Tuesday, October 21, 2014


At the end of September, I got to go to the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association annual tradeshow.  This makes up a tiny bit for having to miss BEA this past summer, which I was super excited to have won a ticket to.  But, kind of tapped out from moving, didn't make it, etc., etc.

So, the PNBA tradeshow as fun, met some (of course!) awesome librarians and some pretty cool authors.  The majority of attendees are bookstore owners or employees, not surprisingly, and it was really interesting to listen to them talk among themselves.  It was frequently frustrating, because libraries and bookstores should be working together on more things, using each other as a local resource, more than we are.  They talk about alot of the same topics library people talk about-- how to get patrons to read signs, how to coach staff to do reader's advisory-- but booksellers would really benefit from attending a library conference, or even talking to their local library staff.  One bookseller was totally flabbergasted that, if you make a good book recommendation to a patron, the patron will come back and want more, and how do you cultivate a relationship like that?  That led to a much longer conversation than one (of us) might think strictly necessary.  I also, much to my surprise, had to grimace behind a smile when booksellers said, either directly to a group of librarians or merely in my hearing, some of the thoughtless things people commonly say about libraries and library staff.  We are definitely not all on the same team here.

But, I had a good time, and hey, look, I brought back a ton of books.  The registration was pretty pricey (thanks, library!), but I easily got our money's worth just in books.  Many are ARCs, but at least half were published and ready to back to TS for processing.  Huzzah!

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari.  This is interesting, and the author had a couple of points that I still mull over occasionally, but I didn't finish.  It was so dry that, even on my lunch break, I couldn't read for more than a few pages at a time, half a chapter at most.  Also, the longer I read, the more overly-simplified some of the examples seemed.  I felt like the author's credibility was wavering, so I set it down.  I'd say, don't order.

Pure Grit: How American Workd War II Nurses Survived Battle and Prison Camp in the Pacific by Mary Cronk Farrell. (940.5475) With a little more detail-- and less cartoon-y maps-- this would have been a good general-interest book.  The maps (and the exclamation points) make it more mid-YA.  Otherwise, fairly interesting and well-put-together.

The Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queens by Tosca Lee.  The writing gave this a sort of YA feel, although I don't think it was intended as such.  Just things like sentence length and a certain lack of depth to the characters lead me to say that.  It is a nice historical fiction about an era, country, and historical figure I do t frequently see, so perhaps worth ordering for those reasons.

Finding Zero: A Mathematician's Odyssey to Uncover the Origins of Numbers by Amir D. Aczel.  This really wasn't about math at all; it was the autobiography if a man who happened to be a mathematician.  The first chapter is about when he first noticed as a boy that he was interested in math.  Skipping ahead and skimming, it's stuff about being faculty at a university and that sort of thing.  Not recommended.

The Birds of Pandemonium: Life Among the Exotic and the Endangered by Michele Raffin.  (639.978)  This wasn't what I was expecting from the title (having not even read the back) but I ended up devouring this: I stayed up waaaay to late to read about 3/4 in one go, and finished up the next day.  The author has a great voice, especially since her career path mightn't lead you to expecting writing experience.  

The story does jump around in time, but since she is sharing stories of her work, not giving a timeline of her nonprofit, it doesn't hurt the story.  How she has the little episodes organized works well.

A Place of Her Own: The Legacy of Oregon Pioneer Martha Poindexter Maupin by Janet Fisher.  I must have gotten this confused with another title I heard about at the trade show, because I was expecting something different.  Once I realized where the story was (not) going... I still couldn't get into it.  The book us marketed as nonfiction, but it is way too highly fictionalized for me: there is a main character, and her conversations, thoughts, and feelings are shared, even though there was no way those could have been documented.  This would have worked, possibly excelled, as a novel rooted in true historical events.  As "nonfiction," it doesn't work for me.

A Light in the Wilderness by Jane Kirkpatrick.  This author spent about 15 minutes at our supper table one night, and she sold me on this book.  This book succeeds where the previous title fails-- it is a meticulously-researched novel based on some known events.
It might have worked just a bit better if the author had made it longer; the end, the part of the story for which the most historical documentation exists, is a bit of a downer, and for a while.  Since the author had already used artistic license to get the story started, filling in some gaps to give the characters a happier next life stage would have been a more comfortable ending.

That Should Be a Word: A Language Lover's Guide to Choregasms, Povertunity, Brattling, and Other Much-Needed Terms for the Modern World by Lizzie Skurnick.  This is not a book you can sit down and read.  It also isn't funny.  Some of the made-up words are clever, but most obviously try too hard, are unnecessary and don't fill a gap in the language, or sound pretentious.  The few that I found that I would use sound too much like another word and would be missed by the listener in spoken conversation, such as "tyrunt."  These also aren't words, as far as i have seen, that have been made up or are being used online or in person; I think the author made them all up. 
Do not purchase.  

The Saxon by Margaret Moore.  This did not come from the show.  This is the ultimate in uber-Harlequin, and it was donated quite some time ago.  How could I refuse?  Nearly-naked muscly man on the front, complete with long, flowing hair, a great big weapon, and leather clothing for what clothing there is, plus (!) illustration on the back cover of same nearly-naked hunk clutching pregnant female with long gold hair, wearing gauzy, period-incorrect clothing, managing to hold herself up in a position that would be painful, if not impossible, even if not hugely pregnant?  Could it get more stereotypical?  

"No" is the answer you hear being whispered.

Freedom: The Story of My Second Life by Malika Oufkir.  This is an ARC, but it didn't come from the show.  I think it showed up randomly in the mail a while ago.

This is actually a follow-up ... Um, we'll go with memoir... To the author's earlier work Stolen lives, which I have not read.  I don't know if it would make more sense with the benefit of the first book, because it seems very disorganized.  In just the first few chapters, the author jumps around quite a bit, making the (I think) three different time periods hard to follow.  For someone, such as, perhaps, me, who was not alive at the time of the coup that started events, was not old enough to watch or follow international news 20 years later when the author was freed, and basically lives under a rock with regard to recent history, this is not an accessible story at all.  If people have read the first book, or are so familiar with the various events that they don't need even basic reminder information about people and places, it may be easier to follow.

Plucked: A History of Hair Renoval by Rebecca M. Herzig.  This sounds like just the thing for me!: micro history about a topic of marginal interest.  Nope.  The author makes it clear that she wants this to be an academic discussion, and as such, it us horribly dry.  It also focuses (or claims to; I didn't get very far) solely on the history of hair removal in the US in the last couple hundred years.  
I would totally read a book on this topic covering a good thousand years and with a world-wide overview. 

Note: my computer is down, so I'm doing this on my phone. If there is a typo, I can't even see it.   There are probably several.

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