Category Archives: books

Shelf Space

Author Fonda Lee took to Twitter recently, lamenting the lack of shelf space in her local Barnes and Nobel for new fantasy authors. In the post, Lee points out that J.R.R. Tolkien had “3.5 shelves worth of space” and Robert Jordan had “2.5 shelves.”

Putting aside that 2.5 shelves of space for Jordan probably adds up to a total of four books (cause man, that guy wrote some huge tomes!), I find Lee’s comments interesting.  I understand her point about new authors trying to find a way to break into the publishing ranks and even her point that it was difficult to find novels that had either been recently nominated for or won genre awards.

When Barnes and Nobel opened a store that was convenient to where I shopped and did my errands, I was excited.  I frequented the store regularly and enjoyed browsing the aisles to find something new that may not have necessarily been on my radar at the time.  These days, it’s been months since I darkened the door of that local Barnes and Nobel.   And a large part of it ties into Lee’s lament.

In the past five years, I’ve noticed that more of the floor space of Barnes and Nobel has been given over to items that may or may not necessarily be related to the reading experience.  Everything from toys and games to collectible figures to things associated with reading.  I’ve also noticed that the amount of room for actual books has decreased dramatically.  At first, it was a shrinking of the shelf-space for new releases, then slowly the aisles for each genre seemed to become smaller.  What was first two and a half aisles for sci-fi and fantasy has become one and a half.  Same thing for mystery novels.  And while we get a bit of space given over to new releases, I find that what whoever deems a book worthy of such a spotlight has very different tastes than I do.

Insert rant about how much shelf space in the SF/F aisle paranormal romance gets these days here.

I understand what Lee is saying about the limited shelf space being given to older books by authors who may or may not necessarily be still around.  And while I share her concerns, I feel certain if we asked the buyers at Barnes and Nobel why this was, it would go back to the old adage that things like Tolkien and Jordan move product.

Look, I’m all for the classics getting shelf space.  Certainly, they’ve a proven track record and that fact that they keep finding Tolkien to publish (I expect his grocery lists to be published at some point) means he and other authors are always going to take up some shelf space.  I just wish that the experience of going to Barnes and Nobel was closer to what it was when my local store first opened and not what it is today.  I feel like the stores have become more about book adjacent items and less about the books themselves.

And that’s a shame.

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The Great American Read

PBS begins a quest this evening to find “America’s Best Loved Novel” with the Great American Read.

The series will look at 100 books with conversations with their ardent fans and scholars.  I took a minute to look over the list of the top 100 books and I’ve got to admit I’ve got a couple of exceptions with it (as will most readers, I assume).

I wasn’t honestly expecting one of my favorite books, Lake Wobegon Days, to make the list.   And while it’s nice to see Stephen King represented with his tome, The Stand, I’ve always felt like The Shining is a stronger novel. (And it’s also about six-hundred pages shorter).

I will admit I’m perplexed by some of the more recent choices on the list.  Look, I’ll admit that Gone Girl was a great read, but I’m not quite sure it’s been around long enough to declare it one of the best 100 books ever written.  Sure, it’s ignited new interest in a the unreliable narrator niche, but I’m still not sure it’s one of the best books ever published.

I’m not quite sure how The Twilight Saga or Ready Player One made the list, unless it’s an ardent fan base that voted a lot for them.  Look, I fully accept that the Twilight novels aren’t for me, but I did read them a couple of years ago (OK, I listened to the audiobooks) and, quite frankly, I found them to be less than stellar. The first half of Twilight is a good book, but once Bella falls for Edward and she sublimates her entire personality and world to worshiping the sparkly ground he walks on, I lost interest quickly, wanting to reach into the audiobook and smack some sense into her.

And while Ready Player One was fun eight years ago, re-reading it for a book group showed it hadn’t really stood the test of time (at least for this reader).

All that said, I’m curious to watch this series and find out more about all the books.  But if the Twilight novels win the best book ever, I may have to call shenanigans on this whole thing.

 

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Review: 1984 by George Orwell

1984A friend of mine once lamented that great literature is often wasted when we’re forced to read it in high school. Some works need a bit more time and distance to be fully appreciated. And then there are those that hold up to being read then and then read again with a different life perspective.

After spending the last few days immersed in the nightmarish world of George Orwell’s 1984, I can’t help but feel this is a novel that should be read not only in high school but every few years after graduation day.

I read this one in school and beyond the popular culture allusions to it, I didn’t recall the true dark nature of the story nor Orwell’s fascinating world-building within the printed page. Starting off with the great opening line about a clock striking thirteen, the novel immediately set me on edge with that feeling that something is horribly wrong here. In some ways it reminded me of certain episodes of Star Trek where mind-bleepery is on full display. As the audience, we know something isn’t quite right with reality and we spend the rest of the episode trying to figure out if and when our familiar characters will return to the reality we know for most other episodes. Continue reading

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Review: A Study in Charlotte by Brittay Cavallaro

A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes, #1)A Study in Charlotte?

I see what you did there.

Clever title aside, this Sherlock Holmes homage is an interesting and entertaining story that features the great-great-great-great grandchildren of the original Holmes and Watson. Being a young adult novel and requiring the requisite romantic angst, this time around it’s Holmes’ descendent Charlotte and Watson’s descent, Jamie.

Brought together at a private school in Connecticut, the duo soon finds themselves at the center of a series of murders that take a page from some of Holmes and Watston’s most stories chaos. As the prime suspects in each of the cases, Holmes and Watson must join forces to try and figure out what’s going on and who the real culprit it.

As a way to introduce a new generation to the Holmes universe, A Study in Charlotte works extremely well. Both Holmes and Watson have some of the traits of their famous literary descendants and the connections between the two families and their shared history are just some of the interesting aspects of the story. The fact that a Holmes has moved from using cocaine to crystal meth is an interesting development in the story and the fact that Watson has a temper that sometimes get the better of him is another.

Brittany Cavallaro knows her Holmes-lore and sprinkles it judiciously. As the first novel in a trilogy, I’m intrigued enough by some of the larger plot threads and the characters to want to pick up another volume and continue to read more about the modern Holmes and Watson.

The book also makes me eager to dust off my original copies of the Holmes story and visit them again as well.

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A Few of My Favorite Christmas Things: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

best_ever

I think I first encountered Barbara Robinson’s The Best Christmas Pageant Ever when a teacher read it to our class. I’m not sure exactly which grade I was in when this happened, but I do remember I found the story of the Herdman clan invading the annual Christmas pageant a lot of fun.

I think I checked this book out of the library at least a hundred times growing up.   Of course, it got very popular during the Christmas season, so I’d get in my seasonal reading of the book in early to late November each year.

The Herdman family comes from the wrong side of the town.  They’re dirty, rude and have a terrible reputation.  Somehow the Herdman family catches wind of the annual Christmas pageant and shows up for tryouts, bullying their way into some of the prime roles in the play.  As rehearsals unfold, the Herdman family proves to be disruptive, leading up to a funny performance. Continue reading

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National Readathon Day 2015

nationalreadathonday_banner

Yesterday was National Readathon Day.

And while I couldn’t devote the entire day to reading, I was able to set aside a couple of hours to relaxing and enjoying a couple of good books.     Over the course of my personal read-a-thon, I streamed a couple of classical music playlists designed for readers from Amazon Prime and read the following:

Finished Reading:

Prince of Fools by by Mark Lawrence
To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Farris

Started and Finished:

The Avengers: Age of Ultron

Started:

Cemetery Girl by David J. Bell
The Pocket Wife by Susan J. Crawford

Did anyone else participate in the read-a-thon?  If so, what did you read?

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