Friday, July 30, 2010

Book Blog Hop

In the spirit of the Twitter Friday Follow, the Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and share our love of the written word! This weekly BOOK PARTY is an awesome opportunity for book bloggers to connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books! It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs to read! So, grab the logo, post about the Hop on your blog, and start HOPPING through the list of blogs that are posted in the Linky list below!!

The Hop lasts Friday-Monday every week, so if you don't have time to Hop today, come back later and join the fun! This is a weekly event! And stop back throughout the weekend to see all the new blogs that are added! We get over 200 links every week!!

Your blog should have content related to books, including, but not limited to book reviews.

And this week's question is:
Who is your favorite new-to-you author so far this year?

This one is easy: Tony Horwitz. I absolutely loved A Voyage Long and Strange, and have since gotten his 2 previous books, which are on the top of my TBR pile.

Welcome to Caroline Bookbinder! I have reviews, a few memes, and Thursday I talk about careers in the book industry. A reader since I was three, a former editor, bookseller, buyer, and now sales rep, I have a vast background in publishing, and love love love books! Glad to have you along for the ride!

Book Beginnings on Friday

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Becky at Page Turners. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

The Hot Zone by Richard Preston

"Charles Monet was a loner. He was a Frenchman who lived by himself in a little wooden bungalow on the private lands of the Nzoia Sugar Factory, a plantation in western Kenya that spread along the Nzoia River within sight of Mount Elgon, a huge, solitary, extinct volcano that rises to a height of fourteen thousand feet near the edge of the Rift Valley."

Charles Monet was Patient Zero with the Marberg virus, which is a close cousin of Ebola.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

To Intern or Not to Intern?

Should you intern or not? Is it fair that some people can afford to work for free and others can't? Does it worsen the advantages of privilege and make certain industries more homogeneous and less diverse? Is it slave labor? Isn't that illegal? Shouldn't you get paid when you work? All these issues and more will not be addressed here today. They're all certainly legitimate concerns and problems, but I'm not going to change anything here. I'm not telling people how to break down the walls of publishing, but how to get their foot in the door. On her blog Marian Schembari has a couple of posts about internships that do address these issues and more.
A story in The Atlantic in the spring takes a stand on the issue, and they put their money where their mouth is because they now make sure to pay all of their interns. But I find it odd that they also have lectures and homework with their internship. Time Magazine also had an article about how more adults are actually taking internships and how these are hurting recent college grads.

Some interns complain that all they do is answer phones, get coffee, and open mail, and therefore how is this supposed to be experience for "a real job"? Well, wake up, that is a real job! At my first job in publishing in New York as an editorial assistant for the head of an imprint, my primary job responsibilities were... answering the phones, sorting the mail, watering his plants, keeping the office fully stocked with office supplies, fixing paper jams in the printer, making appointments for my boss, calling to make his lunch reservations, and other menial tasks. Interns aren't given those tasks just because their menial, nor to keep them from getting "real" experience - that is in fact the main component of the job as an assistant in publishing. Yes, it would be great if you'd get to do some "real" work, along with the mundane office tasks. Often that will require some initiative on your part.

Unless you have a very conscientious and thoughtful boss, you might have to approach them and ask for more responsibility, ask to work on a project you find interesting, offer to do a task you've seen is necessary in the office, something like that. Not only will many bosses appreciate you asking - it shows your interest, enthusiasm, and relieves them of having to constantly think of something for you - but that initiative is a personality trait highly valued in prospective job candidates, so you want it to be a word that will immediately come to mind when your internship boss is called to provide a reference for you. If your boss truly is too busy to give you tasks, ask the other people in the office. They will be usually be happy to have someone who can help out a little bit, and the more people you work with in your internship, the better, as that's more people you can ask to be a reference.

Here is a listing of publishing internship contacts, small publishers and agencies as well as the big houses. The ones to look for are ones that offer a variety of experience, a paycheck, college credit, and/or flexible hours (so you can get a paying job as well), like Hachette (in Boston and Nashville as well as New York, and theirs are paid), HarperCollins (this is my favorite internship, as they actually rotate you through a variety of departments, so you get a rounded education in the industry as well as many times more networking contacts), MacMillan, Penguin (paid!), Random House, and Simon & Schuster. One thing to keep in mind: after you've graduated internships aren't closed to you. You can intern that last summer. There are more job openings in the fall than the spring anyway, so this would postpone your serious job search until when there are the most openings.

And most major publishers have a travel division. Travel books are mostly annuals so they come out in the very early part of the year. Which means fall is crazy-busy in that department, but obviously spring wouldn't be, so they need seasonal help every year. There are often fall internships with travel imprints. If you go to a college where you have flexibility in your schedule, you can be at a huge advantage as fall and spring internships often have very little competition.

After your internship has ended, write your boss a (handwritten but legible) thank you note. Be sure to link to all the people you met through LinkedIn. Internships are by no means necessary to a future job in publishing (I didn't have one) but they can be a major help, particularly with networking. If you get an internship and can afford it, take it. In the long run, it'll be a bigger help than an unrelated hourly job even if the pay is a lot less.

My Favorite Reads: Undaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose

In My Favorite Reads each week I feature one of my favorite reads from the past. July is American History month, so I am featuring Undaunted Courage : Meriwether Lewis Thomas Jefferson And The Opening Of The American West by Stephen E. Ambrose, narrated by Barrett Whitener (unabridged audio).

Summary (from the publisher):
In 1803 President Thomas Jefferson selected his personal secretary, Captain Meriwether Lewis, to lead a voyage up the Missouri River, across the forbidding Rockies, and -- by way of the Snake and mighty Columbia -- down to the Pacific Ocean. Lewis and his partner, Captain William Clark, endured incredible hardships and witnessed astounding sights. With great perseverance, they worked their way into an unexplored West and when they returned two years later, they had long since been given up for dead.

Lewis is supported by a variety of colorful characters: Jefferson and his vision of the West; Clark, the artist and map-maker; and Lewis -- the enigma, who led brilliantly but considered the mission a failure. After suffering several periods of depression -- and despite his status as national hero -- Lewis died mysteriously, apparently by his own hand.

Why I chose this book:
I was worried at 20 CDs that this would be dry and hard to follow, but it was the opposite. I found myself frequently staying in the car long after I had reached my destination to continue listening! As always with a history audio book I do feel like I missed out as there were likely some maps if not also photos int he book that I certainly didn't get on the audio, but on the plus side, Native Americans' names and unfamiliar place names that I wouldn't know how to pronounce, I didn't have to try to muddle through on my own. The book was masterfully written, exhaustively researched, yet not pedantic or tedious. In fact it was easy to follow, the characters really came alive, and the story was fascinating. Did you know that to this day the exact path they took can be tracked chemically? They thought mercury was basically a cure-all and they brought it with them both as a remedy and a preventative. So most of the party took mercury nearly daily throughout the journey, and one can trace the remains of the mercury that are still in the soil along their trail.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Book Review: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

I have been hearing raving reviews about this book ever since ARCs started showing up at work, well over a year ago, and while it sounded intriguing, I just wasn't drawn to it. I also figure it was the kind of book my book club would select and make me read so I'd just wait until then. Which is precisely what happened! Luckily, I just barely finished it in time.

Cutting for Stone is narrated by Marion Stone, a surgeon who tells us his whole history and how he turned out to be who he is now. I found it odd when he was narrating - in scrupulous detail without saying how he heard what exactly happened - events before he was born, as he was being born (and I'm sorry, him saying he remembered some of the birth did not help. In fact, that induced some eye-rolling.) and elsewhere in the book events that happened when he was absent (although not so much of this.) It also gives a disjointed impression that the book is being told alternately in third person and first person, which it is not. It's just that first person sounds like third person when the narrator is not actually a witness to events he is describing. But this was a pretty easy flaw to overlook. Obviously, Marion being able to tell us everything is a version of magical realism, and you just need to flow with it. (I also don't like magical realism which might be one reason why this bugged me so much.)

Marion and his conjoined twin Shiva are born in a charity hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to an Indian nun and a British doctor (they are separated right away). His mother dies during the birth and his father disappears immediately after. Marion and Shiva are raised by Hema, the staff ob/gyn, and Ghosh, the internist at the Missing Hospital. When they are teens, there is a terrible rift between the twins, and a few years later, during the revolution, Marion is forced to leave Ethiopia and he finishes his medical training in New York City. But he can never truly leave his past behind.

The story is beautifully told, and I really felt that I got a feel for Addis Ababa in the time of Haile Selassie. It also expertly conveys how, for some, medicine is really a calling, a passion, not a job. The storytelling is a bit languid and florid, and I felt the plot didn't really begin until about halfway through the book, and at that point my reading pace was able to pick up considerably. The beginning background is important for understanding Marion and the decisions he makes, not to mention for the overall themes of how our past defines our future, and running away never helps anything. But if you start to wonder (as I did) if a plot will ever kick in - don't worry that's exactly when it does. I'm afraid I didn't love this as much as I had hoped, but it was a great novel. Perhaps it was built up too much for me. This is a true saga in the best sense of the word.

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Great Typo Hunt

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted here, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World, One Correction at a Time by Jeff Deck and Benjamin D. Herson

from the publisher:
The signs of the times are missing apostrophes.

The world needed a hero, but how would an editor with no off-switch answer the call? For Jeff Deck, the writing was literally on the wall: “NO TRESSPASSING.” In that moment, his greater purpose became clear. Dark hordes of typos had descended upon civilization… and only he could wield the marker to defeat them.

Recruiting his friend Benjamin and other valiant companions, he created the Typo Eradication Advancement League (TEAL). Armed with markers, chalk, and correction fluid, they circumnavigated America, righting the glaring errors displayed in grocery stores, museums, malls, restaurants, mini-golf courses, beaches, and even a national park. Jeff and Benjamin championed the cause of clear communication, blogging about their adventures transforming horor into horror, it’s into its, and coconunut into coconut.

But at the Grand Canyon, they took one correction too far: fixing the bad grammar in a fake Native American watchtower. The government charged them with defacing federal property and summoned them to court—with a typo-ridden complaint that claimed that they had violated “criminal statues.” Now the press turned these paragons of punctuation into “grammar vigilantes,” airing errors about their errant errand..

The radiant dream of TEAL would not fade, though. Beneath all those misspelled words and mislaid apostrophes, Jeff and Benjamin unearthed deeper dilemmas about education, race, history, and how we communicate. Ultimately their typo-hunting journey tells a larger story not just of proper punctuation but of the power of language and literacy—and the importance of always taking a second look.
publishing 8/3/2010 by Harmony Books

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Jane Austen Fight Club

Well, this certainly would have made things more interesting, wouldn't it? Who'd you take in a fight, Emma or Lizzie? I think Emma. She'd fight dirty.

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese p. 382

"Being the firstborn gives you great patience. But you reach a point where after trying and trying you say, Patience be damned. Let them suffer their distorted worldview."
This book hasn't turned out like I expected. I'm liking it, and hope to finish tonight because Book Club is on Thursday!

Monday, July 26, 2010

To Re-Read, or Not to Re-Read?

As a child, I used to reread books all the time. Sure, part of it was because I loved the books and I got more out of them on multiple readings, not to mention there's something comforting in rereading, like visiting with an old friend. As Ramona Quimby noted, I also had to reread a lot of my books because my parents would neither give me enough money to buy more, nor take me to the library often enough to replenish my stock, so frequently it was because I had nothing new to read.

Once I hit high school though, that problem stopped. Not only had my assigned school reading ballooned both in quantity of books and length, and my pocket money expanded thanks to lawn mowing and babysitting, but I also had more extra curriculars and socializing opportunities so reading time decreased. Immediately post-college while working at a bookstore (where I got a staff discount), I first starting having more books in my house than I would read. I'd buy several, read a couple, then buy more before I'd finished the first pile. I thought I'd catch up later. Haha! Doesn't everyone think that? This problem has now grown out of control as I have well more than 350 unread books in my house. So since college, I've not reread books (with one exception). There are too many books, and too little time for rereading!

My exception is normally at this time of year. In the middle of the summer when it's hot as blazes outside, I pick up The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Reading about the many blizzards makes it seem not quite as boiling hot. (And I can't stop with that one. I read through to the end of the series, the last four books, all in one day.)

Two years ago, thanks to Goodreads, at the end of the year I realized I was very close to reading a book a week. So I picked up the pace and managed to read 52 book! Last year I wanted to beat the year before, but not set the bar too high for this year. So when I got to 53, I wanted to stop. But it was mid-November. I wasn't going to not read anything for 6 weeks. So I decided to reread books (I only counted new books towards my annual number.) I have a bunch of my childhood favorites, so I read all the Ramona books, several Norma Kleins, and a few other assorted classics like Ballet Shoes and A Little Princess. And it was wonderful! I so enjoyed it! So I have continued rereading children's classics all this year.

But I still don't reread adult books. The only exception there is when a book for Book Club is one I read more than 10 years ago (Jane Eyre, The Good Earth.) Recently I watched the latest version of Emma from the BBC. I did love it, and I found afterwards I was discussing it with a friend and I said something about how it hewed more closely to the book than other adaptations. Then I paused. I read the book in 1994. How on earth could I remember it that well? Am I simply comparing the book to the other movies, and what other people who've read it more recently have said about it? I'll bet what I think are my memories of the book are very faulty at this point.

Around the same time, a friend mentioned she was rereading Gone With the Wind. I thought, wow I'd love to do that. I used to reread that book a lot until I got out of school. My copy is quite literally falling apart so I should probably get the pretty new edition too, even though I love my old ratty mass market held together with packing tape and paper clips. I'm also hoping this could maybe help me get back to reading a few more novels after my nonfiction binge of the last few months. So I'm thinking this fall I'll tackle three adult rereads: GWTW, Emma, and Pride & Prejudice, all of which I've not read since college. Which sadly, was a long time ago.

Do you reread books? Do you feel guilty that you are spending time on a book you've already read when you could be reading something new? What do you get out of rereading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books.
Books completed last week:
Ben and Me by Robert Lawson

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Reading the OED : One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages by Ammon Shea
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Up Next:
Three more ancient books from my TBR list. These have been with me for at least 10 years. Read or donate? What do you think?

In Memory of Junior by Clyde Edgerton
Three by Annie Dillard: The Writing Life, An American Childhood, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
Thirteen Stories by Eudora Welty

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Book Review: Ben and Me by Robert Lawson

I just love rereading these childhood favorites! Another one that was as good as I remember (if, as always, much shorter.)
Amos, Ben Franklin's brilliant mouse friend, is partially (or wholly responsible in some cases) for many of Mr. Franklin's accomplishments, from the Franklin stove to his experiments with electricity to his negotiating with France for loans to finance the American revolution. In most of the book Amos is a participant or bystander when Mr. Franklin does things but at the end of the book, in France, he becomes friends with a female mouse whose husband has already emigrated to America, and whose children are being held captive under the chair of the Queen of France, and Amos orchestrates their daring rescue (while unintentionally humiliating Ben Franklin who decides to return to the U.S.)
Robert Lawson's intricate illustrations are fantastic as always. The detail is incredible while the historical accuracy seems spot-on. The language is not as historically accurate which is good for the audience, but it is stilted just enough to imply an "olden times" atmosphere without losing any readability or understanding. This is a cute introduction to a fascinating historical figure who had an enormous impact on America as we know it. Telling the story through the clever and yet occasionally grumpy character of Amos the mouse, makes it much more accessible and fun for children who might otherwise be put off by a straightforward Ben Franklin biography.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Book Beginnings on Friday

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Becky at Page Turners. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

"After eight months spent in the obscurity of our mother's womb, my brother Shiva and I came into the world in the late afternoon of the twentieth of September in the year of grace 1954."

Hippity Hoppity

In the spirit of the Twitter Friday Follow, the Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and find new book-related blogs that we may be missing out on! This weekly BOOK PARTY is an awesome opportunity for book bloggers to connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books! It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs that they may not know existed! So, grab the logo, post about the Hop on your blog, and start HOPPING through the list of blogs that are posted in the Linky list below!!

The Hop lasts Friday-Monday every week, so if you don't have time to Hop today, come back later and join the fun! This is a weekly event! And stop back throughout the weekend to see all the new blogs that are added! We get over 200 links every week!!

Your blog should have content related to books, including, but not limited to book reviews.

In your blog post, answer the following question (new question each week!):

I just started Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese which is for my book club (meeting next Thursday). I'm only about 65 pages in so far, but after a slow prologue, it's been great. The prologue was written a bit lyrically, poetically which I don't like, and luckily so far the rest of the book is straightforward. It's the story of a doctor in Ethiopia, but we've gone back to explain his whole history and he and his twin brother are about to be born... to a nun. I need to read most of it tomorrow.

Welcome to Caroline Bookbinder! I hope you enjoy your visit and come again.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Nerd Alert! Copyeditors and Proofreaders

When I was an Editor 90% of people I met outside of the industry, assumed that meant I would be fixing spelling and punctuation. I would roll my eyes and smile, and explain for the hundredth time, no, that's a completely different job.

Copyeditors and Proofreaders check that everything is spelled correctly and that the grammar is appropriate. They usually work freelance, outside of publishing houses. They do need to take additional classes for proper training for this job. It can be tedious, and can be difficult to keep yourself fully employed, but can have more freedom.

They check dates (a character can't go to a Starbucks in 1978 because Starbucks didn't exist then), trademarks (not only do trademarked words all need to be capitalized, but a character cannot drink a coffee out of a Styrofoam cup. Styrofoam is and ONLY is a rigid pink insulation used in roofing), and consistency. Every publishing house has a style guide, so you can check if they write numbers out like twenty-one or use numerals like 21. They have a long list of words and examples. The copyeditor would also come up with a manuscript-specific list of character names, places, and events.

For those of you who have read Advanced Reader Copies, you'll see the need for proofreaders. When a manuscript is entered into the interior design program, it is no longer a series of words, it is an image. In the design of a manuscript, words are essentially pictures. So spell check programs don't work. Not to mention spell check programs have never worked on homophones.

Working freelance can be nerve-wracking. No health insurance. No vacation days. But on the other hand, no co-workers. No office. No 9-5. You can work when you need to, and not when you don't. You can live somewhere not in New York. The freedom and flexibility can be really freeing. You'd need a good tax accountant to work for yourself, but working for one's self can be a great opportunity. You need to network with Production Heads. Send out cold emails. Network through whatever copyediting classes you took, including asking the professor for networking help.

Novels and narrative nonfiction (memoirs) pay the least. If you are specialized and can copyedit an obscure history book or a medical or chemistry text, you can charge much, much more. It's more work, but the pay rate is also related to supply. There aren't many copyeditors/ proofreaders who can work on the more obscure, more technical books. Of course, there also aren't a ton of those books published each year so someone working on just straight-fiction can keep very steady work. Most copyeditors are paid by the hour. $25 an hour is a good benchmark for a standard manuscript, with specialists earning $35 to $100 an hour. Obviously, there is quite a range. Payment is sometimes by the word, and a clean 80,000 word manuscript will pay about $650-800. A heavy copyedit (a sloppier manuscript that needs a lot more work) can pay 50% to 250% more.

My Favorite Reads: Manhunt by James L. Swanson

In My Favorite Reads each week I feature one of my favorite reads from the past. July is American History month.

Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson

Summary (from the publisher):
The murder of Abraham Lincoln set off the greatest manhunt in American history -- the pursuit and capture of John Wilkes Booth. From April 14 to April 26, 1865, the assassin led Union cavalry and detectives on a wild twelve-day chase through the streets of Washington, D.C., across the swamps of Maryland, and into the forests of Virginia, while the nation, still reeling from the just-ended Civil War, watched in horror and sadness.

At the very center of this story is John Wilkes Booth, America's notorious villain. A Confederate sympathizer and a member of a celebrated acting family, Booth threw away his fame and wealth for a chance to avenge the South's defeat. For almost two weeks, he confounded the manhunters, slipping away from their every move and denying them the justice they sought.

Based on rare archival materials, obscure trial transcripts, and Lincoln's own blood relics, Manhunt is a fully documented work, but it is also a fascinating tale of murder, intrigue, and betrayal. A gripping hour-by-hour account told through the eyes of the hunted and the hunters, this is history as you've never read it before.

Why I chose this book:
The story is fascinating - did you know that John Wilkes Booth got away for a week and was hiding out? He so easily could have escaped if just one or two small events had gone differently. I also didn't know that unlike other presidential assassinations, this actually was a political conspiracy with plots to also kill the Vice-President and Secretary of State on the same night. Luckily, only Booth was successful (that sounds bad. I mean it's lucky not more of the conspirators were successful, not that it's good that Booth was.) Secretary of State William Seward was a formidable character. The man who was supposed to kill VP Johnson instead went to a bar and got drunk. I learned a massive amount and it was very well-written. More like a mystery or a thriller than a history book, Mr. Swanson sure knows how to make history fun! (And incidentally, he's also a very nice guy as I met him at Seward's House by coincidence, just after I read this book.)

I listened to this on audio, abridged. I had no idea it was abridged, as it's still quite long and detailed. I had many driveway moments with this audiobook! This is one abridged audiobook that has always made me want to go back and read the full book in print as I think surely the stuff that was cut out was just as interesting as the stuff that was left in (how could it not be?)

There is also a version for teens called Chasing Lincoln's Killer that I have recommended to several friends for their junior high sons who aren't eager readers.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wondrous Words Wednesday

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Kathy aka Bermuda Onion where we share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our reading. Feel free to join in the fun.

I haven't played this meme in a while, but I've been mostly reading pretty straightforward books. Last week though, I ran across a lot of unusual (to me) words while reading The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

p.18 Tswana
"Why should I ever want anything but to live in Botswana, and to marry a Tswana girl?"
a member of a numerous people of Botswana and neighboring parts of South Africa.

p. 20 Motswana
"I love our country, and I am proud to be a Motswana."
is the singular form of Batswana

p. 22 Batswana
"We were all Batswana together, and a man would not see a fellow Motswana together."
A member of a Bantu people inhabiting Botswana and western South Africa. (Same as Tswana.)

p. 25 sjamboks
"They beat him with sjamboks and left him lying on the road to be run over."
(in southern Africa) a heavy whip, usually of rhinoceros hide.

p. 28 sufuba
"She carried food there, as that aunt was too old to look after herself and she had only one son there, who was sick with sufuba and could not walk very far."
I can't find a definition of this word. Obviously some kind of illness.

p. 69 hammerkops
"They barked at crows, and at hammerkops; they barked at passersby; and they sometimes barked just because they got too hot."
a brown heronlike African bird, Scopus umbretta, having the head so crested as to resemble a claw hammer. (see picture)

p. 74 bilharzia
"But years later, when he remained small, the mother thought of the fall and blamed herself for believing the nurse who was only good for doing bilharzia tests and checking for worms."
any elongated trematode of the genus Schistosoma, parasitic in the blood vessels of humans and other mammals; a blood fluke.

p. 90 santawana
p. 90 thokolosi
"No animal took him, or at least no ordinary animal. A santawana maybe, a thokolosi. Oh yes."
Santawana is a girl's name meaning consolation. This doesn't really make sense to me.
Originally a water sprite, the tokoloshe (alternate spelling) is nowadays often a domestic spirit in the households of witches and warlocks. Usually described as a brown, hairy dwarf, it is virtually identical, in habits and appearance, to the brownie of European folklore.

p. 149 muti
"Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni had found muti. He had found medicine."
Muti is a term for traditional medicine in Southern Africa as far north as Lake Tanganyika

p. 154 Bantustans
"They treat us as one of their wretched Bantustans. You know what they're like."
A bantustan (also known as black African homeland or simply homeland) was a territory set aside for black inhabitants of South Africa and South West Africa (now Namibia), as part of the policy of apartheid. Ten bantustans were established in South Africa, and ten in neighbouring South-West Africa (then under South African administration), for the purpose of concentrating the members of designated ethnic groups, thus making each of those territories ethnically homogeneous as the basis for creating "autonomous" nation states for South Africa's different black ethnic groups. The term was first used in the late 1940s, and was coined from 'Bantu' (meaning 'people' in some of the Bantu languages) and '-stan' (a suffix meaning 'land' in Sanskrit). It was regarded as a disparaging term by some critics of the apartheid-era government's 'homelands' (from Afrikaans tuisland). The word 'bantustan', today, is often used in a pejorative sense when describing a region that lacks any real legitimacy, consists of several unconnected enclaves, and/or emerges from national or international gerrymandering.

p. 201 dagga
"If it's obvious enough to me when I walk down the street that somebody has been smoking dagga, then surely it should be obvious enough to somebody like you."
Indian hemp used as a narcotic; cannabis.

p. 210 fantouche
"He was not going particularly fast, and so she dropped back slightly and followed him past the remnants of Mangope's capital and its fantouche Republic of Bophuthatswana."
a puppet or marionette with no will of its own

p. 224 Dumela
"Dumelas Mma," she said. "I am Mma Ramotswe."
Sesotho word, meaning hello or good day

“Waiting On” Wednesday: With Friends Like These

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted here, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

With Friends Like These by Sally Koslow

From the publisher:
Have you ever been a less than perfect friend? To whom does your first loyalty belong—your best friend or your husband? With her trademark wit and empathy, Sally Koslow explores the entangled lives of women in this candid, fast-paced novel.

Quincy, Talia, Chloe, and Jules met in the early nineties after answering a roommate ad for a Manhattan apartment. Despite having little in common, the women became fast friends. A decade later, their lives have diverged, though their ties remain strong.

Quincy, a Midwestern introvert, is trying to overcome a set of tragedies by hunting for the perfect home; Talia, a high-energy Brooklyn wife and mom with an outspoken conscience, is growing resentful of her friends’ greater financial stability and her husband’s lack of ambition; timid Chloe, also a mother, is trying to deflect pressure from her husband, a hedge fund manager, to play the role of trophy wife; while Jules, a fiercely independent actress/entrepreneur with a wicked set of life rules, is confronting her forties alone.

When Jules gives her new boyfriend the inside scoop on the real estate gem Quincy is lusting after, and Talia chases a lucrative job earmarked for Chloe, the women are forced to wrestle with the challenges of love and motherhood. Will their friendships and marriages survive? And at what price? Punchy yet tender, a high-five to sisterhood, this book will hit an emotional bull’s-eye for anyone who has had—or been—less than a perfect friend.

This book publishes on 8/10/2010 by Ballantine Books.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Book Review: The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore

I first heard about this book on NPR, and here's what I heard: Wes Moore is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, and he's abroad studying at Oxford on the Rhodes Scholarship before starting his internship in Condoleeza Rice's office, when his Mom calls and tells him a weird thing: the police in Baltimore (his home town) are looking for a guy his age, with his name, from his neighborhood, for murdering a police officer. Wow. I think if I were Wes Moore, I'd look up the other Wes Moore when I got home too. But unlike most people, our Wes Moore went on to write to him repeatedly, visit him for years in prison, interview friends and family, and finally write this compelling and ultimately heartbreaking book.

Each chapter starts off with a conversation in prison, which leads to a story in each boy's life at the same time, that shaped the men they became. Contrary to what you might be thinking, the author Wes Moore was not an overachiever from an early age, and he pretty easily could have ended up in the same shoes as the felon Wes Moore. But what he so ably points out the true tragedy is, that the felon Wes Moore's life could have worked out and he could have been on the outside leading a productive life just as easily. This is a story about the inner city, poverty, and fortune both good and bad.

While in the end it came down to choices they each had, it seemed to me like the biggest difference was in their mothers. The author's mother was also a single Mom after Wes's father died, but she was educated and older and established when she had her children. Whereas the "other" Wes's mother was a teenager when she had her first child, never married either son's fathers, and never finished college. Because her circumstances were tougher, she wasn't as able to keep on her son and really win the day with persistence. Or perhaps it is the exceptional doggedness of the author's mother that made the difference as opposed to the struggles of the other mother, but either way in the end, it is a story of how even in the most blighted neighborhoods of America, there can be hope if only there are programs and people who believe in the kids. But sadly, most stories don't end up that way, and the other Wes Moore's story is way too common.

I was worried the two Wes Moores would be confusing but it wasn't. For one thing, the author tells his own story in first person which helps immensely. Both stories are fluidly told with an openness and honesty that is heartbreaking. He doesn't get bogged down in the details and keeps the cast of characters relatively small. It's amazing how this book can be both inspiring, and yet also despairing. I guess in the end frustrating would be the best word to describe the situation he illuminated here.

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese p. 33

"As he was about to sleep he remembered that he hadn't done a rectal exam. Guilt and fear that his chief would somehow discover his lapse moved him to get up and go out into the night. Blessing tracked the patient down to the bar where for the price of a beer the man agreed to drop his pants and be digitally examined - be 'blessed' as the event came to be described - and only then was the young doctor's conscience eased."

Monday, July 19, 2010

Book Review: The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

Yes, I am way behind the times but I finally read this charming little book. I don't think it really is a mystery even though a lot of the chapters present themselves as such (natural for a book about a detective agency.) It was a nice eye-opener into a land (Botswana) I know nothing about, and a culture and people. (Keep an eye out for Wondrous Words Wednesday as I had to look up a lot of words.)
Mma Precious Ramotswe is resourceful, clever, and persistent, all excellent traits for a lady detective. Although the book doesn't exactly explain any of the cultural differences, she's an excellent guide through unique African issues, events, and traditions. At first I wasn't sure I was going to like when it flashed back to explain both Precious's and Obed's (her father) pasts, but that did work. But I was so enjoying her cases I didn't want those to stop. I love that this book doesn't immediately have her investigating murders and other dangerous cases. Instead, it's mostly cheating or vanished husbands, which I understand is the bread and butter of the majority of detective agencies, despite what TV may show us.
The languid and simple style belies a deeper intention of McCall Smith's: to introduce Western readers to a side of Africa we've never seen, where people live in the modern world and have contemporary jobs just like we do, and it's not all violence and war like we see on the news. This is certainly a very different book than anything I've read for a long time. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with the warm and practical Precious Ramotswe, and I wish her continued success with her Detective Agency.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books.

Books completed last week:
Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History by Scott Andrew Selby and Greg Campbell
Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison by Piper Kerman
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Reading the OED : One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages by Ammon Shea

Up Next:
These are the books that have been on my TBR list the longest (they might not have been on my bookshelves the longest, but they're certainly up there.) Are they worth it? Should I get around to reading them? Or give them away?

The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan
Empire Falls by Richard Russo
Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Baseball and Books

It's summer, so we're in the middle of baseball season. I imagine many of us book people are not also sports fans, but I am. Being a Southerner, I really love college football and college basketball. But when I moved to New York, I knew there were be a real dearth of my faves. So in order to try to fit in and actually be able to occasionally watch a sport on TV, I learned about baseball. How? Silly reader, I read books! Now, I lived in Queens, so I was a Mets fan. But the hot dogs at Yankee stadium are the best ever.

Last week The Huffington Post featured a list of the 16 best baseball books. I thought for sure I was going to have read half of them. But no, only two! How can that be!? So I find I must post my list of the best baseball books. The first two are the only ones on the HuffPost list:

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis, a new classic, this book is about the economics of sports, and the statistic of sports. Turns out the stats everyone's been following for the last century aren't really relevant,

Ball Four by Jim Bouton, a classic autobiography of a screwball pitcher. He so enraged the Yankees that they refused to invite him to the alumni games for all former Yankees players. All but Jim Bouton.

The Natural by Bernard Malamud (Did you know he won the Pulitzer Prize?) The movie changed the ending of this book COMPLETELY. I really loved this book. It was moody and dark and magical and just perfect.

Eight Men Out: The Black Sox and the 1919 World Series by Eliot Asinof, yes I read this because of the movie with John Cusack and D.B. Sweeney and Charlie Sheen, but the book is also good, even if not filled with matinee idols from my teen years. Filled with fascinating history, if a little dry.

Baseball: An Illustrated History by Geoffrey C. Ward, Ken Burns, yes I read the whole thing. All 486 pages which doesn't even being to describe the monstrosity that is this book since it's double-columned. It was like reading a book of the encyclopedia. Took me all summer, but I read about a chapter a week, Friday afternoons in my hot hot hot apartment, and it was amazing. This is the companion book to the Ken Burns' PBS miniseries.

The Final Season: Fathers, Sons, and One Last Season in a Classic American Ballpark (Honoring a Detroit Legend) by Tom Stanton, a sweet memoir, perfect for father's day. A father and son go to every home game in the old Detroit Tigers stadium, the last year it was in use before it was torn down.

Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin, Doris bonds with her father over baseball games on the radio. Another perfect father's day book.

Baseball For Dummies by Joe Morgan, Richard Lally, because I had no idea what the infield fly rule was or the designated hitter. This is the natural primer for any baseball neophyte. I still was confused at the end of it, but I was less confused, and I would refer back to this book while watching games on TV. Sadly, I have forgotten most of what I learned.

Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella, the book behind Field of Dreams. Much better than the movie. My boss's favorite book. He made me read it. It was better than I was expecting (I don't like the movie) but only okay for me. However, many, many people disagree with me.

Baseball is by far the best sport for books. Not only can the games drone on and on with long slow parts (perfect for reading in the stands, if your friends won't think you're a freak/anti-social) but baseball lends itself to prose. I've read a handful of books on football, basketball, even tennis, but baseball is the most literary. Play ball!

"I see great things in baseball. It's our game - the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us." ~Walt Whitman