01 October 2018

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: A Mixed Reading Week

4 short book reviewsLast week, I mentioned my out-of-hand book stacks. I had truly reached the end of my rope, so I spent the entire weekend taking charge of my library. What a relief.

There are advantages to waiting until you're desperate: I ended up being quite ruthless about what I kept and what I didn't. I still have a few books on the floor, but the piles are no longer a tripping hazard. Even better, I no longer have any double-stacked bookshelves.

It's always a difficult and lengthy chore to cull my personal library, but I reminded myself that every book I donated is still available at my local library and my bookstore. The result? My house is breathing easier, and I'm feeling less stressed.

What I Read Last Week

Review of Death of a Poison Pen by M. C. BeatonDeath of a Poison Pen by M. C. Beaton (Blackstone Audio; 5 hr, 12 min). This is the 19th book in the Hamish Macbeth cozy mystery series, set in northern Scotland. These books are the perfect escape: they're fun, light, and short. Hamish is a 30-something village constable, who is seen as unambitious and somewhat lazy, but in reality, he just loves the countryside and his village of Lochdubh. Although he's an excellent detective, he has successfully avoided being promoted to a city job. In Death of a Poison Pen, gossip in a nearby town leads to murder. Besides solving the murders, Hamish is dealing with a flirtatious visitor, a sleazy newspaper intern, and police politics. Fans of the series, like me, who are caught up in Hamish's personal life will especially like this installment. Narrator Graeme Malcolm does a fine job with the accents, pacing, and humor. (Personal copy)

Review of Wildcard by Marie LuWildcard by Marie Lu (Listening Library; 10 hr, 51 min). Although I was surprised at how much I liked the first book in Lu's sci-fi, cyber punk, high-action series (see my review of Warcross), I was not drawn in by the second installment. There was nothing specifically wrong with the story, which involves a complex virtual reality world and high-stakes gaming, but I wasn't invested in the task our hero, Emika Chen, is given in this book. She and her friends must stop an evil man who is intent on taking over the world through a mind-control app. Perhaps it's the current news cycle or the fact that I'm not a big gamer, but in any case, I was not caught up in Wildcard. Narrator Nancy Wu is great, creating consistent characterizations and good accents. Unfortunately, not even her fine performance was enough to keep me tuned in. This is a DNF (did not finish). Note, however, the book and audiobook have earned many positive reviews. (Review copy provided by the publisher.)

Review of Just Kids: Illustrated Edition by Patti SmithJust Kids: Illustrated Edition by Patti Smith (Ecco; October 3). I listened to the original edition of Just Kids and reviewed it here and for AudioFile magazine in 2011. I believe the new edition contains the same text except for an updated introduction and, of course, the illustrations sprinkled throughout. I did not carefully read the book again; instead I skimmed it, rereading a passage here and there, as I looked at the photographs. I don't have anything new to say about this moving and tender memoir and tribute to Robert Mapplethorpe, except the photographs are striking and add immensely to the emotional impact of Smith's words. I'm glad I took the time to browse the new edition of Just Kids and pause over the visuals. If you choose to listen to the audiobook (HarperAudio; 9 hr, 54 min), read by Smith herself, I recommend that you have a copy of the illustrated edition in hand (you can check it out from the library). If you haven't yet read the memoir, do yourself a favor and seek out this new edition. The book itself won the National Book Award, and Smith has won several prestigious awards for her work. (Review copy provided by the publisher.)

Review of Fashion Climbing by Bill CunninghamFashion Climbing by Bill Cunningham (preface by Hilton Als) (Penguin Press, September 4). I've been a Bill Cunningham fan for years, though I know him mostly through his photographs of New York City street style. Cunningham wrote Fashion Climbing, a memoir of his early life and rise in the fashion industry, some time ago but held off sharing it until after his death. Although I loved Bill Cunningham New York (click through for my review), a documentary about him, I ended up only skimming his memoir instead of reading it. There is nothing wrong with Cunningham's writing style, but, frankly, the documentary told me all I really wanted to know. As it happens, I am much more interested in his street photography than I am in the vector of his career and his struggle to find peace between his conservative Catholic family and his personal lifestyle and fluid sense of fashion. Your interests may be different. Note: the memoir ends before Cunningham began working for the New York Times. Another note: the photos described by the subtitle of "A Memoir with Photographs," are of Bill's young life and career, not photos of the fabulous clothing he spotted on the streets of Manhattan. (Personal copy)


bermudaonion 10/1/18, 8:16 AM  

I need to do the same with my books but I'm afraid it would take longer than a weekend.

I haven't seen the documentary you mentioned so I think I'd probably enjoy Fashion Climbing more than you did. I still want to read Just Kids and will have to be sure I get the newer edition if/when I get it.

Susie | Novel Visits 10/1/18, 8:40 AM  

A good cleaning out of anything always feels good. I didn't do anything quite as ambitious as books, but did attack my dresser drawers yesterday. I get antsy when life gets too cluttered.

Laura at Library of Clean Reads 10/1/18, 8:57 AM  

I do a purge every so often and discover books I totally forgot about!

Kathy Martin 10/1/18, 10:25 AM  

You make me want to do a little shelf purging. I have been managing to read a few off TBR mountain but there are many there that I am no longer interested in reading. I keep meaning to try M. C. Beaton's books but haven't yet. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

Laurel-Rain Snow 10/1/18, 10:54 AM  

Just Kids looks good to me. Enjoy your books and your newly culled library. I did a major purge in 2015...and I'm trying to keep an eye on my book acquisitions. I still have several shelves, but they are not too bad yet. But my office bookshelf is getting a little full!

Enjoy your week, and thanks for visiting my blog.

Aymee 10/1/18, 11:42 AM  

I've only read the first Hamish Macbeth novel, but I really liked it. Even when he was being a grump of epic proportions!

My roundup!

rhapsodyinbooks 10/1/18, 12:27 PM  

Interesting about Wildcard. Although I didn't dislike it as much as you, I admit I didn't find it as compelling as the first book.

Vicki 10/1/18, 3:55 PM  

I've gone through a lot of my books but still have so many more to do. It's hard deciding which ones to keep or giveaway.

pussreboots 10/1/18, 6:02 PM  

January I need to do another big cull of the family library. My weekly update

Yvonne 10/1/18, 6:22 PM  

I've read M.C. Beaton's Agatha Raisin series, although I'm behind on it. I enjoy it and want to read her Hamish series too. Hope you have a great week!

Sue Jackson 10/1/18, 7:00 PM  

Yay - good for you!! I need a good book clean out. I don't have any stacks on the floor, but too many of my bookcase shelves now have double rows. I need to just admit I will NEVER read some of these!

Wow, that's quite a wide variety you read this week! I've been hearing a lot about Marie Lu, though I haven't yet read Warcross. And the Scottish mystery sounds like a lot of fun.

Hope you enjoy our books this week!


Book By Book

Greg 10/1/18, 9:11 PM  

Culling can be freeing haha. But it's hard too to part with books! Glad it went well. :)

I've seen some definite mixed things on Wildcard too, and I'm tempering my expectations on that one unfortunately.

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