Stacking the Shelves: July 2016

July 30th, 2016 10:00 am by Kelly Garbato

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July’s comic book pre-orders!

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I won an autographed copy of Reliquary along with some shiny book swag, also signed by Sarah Fine. Thanks Sarah!

(Photographed next to my giant TBR comic book pile. SO MANY BOOKS SO LITTLE TIME.)

2016-07-15 - Senior Dogs Across America - 0014 [flickr]

Schiffer Publishing was nice enough to send me a copy (beautifully wrapped, I might add!) of Nancy Levine’s Senior Dogs Across America, which is 1) lovely; 2) already out; and 3) makes a wonderful gift for dog lovers of all ages.

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Mags is rather miffed that she didn’t make the cut. :P

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Shelf Awareness FTW! Specifically, an ARC of The Call by Peadar Ó Guilín.

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Also from Shelf Awareness: an autographed copy of Vengeance by Zane.

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For review from the publisher: A Vegan Ethic: Embracing a Life of Compassion Toward All by Mark Hawthorne. I had the pleasure of reviewing Mark’s previous two books, and the intersectional focus of this one really has me psyched!

2016-06-28 - Signed Katherine North - 0003 [flickr]

I know we’re barely halfway through the year, but The Many Selves of Katherine North is poised to go down as one of my favorite 2016 releases. I was lucky enough to win a hardcover copy, signed by Emma Geen herself, in a launch day giveaway on Twitter.

(Check the shiny little blurb graphic Bloomsbury made for me!)

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Normally I’m not a huge book collector, but. I AM SO HAPPY YOU GUYS I CANNOT EVEN!

2016-06-27 - In My Humble Opinion - 0003 [flickr]

I wasn’t quick enough to snag an ARC of Soraya Roberts’s upcoming book, In My Humble Opinion: My So-Called Life, on NetGalley – but when I emailed the publisher to inquire about a physical ARC, ECW Press was kind enough to put one in the mail for me. Thanks a bunch, Sarah!

 
I also snagged a few great deals on ebooks this month:

  • The Chain (The Kinship Series #1) by Robin Lamont ($2.99)
  • The Other Side of the Stars by Katherine King ($.99)
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    For review on NetGalley:

  • The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race edited by Jesmyn Ward
  • Haters: Harassment, Abuse, and Violence Online by Bailey Poland
  • Ice Crypt (Mermaids of Eriana Kwai #2) by Tiana Warner
  • The Lost and the Found by Cat Clarke
  • Hag-Seed (Hogarth Shakespeare) by Margaret Atwood
  • Everfair: A Novel by Nisi Shawl
  • A Vegan Ethic: Embracing a Life of Compassion Toward All by Mark Hawthorne
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    For review on Edelweiss:

  • Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt
  • History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
  • Yesternight by Cat Winters
  • The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics
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    For review on Library Thing:

  • The Kraken Sea by E. Catherine Tobler
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    July 30th, 2016 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

    Book Review: The Unseen World, Liz Moore (2016)

    July 29th, 2016 7:00 am by Kelly Garbato

    Brilliant, heartfelt, and full of surprises.

    five out of five stars

    (Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through NetGalley.)

    The work of the Steiner Lab, in simple terms, was to create more and more sophisticated versions of this kind of language-acquisition software. […]

    These applications of the software, however, were only a small part of what interested David, made him stay awake feverishly into the night, designing and testing programs. There was also the art of it, the philosophical questions that this software raised. The essential inquiry was thus: If a machine can convincingly imitate humanity—can persuade a human being of its kinship—then what makes it inhuman? What, after all, is human thought but a series of electrical impulses?

    “What can I get you to eat, hon?” asked Liston, and rattled off a list of all the snacks of the 1980s that Ada was never permitted to have: canned pastas by Chef Boyardee, Fluffernutter sandwiches, fluorescent Kraft macaroni and cheese. In truth, Ada had never even heard of some of the food Liston offered her.

    I was told to ask you something, said Ada finally.
    I know, said ELIXIR. I’ve been waiting.

    Ada Sibelius had something of an unconventional upbringing, beginning with her very conception. At the tender age of 45, Dr. David Sibelius – “director of a computer science laboratory at the Boston Institute of Technology, called the Bit, or the Byte if he was feeling funny” – decided that he wanted a child. Ada (named after one of David’s favorite entries in the Encyclopædia Britannica) was born to a surrogate one year later. This was no small thing back then: 1971, to be exact.

    In keeping with his eccentric nature, David decided to homeschool his daughter; or rather lab-school her. Ada accompanied David – as she called him – to work every day, where she was immersed in his world, in the language of mathematics, neurology, physics, philosophy, and computer science. In the absence of any biological relatives, David’s colleagues – Charles-Robert, Hayato, Frank Halbert, and Diane Liston – became her extended family; his interests were hers. Ada learned to solve complex equations, decrypt puzzles, and present and defend theories. David filled composition books with the names of books, songs, pieces of artwork, and even wines that she should try one day; a cultured bucket list before its time. In many ways, their relationship was more like that of a teacher and his student than a father and his daughter.

    At the Steiner Lab, David and his colleagues studied natural language processing and developed language-acquisition software. Their crowning achievement – David’s second child, if you will – was ELIXIR (mmmm, magic!). Everyone at the lab – including Ada – took turns chatting with ELIXIR, to teach it the words and rules and complexities of language. The program was meant to acquire language the way that humans do, and learn it did. Slowly but surely, ELIXIR grew alongside Ada, evolving from garbled, nonsense text to a semi-eloquent conversationalist (albeit one who reflected the habits and speech patterns of its teachers). For Ada, ELIXIR was a confidant, a non-recoverable diary; she poured her heart and soul into ELIXIR, especially when things got bad.

    (More below the fold…)

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    July 29th, 2016 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

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    July 28th, 2016 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

    Book Review: Dark Matter, Blake Crouch (2016)

    July 27th, 2016 7:00 am by Kelly Garbato

    The summer blockbuster potential is strong with this one.

    five out of five stars

    (Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through NetGalley.)

    Standing happy and slightly drunk in my kitchen, I’m unaware that tonight is the end of all of this. The end of everything I know, everything I love. No one tells you it’s all about to change, to be taken away. There’s no proximity alert, no indication that you’re standing on the precipice. And maybe that’s what makes tragedy so tragic. Not just what happens, but how it happens: a sucker punch that comes at you out of nowhere, when you’re least expecting. No time to flinch or brace.

    “It’s terrifying when you consider that every thought we have, every choice we could possibly make, creates a new world.”

    Jason Dessen’s life is a good one, if disappointingly ordinary. He and his wife Daniela have one child, a fourteen-year-old boy named Charlie; he spent his first year in and out of hospitals, but is thankfully healthy now. An artist, Charlie takes after his mom – who was once an up-and-comer in the art world, but is now a part-time art tutor and full-time mom. Jason also chose to put his career on hold when Charlie was born; an atomic physicist, he teaches undergraduate physics at Lakemont College. The science isn’t terribly sexy, but it pays the bills.

    Jason is happy…and yet, as he watches college friends receive awards and accolades, he often wonders what might have been if he hadn’t prioritized his family over his career. We’ve all been there: obsessing over old regrets, fantasizing about roads not traveled. Unlike the rest of us, though, Jason’s about to find out what could have been.

    (More below the fold…)

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    July 27th, 2016 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

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    July 26th, 2016 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

    Book Review: Gemini, Sonya Mukherjee (2016)

    July 25th, 2016 7:00 am by Kelly Garbato

    Two Paws Up!

    five out of five stars

    (Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through Edelweiss. This review contains minor/vague spoilers!)

    When I was younger, if I couldn’t sleep, I would mentally trace the stars of the Gemini constellation. Dad had taught us to find it when we were as young as six or seven, keeping us up late on certain clear winter nights, when Gemini would be easiest to spot. He didn’t know that much about constellations, but for some reason he needed us to memorize every part of those glittering, dazzling twins, so close to each other that they formed a single constellation. So we would bundle up in sweaters and jackets and follow him outside with our kid-size astronomy books and the star maps that he’d printed out. We would find Orion or the Big Dipper and use them to trace our way over to the bright stars Castor and Pollux, and from there we’d find the rest of Gemini.

    For Dad it was all about the timeless beauty of those twins and their love for each other, which was more important to them than life itself. He couldn’t have known how for me it would be just the starting point to falling in love with all the stars. […]

    But at some point I started worrying about Gemini, the celestial twins. Were they glad to spend billions of years together in the sky, always on display, or would they rather wander apart and explore?

    “You keep saying ‘we,’” Clara said sharply. “You know, you don’t always have to speak in the first person plural. Some of us have to. But you don’t.”

    “Don’t you ever want to be free of me?” I asked. There was a long silence, filled with nothing but the sounds of our almost-synchronized breathing. Almost synchronized, but not quite. “I want to be free,” she said finally. “But not free of you.”

    Seventeen-year-old Clara and Hailey are conjoined twins: pygopagus, like Violet and Daisy Hilton, who were also joined at the back. (Or, more accurately, the butt.) They have completely separate upper halves, as well as two pairs of legs and feet, but share the lower half of a spinal column. When Clara kicks an oversharing Hailey in the shin, she feels the pain too.

    In many ways, Clara and Hailey are like any other high school girls. Raised in Bear Pass – a tiny rural town in the California mountains – Hailey longs to travel the world. She wants to gaze out on Paris from atop the Eiffel Tower; spend hours contemplating art at the Louvre; and show her paintings at big city galleries. She wants more than her tiny little hometown can possibly give her. As lovely as it may be, who is Hailey to judge when she’s nothing to compare it to?

    The more anxiety-prone of the two, Clara finds the familiarity and security of Bear Pass more comforting than stifling. She’s accepted her mother’s plan for her life: four years at nearby Sutter College, where Dad’s tenured professorship will score the twins free tuition. Yet the closest Sutter comes to meeting her academic interests is environmental sciences – a far cry from physics and astronomy – and their film program isn’t exactly a great match for Hailey’s painting, either. And every now and again, as she gazes up at the stars, Clara also feels the pull of the universe, so wide and vast. The arrival of Max, the capital-C-Cute new guy from LA, doesn’t exactly help either.

    With graduation barreling down on them, which path will Clara and Hailey choose? And in the meantime, who on earth will they ask to the Sadie Hawkins dance?

    (More below the fold…)

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    July 25th, 2016 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

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    July 24th, 2016 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

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    July 23rd, 2016 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

    Book Review: The Sunlight Pilgrims, Jenni Fagan (2016)

    July 22nd, 2016 7:00 am by Kelly Garbato

    A story about apocalypses, both personal and communal.

    five out of five stars

    (Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC though NetGalley. Trigger warning for rape and transmisogyny.)

    —Are you staring right at the sun? Stella asks.
    —I’m staring right under it.
    —You’ll go blind.
    —No, I won’t. I was taught how to by the sunlight pilgrims, they’re from the islands farthest north. You can drink light right down into your chromosomes, then in the darkest minutes of winter, when there is a total absence of it, you will glow and glow and glow. I do, she says.
    —You glow?
    —Like a fucking angel, she says.

    She’s not worried about breasts and she doesn’t want rid of her penis, small as it is, not if it means getting an operation anyway. She just wants smooth skin and her girl voice and to leave wolf prints in the snow each morning.

    It is funny how he always thought she was a hero when he was a little boy, but he had no idea exactly how much that was true.

    The Sunlight Pilgrims isn’t quite what I expected. Usually when I say this about a book, it’s with at least a hint of disappointment. Not so in this case! The Sunlight Pilgrims may not be the book I wanted, but it’s exactly the book I needed.

    To me, the word “caravan” evokes action, movement, journeys (preferably epic ones). The synopsis brought to mind a group of daring travelers, weaving through the mountainous countryside, trying in vain to stay ahead of the harsh winter (and, presumably, the violence, looting, riots, starvation, poverty, etc. that are sure to follow). I guess I overlooked the word “park,” not realizing that caravans are to the UK what trailers are to the US: mostly stationary homes. Thus, what we get is a story that’s a little less Mad Max and a little more mundane: a small, remote town in the Scottish Highlands preparing for the worst winter in two hundred years. Perilous, yes, but minus the action and adventure I expected.

    Likewise, this isn’t necessarily the apocalypse. Set a mere four years in the future, conditions are dire, to be sure: climate change and melting ice caps have led to a a global cooling in temperatures. The Thames is overflowing (and then frozen solid); an iceberg nicknamed Boo is expected to make contact with the Scottish coast; and experts predict that temperatures in some regions will drop as low as -50 degrees. Many people will die of starvation or will freeze to death. Blackouts are common; internet connections are down. Rioting, looting, protests, and violence are commonplace. Things are very, very bad. But is it the end of the world? Maybe, maybe not.

    (More below the fold…)

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    July 22nd, 2016 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

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    July 21st, 2016 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

    Book Review: All Is Not Forgotten, Wendy Walker (2016)

    July 20th, 2016 7:00 am by Kelly Garbato

    Mesmerizing — and also a little maddening!

    four out of five stars

    (Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC though NetGalley. Trigger warning for violence, including rape.)

    I was a child with a box of matches.

    It seems so easy, doesn’t it? To just erase the past. But now you know better.

    Jilted by some jerk named Doug, fifteen-year-old Jenny Kramer flees from the party he’d invited her to – only to cross paths with a predator. Jenny is assaulted and raped in the woods surrounding her classmate’s house. A few of her fellow party-goers hear Jenny’s cries and rush to her aid, but not until the hour-long attack has ended, and the perpetrator escaped.

    Upon her arrival at the hospital, the doctors immediately administer a sedative so that they can perform an exam and then surgery. With her parents’ consent, they also subject Jenny to a controversial treatment to erase her memories of the trauma. A combination of morphine and Benzatral, the treatment is meant to induce limited anterograde amnesia in patients: preventing short-term memories from being filed away in long-term storage. (While this does feel a little science fiction-y, according to the author’s note, the premise is based on emerging research, most notably on veterans suffering from PTSD.)

    While the treatment initially appears successful – inasmuch as Jenny has no memories of the rape – Jenny’s mental state slowly begins to unravel. She suffers from anxiety and insomnia; she begins to self-medicate with alcohol and drugs; and, eight months later, she attempts suicide.

    (More below the fold…)

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    July 20th, 2016 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

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    July 19th, 2016 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

    Book Review: Through the Woods, Emily Carroll (2014)

    July 18th, 2016 7:00 am by Kelly Garbato

    “That night Bell’s dreams had teeth.”

    five out of five stars

    But the worst kind of monster was the burrowing kind.

    The sort that crawled into you and made a home there.

    My stars, what a lush and gorgeous book!

    Let’s start with the artwork, which is just exquisite. The illustrations are quite nice, though it’s the vivid, moody colors that really make the panels pop. Each of the five short stories has its own distinct vibe, which is no small feat. Whereas “Our Neighbor’s House” is drawn in grey, dreary shades – offset only by the occasional blood red – “A Lady’s Hands Are Cold” is more visually striking, with deep blues, rich golds, and (of course) complementary reds when the horror is unleashed. While each story looks a little different, the artwork (especially the way the humans are drawn) is still similar enough that there’s a feeling of continuity; clearly these all belong to the same collection.

    Of course this is all topped off by the cover. Not only is the illustration wonderful (the front is awesome; the back, even more so, what with its unexpected pop of blue!), but the cover is textured for a rich, luxurious feeling. And when the sun hits it *just right*, the bumps sparkle and dance and glint like a knife.

    And the stories! A hybrid of fairy tales and horror stories, they remind me of the spooky picture books I read as a kid. (In a Dark, Dark Room, anyone?) Creepy and weird and just ambiguous to keep your wondering, well into the wee hours of the night.

    Suitable for kiddos, but parents? You’ll want to keep this book for your own.

    (This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

    (More below the fold…)

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    July 18th, 2016 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato