Sunday, December 30, 2012

Merry Christmas/Happy Hanukkah/Happy New Year

It's the most wonderful time of the year - no really. I love December, Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, whatever it is you celebrate (and I celebrate most of them with equal love).  I love this time of year because it's the time of year when you get together with family, keep traditions, mourn the loss of old ones, and create new ones. It's been a year of change for me, personally and professionally, and I have nothing but hope for 2013.

My family and friends know me really well - well enough to know that when they're at a loss for what to get me (hell, now even when they aren't) they just get me a gift certificate for books. Seriously, I broke into the triple digits for book gift certificates this year.  I used to get actual books - I'd write a list and divide it up between everyone who liked buying me presents and then they'd pick and choose which books they wanted to get me. We all got over that, and everyone realized just handing me a gift certificate wasn't actually a cop-out.  That's a lie. My best friend actually bought me a real book, but she's allowed because she gets me.

That pile of books you see is part of the pile of books I bought with the big-chain bookstore gift certificates (the used book store ones will require more thought).  Here's the thing: I'm a librarian. I love the library. I really really do. Go to the library, we have books and not books, and movies and tons of awesome stuff. But I love having books - actual books, that I can read more than once, and lend out, and maybe get back and read again. So far one of these books is now arguably my favourite book ever (Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore), I finally replaced JPod (seriously, I've owned about 6 copies of this book and they keep mysteriously disappearing), and sorry library hold list a mile long, I just bought Escape from Camp 14.

So come at me 2013.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Murder at Rosamund's Gate

I love historical fiction. Love, love, love. Ariana Franklin's Mistress in the Art of Death is one of my favourite series, brilliantly written with a fantastic plot.  I've been looking for something to fill the void, and so was excited to get sent this ARC. I also admit, I'm one of those people who generally guesses if I'll like books based on the publisher, and while I admittedly haven't read much of Minotaur, I love St. Martin's Press (no they didn't pay me to say that, I get nothing for it. I mean, feel free to send me books, but really, I won't, and I just generally like them as a publisher).

Anyways, so I was sent A Murder at Rosamund's Gate, and lo, I had my holiday reading. Except I read it before the holidays. Oops.

I think first off I'm guessing they're setting this up as a series, though I could very easily be off in guessing that because the book stands pretty solidly as a stand-alone. Generally I really loved the books. The characters are endearing and well written - Lucy Campion is fun heroine because she's not really a heroine. The other characters aren't just there as props, you get drawn into the class politics that permeated 17th century England (A topic I admittedly can always get behind) and the story itself rather cleverly brings together a murder mystery, socio-economic politics, religious drama (The Quakers are coming!) and the looming of the plague. Calkins does so in a way that doesn't make it seem like she's just throwing it all in because she has to, but really makes it into a wonderful story that doesn't feel at all crammed together. Calkins also clearly is a excellent storyteller with a knack for character writing.

I'd wholeheartedly recommend this book to a pretty wide variety of people - personally I loved it and it both met, and exceeded my expectations of what I wanted from it.

*** I was sent this book by the publisher - all opinions are my own.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Shakespeare Thefts: In Search of the First Folios

So fun facts about me: I great up in Stratford (Ontario, not England) and the Festival was a huge part of basically everyone's lives - your parents worked there (yes, my mom did), you knew someone who did, your family business supported the tourists, or you worked there (yep, I did!) and it was basically non optional that you'd go there as a school and then camp field trip (True story, I saw Alice through the Looking Glass 6 times because of school and various camps) (I also hated it) (Sorry Sarah Polly).  Unlike most elementary schools (or so I hear) we also studied Shakespeare all through grade school- one of the other schools did this whole big thing where they painted pictures, and their teacher re-wrote the plays to be accessible. My slacker school just had us read these books, and watch cartons.

So basically I'm saying that while I'm in no way claiming to be a scholar, I got Shakespeare. My favourite play is Pericles, my favourite character is King Lear and I can explain to you in detail why the Globe, and therein Main Stage have thrust stages. So I was tentatively excited to have won this book, because with great power, comes great responsibility. By that I mean if people find out you're from Stratford, everyone becomes and expert and tells you AT LENGTH everything they know about Shakespeare and blah blah blah. From that, I do know that arguably the First Folio of Shakespeare is one of the most important publications in terms of modern English (the others probably include the King James Bible and a terrifying number of others I'm too tired to be clever about), and I also knew (because this is something we all know in Stratford (you're thrown out if you don't)) that about 1000 copies were printed, and apparently 232 have been accounted for.  We know this, because Eric Rasmussen has a crack team of Folio Hunters. True Story, when I was a kid, I wanted to be on this crack team but then oops I got distracted by something shiny.

But this is a review, so here you go:  Rasmussen formed his team in the mid-90's with the goal of documenting as many surviving copies as possible and determining their provenance - this books is kind of a best of of what his team did. The world they discovered was... fascinating, obsessive and mildly terrifying. I don't really want to get into the stories, because I think that that ruins things, but it includes Cubans, a Pope, a bricklayer and a playboy. I don't really want to get into it, because if you're interested you should just go read it because it's a fun romp through a thoroughly obsessive and mildly insane group of people who are trying to do the impossible because you know that the next copy is hidden in Great Great Aunty Muriel's attic, under a million fur coats and possibly in a trunk that you lost the key to.

So here's the thing. I wouldn't recommend this to someone unless I knew they a) loved shakespeare b) loved anecdotes or c) were really into the tracking of loss of historical record (it's a thing, I promise).  That all being said, I really did enjoy the book. It's a fast read that make me laugh, taught me things about how books are lost, found and faked and generally was clever and interesting. A lot of the problems I've seen people have with it is that the author didn't get into a lot of detail about the stories - Rasmussen kind of flung the story at you, but glossed over the heavy investigative/academic work that you all know they did. I don't actually have an issue with him having done this- and I think it was the right choice. That stuff he glossed over  is intense, and usually not in a way that would be interesting to a lay person reading it. I do admittedly wish he got into a bit more detail with some of the stories I found more interesting, but I think he was going for a kind of overall quick "Hey, this is what we're doing isn't it cool" thing with the book. Basically? Yeah, yeah it is cool.

*** I was sent this book by the publisher- all opinions are my own.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Born Weird

Born Weird is... Weird. I know, I know I'm ridiculously original  with saying that. So clever, people should pay me to write this stuff. So I knew nothing about Kaufman, other than I had heard about him vaguely at the only Toronto literary thing I've been to literally in 3 years when someone told me he was funny.

The thing is, everyone's family is weird.  We all say that, right? I'm pretty sure we all also say "ha ha you think your family is weird, but compared to mine they're normal".  Well folks, we're basically all mad here, and that's kind of the core of Born Weird. Kaufman drags a family who was blessing/cursed/blursed by The Shark (aka Grandma, and really, who's Grandma wasn't a shark?) so they could survive being raised by their too young kind of crazy parents.  Grandma Weird (ok, so to clarify, really, their last name is Weird) decided the blessings-turned-curses need to go, and says she'll get rid of them on the day she dies and her (youngest?) grandchild Angie proceeds to go on a mildly mad-cap journey across Canada and randomly Upliffta (it's a thing. If I explain why it's a thing, I'll ruin the thing, so I'm not ging to explain the thing) to gather her siblings so they will no longer be cursed. Obviously, they all show up, or the curses don't get lifted.  It's a fairy tale guys.

So also hilariously, Goodreads has this on the Fantasy shelf. That confuses me a little, but it does have a princess so I guess I'm ok with it. The book is strange, quirky and full of family drama.  It's a quick read, and  admittedly adorable (though I kind of feel the author will hate I called it adorable) even if it is a little confusing.

*** I was sent this book by the publisher - all opinions are my own.