’t have reasons. She just wanted to see what was in the dark…”

Cambodia Noir reads like a drug-induced frenzy, like falling into an abyss of human depravity, senselessness, unmoored emptiness and despair. Steely’s voice as our protagonist, washed-out journalist Will, is mesmerizing, and offers – for the reader at least – a sobering portrait of how far any of us may fall through a combination of denial, repression, and addiction. Addiction not only to drugs, but to the next blood-curling experience, the next big score (in this case, the Pulitzer-worthy story). (more…)

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All the Birds in the Sky – A Magical Quest to Recover a Relationship with Nature in the Technological Age

birdsAll the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Published on January 26, 2016
Tor Books
Source: I bought it
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“Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn’t expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during middle school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one’s peers and families.

But now they’re both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them… Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together–to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.” Source: MacMillan.

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Review

I love weird books (those that don’t subscribe to conventional formulas or genres, that question boundaries of our perception or “reality”, that refuse to be constricted by reader expectations). And, despite having read reviews for months praising the oddity of All the Birds in the Sky, I still managed to be taken aback by the ways in which this book stands outside – or forges its own – tradition. (more…)

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A Disappointment After All the Hype – Purposeful Obtuseness Ruins The Library At Mount Char

The libraryLibrary at Mount Char by  Scott Hawkins
First Published on June 16, 2015
Paperback First Edition on March 15, 2016
Penguin Random House
Source: theReadingRoom Advanced Readers Program Finished-Copy
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“A missing God.
A library with the secrets to the universe.
A woman too busy to notice her heart slipping away.

Populated by an unforgettable cast of characters and propelled by a plot that will shock you again and again, The Library at Mount Char is at once horrifying and hilarious, mind-blowingly alien and heartbreakingly human, sweepingly visionary and nail-bitingly thrilling—and signals the arrival of a major new voice in fantasy.” Source: Penguin Random House.

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Review

The Library at Mount Char is an odd little fantasy about a tribe of orphaned children being raised in a “library” by Father, an enigmatic cult-like leader (or so it seems at first).

That’s as much positive as I can muster before the “BUTs…” begin spilling out. This is a very popular, highly-rated book, and you may enjoy it. I personally wavered between acceptance and true detestation. Perhaps I just don’t “get it”; feel free to tell me so in the comments. (more…)

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History Repeats Itself – New York Exposed Exposes Modern Political Quandaries

nyexposedNew York Exposed: The Police Scandal That Shocked the Nation and Launched the Progressive Era by Daniel Czitrom
Published on April 29, 2016
Oxford University Press
Source: ARC from Oxford University Press via Netgalley
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“A true-crime New York-based historical thriller featuring a colorful cast of turn-of-the-century figures–Tammany bosses, progressive do-gooders, and all the purveyors of vice and corruption;
the first thoroughly researched, thoughtfully written book about the Lexow investigation.” Source: Oxford University Press.

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Review
You know that book that you just picked up that coincidentally seems to address everything that’s been swirling through your head recently, that is somehow connected to everything else you’ve been reading? Of course, it’s no coincidence, there is no such thing – only opportunities to learn, born of interest and active pursuit.

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David Dyer’s Masterful Historical Retelling of the Titanic disaster: A debut novel?!

midnightThe Midnight Watch: A Novel of the Titanic and the Californian by David Dyer
Published on April 5, 2016
St. Martin’s Press
Source: ARC from St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley
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“As the Titanic and her passengers sank slowly into the Atlantic Ocean after striking an iceberg late in the evening of April 14, 1912, a nearby ship looked on. Second Officer Herbert Stone, in charge of the midnight watch on the SS Californian sitting idly a few miles north, saw the distress rockets that theTitanic fired. He alerted the captain, Stanley Lord, who was sleeping in the chartroom below, but Lord did not come to the bridge. … The Midnight Watch is a fictional telling of what may have occurred that night on the SS Californian, and the resulting desperation of Officer Stone and Captain Lord in the aftermath of their inaction.” Source: St. Martin’s Press.

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Review
So we’ve all heard the story of the sinking of the Titanic (even if our only exposure was through Kate & Leo)- but did you know that the historical record shows that many more lives could have been saved if only a nearby ship, the Californian, had responded to the Titanic‘s distress signals?

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