August 30, 2013

Non-Fiction Discoveries

You might not like going to the doctor, but you don't like being sick either. Of course, in olden times it was often better for your health not to seek medicinal advice ...

The founding fathers of the United States were not only rattled by politics but illness too. This book opens a window into the practice of medicine in the eighteenth century. Not happy with today's health system? Think about how it was back in the days.

Revolutionary Medicine: The Founding Fathers and Mothers in Sickness and in Health (Jeanne E. Abrams)
Publ. September 10th - HC
New York University Press
Caesarean sections used to be performed when baby's or mother's life or health at risk, these days though they are often requested without medical reason. What is causing this trend? Read to find out.

Cut It Out: The C-Section Epidemic in America (Theresa Morris)
Publ. October 1st - HC
New York University Press

Ethical? No. Progressive? Sometimes. Presenting a brief history of human medical experimentation this is a study on a shameful chapter in our history. A non-fiction book for YA readers!

For the Good of Mankind? The Shameful History of Human Medical Experimentation (Vicki Oransky Wittenstein)
Publ. October 1st 2013 - HC
Twenty-First Century Books

August 28, 2013

August 26, 2013

The Curious Reader - Should TBR piles have an expiration date?

First you need to have this book right now. Then it ends up untouched on top of your TBR pile, gathering dust ...

Should TBR piles have an expiration date?

There comes a time in a reader's life when you start feeling like an archaeologist on a dig. Rummaging through your book stacks you constantly find old relics you didn't even know where still there. Granted, there's a certain Kinder-Surprise-flair to this scenario, but it also shows how you're not even close to catching up on your reading.

What's one more in the grand scheme of things?

Before I started blogging I had, on average, thirty unread books nicely stacked next to my bed just waiting to be picked up. Now I'm not going to blame this entirely on having been sucked into the book blogging community, but somehow my current average is, shall we say, slightly higher?

I don't even recall the exact number of unread books I used to own before I took some serious measures of reducing that number. Side note - these measures did not include reading faster! If I had to guess I'd say it must have been around four-hundred or so. That's quite a step forward from a measly thirty books. Looking back now I have no idea how things got out of hand so fast, but apparently they did and no one stopped me.

I'll read it one day! Yeah, right.

One book buying ban which lasted six months, and several book purges later things are looking up again. In fact there's even light able to fall through the windows as book stacks are no longer blocking it. I set myself a limit of how many new books to buy, I got rid of books I no longer see myself reading, and I generally try to steer clear from freebies. As of today I still own roughly 130 unread books, but to me this is quite an improvement. Talk about manageable.

Book buying bans are pretty much self-explanatory, but what's the secret to those book purges I mentioned? Basically, if you don't see yourself reading a novel which you just had to have five years ago, but somehow never got around to reading, you might want to reconsider if it is still a book you actually want to read or not. All those "or not"s have got to go. Period. Not to say that five years constitutes a cut-off date for everyone, but you definitely might want to start with the oldest volumes and work yourself forward. This method sure worked its magic for me, so maybe it'll do for you too!

Read By Date - 31/07/2014

How long have some of your unread books been waiting to finally get read? Have you ever resorted to a book purge to thin out those book piles? What are your secrets to keep those TBR piles at a manageable number?

August 25, 2013

The Reading Files - What's in a cough?

After adventurously going for an upgrade in the Tea & Books Reading Challenge I decided that despite having already reached the highest level in the This isn't Fiction Reading Challenge there's still room to squeeze in a couple non fiction books until the end of the year (and beyond).

Supersense (Bruce M. Hood)

Thoughts. Are we all wired to believe in the supernatural? Religion or paranormal phenomenon, you name it. In fact, the author named it "supersense". As intriguing as the topic might be, I found the execution (maybe inevitably) one-sided and inconclusive. However, I do appreciate the food for thought the author provided!

Conversation starter. More people would rather wear a cardigan that has been dropped in dog faeces and then washed than one that has also been cleaned but worn by a murderer.

Verdict. A half-baked work on the human propensity to believe in the supernatural!

Orwell's Cough (John Ross)

Thoughts. As if writing itself didn't pose enough struggles already, I present to you writers and their maladies. Skilfully setting the scene and allowing a unique retrospect view the author offers fascinating insights into what (most likely) killed 'em off and how their ailments influenced their work. Not your typical biography!

Book quote. "As I warned you I might do, I intend getting married again when I am once again in the land of the living, if I ever am. I suppose everyone will be horrified, but apart from other considerations I really think I should stay alive longer if I were married."
(George Orwell in a letter to Fred Warburg)

Verdict. A must-read for all bibliophiles (and medicine students who long for an entertaining literary trip through history) !

August 23, 2013

Non-Fiction Discoveries

If memory serves me right, my mind never seems to remember the important stuff ...

To be able to dream in the same state of awareness as you experience while wide awake? That's lucid dreaming for you. And let's face it, creating the dreams of your dreams, so to say, is quite appealing.

A Field Guide to Lucid Dreaming: Mastering the Art of Oneironautics (Dylan Tuccillo, Jared Zeizel, Thomas Peisel)
Publ. September 10th 2013 - PBK
Workman Publishing Company

As much as I've heard about Alzheimer, I neither read about the subject before nor do I actually know anyone afflicted with it. Could you get a deeper insight than with a memoir by the daughter sharing her mother's decline in face of this decease?

The Geography of Memory: A Pilgrimage Through Alzheimer's (Jeanne Murray Walker)
Publ. September 3rd 2013 - HC
Center Street

Memory and movies. Memory and literature. Now, this book certainly isn't about how much you recall from the movie/book you just watched/read, but explores the nature of memory in these fields. Sounds intriguing!

The Memory Effect: The Remediation of Memory in Literature and Film (Russell Kilbourn and Eleanor Ty, Ed.)
Publ. August 16th 2013 - HC
Wilfrid Laurier University Press

August 21, 2013

Beyond the Shelf - In the nursery ... (Etsy Edition)

You can never start too early as far as books are concerned. What better way to instill some bookish love in your offspring than by surrounding their rooms with literary decor ...

Play. Smile. Read.

Copyright of all photos belongs to the respective shop owners!

August 19, 2013

The Curious Reader - Do DNFs deserve a rating?

Usually I don't give up that easily, but sometimes there's no way around calling it quits after the first couple pages ...

Do DNFs deserve a rating?

Long gone are the days that I would finish every book I started. I guess from a certain age on, and keeping those vast mountain ranges of unread volumes in mind, one has to pull the line somewhere and why waste precious time on reading a book when each page feels like getting your teeth pulled ... slowly and without anesthesia.

To finish or not to finish that is the question. 

Up until last year I would plow through the worst books and sadly some have stuck to my memory in all their horrific glory more than they could ever deserve. What did all those bad baaad novels have in common? They got a 1-star rating from yours truly. Now, some might say there are books that only deserve zero stars, but I'd like to disagree. If someone sits down and manages to finish a whole book this alone is worth 1 star. The rest is a bonus which an author should definitely aspire to, but let's not digress.

The point is that if a book simply doesn't work for you for whatever reason and you then decide to call it quits after, say, four chapters or maybe 50 pages, how do you rate it? Unfortunately places like Amazon or Goodreads do not offer a DNF option so in lack of it the most obvious choice has to be handing out one measly star. Why? Because if you cannot bring yourself to read straight through to the very last page the book obviously doesn't deserve praise.

Did. Not. Finish.

This raises yet another important question. Should we even rate a book if we never made it to its last page? After all, things might go uphill after chapter 7 and what we felt warranted only 1 star in the beginning might actually climb a few steps to - let me take a deep breath - an unbelievable 3 stars. Of course, in my experience more books will start out promising enough that you could almost believe you'll end up giving it 5 stars only to end up as average for you whilst books who are off to a rather, shall we say, slow start, rarely manage to transform into a true literary gem.

Either way, the moment you decide to quit reading is also the moment you have made up your mind about the book. And let's be honest, even if we did not finish it, we do judge the few pages we've read. So in all fairness the most logical thing might even be to say a certain novel's first half deserves only 1 star and the rest is better left unread because of it.

Oh my star! Singular.

How do rate books you did not finish? Do you give them no stars at all or do you resort to 1 star as I do? Even more so, do you think a book you never finished should consequently not get a rating at all?

August 18, 2013

The Reading Files - Down the Mississippi ...

Surprising myself more than anyone else I decided for an upgrade in the Tea & Books Reading Challenge and will now read two more tomes to reach the Earl Grey Aficionado level. This time I did not pick a super-tome, yet 760+ pages aren't all that shabby either ...

Blood Memory (Greg Isles)

Thoughts. Trying to help solve vicious murders Cat's own private battles soon reveal a horrible connection to those crimes. The story line was truly compelling and certainly not for the fainthearted. Yet somehow I never really warmed up to the heroine and the author's voice is, how to put it, rather bland.

Random quote. "I already know why my father was killed."
"You don't. You don't know anything."
(p. 421)

Verdict. A disturbing thriller of family secrets and incest!

August 16, 2013

Non-Fiction Discoveries

Reading is something you can do lounging lazily about, unless of course it inspires you to get up and get crafty ...

Same old boring picnic party fests? No more, I say, no more! This neat little book offers a whole lot of DIY ideas for celebrations of all kinds, so get creative and party on.

P.S.-You're Invited ... (Erica Domesek)
Publ. September 10th - HC
Atria Books

Look! A book about books, or more precisely, about creating books. And you don't even need to be a big poet or something. Admit it, now your inner bookworm is delighted!

Handmade Books for Everyday Adventures (Erin Zamrzla)
Publ. July 9th 2013 - HC
Roost Books

What can I say? I am a Trekkie at heart. So inevitably my crafty self felt immediately drawn to this book. Scottie? Beam it up!

The Star Trek Craft Book (Angie Pedersen)
Publ. April 30th 2013 - PBK
Pocket Books

2 by 2 Giveaway Winner

The lucky winner of the August 2 by 2 Giveaway is
who picked Faking It!

E-mail is on the way and please get back to me within the next 48 hours!

August 13, 2013

2 by 2 Giveaway

Welcome to the August edition 
of the 2 by 2 Giveaway!

It's time for some sexy beach reads, girls!

Sex, Lies, and Online Dating (Rachel Gibson)
Faking It (Jennifer Crusie)

Once this post goes live you have two days (48 hours) to enter by filling out the form!
Please note: This giveaway is open worldwide, but only for countries TBD offers free shipping to - please check here.

Comments do not count as entries - you must fill out the form!
Following my blog is no requirement, but greatly appreciated.
One entry per person.
Open worldwide.

One winner will be picked through on August 16th and will then be contacted by e-mail as well as announced here on my blog. The winner will have 48 hours to respond and if he/she fails to do so I will draw a new winner.

August 12, 2013

The Curious Reader - How are you showing off your bookish love?

There are those who simply like to read and there are those who make it their lifestyle ...

How are you showing off your bookish love?

Carrying around a book where ever you go is probably the best and most obvious proof that you like to get your read on, but there are many other ways to show your love for them. Extreme cases involve building a house that looks like a giant bookshelf or maybe even painting your car to look like a reading chair on wheels. Of course there are other, more subtle ways too.

I love books and books love me.

Now I'm not saying that the idea of a tank top with a Girl on Fire print isn't a cute idea, it's just not something I'd personally wear. Come to think of it, I don't recall ever wearing clothes that had some kind of literary source. Unless you count the Gary Larson shirt I used to own years ago which featured barbecuing cows (I'm weird, I know). Not exactly literature, but his cartoons did get published as books. Either way, it might not be my idea of showing my love for certain novels, but I know others are into bookish garments.

A bit more like me would be a tote bag with a catchy phrase or quote. Think along the lines of Keep Calm & Read On or the all-time favorite Reading is Sexy. Plus, it's practical too. You may use it for grocery shopping, but preferably for hauling home some tomes from your latest book store excursion.

Forget food, I need more books.

While these examples are just the more obvious ones, you can also go for stuff that screams I'm a Book Nerd with, say, a thermos that prominently displays your adoration for Game of Thrones or you could even settle for a scene out of your favorite Shakespeare play tattooed on your back. Possibilities are endless (and obviously not always painless) as is the imagination of the author.

The interesting question would be if this is just an extension of your love for a book and/or author or whether it's taking your literary passions a tad too far. Personally I'm the kind of gal who will simply resort to being a reader and has no intention of building a Harry Potter shrine in the living room or transform the garden into a place where Hobbits would want to live. Apparently I'm not a bookish show-off. Besides, it's certainly not equal to the necessity of enjoying a book itself, not to me anyway. Of course, one fine day I might wake up and feel the need to get some cute little bookish decals on my toenails. When that moment arrives, I'll definitely share a pic or two of my tootsies *wink*.

To thine own self be true.

Are you into literary accessories and decorations? Ever worn a Mr. Darcy T-shirt or put a Hunger Games bumper sticker on the car? Or maybe reading a book is enough for you and you don't feel the need to dress/style yourself and/or your surroundings?

August 11, 2013

The Reading Files - You know it's summer when ...

... it's hot and steamy and you're not even reading a romance novel. In this particular case however high temps and sexy reads kinda mixed. And please don't let the fact that I only read one book this week fool you. I have in the meantime decided to level up in the Tea & Books Reading Challenge and got started on my next tome Blood Memory (Greg Isles) which "only" sports a measly 760+ pages which should be a walk in the park compared to the tomes I previously trudged through.

A Talent for Sin (Lavinia Kent)

Thoughts. Three times widowed another marriage is the last thing Violet wants though her young lover heartily disagrees. Quivering bodies and devouring kisses bridge the gap from sweet to sultry, resulting in both a diverting and undemanding read which is perfect for those who like romantic fluff.

Last line. She wanted to protest, but as his warm tongue hit spots his breath had prepared, she rather thought they would do things his way - at least for now.

Verdict. Cliched yet enjoyable historical romance!

August 9, 2013

Non-Fiction Discoveries

It's not all about reading. In fact, where would we be if somebody hadn't at first written ...

It all starts with the first sentence, obviously. Admittedly none of my stories start with weather observations along the lines of "It was a dark and stormy night ...", though I bet that's not all there is to learn.

Building Great Sentences: How to Write the Kinds of Sentences You Love to Read (Brooks Landon)
Publ. June 25th - PBK

Stephen King hasn't been the first, and apparently not the last either, to talk about the writing craft. While I never read Mr. King, why not go straight for the confusingly enough similar title by this Scottish writer?

On Writing (A.L. Kennedy)
Publ. March 7th 2013 - HC
Vintage Publishing

If it weren't for my obsession to read about writing, the gorgeous cover alone would have lured me in. A memoir of the writing life wrapped in such a lovely package, how could I ever resist?

Still Writing: The Pleasures and Perils of a Creative Life (Dani Shapiro)
Publ. October 1st 2013
Atlantic Monthly Press

August 7, 2013

Beyond the Shelf - In the kitchen ... (Etsy Edition)

After last week's excursion into a bookish bedroom it's time for a midnight snack, 'cause that book you're currently reading will certainly keep you up all night ...

To eat, to drink, to read.

Copyright of all photos belongs to the respective shop owners!

August 5, 2013

The Curious Reader - How trustworthy are 5-star-rating bloggers?

We all love books, but ultimately some readers are more enthusiastic about their books than others ...

How trustworthy are 5-star-rating bloggers?

First things first. I don't trust people who are happy and smiling all the time. Equally I don't trust people who claim to love every single book they read and praise it to high heavens. I know, I might appear awfully prejudiced with that statement, but I'm fairly certain I'm not the only one who feels this way. Loving every book you read is like saying you love every food you eat. Even if you couldn't live without, say, yogurt don't tell me you never ate one that had some kind of funky aftertaste. Well, maybe you just gobbled faster to be done with it, but claiming it tasted fabulous afterwards is taking things a bit far. Same thing with books and ratings.

Just because there are 5 stars available, doesn't mean you need to use them all at once.

Once there was this blog (its name shall remain unmentioned) that I decided to follow, because it focused on one of my favorite genres. Half a dozen raving reviews later suspicion started nipping at my reading nerve and I browsed through said blogs archives to check whether my inkling had been right. In short, it was. I found an astounding pool of books that, apparently, all deserved a 5-star rating, with a select few 4-star ratings thrown in for good measure. And if you haven't guessed it by now, the text of those reviews

I don't mean to imply anything along the lines of a possible connection between receiving books for free and those over-the-top reviews ... all right, who am I kidding? It's either that or the blogger in question loves words so much that even the telephone book would receive a 5-star rating. It's just not natural (or plausible/believable/realistic/etc) that a person will practically love all that comes their way reading-wise.

If you're that lucky (in picking awesome books) you should buy a lottery ticket.

A while ago I made a comment about bloggers who only hand out 5-star ratings qualifying for the Not-Deemed-Trustworthy Club on my Facebook page. It goes without saying that this resulted in some folks heartily disagreeing. Replies went along the lines of "I'm an uber positive person and hate giving a bad review" and (my personal favorite) "I only pick up books I know I'll love". What the ...!?

Sure, I tend to pick up books hoping I'm going to enjoy and like them, but that's solely a wish and not a premise. After all, how could one know before even reading the first line? I mean, it's not as though I've never been convinced I would absolutely love a certain book only to end up throwing it into a corner because it sucked big time. Just because I love a particular author doesn't mean I hand out a few extra stars for duds - one additional star for liking all the other books and one more due to the fact that there haven't been any typos and yet another one for ... well, you get the general idea.

Rate a book for what it is and not what you wish it was.

What do you think about blogs that exclusively post reviews with 5-star ratings? Are you as suspicious about this as I am? Do you suppose that receiving books from publishers (for free) might have something to do with this? Don't be shy in case you happen to be a 5-star reviewer, and share your opinion too!

August 4, 2013

TEA & BOOKS Reading Challenge

As the months move along and those steaming mugs of tea are being replaced by clinking ice cubes cooling our beverage of choice I decided to skip the finger pointing regarding falling behind in the challenge (which will commence in the next updates anyway) and instead share some stats about this reading challenge with you.

43% Chamomile Lover (2 books)
31% Berry Tea Devotee (4 books) 
12% Earl Grey Aficionado (6 books) 
14% Sencha Connoisseur (8 or more books) 

Apparently those heavy tomes made most sign up for the lowest level which is definitely a good start, besides it's not as though there wasn't the possibility of an upgrade somewhere along the way. Kudos to everyone who went straight for the highest level, because not even I dared to do that.

With a total of 51 participants the challenge has a nice size too. As is the case in my other reading challenge, here too only a handful of readers aren't book bloggers, but obviously needed some additional motivation to battle those chunksters.

As I already mentioned upgrades to higher levels I don't really recall any volunteers right now, but personally I am contemplating to possibly maybe go for Earl Grey Aficionado (despite failing last year *sigh*). Everyone's slightly more comment-friendly in this challenge (or maybe it seems this way as there are more participants) with lots of familiar names popping up in the comment section each month. So let me give a shout-out to some of you today: Bettina, Ciska, Margaret, Karen, and Geoff.

Curious about who is participating in the challenge? Go here.

Updates for the challenge will be posted regularly on Sundays near the end/beginning of a month and the next date will be September 1st.

THIS ISN'T FICTION Reading Challenge

As the year drags on and the heat throws everyone into a reading slump I thought I wouldn't nag about anyone falling behind in the challenge (not to worry, 'cause I shall do so come October) and instead share some stats about this reading challenge with you.

38% Kindergarten (5 books)
19% Elementary School (10 books)
14% High School (15 books)
29% College (20 or more books)

Nope these aren't drop-put rates, you silly things - this shows how many of you signed up for the individual levels. Interestingly most signed up for the lowest level, closely followed by the highest. Guess that shows that both reluctant and establish non-fiction readers decided to give it a go.

With only 21 participants the challenge is on the small-scale side, but that's fine too. Surprisingly only two readers aren't book bloggers, but both signed up for the highest level right off the bat.

As far as upgrades to higher levels are concerned I think I remember two of you volunteered which is awesome. When it comes to commenting on the monthly updates most are a bit lazy, though it's always nice to see familiar names pop up in the comment section, thus I shall give two of you an honorary mention today: Ally from Snow Feathers and Margaret from BooksPlease

Curious about who is participating in the challenge? Go here.

Updates for the challenge will be posted regularly on Sundays near the end/beginning of a month and the next date will be September 1st.

The Reading Files - Brave new reading shelf ...

I decided it's about high time I finally sank my teeth into the many books which I've won over the years and this week I went for some dystopian literature. Having high expectations for both I must say I enjoyed them both, though I am a bit on the fence about the first one as I feel I should have appreciated it more than I actually did ...

The Uninvited (Liz Jensen)

Thoughts. Children killing adults and adults committing suicide. The story is mainly carried by a truly intriguing narrator, though reading has been a trudge for me despite the fascinating premise. Usually I love a subtle kind of horror, but this one does nothing more than meander and peter out at the end without providing any closure.

First line. A seven-year-old girl puts a nail gun to her grandmother's neck and fires.

Verdict. Disturbing yet somewhat slow-going tale of a new tomorrow!

When She Woke (Hillary Jordan)

Thoughts. Hannah is punished for her "crime" of murder (abortion!) by being "chromed" into a "Red". A truly captivating and thought provoking read, the second half couldn't quite hold up to the beginning with subplots never being resolved and some events feeling forced and unnecessary. Nonetheless a must-read for lovers of the genre!

Last line. She woke, and she was herself.

Verdict. Bleak and thoughtful dystopia with minor flaws!

August 2, 2013

Non-Fiction Discoveries

Oh food, how could I resist thee ...

I admit, I'm not much for cookbooks per se, but if you spruce them up with a traveler's tale and a memoir I'm game (and hungry). And let's not forget the "shirt-pocket recipes" which sound easy enough for a "cook" like me!

Biting through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America's Heartland (Nina Mukerjee Furstenau)
Publ. September 1st 2013 - PBK
University of Iowa Press

Ever felt slightly distraught by food that does not spoil? Processed foods - food science at its best and/or harmful for our health? An investigative journey I'd love to explore!

Pandora's Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal (Melanie Warner)
Publ. February 26th 2013 - PBK

This culinary journal chronicles a year of "small kitchen celebrations" with more than 250 recipes. I wonder if this book might awaken my passion for salad spinners. Don't laugh, stranger things have happened!

Notes from the Larder: A Kitchen Diary (Nigel Slater)
Publ. September 24th 2013 - HC
Ten Speed Press