Posts Tagged ‘book reviews’

Sarah Zettel and the Big Book — Part Two

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bookshelves    I belong to the Subculture of the Book.  In my culture, books are not just containers for words, they are prizes, trophies, and they come with bragging rights.  I have had whole conversations with friends about how many books we own, how many new bookshelves we’ve had to buy; the problem of trying to squeeze one more bookshelf into a small house or apartment; how many individual volumes we own and whether they’re double stacked on those shelves.  We bemoan the difficulties of book storage and management in that particular way that is really kind of closer to bragging than actual regret.  And we always buy more books.  The size of your To Be Read pile is a big part of the Subculture of the Book.
Ebooks have not changed any of this.  That may be because I hang out with fellow geezers, but there you have it.
The Big Book is emblamatic of my culture.  I did buy it because I was curious about the contents.  But I also bought it simply because it was big and beautiful and I wanted it.  Some people do this with shoes or cars.  I do it with books.  And clothes.  But mostly books.
Lately, though, I’ve begun to question the subculture of the Book, and I hate to say, it’s in part because of the Big Book.  It’s turned out to be a good book.  There are parts of it that are really brilliant.  But like I said in my previous post, this Big Book sat on my shelf for years, and it had plenty of company.  That shelf?  Let me show it to you.  It’s six feet tall, four broad and it’s stuffed with books I haven’t read.  And I keep buying more and piling them in.  I mean there’s a TBR pile and there’s hoarding.  If books were cats, the neighbors would have called the humane society by now.
A few years ago, I tried be systematic about things.  I was going to start at the top left of the shelf and read every book in order.  I mean, I bought them, right?  I bought them because I wanted to read them, not just own them right?  What is the point of a book you don’t read?
That effort, I confess failed miserably.  So, there it sat, big and beautiful and completely unread, with all those other beautiful, unread books.
Books are a good thing.  You can never have too many, right?  This is practically the motto of the subculture of the Book.  And yet…and I ask this seriously…what is the point of having more than you can read?
Has counting coup and the luxury of ownership become more important to me than the stories?

Sarah Zettel and The Big Book — Part One

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books and pen graphic    I’m reading a Big Book.  Seriously.  This thing is big.  Douglas-Adams-space-metaphor-level big.  Over 1300 pages long.
It’s called Hunger’s Brides and it’s by a Canadian scholar/author named Paul Anderson.  In part, it’s about a scholar nun in 17th century Mexico named Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz (,  who was a famous poet and thinker and who I’d never heard of.  She also, incidently, fell afoul of the Inquisition.  Wrapped around this is a modern story featuring a couple of literary tropes: the Middle Aged Man who is discovering he’s missed the point of his own life, and the tragic, sexually abused girl.  More about them later.
The Big Book has actually been sitting on my shelf for a long time.  I admit, it came home with me under somewhat shameful circumstances.  I got it on a vulture run.
My town used to have a bookstore in my town called Shaman Drum.  Shaman drum was kind of arty, and more than a bit highbrow.  Great poetry section, lots of “literary” novels, and a lot of obscure and scholarly history books I’d never see anywhere else.  This was mostly why I went there.  I’d get a new project going and I’d always drop in at Shaman drum to see what they had on the relevant area of science, history or politics.
This was where I first saw The Big Book.  It was hard to miss.  It had a lovely cover, all black and terracotta, and took up as much shelf space as 3 regular books.  Plus, it had a little staff recommendation card underneath it, attesting to the fact it was not just any old Big Book but a Good Big Book.  I’m pretty sure I remember picking it up at the time, mostly to marvel that such things were still being published.
Then came the Millenium and all that followed, and like a lot of bookstores, Shaman Drum closed.  With the closing came the sale, and I went, with mixed feelings as I do to such sales.  I want the books, but hate the fact that I’m buying so many because they’re cheap because the store is closing.  I hate the feeling of not just robbing a corpse, but a friend’s corpse.
Well, there I was, trying to sort out which books a) were the most interesting and b) I was least likely to stumble across elsewhere, and there it was — The Big Book.  I could not resist.  It was a lovely book, with a lovely cover, and, in case you haven’t guessed by now, it fed into my fascination with books as artifact.  This one was dramatic.  Big Book came home with the rest of the stack, and went onto the 6 ft. tall Ikea bookcase that is my personal TBR pile.  There it sat, for…years.

News and Reviews for Palace of Spies

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Palace of Spies has picked up some terrific new reviews for its Happy Book Day:

Dandelion Dreams says:  “Sarah Zettel is an amazing storyteller. Her writing is so eloquent, the words flowing easily across the pages making for a quick yet intriguing read. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Peggy and her adventures at court. Peggy’s voice is easy to love and every moment she was being her witty, clever self I found myself liking her more and more. She’s incredibly smart, and rarely ever misses a beat when talking among the royals. The mysteries surrounding Francesca kept me turning the pages and Peggy’s determination to discover just what happened to the girl who was clearly much more than the outward exterior she portrayed for those of her who new her best at court was fascinating.”

Eileen Dandashi says:  “Sarah Zettel wrote a believable mystery and was highly entertaining.  The ratcheting up of intrigue kept me on the edge of my chair! And there were several points it got a chuckle out of me, too. As a reader, I was swept up into the story on the first page.”

And then there’s a bit of an interview with Book Whales.

What Am I Reading?

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twisted wivesMy TBR pile is a 6 ft. tall Ikea bookcase.  Seriously.  And there’s spill over.  It’s got old stuff, new stuff, ancient stuff, stuff from just about every genre, including mainstream/literary, and a load of non-fiction.  Every now and again I make a stab at whittling it down a bit.  Now if there would just stop being so many good books out there…

Well, okay, maybe that wouldn’t be the best way to handle it.

Anyway, as I’m starting the blog up again, I figured to start with talking about what I’m reading lately.  This should be an ongoing bit, hopefully more than occasionally.

The most recent book I’ve finished is TROUBLED DAUGHTERS, TWISTED WIVES.  It’s a collection of short stories by women in a genre that used to get called “domestic suspense.”  It was everyday (mostly) women caught in situations of criminal intent, deceit and murder.  The date on the stories ranges from the 1930s up through the ’70s, and with one exception, I’d never heard of any of the authors.

And it is brilliant.

Not every story is a lost gem.  Some, like “A Nice Place to Stay,” you can see where it’s going, but the ride remains a good one.  Some, you have to like old fashioned prose (which I do).  Others…well, I walked around the corner to meet with my local mystery pusher, erm, seller (Aunt Agatha’s Books) and grabbed up what he had by Elizabeth Sanxay Holding, who is one of the authors I’d never heard of, but am now in love with (again, the writing is old, but the suspense, and the humanity of the characters is amazing).

If you’re a mystery reader, this one is well worth checking out.