Posted in book lists, Books

2021 books I want to read (TBR) list

The new year is the perfect time to set new reading goals! This is my “want to read” list, my “TBR” List, the get off the computer and spend some time reading in the corner of the couch with a cup of coffee and get lost in a land of other worlds. Come along with me, let me know what’s on your TBR list!

Come back often, I will be adding more to this list and also letting you know what I thought of these… (hopefully!)

At the Wolf’s Table: A Novel

by Rosella Postorino

(February 11, 2020)

Summary: Based on a true story, At the Wolf’s Table centers around twenty-six-year-old Rosa Sauer who is conscripted, along with nine other women, to become one of Hitler’s tasters. Resentment and secrets begin to grow as a divide is formed within the group of women: on one side, those who are loyal to Hitler and on the other, those who insist they’re not, even as they risk their lives for him. Soon, everyone begins to wonder if they’re on the wrong side of history.

Want to read this for your book club? Discussion Questions:

ABOUT THE BOOK

They called it the Wolfsschanze, the Wolf’s Lair. “Wolf” was his nickname. As hapless as Little Red Riding Hood, I had ended up in his belly. A legion of hunters was out looking for him, and to get him in their grips they would gladly slay me as well.

Germany, 1943: Twenty-six-year-old Rosa Sauer’s parents are gone, and her husband Gregor is far away, fighting on the front lines of World War II. Impoverished and alone, she makes the fateful decision to leave war-torn Berlin to live with her in-laws in the countryside, thinking she’ll find refuge there. But one morning, the SS come to tell her she has been conscripted to be one of Hitler’s tasters: three times a day, she and nine other women go to his secret headquarters, the Wolf’s Lair, to eat his meals before he does.

Forced to eat what might kill them, the tasters begin to divide into The Fanatics, those loyal to Hitler, and the women like Rosa who insist they aren’t Nazis, even as they risk their lives every day for Hitler’s. As secrets and resentments grow, this unlikely sisterhood reaches its own dramatic climax, as everyone begins to wonder if they are on the wrong side of history.

THE DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

Though she risks her life every day for Hitler, Rosa claims not to be a Nazi. Do you agree? How is her involvement in the war similar to or different from her husband Gregor’s, who enlisted to fight?


Rosa imagines her father telling her: “You’re responsible for any regime you tolerate. … Each person’s existence is granted by the system of the state in which she lives, even that of a hermit, can’t you understand that? You’re not free from political guilt, Rosa.” Do you agree? How does this novel address the idea of collective guilt in Germany? Are any of the characters innocent?


Rosa never meets Hitler, but his presence hangs over the entire novel. What role does he play in the story? Discuss the different ways in which the characters view him.


Rosa compares herself to Little Red Riding Hood, and Hitler to the wolf: “I had ended up in his belly. A legion of hunters was out looking for him, and to get him in their grips they would gladly slay me as well.” Do you think the comparison holds up? Are there other fairy-tale elements to Rosa’s story?


Rosa describes her love with Gregor as either “a mouth that doesn’t bite, or the opportunity to unexpectedly attack the other, like a dog that turns against its master.” What does she mean? How do we see that duality—safety and danger—in her relationships throughout the novel?


Rosa keeps secrets from her loved ones from a very early age. She says of her childhood relationship with her mother: “My pain at the wrong I had done to her was so great that the only way to bear it was to love my mother less, to say nothing, to keep it a secret. The only way to survive my love for my mother was to betray that love.” Discuss that apparent paradox. How else do secrets shape Rosa’s life and relationships?


Rosa tells us: “The ability to adapt is human beings’ greatest resource, but the more I adapted, the less human I felt.” What do you think she means? How does this novel address sacrifice and survival?


Rosa never asks Albert directly about his experience at the concentration camps: “I was afraid and couldn’t speak and didn’t want to know.” What do you make of their relationship? What draws them together and keeps them apart? Do you consider Albert a villain in this story? Does Rosa’s romantic involvement with him make her guilty or culpable in some way?


Rosa argues, “There’s no such thing as universal compassion—only being moved to compassion before the fate of a single human being.” Do you think there’s any truth to that? How does the novel either bear out or contradict that statement?


Much of this novel is about female friendship. What is the nature of Rosa’s relationships with the other tasters? How does her outsider status, as a Berliner rather than a villager, play a role? How does this novel address issues of class and status, particularly through Rosa’s friendship with the Baroness?


Yellow Wife: A Novel

by Sadeqa Johnson

(January 21, 2021)

Summary: Called “simply enchanting” by New York Times bestselling author Lisa Wingate, this harrowing story follows an enslaved woman forced to barter love and freedom while living in the most infamous slave jail in Virginia.

Want to read this for your book club? Discussion Questions:

ABOUT THE BOOK

Born on a plantation in Charles City, Virginia, Pheby Delores Brown has lived a relatively sheltered life. Shielded by her mother’s position as the estate’s medicine woman and cherished by the Master’s sister, she is set apart from the others on the plantation, belonging to neither world.

She’d been promised freedom on her eighteenth birthday, but instead of the idyllic life she imagined with her true love, Essex Henry, Pheby is forced to leave the only home she has ever known. She unexpectedly finds herself thrust into the bowels of slavery at the infamous Devil’s Half Acre, a jail in Richmond, Virginia, where the enslaved are broken, tortured, and sold every day. There, Pheby is exposed not just to her Jailer’s cruelty but also to his contradictions. To survive, Pheby will have to outwit him, and she soon faces the ultimate sacrifice.

THE DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

When Pheby is moved to work in the house for Missus Delphina, she has a moment where she sits in Missus Delphina’s chair and uses her hairbrush. She looks in the mirror and muses “with a little rouge and a proper gown, I could fit in like a member of the family.”Why would Pheby want to fit in like a member of the family? In what ways did this scene foreshadow what would happen to Pheby in adulthood?


Why do you think Miss Sally took an interest in Pheby? In what ways do you think that her influence affected Pheby’s personality and outlook on her future predicaments?


When Pheby is serving dinner to Master Jacob and Missus Delphina, she is instructed to stand against the wall and pretend not to listen. She says, “Mama always said the way to keep peace with white folks was to be available and invisible at the same time.” How does this resonate with modern times and what are the current socio-political implications of this?


Though Missus Delphina is aware that Pheby is Master Jacob’s daughter, she seems to take her wrath out on Pheby rather than her mother Ruth.Why do you think this is?


In the novel, children are portrayed oftentimes as either a source of joy for a family, a blessing or a source of sorrow and tragedy.There are many scenes of mothers losing children in a myriad of ways. Discuss the sacrifices enslaved mothers had to make during this time in history.


Compare and contrast Pheby and Essex’s treatments as a man and woman within the institution of slavery. In what way was their different modes of survival different based on their genders?


What was it about Pheby that made the Jailer choose her? Even when he fathered children with other enslaved women, why do you think he chose to keep Pheby as the mistress of the jail?


Many times, Pheby wants Monroe to speak “properly” like her. Monroe is afraid to do so in case he is punished for it. She says to him: “People will judge you on the way that you speak.” To which Monroe responds: “Silver-head man did not like me speaking like white folk…told me to watch my uppity ways.” Discuss speaking styles such as improper or proper ways of speaking and what it means for Monroe and Pheby’s survival. In what ways does the way we talk or how we use language define us?


Pheby is anything but a damsel in distress.Where do you think her strength and resilience comes from? How do you think she endures her life with the Jailer in the parts of her story we don’t get to know?


Pheby describes the Jailer as looking at her with love in his eyes. Historians of slavery, particularly black feminist historians, have fiercely contested narratives (both fiction and nonfiction) that encourages such an interpretation, insisting that there could be no love between master and enslaved. Most see these “romantic” relationships as simply rape. What are your thoughts on their relationship? Could the Jailer, as Pheby’s oppressor, actually love her?


What were the dangers of Pheby’s daughters passing as white women in post-bellum society? Why do you think Birdie chose to stay with her mother and to not pass for white? Compare and contrast Birdie and Hester’s childhood and personalities and why they chose their own separate paths.


The Starless Sea

by Erin Morgenstern

(2019)

“What if, when you were at that age when you fall down rabbit holes or you find your door to Narnia, you didn’t take that opportunity when it was given? What if you didn’t follow that rabbit down the rabbit hole? Does that rabbit haunt you years later? Do you still think about the rabbit?” —Erin Morgenstern

In her follow-up to The New York Times bestselling novel, The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern’s The Starless Sea tells a timeless love story set in a secret underground world — a place of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a starless sea. 

Summary: Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks.

As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood.

Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues—a bee, a key, and a sword—that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library hidden far below the surface of the earth.

What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians—it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead.

Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also of those who are intent on its destruction.

Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose—in both the mysterious book and in his own life. (From the publisher.)

Want to read this for your book club? Discussion Questions:

Discussion Questions

1. Talk about the underground realm of the Starless Sea. How would you describe the library to someone who has never read the book?

2. Three of the book’s most prominent symbols, in a book full of them, are a sword, a key, and a bee. What is the role each symbol plays in the book and what does each signify, or represent?

3. One of the novel’s central ideas is that we are our stories. How does this theme unfold during the course of the story?

4. (Follow-up to Question 3) In what way is this book about Zachary’s life story—that as a child he made a choice not to open a magical door? What does he learn throughout this book about how that decision altered his life? What about turning points in your own life. Do you think back on some of them and wonder how a different decision might have led you on a completely different path?

5. (Follow-up to Question 4) The novel asks the question, if a single decision can alter the direction of our lives, to what degree are we in charge of our own stories/lives? Are our lives subject to fate, or destiny?

6. In what way is The Starless Sea also about how stories take over our lives? Zachary, for instance is presented with “a labyrinthine of tunnels and rooms filled with stories.” How can he (or we) not be drawn in?

7. Morgenstern has packed her novel with literary allusions. Even Zachary’s own name contains three of them. Can you unpack others: consider works by Lewis Carroll, Neil Gaiman, J.K. Rowling. J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Jules Verne. Can you identify others? Are the literary references clever “affectations,” or do they actually affect the plot of the novel?

8. Which of the mysterious characters were you most puzzled by… intrigued by… or drawn to? Take any one of the following, for instance: Rhyme, the Keeper, Mirabel (is she Fate…or is she the Moon?), Allegra, Eleanor, and Simon. Any others?

9. Zachary observes at one point that reading a novel is like “playing a game where all the choices have been made for you ahead of time by someone who is much better at this particular game.” Care to comment on that statement?

10. What was your experience reading The Starless Sea? Was it what you had hoped for? More than you’d hoped for? Less? Did you find yourself entering a world of enchantment… or a cluttered, confusing world? In other words, were you pleased or disappointed? How would you compare this book to Morgenstern’s first, The Night Circus?


The Vanishing Half: A Novel

by Brit Bennett

(June 2, 2020)

Summary: “The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett is one of the most talked about books of the year — a stunning page-turner about twin sisters, inseparable as children, who ultimately choose to live in two very different worlds: one black, and one white. It’s a powerful story about family, compassion, identity and roots.

ABOUT THE BOOK

An Instant #1 New York Times Bestseller and GOOD MORNING AMERICA Book Club Pick! 

From The New York Times-bestselling author of The Mothers, a stunning new novel about twin sisters, inseparable as children, who ultimately choose to live in two very different worlds, one black and one white.

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?

Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.

THE DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

The title of this novel is The Vanishing Half. Why do you think the author selected that title?


Stella and Desiree Vignes grow up identical and, as children, inseparable. Later, they are not only separated, but lost to each other, completely out of contact. What series of events and experiences leads to this division and why? Was it inevitable, after their growing up so indistinct from each other?


When did you notice cracks between the twins begin to form? Do you understand why Stella made the choice she did? What did Stella have to give up, in order to live a different kind of life? Was it necessary to leave Desiree behind? Do you think Stella ultimately regrets her choices? What about Desiree?


Consider the various forces that shape the twins into the people they become, and the forces that later shape their respective daughters. In the creation of an individual identity or sense of self, how much influence do you think comes from upbringing, geography, race, gender, class, education? Which of these are mutable and why? Have you ever taken on or discarded aspects of your own identity?


The town of Mallard is small in size but looms large in the personal histories of its residents. How does the history of this town and its values affect the twins and their parents; how does it affect “outsiders” like Early and later Jude? Do you understand why Desiree decides to return there as an adult? What does the depiction of Mallard say about who belongs to what communities, and how those communities are formed and enforced?


Many of the characters are engaged in a kind of performance at some point in the story. Kennedy makes a profession of acting, and ultimately her fans blur the line between performance and reality when they confuse her with her soap opera character. Barry performs on stage in theatrical costumes that he then removes for his daytime life. Reese takes on a new wardrobe and role, but it isn’t a costume. One could say that Stella’s whole marriage and neighborhood life is a kind of performance. What is the author saying about the roles we perform in the world? Do you ever feel you are performing a role rather than being yourself? How does that compare to what some of these characters are doing? Consider the distinction between performance, reinvention, and transformation in respect to the different characters in the book.


Desiree’s job as a fingerprint analyst in Washington DC is to use scientific methods to identify people through physical, genetic details. Why do you think the author chose this as a profession for her character? Where else do you see this theme of identity and identification in the book?


Compare and contrast the love relationships in the novel –Desiree and Early, Stella and Blake, and Reese and Jude. What are their separate relationships with the truth? How much does telling the truth or obscuring it play a part in the functionality of a relationship? How much does the past matter in each case?


What does Stella feel she has to lose in California, if she reveals her true identity to her family and her community? When Loretta, a black woman, moves in across the street, what does she represent for Stella? What do Stella’s interactions with Loretta tell us about Stella’s commitment to her new identity?


Kennedy is born with everything handed to her, Jude with comparatively little. What impact do their relative privileges have on the people they become? How does it affect their relationships with their mothers and their understanding of home? How does it influence the dynamic between them?



Posted in book lists, Books, Friday Fun

Friday Fun ~ Questions for Bibliophiles: Name the book that…

I found this list of questions at Captivated~by~Fantasy, and thought I would ask you to answer them!  It is the Harry Potter Book Tag, but don’t feel as  though you have to keep it to the Harry Potterverse to answer.

potterspells

 Flagrate

A book that you found interesting but would like to rewrite

 Alohomora

The first book in a series that got you hooked

Accio 

A book that you wish you could have right now

Avada Kedavra

A killer book

Confundo

A book you find confusing

Expecto Patronum

Your spirit animal book

Sectumsempra

A dark, twisted book

Aparecium

A book that surprised you in a great way

Harry Potter Spells Image courtesy of Harry Potter Amino
Posted in book lists, Books, From The Editor's Desk, Writing

Umberto Eco and the Anti-library

umbertoeco
Umberto Eco image courtesy of Brain Pickings 

 

“The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore, professore dottore Eco, what a library you have! How many of these books have you read?” and the others – a very small minority – who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you don’t know as your financial means, mortgage rates and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menancingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an anti-library.”

― Nassim Nicholas Taleb
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable Fragility

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My anti-library Kindle list

Taleb’s book is part of my anti-library, ironically enough.

Taleb’s quote above fascinated me, and I bought the book to read, but with the editing business going strong and the fact-checking side of the house prepping for the next issue of Genome Magazine, it’s on my TBR pile.  The good news is, now that school has resumed, perhaps the TBR pile can be dug into, perhaps at the beach?

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s  The Theory of Colours

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I have done some research on color theory and psychology, and my colors around the world blog post utilizing this as a reference. One of Goethe’s most radical points was a refutation of Newton’s ideas about the color spectrum, suggesting instead that darkness is an active ingredient rather than the mere passive absence of light.

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Light and darkness, brightness and obscurity, or if a more general expression is preferred, light and its absence, are necessary to the production of color… Color itself is a degree of darkness. 

 

Leon Leyson’s The Boy on the Wooden Box

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The Boy on the Wooden Box is on my Kindle since my son Jason went to hear Leon Leyson’s widow, Lis, speak on Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Fullerton Public Library. Leon Leyson was the youngest person ever saved by Oskar Schindler.  He was #289 on Schindler’s List. Be sure to read Jason’s take on Lis Leyson’s speech.

As a history major in my undergrad days, this time period has always had a deep impact on me. I am sure it will be eye-opening and emotional.

I’m reminded of Marlon Brando’s famous Playboy interview with Lawrence Grobel, in which he says that he used to read all the time, but finally stopped because information was of no use to him. Grobel interviewed him on his island in Tahiti; Brando told him that he no longer read anything except Shakespeare. Everything that was worth knowing was contained in Shakespeare. Brando said:

070936-glossy-black-icon-alphanumeric-quote-close1I used to read an awful lot. Then I found that I had a lot of information and very little knowledge. I couldn’t learn from reading. I was doing something else by reading, just filling up this hopper full of information, but it was undigested information. I used to think the more intelligence you had, the more knowledge you had, but it’s not true. Look at Bill Buckley; he uses his intelligence to further his own prejudices. Why one reads is important. If it’s just for escape, that’s all right, it’s like taking junk, it’s meaningless. It’s kind of an insult to yourself. Like modern conversation–it’s used to keep people away from one another, because people don’t feel assaulted by conversation so much as silence. People have to make conversation in order to fill up this void. Void is terrifying to most people. We can’t have a direct confrontation with somebody in silence–because what you’re really having is a full and more meaningful confrontation.

 

Epictetus’ The Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness 

the-art-of-living

Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle:

070936-glossy-black-icon-alphanumeric-quote-close1Some things are within our control, and some things are not. It is only after you have faced up to this fundamental rule and learned to distinguish between what you can and can’t control that inner tranquility and outer effectiveness become possible.

Epictetus‘ (c. AD 55 – 135) influential school of Stoic philosophy, stresses that human beings cannot control life, only their responses to it, keeping the focus on progress over perfection, on accomplishing what can be accomplished and abandoning unproductive worry over what cannot.

What’s on your Anti-Library List? 

Let me know either by commenting here, or on twitter @bookdoctordara.

Posted in book lists, Books

IMO… 12 Black Authors Everyone Should Read

A friend posted about a novel quiz he took and realized that he didn’t know any of the Black Authors. He asked for suggestions as to what he should read.  This got me thinking, and I thought I would share my reply. Bear in mind, this is MY OPINION. Let me know in the comments below of any that you recommend.

Richard Wright’s Black Boy and Native Son.


Frederick Douglass’ memoir, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave

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Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

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James Baldwin’s Go Tell it on the Mountain and Notes of a Native Son (set during the civil rights movement)


Octavia Butler’s Kindred

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W.E.B Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folks

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Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man

Invisible_Man

Alex Haley’s Roots, The Saga of an American Family and The Autobiography of Malcolm X


Langston Hughes’ Not without laughter

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Did you know? The play A Raisin in the Sun by playwright Lorraine Hansberry was named for a line from a Langston Hughes poem.

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Harlem
      Does it dry up
      like a raisin in the sun?
      Or fester like a sore—
      And then run?
      Does it stink like rotten meat?
      Or crust and sugar over—
      like a syrupy sweet?
      Maybe it just sags
      like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

 

Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God 

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Toni Morrison’s Beloved

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BONUS:
Ta-Nehisi Coates is an editor and writer for The Atlantic. I mentioned him in my Just the Facts… About Fact-Checking blog post.

Also … Both Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison are mentioned in my Literary Arts Postage Stamp series of posts on the blog. Feel free to go take a look at them.

For Further Reading:

10 Black Authors Everyone Should Read by PBS.org. This has little biographies and blurbs on most of the authors I listed above, and a few that I didn’t know about.

22 Contemporary Authors You Absolutely Should be Reading by Isaac Fitzgerald

Posted in book lists, Books, In the News

Friday Recap: Literary In the News

I decided today would be a good day to do a “Literary Recap: In the News”. There were so many good articles this week on various literary things, that I couldn’t resist the opportunity to let you see my top four.

Let’s begin with Maurice Sendak… 

Let the Wild Rumpus start! Today is Maurice Sendak’s birthday, June 10th.  He would have been 88.

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“Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters — sometimes very hastily — but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, “Dear Jim: I loved your card.” Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, “Jim loved your card so much he ate it.” That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.”

Continue with William Gibson… 

5 Essential William Gibson Reads

Neuromancer (1984) was one of the best books I ever heard on audiotape (back in the day before Audible). When my husband and I were driving across country, we sat in the parking lot of the hotel for an hour and a half because we were so into Neuromancer and didn’t want to wait until the next day to hear the rest.

neuromancer


Follow that with Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time…

About Pysanky, the Hand-Drawn Style of The Wheel of Time: Patterns of the Wheel

If you are a fan of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series, (and who isn’t?), check out the Coloring Art based on Jordan’s The Wheel of Time by Amy Romanczuk.

 

Pysanky, a word derived from the Ukrainian word “to write”, are created using a wax-and-dye resist process similar to batik, though on eggshell instead of cloth.

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Copyright 2016 Amy Romanczuk

Download a print version of this page here if you would like copies for you and your family! (PDF is 1.2 MB.)

Finally: BookMarks: Answer to Rotten Tomatoes? …

LITHUB’S BookMarks: The Book World’s Answer To Rotten Tomatoes?

LitHub has launched BookMarks, a site developed as the book world’s answer to Rotten Tomatoes. Once a book has been reviewed three times by an “important outlet of literary journalism,” those reviews are aggregated, fed through a rubric, and a grade given. It could be a really handy tool for those who like to know what the book world is thinking about a book without taking the time to read through all of the (often problematic) reviews.

Literary Hub- BookMarks

Happy Reading! 

Note: Newspaper Cuts image courtesy of Emily Huff at ATextures
Posted in book lists, From The Editor's Desk

What’s On Your Bookshelf?

IMG_4987With yet another book arriving in the mailbox this week, I was thinking …  What are your indispensable “go-to” books for your craft? There are certain books I always have open bookmarked to certain pages, or they fall open to the proper page since I have opened them enough that the binding is broken to that spot. [It makes me sad, as a bibliophile, when that happens … but, that’s a different blog post ].

The latest addition to the bookshelf for me is that little book on the top of the stack, Sarah Harrison Smith’s The Fact Checker’s Bible — A Guide to Getting it Right.

Now you are wondering, why these books? Why are they my essentials? Here is why.

 

41DHFqpNjkL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_ The Copyeditor’s Handbook —A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications
Amy Einsohn

Einsohn’s book is a perfect companion to The Chicago Manual of Style, for me. It emphasizes the practical, how-to be a real-life copyeditor:  punctuation, grammar issues, reference books, and on-screen editing; it is 550 pages of valuable knowledge.  It gives you exercises to keep your editor’s red pen sharp. My copy is highlighted and marked up on various segments that I keep going back to on a regular basis.

…[A] copyeditor must read the document letter by letter, word by word, with excruciating care and attentiveness. In many ways, being a copyeditor is like sitting for an English exam that never ends: At any moment, your knowledge of spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage, syntax, and diction is being tested.

 

41M6DLO-CFL._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_The Associated Press Stylebook 2015
Associated Press

Required for journalism students and essential in print journalism (except for The New York Times which has its own stylebook in place), AP Stylebook provides consistent guidelines for content continuity from many writers, editors, and publishers working together. Grammar, punctuation, and language usage are all covered, including consistency, clarity, accuracy and brevity.

AP Stylebook also has an online version, which is peppered with topical guides such as the 2016 Election Guide: Political Titles, Terminology, Institutions and Key Events.

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression513vzjIHIOL._SX348_BO1,204,203,200_
Angela Ackerman

Do you ever find yourself using the same phrase over and over again to describe what your character is feeling? This book by Angela Ackerman will help you  find physical, internal and mental cues for all the emotions you might need in your writing. It also helps me find the right word or phrase to help vary your manuscript and make a stronger statement, to connect with your reader.
For example, Impatience.

  • Clicking one’s fingernails against a table
  • Narrowing eyes, a look of intense focus that can be mistaken for anger
  • A sharp tone, using as few words as possible to answer
  • Attention that snaps toward small sounds or movement
  • Complaining to others or mumbling under one’s breath: “Where is he?” or “What is taking so long?”
  • Fussing with one’s appearance (brushing lint from a sleeve, applying lip gloss)
  • Feeling exhausted or strained to the limits

 

41QY5MTRQQL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_The Fact Checker’s Bible — A Guide to Getting It Right
Sarah Harrison Smith

This is my latest acquisition for the bookshelf.  Smith used to be a fact-checker for the New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine, and is now teaching at John Hopkins University. This is an essential guide to the neglected task of checking facts, no matter what the source.  In this day and age of information overload, we need to be able to determine the reliability of what we read. In the back is a helpful list of resources in subjects ranging from wine to films.

 

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Garner’s Modern American Usage
Brian A. Garner

David Foster Wallace said in his essay Democracy, English and the Wars over Usage, “Garner’s dictionary is extremely good…its format… includes entries on individual words and phrases and expostulative small-cap MINI-ESSAYS.But the really distinctive and ingenious features of A Dictionary of Modern American Usage involve issues of rhetoric and ideology and style.”[1]

For my editing purposes, it covers usage, pronunciation, and style: troublesome words and phrases— imply vs. infer; word entries that clarify two terms (site, sight); the 9-page Punctuation, from Apostrophe to Virgule — my favorite section, Punctuation;  Sesquipedality (the use of big words); and the “Language Change Index“— which measures “how widely accepted various linguistic innovations have become.”

 

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The Chicago Manual of Style — The Essential Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers
16th Edition (2010)
University of Chicago

If you are a writer or an editor, you need this book. Either the physical copy, or subscribe to their online service. [Or do both, like I do!].  CMOS online has answered so many questions about rules. Yes, rules. They exist,and CMOS is a wonderful source for learning new rules.
It keeps up-to-date on the latest advances. The sixteenth edition includes publishing electronic publications, web-based content and e-books. I can’t live without their Hyphenation Table, and the updated Unicode numbers for special characters.

Now it’s your turn : What’s on YOUR bookshelf? 

~Footnotes~

1.Wallace, David Foster (April 2001). “Tense Present: Democracy, English, and the Wars over Usage”. Harper’s Magazine. Harper’s Magazine Foundation. http://instruct.westvalley.edu/lafave/DFW_present_tense.html

Posted in book lists

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

Happy 112th birthday to Dr. Seuss! Here are a few of my favorite books and quotes in honor of his birthday.  What are yours? Leave me a comment.

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“Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!”

– Happy Birthday to You! (1959)

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One of my favorites!

The royal magicians arrive chanting a rhyme that ends with “Our magic can do anything.” The king makes a wish to have something new fall form the sky and when he asks the magicians what they will make they speak one word together.

“Oobleck.”

When the King asks what it will look like they reply:

“Won’t look like rain. Won’t look like snow.

Won’t look like fog. That’s all we know. 

We just can’t tell you any more.

We’ve never made oobleck before.”

– Bartholomew and the Oobleck (1949)*

*Note: Look below for the Oobleck recipe to make at home!

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A person’s a person, no matter how small

– Horton Hears a Who (1954)

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Until neither the Plain nor the Star-Bellies knew whether this one was that one … or that one was this one or which one was what one … or what one was who.

– The Sneetches and Other Stories (1961)

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The family will tell you, this is my all time favorite Dr. Seuss book.  They wouldn’t be wrong.

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UNLESS… someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s NOT.

– The Lorax (1971)

 

green-slime
Oobleck ingredients

  • 1 part water
  • 1.5 to 2 parts cornstarch
  • Small amount of food coloring (optional)

How To Make Oobleck

  • Start with the water in a bowl and add the cornstarch a bit at a time.
  • Keep stirring until it has a gooey consistency. You may want to use your hands.
  • When the oobleck is just right, slowly add food coloring, if you want. This can be a challenge to get it mixed properly.
  • Play with it.
Oobleck “green slime” image courtesy of Shutterstock 
Posted in book lists

Year of the Monkey 2016

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In honor of Chinese New Year, the Year of the Monkey 2016, here are a few books that you and the family can enjoy reading to celebrate !

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The Paper Dragon
by Marguerite W. Davol

Mi Fei is a humble painter of scrolls. Between each day’s sunrise and sunset, he paints scenes of the gods and their festivals’ portraits of heroes and their deeds. Although the scrolls bring him fame, Mi Fei is content to live in his village, surrounded by people he loves.
But one day a messenger enters the village with terrible news: the dragon Sui Jen has awakened from its hundred years’ sleep and is destroying everything in its path. Someone must find a way to return Sui Jen to its slumber. To the villagers, only one among them is wise enough to confront the scaly beast — Mi Fei.
The power of the artist’s vision and the ever-sustaining nature of love are brought together in Marguerite W. Davol’s beautiful story, strikingly interpreted by Robert Sabuda in a series of gatefold illustrations that convey the storytelling majesty of the Chinese narrative scrollmaker’s art.

61AtpakTExL._SX338_BO1,204,203,200_Where the Mountain Meets the Moon 
by Grace Lin

This Newbery Honor book features magic, adventure, friendship, and even a dragon who can’t fly!

In the valley of Fruitless Mountain, a young girl named Minli lives in a ramshackle hut with her parents. In the evenings, her father regales her with old folktales of the Jade Dragon and the Old Man on the Moon, who knows the answers to all of life’s questions. Inspired by these stories, Minli sets off on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man on the Moon to ask him how she can change her family’s fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest for the ultimate answer.

Grace Lin, author of the beloved Year of the Dog and Year of the Rat, returns with a wondrous story of adventure, faith, and friendship. A fantasy crossed with Chinese folklore, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a timeless story reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz. Her beautiful illustrations, printed in full-color, accompany the text throughout. Once again, she has created a charming, engaging book for young readers.

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Moonbeams, Dumplings & Dragon Boats : A Treasury of Chinese Holiday Tales, Activities & Recipes
by Nina Simonds, Leslie Swartz, and the Children’s Museum, Boston

Filled with delectable recipes, hands-on family activities, and traditional tales to read aloud, this extraordinary collection will inspire families everywhere to re-create the magic of Chinese holidays in their own homes. They can feast on golden New Year’s dumplings and tasty moon cakes, build a miniature boat for the Dragon Boat Festival and a kite at Qing Ming, or share the story of the greedy Kitchen God or the valiant warrior Hou Yi.
This stunning compilation from bestselling cookbook author Nina Simonds and Leslie Swartz of the Children’s Museum, Boston, is the perfect gift for families that have embraced Chinese holidays for generations—and for those just beginning new traditions.

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Sam and the Lucky Money
by Karen Chinn

Sam can hardly wait to go shopping with his mom. It’s Chinese New Year’s day and his grandparents have given him the traditional gift of lucky money–red envelopes called leisees (lay-sees). This year Sam is finally old enough to spend it any way he chooses. Best of all, he gets to spend his lucky money in his favorite place — Chinatown! But when Sam realizes that his grandparents’ gift is not enough to get the things he wants, his excitement turns to disappointment. Even though his mother reminds him that he should appreciate the gift, Sam is not convinced — until a surprise encounter with a stranger. With vivid watercolor paintings, artists Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu celebrate the sights and sounds of festive Chinatown streets. In her picture book debut, author Karen Chinn tells the affecting story of a child who discovers that sometimes the best gifts come from the heart.

51UFjAVVC4L._SY382_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgDim Sum for Everyone
by Grace Lin

In English, dim sum means “little hearts,” or “touches the heart,” but to this young girl, dim sum means delicious. On a visit to a bustling dim sum restaurant, a family picks their favorite little dishes from the steaming trolleys filled with dumplings, cakes, buns, and tarts. And as is traditional and fun, they share their food with each other so that everyone gets a bite of everything.
Just right for young children, Dim Sum for Everyone! celebrates a cultural custom and a universal favorite activity–eating!

 

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Paper Crafts for Chinese New Year
by Randall McGee

Do you want to make your own dancing dragon puppet? Dragon dances are an important part of Chinese New Year celebrations. Follow storyteller Randel McGee as he explores Chinese New Year in Paper Crafts for Chinese New Year. Learn to make a Lai See envelope, shadow puppets, Chinese lantern, and more!

9780671787523_p0_v1_s192x300The Chinese New Year Mystery (Nancy Drew Notebook Series #39)
by Carolyn Keene and Jan Naimo Jones

WHAT’S CHINESE NEW YEAR WITHOUT A DRAGON?
The third-grade classes at Nancy’s school are learning about Chinese culture, and they’ll celebrate the Chinese New Year with a special parade. The highlight of the parade will be a dragon costume. Nancy’s class is making it out of feathers, sequins, gold tassels, and red silk. But right before the big day, the dragon disappears!
Nancy, Bess, and George are in the New Year’s spirit. They’ve enjoyed a delicious feast at the home of their classmate Mari Cheng. She’s even lent the girls special Chinese outfits to wear. But without the dragon, there will be no parade. And that makes Nancy roaring mad!

9781250018687_p0_v1_s192x300My First Chinese New Year
by Karen Katz

Chinese New Year is a time of new beginnings. Follow one little girl as she learns how to welcome the coming year and experience all the festivities surrounding it. Karen Katz’s warm and lively introduction to a special holiday will make even the youngest child want to start a Chinese New Year tradition!

51ZuXmyK7SL._SX423_BO1,204,203,200_Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Chinese New Year: with Fireworks, Dragons, and Lanterns
by Carolyn Otto

For two joyous weeks red is all around. The color represents luck and happiness. Children receive money wrapped in red paper, and friends and loved ones exchange poems written on red paper. The Chinese New Year is also an opportunity to remember ancestors, and to wish peace and happiness to friends and family. The holiday ends with the Festival of Lanterns, as many large communities stage the famous Dragon Dance. Fireworks, parades, lanterns, presents, and feasts: these are some of the joys experienced by all who observe Chinese New Year.

Celebrate Chinese New Year is the latest, timely addition to National Geographic’s popular Holidays Around the World series. With 25 colorful images and a simple, educational text, the book is a lively invitation to revel in this child-friendly, national and international holiday. Carolyn Otto brings the historical and cultural aspects of the Chinese New Year into focus, and young readers experience the full flavor of an event celebrated by over a billion people in China, and countless others worldwide.

isDragon Dance A Chinese New Year Lift the Flap Book
by Joan Holub

It’s Chinese New Year and there are so many fun things to do! Shopping at the outdoor market for fresh flowers, eating New Year’s dinner with the whole family, receiving red envelopes from Grandma and Grandpa, and best of all-watching the spectacular Chinese New Year’s parade! Introduce the customs of Chinese New Year to even the youngest readers with this festive new lift-the-flap book.

61gHub01IAL._SY397_BO1,204,203,200_Bringing In the New Year
by Grace Lin

This exuberant story follows a Chinese American family as they prepare for the Lunar New Year. Each member of the family lends a hand as they sweep out the dust of the old year, hang decorations, and make dumplings. Then it’s time to put on new clothes and celebrate with family and friends. There will be fireworks and lion dancers, shining lanterns, and a great, long dragon parade to help bring in the Lunar New Year. And the dragon parade in our book is extra long–on a surprise fold-out page at the end of the story. Grace Lin’s artwork is a bright and gloriously patterned celebration in itself! And her story is tailor-made for reading aloud.

 

What Chinese zodiac year were you born in? Look below to figure it out.

Rat: 2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960
Ox: 2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961
Tiger: 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962
Rabbit: 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963
Dragon: 2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964
Snake: 2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965
Horse: 2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966
Sheep: 2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967
Monkey: 2016, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968
Rooster: 2017, 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969
Dog: 2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970
Pig: 2019, 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971