Impostures by Al-Hariri (translated by Michael Cooperson)

Impostures (Library of Arabic Literature Book 65) - Kindle edition ...

Fifty rogue’s tales translated fifty ways

An itinerant con man. A gullible eyewitness narrator. Voices spanning continents and centuries. These elements come together in Impostures, a groundbreaking new translation of a celebrated work of Arabic literature.

 Impostures follows the roguish Abū Zayd al-Sarūjī in his adventures around the medieval Middle East—we encounter him impersonating a preacher, pretending to be blind, and lying to a judge. In every escapade he shows himself to be a brilliant and persuasive wordsmith, composing poetry, palindromes, and riddles on the spot. Award-winning translator Michael Cooperson transforms Arabic wordplay into English wordplay of his own, using fifty different registers of English, from the distinctive literary styles of authors such as Geoffrey Chaucer, Mark Twain, and Virginia Woolf, to global varieties of English including Cockney rhyming slang, Nigerian English, and Singaporean English.

Featuring picaresque adventures and linguistic acrobatics, Impostures brings the spirit of this masterpiece of Arabic literature into English in a dazzling display of translation. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This is available for purchase now.

When I read the description of Impostures, I immediately thought of a comedic play and I think that colored my expectations a little. It was far from what I expected, and I feel very lucky to have read this enthralling book.

One of the fascinating things about this book is the number of styles translator Michael Cooperson uses: from Shakespeare to Twain, and everything in between. It was so very cool! I don’t know anything about the original text, aside from what is spoken of in the introduction, so I don’t know how closely Cooperson stuck to the original, but I could tell he put a lot of effort into keeping the spirit of it, so to speak.

It did take me a while to get through this book. It’s what I call a “smart read,” meaning it was difficult for me to focus on it during the noisy parts of my day (I have a toddler tornado). Much of what made this an intriguing read was the brilliant way language was used throughout.

Readers who like the feel of language as much as the dialogue in a story will like this book. There’s something about it that feels very special. I’m struggling to put what I mean into words, but it’s more than just a collection of stories. It’s incredibly unique and I wish I could have read this with other (smarter-than-me) people, just to have the opportunity to discuss its nuances.

This is one of those books that I’m glad I read, but will probably not read again. Some books are like that. I fully enjoyed it,  and recommend it to anyone who likes to stretch their reading muscles and try something different.

Listening: Interviews, 1970-1989

Listening: Interviews, 1970–1989: Cott, Jonathan: 9781517909017 ...

“All I really need to do is simply ask a question,” Jonathan Cott occasionally reminds himself. “And then listen.” It sounds simple, but in fact few have taken the art of asking questions to such heights—and depths—as Jonathan Cott, whom Jan Morris called “an incomparable interviewer,” one whose skill, according to the great interviewer and oral historian Studs Terkel, “is artless yet impassioned and knowing.” 

Collected here are twenty-two of Cott’s most illuminating interviews that encourage readers to listen to film directors and musicians, actors and writers, scientists and visionaries. These conversations affirm the indispensable and transformative powers of the imagination and offer us new ways to view these lives and their worlds. What is it like to be Bob Dylan making a movie? Carl Sagan taking on the cosmos? Oliver Sacks doctoring the soul? John Lennon, on December 5, 1980? Elizabeth Taylor, ever? From Chinua Achebe to Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel), Federico Fellini to Werner Herzog, and Oriana Fallaci to Studs Terkel, Listening takes readers on a journey to discover not ways of life but ways to life. Within these pages,Cott proves himself to be, in the words of Brain Pickings’s Maria Popova, “an interlocutor extraordinaire,” drawing candid insights and profound observations from these inspired and inspiring individuals. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This is available for purchase now.

I’ll be honest: I’d never heard of Johnathan Cott before. I was simply intrigued by the idea of the book. I love watching documentaries that provide inside views on the subject’s thoughts and feelings, and this seemed like it might be along those lines.

I found it to be incredibly interesting. The information Johnathan Cott was able to draw from his interviewees was amazing. There was no surface stuff: rather, Cott steered things in a far more persona direction. It was never boring, although like many collections, some interviews were better than others. I actually preferred the interviews with people I hadn’t heard much about before.

It is quite obvious that Cott put a lot of time and effort into his interviews. His questions were smart- it didn’t seem like he expected any particular answer: rather, he let the conversation go where it willed. And it was definitely more of a conversation than I’m used to in interviews. It took me a bit to get used to the amount of input Cott had in the interviews, but I ended up really liking it. It added an extra layer of authenticity.

Give this book a go!

Westside Saints by W.M Akers- ARC Review

Westside Saints - W.M. Akers - Hardcover

Return to a twisted version of Jazz Age New York in this follow up to the critically acclaimed fantasy Westside, as relentless sleuth Gilda Carr’s pursuit of tiny mysteries drags her into a case that will rewrite everything she knows about her past.

Six months ago, the ruined Westside of Manhattan erupted into civil war, and private detective Gilda Carr nearly died to save her city. In 1922, winter has hit hard, and the desolate Lower West is frozen solid. Like the other lost souls who wander these overgrown streets, Gilda is weary, cold, and desperate for hope. She finds a mystery instead.

Hired by a family of eccentric street preachers to recover a lost saint’s finger, Gilda is tempted by their promise of “electric resurrection,” when the Westside’s countless dead will return to life. To a detective this cynical, faith is a weakness, and she is fighting the urge to believe in miracles when her long dead mother, Mary Fall, walks through the parlor door.

Stricken with amnesia, Mary remembers nothing of her daughter or her death, but that doesn’t stop her from being as infuriatingly pushy as Gilda herself. As her mother threatens to drive her insane, Gilda keeps their relationship a secret so that they can work together to investigate what brought Mary back to life. The search will force Gilda to reckon with the nature of death, family, and the uncomfortable fact that her mother was not just a saint, but a human being. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available now.

I read this book without having read the first one in the series. I was able to follow the story-line without any problems, but I’m sure I would have appreciated it more if I’d read the first book.

I put off writing this review for way too long because I wasn’t sure how to put all my thoughts into words. I’m still having that issue, but I think this review is just going to be a weird one. That works, because the book is best described as “weird.” I like a little weird, so that is in no way an insult.

This book was a bit of a downer for me, to be honest. I found myself picturing the entire thing in varying shades of gray (even the things that were specifically described by color). I went into the book expecting light and funny, which wasn’t quite what I got. Gilda, the detective, was an intriguing character. I think I missed some character development in the first book, because she didn’t seem to grow all that much in this one. Her cynicism definitely got on my nerves from time to time.

There was some quippy dialogue which I appreciated. I love a good quip. Or a bad quip. Pretty much any quip. It wasn’t quite enough to pull me out of the oppressive atmosphere of the book, but it did garner an appreciative nod from me.

There were some bits that felt a little choppy to me. It’s a very strong possibility that it was intentionally written that way, and I just didn’t get it. Sometimes an author and the reader just don’t jive. It’s abundantly clear that this author is very talented, I just couldn’t connect.

I think I can chalk this book up to “wrong book for right now, right book for another time.” I’ll probably reread this at some point in the future, when a little bit of a hopeless vibe isn’t going to mess with my happy.

Would I recommend this book? I honestly don’t know.

Craigslist Confessional: A Collection of Secrets from Anonymous Strangers by Helena Dea Bala- ARC Review

What would you confess if you knew it would never get back to your spouse, your colleagues, or your family? What story would you tell about your life if a stranger was willing to listen with no judgement, no stigma, and no consequences—just an unburdening and the relief of confession?

After graduating from law school, Helena Dea Bala was a lobbyist in Washington, DC, struggling to pay off her student loans. She felt lonely and unfulfilled but, after a chance conversation with a homeless man she often saw on her commute, she felt…better. Talking with a stranger, listening to his problems, and sharing her own made her feel connected and engaged in a way she hadn’t in a long time. Inspired, she posted an ad on Craigslist promising to listen, anonymously and for free, to whatever the speaker felt he or she couldn’t tell anyone else. The response was huge—thousands of emails flooded her inbox. People were desperate for the opportunity to speak without being judged, to tell a story without worrying it would get back to friends, family, or coworkers—and so Craigslist Confessional was born.

The forty confessions in Craigslist Confessional are vivid, intimate, and real. Each story is told in the confessor’s voice; they range from devastating secrets (like addiction, depression, and trauma), to musings on lost love and reflections on a lifetime of hard choices. Some confessions are shocking, like the husband who is hiding his crippling sex  addiction from his wife. Others are painful, like the man who is so depressed he rarely leaves his hoarder apartment. Some give us a glimpse into a brief chapter of someone’s life—like the girl who discovered that her boyfriend was cheating on her with a mutual friend, or the college student who became a high-end call girl. Others are inspiring, such as the woman who lost her son too young, but sees his memory live on through the people who received his donated organs.

Every confession presents a point of view not often seen, not often talked about. Craigslist Confessional challenges us to explore the depth of our empathy and it’s a call to listen to one another. (taken from Amazon)

 

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available on July seventh.

I was originally intrigued by this book because it was described as appealing to readers of Postsecrets. For those who don’t know, the concept behind Postsecrets is this: people write their secret, whatever it may be, on a postcard and mail it anonymously to an address. The postcards are collected and printed. The secrets range from sad to uplifting. Craigslist Confessional feels like a longhand version.

First of all, people like the author of this book are rare. To be able to just listen to someone tell a story, without offering advice or judgement, is a skill that not everyone has. It’s apparent throughout that author Helena Dea Bala really cares about the people she speaks with, and it makes the book even better.

This book is really, really good. It’s also really sad. Often, the stories not shared by people are left untold because they’re so hard to tell. The book contains tales of drug use, death, and regret. However, there are also stories of triumph and encouragement. Five minutes in, I was tearing up. I don’t often cry at books (although when I do, I completely fall apart), but this book got to me.

That being said, this book will not be for everyone. Parts of it are incredibly harsh. To be honest, I skipped a couple of the stories, once I realized where they were going. I did that to avoid things that might upset my mental well being. Even though I had to skip a few of the stories, I loved the rest of the book. It is a reminder that, even though we don’t all share the same experiences, we all share the same emotions. We can all relate.

If you can handle reading about the tougher subjects, I recommend this book.

The Garden of Lost Memories by Ruby Hummingbird


The Garden of Lost Memories: A heartbreaking page turner about ...

Just because you feel ordinary doesn’t mean you aren’t extraordinary to someone else.

Sixty-two-year-old Elsie knows what she likes. Custard creams at four o’clock, jigsaw puzzles with a thousand pieces, her ivy-covered, lavender-scented garden.

Ten-year-old Billy would rather spend his Saturdays kicking a ball, or watching TV, or anything really, other than being babysat by his grumpy neighbour Elsie and being force fed custard creams.

If it was up to them, they’d have nothing to do with each other. Unfortunately, you can’t choose who you live next door to.

But there is always more to people than meets the eye…

Elsie doesn’t know that Billy’s afraid to go to school now, or why his mother woke him up in the middle of the night with an urgent shake, bags already packed, ready to flee their home.

Billy doesn’t know that the rusting red tin he finds buried in Elsie’s treasured garden is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode her carefully organised life. And that when he digs it up, he is unearthing a secret that has lain dormant for twenty-eight years…(taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available now.

This is such a sweet story! It’s one of those books where the characters jump off the page and wander around in your heart. Elsie and Billy both need each other. What starts as a begrudging babysitting blossoms into a beautiful friendship throughout the course of the book. I don’t like the term “all the feels,”   but in this case it’s appropriate: this book made me feel both happy and sad, melancholy and hopeful. I really can’t put my finger on why, but The Garden of Lost Memories reminded me a bit of A Man Called Ove. 

The writing is simple but pretty, which suits the story. The way the characters are developed is nothing short of brilliant. That Elsie’s character is explained perfectly just by sharing her daily routine is pretty amazing.

Billy is a sweetheart. He had a lot of difficulties that he was dealing with, and seeing him warm up to Elsie was heartwarming. I love that they bonded over gardening. It made me wish I could grow…well, anything (I actually managed to kill a cactus once: I’ve got special skills).

This book moves slowly, the way relationships grow. I recommend this to anyone who needs a literary hug.

Dragon Age: Tevinter Nights

Dragon Age: Tevinter Nights: Weekes: 9780765337221: Amazon.com: Books

An anthology of original stories based on the dark fantasy, role-playing video game series from Bioware.

Ancient horrors. Marauding invaders. Powerful mages. And a world that refuses to stay fixed. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available for purchase now.

Sometimes I’m in the mood for a fun, slash ’em and bash ’em fantasy. This collection of stories certainly fit the bill. As is the case with most short story collections, I enjoyed some of the stories more than others. However, this is a strong book and even the stories I didn’t love were fun.

I’ll admit that I don’t know a ton of the lore surrounding Dragon Age. I don’t get much chance to play video games and I prefer multi-players, so I only know what I’ve been able to garner here and there. It didn’t matter, though: everything that is important to the book is explained throughout. Kudos to the authors for making this a book anyone can follow.

Even though all the stories are fun, there were two that really stood out to me. The first one is “Three Trees to Midnight” by Patrick Weekes. Without giving anything away, I’ll just say that I loved the development of the relationship between the two main characters. The condescension that built to a grudging respect moved the story along wonderfully.

The other story that I loved is “Luck in the Gardens” by Sylive Feketekuty. The narration in this story was excellent and made it easily the most memorable of the tales. The opening immediately hooked me.

If you’re looking for a book to take you out of the stress of everything going on, one to escape into, this book is for you.

Ruthless Gods by Emily A. Duncan

Amazon.com: Ruthless Gods: A Novel (Something Dark and Holy ...
Nadya doesn’t trust her magic anymore. Serefin is fighting off a voice in his head that doesn’t belong to him. Malachiasz is at war with who–and what–he’s become.

As their group is continually torn apart, the girl, the prince, and the monster find their fates irrevocably intertwined. Their paths are being orchestrated by someone…or something. The voices that Serefin hears in the darkness, the ones that Nadya believes are her gods, the ones that Malachiasz is desperate to meet—those voices want a stake in the world, and they refuse to stay quiet any longer.

In her dramatic follow-up to Wicked Saints, the first book in her Something Dark and Holy trilogy, Emily A. Duncan paints a Gothic, icy world where shadows whisper, and no one is who they seem, with a shocking ending that will leave you breathless. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available now.

Gothically gorgeous, this follow-up to Wicked Saints (review here) was everything I wanted it to be. I loved the darker vibe, and the progression of characters. It took a little bit longer to really “get going” than the first book did, but the character-building made it worth it. All of the main players have had their world shaken in some form or another, and seeing how they handled it (or didn’t) was fascinating.

I enjoyed reading about Nadya’s crisis of faith (for lack of a better term); it was heartbreaking and interesting, all at once. As in Wicked Saints, Malachiasz was my favorite (I’ve nicknamed him “Mal” because there is zero chance I’ll ever read that name correctly). He’s such a complicated character; I love it!

Emily A. Duncan’s strength lies in her ability to create an atmosphere both dangerous and foreboding. I had no idea what was going to happen next, which was fabulous. My only complaint about this book is that I would have loved to have a summary from Wicked Saints in the beginning, simply because so much happened.

If you like a darker feel to your fantasy, this series is for you.

The Haunted Lady by Mary Roberts Rinehart

The Haunted Lady (Hilda Adams): Mary Roberts Rinehart, Otto ...

Someone’s trying to kill the head of the Fairbanks estate, and only her nurse can protect her.

The arsenic in her sugar bowl was wealthy widow Eliza Fairbanks’ first clue that somebody wanted her dead. The nightly plagues of bats, birds, and rats unleashed in her bedroom were the second indication, an obvious attempt to scare the life out of the delicate dowager. So instead of calling the exterminator, Eliza calls the cops, who send Hilda Adams ― “Miss Pinkerton” to the folks at the bureau ― to go undercover and investigate.

Hilda Adams is a nurse, not a detective ― at least, not technically speaking. But then, nurses do have the opportunity to see things that the police can’t, and to witness the inner workings of a household when the authorities aren’t around. From the moment Adams arrives at the Fairbanks mansion, confronted by a swarm of shady and oddball relatives, many of whom seem desperate for their inheritance, it’s clear that something unseemly is at work in the estate. But not even she is prepared for the web of intrigue that awaits her therein. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

To my chagrin, I have to admit that I hadn’t read any of Mary Roberts Rinehart’s writing before this year. The author’s name sounded vaguely familiar, but it was only recently that I heard her being called the “American Agatha Christie.” Of course, that little phrase made me curious.

Hilda Adams is a nurse with a sharp eye and good problem-solving skills. In this particular book, she’s asked by the police- who she’s worked well with previously- to stay nights with the wealthy, older Mrs. Fairbanks, who is convinced that someone is trying to kill her. Hilda reluctantly agrees, expecting nothing more than the paranoia of a lonely woman. Instead, she finds herself in the middle of a who dunnit, one that takes place within a locked room. I truly love locked room mysteries!

I thought the mystery itself was clever, and the author planted the clues along the way, so that- were I smart enough- I might have solved it on my own. Alas, I am not. Thankfully, Hilda was also on the case! The cast of suspects felt a little flat to me, however. I was hoping for more from them, as far as personality goes. I struggled to feel the sense of excitement or tension that I often find in Agatha Christie’s books. Hilda herself was fun to read, though. She was a no-nonsense sort, but she was also far from impervious to nerves.

I enjoyed the book, but I didn’t love it. It was a fun read, and a good way to pass some time, but I wasn’t blown away.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles- ARC Review

Where Dreams Descend (Kingdom of Cards, #1) by Janella AngelesIn a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

Where Dreams Descend is the startling and romantic first book in Janella Angeles’ debut Kingdom of Cards fantasy duology where magic is both celebrated and feared, and no heart is left unscathed. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available for purchase on June second.

I was interested in this book because a review said that fans of The Night Circus would love it. I must say, I have no idea why the review said that, since the two books are so incredibly different. However, I still found this book to be incredibly enjoyable.

Kallia is a very powerful magician. When the book opens, she works for the enigmatic Jack (also known as The Master) in a club known as Hell House. She lives on his estate, a pampered but lonely existence. Kallia dreams of leaving and travelling to the city of Glorian. When she sees a flyer advertising a competition for magicians she seizes her chance, despite Jack’s warnings against leaving.

Kallia is the only female in the competition, and it is clear from the beginning that she is not wanted. Strange doings start and what began as a competition turns into something far deadlier.

What makes this book stand out are the fantastic characters. On top of Kallia, there’s Canary, a fire eater; Aaros, a thief-turned-magician’s assistant; and Demarco, a judge from the competition who’s hiding something. And, of course, there’s Jack. I didn’t love Kallia because she’s so convinced that everyone is against her. She’s very prickly. However, it made her incredibly interesting. The other characters were all very well-developed. Jack is my favorite. He’s such a mystery. There’s obviously more to him than is revealed in this book, and I can’t wait to see where his story-line goes.

This book ends on a cliff hanger, so if that’s a pet peeve of yours, you might want to wait for the sequel to be released before reading it. I loved it, though. The stakes were raised and there are loose ends waiting to be tied up. If the sequel continues in the vein of this book, it’s going to be a doozy.

This book was a blast. I highly recommend it.

The Glass Magician by Caroline Stevermer- ARC Review

Image result for the glass magician caroline
New York 1905―The Vanderbilts. The Astors. The Morgans. They are the cream of society―and they own the nation on the cusp of a new century.

Thalia Cutler doesn’t have any of those family connections. What she does know is stage magic and she dazzles audiences with an act that takes your breath away.

That is, until one night when a trick goes horribly awry. In surviving she discovers that she can shapeshift, and has the potential to take her place among the rich and powerful.

But first, she’ll have to learn to control that power…before the real monsters descend to feast. (taken from Amazon)

                    Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available on April 7th.

In The Glass Magician, there are three types of castes: Solitaires, Sylvestri, and the top-rung, Traders. Thalia, the stage magician, is a Solitaire, meaning she has no special abilities- until the day she discovers that she is a Trader, part of the caste that can change into animals. That knowledge changes everything for her.

I enjoyed the idea of the three classes and how they interacted. The author obviously put a lot of thought into how things would work in her world. I do wish that the Sylvestri had been explained a little more- I’ve kind of inferred their function, but they weren’t mentioned quite as much as the other two.

I have to be honest, I spent the first third of the book incredibly bored. I kept waiting for something to happen, but not much did for quite a while. Thalia was an uninteresting character, so I struggled to keep my mind from wandering while I read. Thalia both hated and envied the money that others had, which was an understandable juxtaposition.  It was honestly the most interesting character trait she had.

Right when I was ready to give up, the book picked up a little. Thalia found herself swept up in a mystery which added a sense of fun that the first part of the book was missing. It kind of wound down again at the end, though. I really felt that the ending was lacking something.

Altogether, this book wasn’t for me. It felt like it was a great idea that just needed to be fleshed out a little more. A teensy bit of work on the pacing would go a long way toward making this book much more enjoyable.