Litsy – a fun, new bookish app!

Must share this new app! Booknerd fun! Easy to use, and completely free. I’m not in any way compensated for this crazy endorsement; I just think it’s fun and want everyone to know about it. Also, please forgive overlook my use of second person POV. I don’t know why everyone gets so riled up about that. You know what I mean.

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Most Litsy-users are describing Litsy as a mix of Instagram and Goodreads (don’t let the Instagram comparison scare you if you’re not into that sorta thing . . . like me).

  • For any book you like, you can post a blurb, a quote, or a review, with the option to also include a photo.IMG_8146.PNG
  • Book reviews are limited to 300 characters, so everything is short and sweet.
  • You can choose to “follow” people who post, so you can see their reviews, blurbs, and book quotes, and you can comment on their posts. One of my internet blogger-crushes, Liberty Hardy, is a follower of mine, and I fangirled all over the place about it. IMG_8145
  • You choose from 4 options when offering an opinion about a book: pick, so-so, pan, or bail, so there’s no “Is this a 3-star or a 4-star book?” dilemma.
  • Privacy settings are available, so that’s up to you.
  • The app is fairly new, so it’s easy to use, not complicated, and suggestions to the creators are welcomed.
  • Your “litfluence” is on your profile page. You start with 42 points, as a nod to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (impressive), and your litfluence builds by how many people like your posts, add your recommended books to their “to-read” list, etc.litsy2
  • It’s a great way to find book recommendations, free ARC giveaways, and like-minded bookish people like you.

Check it out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Captain Flint was Still a Good Man -Nick Dybek

When Captain Flint was Still a Good Man will blow you away. I picked up the book based on the cover alone (I judged a book by its cover. For shame.)

All the men of Loyalty Island, a peninsula jutting into the Strait of Juan de Fuca that separates Canada and the United States, leave for the Bering Sea every season to catch crabs. While at sea, the men long for home; when home, they yearn to be back on the open ocean. This liminality pervades everyone’s life on Loyalty Island.

The story begins when John Gaunt, the patriarch and owner of the fleet, dies and leaves the crab industry in the hands of his college-educated, feckless son, Richard. Richard has never even been

captain flint
Find it here on Goodreads

to sea, and his misdirected rebellion against his father threatens the men of Loyalty Island. Richard plans to sell the fleet to the Japanese, and the fishermen take matters into their own hands. Teenage Cal is left picking up the pieces after his family’s way of life is shattered.The men of Loyalty Island find themselves going to immoral lengths they never thought possible to preserve their way of life, and Cal is left with a grave life-or-death secret.

When Captain Flint was Still a Good Man is salty, overcast, suspicious, brooding. The story takes place under the dark, roiling turmoil of moral dilemma and the question of how far one should go for filial duty. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Nick Dybek has writing chops, and it shows. Unlike many Workshoppers, Dybek’s writing is subtle and effective. I was drawn in and gave up every other book I was reading to devote all my eye-time to this. This story will haunt me for a long time.

Recommended for those readers who enjoyed The Shipping News, Sweetland, The Man in my Basement, and Mystic River.

 

Keep Your Damn Hands Off My TBR Pile . . . or, how to keep life-changing tidying-up from sucking your will to live

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I recently indulged in the new tidying-up phenomenon – the lifestyle of minimalism and possession-free living, and I embraced almost all of the tenets of disposal.

tidying
Find it here on Goodreads

I listened to an audiobook in my car about how throwing out just about everything in your house will lead to a life of contentment, fulfillment, practically ascetic nirvana. Yes! Throwaway throwaway throwaway! What the hell do we need eight bath towels for?! Out they go! 16 drinking glasses? Are you kidding me? Buh-bye! Let’s donate everything. What the flim-flam are all these pillows doing in here? “Minimalism!” I shout, ready to paint my face Braveheart blue and rally the troops. All we really need in this four-bedroom house is a fork, a roll of toilet paper, and a sleeping bag, right?

Oh, and those 2,600 books up there on the walls. Those can stay.

“But, oh crap. What am I going to do with these?!” I stand back and survey my to-be-read pile, which is not really a pile, but shelves. And these are just my TO READ books, not my ALREADY READ books, which take up several more bookcases. Two book cases’ worth of to-read shelves. With piles on top. And I just balanced seven new books on top of those piles with Jenga-master-like precision.

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TBR bookcase #1

My husband, Dan*, stands behind me and puts his hand on my shoulder, comforting me as though we’re standing in front of a coffin. His TBR pile/shelf/embarrassment of riches is almost as shaming as mine. “It’s going to be okay,” he says. Pat, pat, pat. “It’s fine.”

“But, I really should stop.” I place my hand over the top seven books, chagrined, as though that will hide anything.

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TBR bookcase #2                                                     *Note beautiful portrait of my cat, Henry, painted by my dear friend, as well as votive candle to St. Margaret Atwood

Then, something profound happened. A Zen moment. Epiphany and wonderment. Dan asks, “Does buying books make you happy?”

I turn and look at him, transformed.

YES. YES, IT DOES.

“Then buy them,” says the oracle. And, I remember, the audiobook told me not to throw away things that make me happy. They can all stay! All 578 of them! I happily boxed up old toys, outgrown or unneeded clothes, knowing that all my precious literary darlings would be safe.

Then that Spartan minimalist harpy went rogue: “Pare down the books,” she commanded. Get rid of all of them, she practically advised, even the ones you love. You’re never really going to re-read them, are you? Those books you kinda loved? Pitch ‘em. What about your absolute favorites? Eh, they can go. You got what you needed and now they’re just rotting paper. Kick ‘em to the curb. Are you actually going to read all those purchased books “someday”? Somehow, she instructs, they’re ruining your life. I’m paraphrasing here, but you get the idea.

“Oh no you don’t, LADY!” I screamed at the audiobook. “YOU’RE ruining my life with your cavalier disregard!”

Dan sighs and shakes his head at me. “I think this part of the book just doesn’t apply to you.”

I call bunk on the book paring, especially the electronic books. What does it hurt? Is anyone suffering because I have 350 e-books on my Kindle Fire? No! And here’s the secret: I’m not suffering, either! Lady Bookless on my audiobook may disagree, and for some people having a tidy shelf with three or four books on it is sufficient and the first step to carefree living. To me, however, that is akin to stripping me of my identity.

And if you’re like me, I urge you to embrace your TBR pile, however grossly overfed it may be. Revel in it. Celebrate it! These are your choices for happiness! Swim in them like Scrooge McDuck!

Float away to complete bliss riding on the ship of your book piles. If you’ve Japanese-tidied, then you don’t have anywhere to sleep anyway because you gave away all your bed linens. Curl up on all your unread books and sleep with contented ownership. Dream of all the books you have yet to buy.

 

*Dan is not Dan’s real name. Our youngest child couldn’t say “Dad.” It came out “Dan.” Now we all call him Dan. Or, more specifically, his full moniker: Dan, Dan, the Garbage Can.

Books About Books, Part II

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Like a double shot of espresso or a B12 injection, here is a second booster dose of Books About Books to energize your literary spirit:

The End of Your Life Book Club – Will Schwalbe

The title grabbed me right away.  Will Schwalbe’s memoir begins when his mother is dying of pancreatic cancer. While they spend many hours together in waiting rooms and doctors’ offices, they discover the coincidence that they’re reading the same book, and thus their informal two-person book club is born. For the remaining two years of her life, Will and his mother share books that foster discussion of life, passions, philosophy, and faith.

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Find it here on Goodreads

It seemed initially like a  comforting and thought-provoking memoir, and it’s been a while since I read this, but I do remember that while I was listening to the audiobook I looked at my Kindle quite often to see how many hours were left. This book  was a tad too Oprah for my taste. The sentimentality and white-washing of Will’s mom’s motives and personality, especially in her endless selfless acts of chairing multiple charities, only caused her to be presented one-dimensionally. Mary Anne Schwalbe came across as a phlegmatic, inexhaustible saint of a woman who never complained, never felt scared, angry, or betrayed by her diagnosis. I wanted more humanization of Mary Anne. By writing her to be so accepting and patient, Will actually made her less appealing to the reader.

There was an impressive list of books that were included in the “book club,” and I was introduced to many books that I may not have discovered otherwise. Unfortunately, many of the books I was excited to read after learning about them in The End of Your Life Book Club left me underwhelmed (The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Suite Francaise, The Lizard Cage . . . I could go on). Perhaps Will and I just have different taste, and that’s fine . . . but damn. I was hoping for an uplifting memoir and great literary discussion. Not so much.

I applaud the author for taking this on, and for sharing his story, but this book seemed more like a cathartic journey for Will and I’m not sure we as readers really needed to come along.

The History of Love – Nicole Krauss

Hey, The History of Love, have you met The History of the Rain? These two books go together like Harold and Maude. The History of Love contains two interwoven stories.

history of love
Find it here on Goodreads

The first is the story of Leo Gursky, who pines for his first love, Alma, and his novel, The History of Love, that he dedicated to her and was stolen and published by his friend. Leo is now in his later years and,  nearing death, he sits on a bench and waits for his true love to return. The second story is of Alma, a young girl named after the main character in The History of Love, whose story becomes intertwined with Leo’s. This is a book about the magic of books and writing them, with the gut-wrenching ache of lost love.

 

My review here is falling far short of the lavish praise I wish to give this wondrous story. The ending is one you’ll never forget and this book has a special place on my shelf. Beautiful, beautiful.

 

The Anthologist – Nicholson Baker

Nicholson Baker is a difficult author to wrap my brain around. He is prolific, and captures a moment unlike any author I’ve read before. One of his other books, The Mezzanine, takes place during one man’s trip up an escalator. Baker somehow manages to fit an entire book in that two-minute span and absolutely captivates his reader.

anthologist
Find it here on Goodreads

In The Anthologist, Baker writes about Paul Chowder, a mediocre poet conscripted to compile an anthology of poetry and write the introduction. Abandoned by his girlfriend, Chowder sits in a barn suffering from the alcoholic-haze headache of writer’s block, and what comes out is a dissertation on the rationalization of poetry and the manipulation of words into rhythm, rhyme, and meaning. The Anthologist is complicated and pedagogical, but lyrical all the same. Baker includes analysis of the rhyming words of poems, stressing the imperative of the rests in between the words, and the use of enjambment, which is when one line of poetry doesn’t end where it’s supposed to and jams into the next line without that necessary rest. The pauses and silences are just as important as the words.

This is a quick, fascinating bit of prose. It’s like the one course you take in college from your favorite professor that has nothing to do with your major. Sit down by Baker’s knee and hear his tales of how rhyme isn’t obsolete or unsophisticated, but is an elevated form of the use of words. I enjoyed it so much that I took notes the entire time.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan

This is a fun book, and kind of skirts the “books about books” category, but I felt it should be included because it’s so unusual and also highlights the mystery and intrigue of bookstores. The protagonist, Clay Jannon, takes the late shift at the 24-hour bookstore (why would a bookstore need to be open at 3am? Ah HA! First clue!), and finds that things really are as weird as they seem.

Then, enter secondary female character, Kat, to assist Clay in his quest to discover the root cause of the bookstore’s weirdness through her connections at Google. She reminded me of Lisbeth Salander from those grossly over-hyped Girl Who Did Whatever books, 

penumbra
Find it here on Goodreads

but she was not nearly as annoying and didn’t come with too much shtick. This book reminded me of National Treasure or The Da Vinci Code, blending mystery and secret societies and clues found in old manuscripts. It’s a lot of fun, and enough cerebral twists to keep you turning the pages. What I most appreciated was the fact that Sloan blends old and new technology  – the Internet and coding play just as much a part here as the old ciphers in the ancient texts.

 

There are some eyebrow-raising coincidences in play, and often there seems to be just the right rescue at just the right time, but if you can overlook some tropes, it’s a fun romp. Suspend your disbelief a little and you’ll enjoy it a lot more.

Also, the book jacket glows in the dark. Touché, Sloan.

Are there any books I missed? Leave me recommendations in the comments.