Wednesday, December 18, 2013

It's Shawl Weather Inside the Library

I spent a semester in college living in Bath, England. When spring break came around, my family visited and we spent the time driving around England and Wales. My mother had an itinerary a mile long and included innumerable historic sites--among them Haworth, home of the Brontës. This was before I spent hundreds of hours thinking about Emily Brontë's poetry for my senior thesis, but I was still very excited to visit the parsonage and walk on the moors where they lived.

While we were there, we also visited a mill where we bought some lovely yarn, which my mother subsequently crafted into the "Charlotte Brontë shawl" (not, as I understand it, something she actually wore but something she might have worn) pictured above. I use it at work when it's particularly cold in the library, and it feels like mom is giving me a nice warm hug.

Thanks, mom. You were so good to me.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Reading Roulette: Eighth Pick

I read a bunch of books last month that were connected to this project when I was working my way through National Book Reading Month. The way things are going, though, this may be the last pick of the year!

The Laughter of Dead Kings, Elizabeth Peters (2008)

Who stole the mummy of King Tut? The brazen crime bears the earmarks of one Sir John Smythe, the international art thief. In fact, John Tregarth is the longtime significant other of Vicky Bliss. Innocent, he vows to clear his name by hunting down the true criminal.

Vicky loses faith. But her boss, Munich Museum director Anton Z. Schmidt, "the finest swordsman in Europe," pays their luxurious way from London to Munich then Cairo, also to defend his own reputation. Once Schmidt deflects his new paramour Suzi, who only wants his body to spy on John, the entourage swells with the Egyptian officials responsible, cousins - wealthy Ashraf and poorer Feisel - plus mummy-expert mistress Saida.

The Arab security guard, then a female middleman, both turn up dead. Dead hands, from her and from Tut, separately accompany notes, his is a ransom demand for millions. Kidnappers, murderers, and danger dog their way.

This is the sixth (and final, presumably) book in the Vicky Bliss series, which was one that my mother and I read with the same enthusiasm. When this book came out a few years after my mom's death, I immediately purchased it, thinking of her. Since then I've found myself unable to sit down and read it, knowing that I can't really share it with her. But I think that maybe it's been long enough. Maybe I can read it for both of us. RIP Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Mertz.

The Last Policeman, Benjamin Winters (2012)

What’s the point in solving murders if we’re all going to die soon, anyway? Detective Hank Palace has faced this question ever since asteroid 2011GV1 hovered into view. There’s no chance left. No hope. Just six precious months until impact.

The Last Policeman presents a fascinating portrait of a pre-apocalyptic United States. The economy spirals downward while crops rot in the fields. Churches and synagogues are packed. People all over the world are walking off the job—but not Hank Palace. He’s investigating a death by hanging in a city that sees a dozen suicides every week—except this one feels suspicious, and Palace is the only cop who cares.

The first in a trilogy, The Last Policeman offers a mystery set on the brink of an apocalypse. As Palace’s investigation plays out under the shadow of 2011GV1, we’re confronted by hard questions way beyond “whodunit.” What basis does civilization rest upon? What is life worth? What would any of us do, what would we really do, if our days were numbered?

I'm pretty sure I came across this as part of my collection development work, and added it to my list. That happens quite a lot.

Old Man's War, John Scalzi (2005)

John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife's grave. Then he joined the army. The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce-- and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So: we fight. To defend Earth, and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding.

Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of humanity's resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Force. Everybody knows that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don't want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You'll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You'll serve two years at the front. And if you survive, you'll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets. John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea what to expect. Because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine--and what he will become is far stranger.

I've seen Scalzi speak at two conferences now, and follow his Twitter feed and blog, but haven't managed to read any of his books yet. That changes now!

Why am I doing this?

Monday, December 2, 2013

#NaBoReMo Recap

After the first week of the National Book Reading Month challenge, I revised my reading goal from 1,500 pages to 5,000 pages. I'm sure you're all wondering if I managed to reach that goal! Here's what I read during the month:

Reading Roulette challenge books:
Persuasion, Jane Austen
For Darkness Shows the Stars, Diana Peterfreund
A Fire Upon the Deep, Vernor Vinge
Renegade Magic, Stephanie Burgis
Stolen Magic, Stephanie Burgis
The Scarlet Pimpernel, Baroness Orczy

Read for fun:
Cursties & Conspiracies, Gail Carriger (ARC)
Like Jazz, Heather Blackmore (e-ARC)
Love Overdue, Pamela Morsi
The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson (audiobook)
Oath of Honor, Radclyffe (ebook)
Finding Home, Georgia Beers
A Rogue by Any Other Name, Sarah MacLean
The Luckiest Lady in London, Sherry Thomas

Still in progress as of 12/1/13:
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (audiobook)
I am Malala, Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb (audiobook)
Across A Star-Swept Sea, Diana Peterfreund

As you can see, many of the books I read were not from my other reading challenge. I decided that in order to read 5,000 pages in thirty days, I was going to allow myself to read whatever I wanted. Unsurprisingly, it turned out that I wanted to read romance novels. This list doesn't include the array of fanfiction I read in November.

The average number of pages for the fourteen books I completed was 346 (thanks, Brandon Sanderson!). In the case of the unfinished audiobooks, I used paper copies to determine what page I had gotten to. After all this, the total number of pages was:

(drum roll)

(still rolling)

(drummer rolling eyes at me)


Deploy the self-cleaning confetti!