In the two months since my last Mailbag post, I’ve received a lot of new ARCs, and as usual, I haven’t deserved them. Although there were a couple of books that could have been thoughtful gifts from people who know me well, most of them were merely tangential to my interests, and a couple were completely random. Since I’m not going to read them all and do them justice with a thoughtful review, the least I can do to is shine a light on their existence in the hopes that one of you will find something interesting to read this month.
I keep a small bookcase next to the armchair in my living room, where I have been collecting ARCs and bills and other paper-based things I’ll deal with later. I’m pretty sure that the books I receive from publishers are completely random; on the top shelf in the picture above are the books that prove it.
Top Shelf Books
The World of Raymond Chandler in his own Words, edited by Barry Day
I recognized the name Raymond Chandler, but had to read the back blurb to find out why. I don’t read crime fiction. So I’m not very likely to read his memoir. But if that’s what you’re into, this look at the man who started the whole thing would probably be fascinating.
A Banquet of Consequences, by Elizabeth George
I recognized the name Elizabeth George….but if you Linley and Havers are already among your imaginary friends, you’re going to jump on this one.
The Distance from Me to You, by Marina Gessner
I’ve never heard of Marina Gessner or this book. A coming of age novel with an ill-fated love story and wilderness survival? OK, I’m down.
Tangential on the Bottom
All of the books on the bottom shelf have some connection to my interests, but all of them are just a little bit off from what I would actually read. If I were a person who got paid to read and review books instead of sometimes getting a free book unsolicited in the mail, I would dive into each of these with pleasure.
A Very Nantucket Christmas, by Nancy Thayer
The first time I ever heard of Thayer was a couple of weeks ago. I think I was reading Shelf Awareness when I stumbled on an interview with Thayer about her upcoming book. That afternoon, the book showed up in my mailbox. I’ve never been to Nantucket; my only mental connection with the place involves a classic limerick rhyme. But the serendipity of my exposure to Thayers’ career-long romance with the island makes me want to read the book.
LEGO STAR WARS Small Scenes from a Big Galaxy, by Vesa Kehtimaki
I never had Legos as a kid and didn’t watch Star Wars until I was in college, but “Legos and Star Wars” pretty much sums up my husband’s childhood. If only this book had arrived a week earlier, I could have wrapped it up for his birthday. But he’s still going to enjoy it.
Joan of Arc A Life Transfigured, by Kathryn Harrison
Military history and religious fanatics are not exactly my cuppa, but biography of a significant woman in history? Sign me up. Plus, I visited Rouen on my college backpacking trip and took a picture at the site where Joan was burned to death. One of these I’ll read this, because I feel a connection.
City on Fire, by Garth Risk Hallberg
I don’t read mysteries. But this book is getting all kinds of attention for its hybridization of literary fiction, genre fiction, and graphic novels. So now I’m curious.
My Kitchen Year, by Ruth Reichl
I don’t cook, which seriously reduces my interest in cookbooks, even if they are also sort of memoirs. But I read Reichl’s novel Delicious! when it came out and I really enjoyed it. That makes me curious about this true-story version of what happens when a culinary magazine folds.
Brian Jones: The Making of the Rolling Stones, by Paul Trynka
I love books. I love music. Peanut butter! Chocolate! Books about music are Reeses. Except I don’t like the Rolling Stones. Heresy, but there it is.
The Art of Comic Book Writing, by Mark Kneece
I’ve been reading a lot of writing craft books this year. Since I don’t draw though, I’m unlikely to need this book. But if you’re an artist who needs help with a story – call me! I can write one for you. I’ve got a book to tell me how.
Off the Chain
The beauty of a random universe is that sometimes it hands you perfect gifts. Two of the books in my latest stack would have been on my birthday wish list if I had known they existed.
The Conjurer’s Riddle, by Andrea Cremer
Just look at that cover! It’s gorgeous. I don’t just want to have it, I want to live in it. If I wasn’t already smitten, the back blurb sealed the deal. Steampunk YA with an honest and fearless heroine? See above RE: where I want to live. Unfortunately, this is the second in a series, which will not stand. This happened to me earlier this year, when I received Jubilee Manor, a YA with a similarly lush cover and intriguing dystopian-future premise. I got the first book in the series, Landry Park, from the library. I never found time to write a review. It wasn’t flawless, but Landry Park was successful in balancing the YA requirement for romance and adventure with a pointed message about income inequality and political stability, taking a strong stand in favor of universal human rights. I’ve been nagging my daughter to read it. Now I plan to hunt down the prequel to The Conjurer’s Riddle and hope it lives up to its cover art as well as that other series did.
The Ugly Renaissance: Sex, Greed, Violence and Depravity in an Age of Beauty, by Alexander Lee
With a title like that? Fuggeddaboutit. This is my kind of history. (Plus, I took a college history course that spent an entire quarter on Renaissance Italy and did a paper on the Strozzi family. So, you know, connected.)