In My Mailbox (1)

Man, I haven’t done one of these since my first year of blogging! Only then it was Mailbox Monday. Yeah. Anyway, I’ve been taking pictures of new books I get, so I thought I might as well post them here, too!

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren (who was inspired by Alea of Pop Culture Junkie‘s This Week in Books). Basically you just post about new books that came into your house over the past week, whether in the mail or by getting them at the library or by buying them in a store. Capiche?

Mine’s in pictures! Pictures with cuddly toys in them!

Books pictured:
The Tapestry Shop by Joyce Elson Moore (offer from publisher).
The Pharaoh’s Secret by Marissa Moss (bought from Amazon).

What did you get in the mail last week?

Birdwatching: Witches!

So I originally had a big ol’ rant about why most modern books-with-witches suck because they’re almost always trying to appropriate the Silver RavenWolf sort of Wicca which is COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS and actually kind of insulting but then I remembered that every religion has been appropriated badly and that I shouldn’t get pissed off because someone thinks that calling someone a “Wiccan” instead of a “witch” is better because it’s less scary/super-duper cool and if they don’t bother doing any research or even trying to get the details right because it’d make for a more boring story anyway, naked frolicking aside, and then I deleted everything and wrote this sentence instead. So…just know that I take my witches (probably overly) seriously, and that I like the ones that are more based on the Ye Olde version of witches than the Modern Interpretation (aka Wiccan Free-For-All).

Note: If you want to know more about real-world witches and Wiccans (and other neo-pagan religions), you may be interested in reading Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler. It’s fun to read AND informative!

Some books with ANASTASIA-APPROVED! witches in them:

  • The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (1973). One of my favorite YA books EVER, and not just because of Amanda-the-maybe-witch.
  • Andromeda Klein by Frank Portman (2009). Although maybe Andromeda would be considered more of an occultist than a witch.
  • The Letter, The Witch and the Ring by John Bellairs (1976). Also any of his Lewis Barnavelt books, which have really great characters, creepy storylines, and excellent writing.
  • The Witches by Roald Dahl (1983). The movie is really good, too: Angelica Huston is the witch queen!
  • Anything Diana Wynne Jones does. Obviously.
  • Her Wiccan, Wiccan Ways by Traci Hall (2008), aka the one that does Wicca-as-fiction right.
  • Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s Witch series (1980-2005?). Seriously spooky– I think it actually gave me nightmares when I was younger.
  • The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling. Duh.
  • Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series has some fun witches in it, including Equal Rites (1987).
  • Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (1990). Agnes Nutter!
  • Stardust by Neil Gaiman (1999) has some scary witch sisters in it.
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum (1900). Heh.

Do you like books with witches in them? Or do you just get irritated and insulted (if you’re a witch yourself, I guess)?

Thanks to Once Upon a Bookshelf for list-y inspiration!

Free Reads (1)

As you may know, I am somewhat obsessed with finding legal free books, music, and other things to keep me entertained. Since I’ve gotten my Kindle, I think I’ve downloaded somewhere around 300 legally free books– mostly from Project Gutenberg, which shall forever hold the key to my spendthrift heart.

But there are other places to get free books besides Project Gutenberg, and that’s where this bi-weekly report will come in. I’ll be posting about freebie downloads I find throughout my internet travels that interest me the most; it’ll be somewhat skewed towards Kindle books, since that’s what I have, but I’ll also let y’all know if other formats are available as well. Enjoy!


  • Underground by Jeff Parker and Steve Liever. The complete series, all five issues, for free PDF download. (You can also buy the paper copies for a very decent price, if you want.) Quick summary: “The story follows Park Ranger Wesley Fischer as she tries to save Stillwater Cave– and then has to save herself.”


  • Chinatown Beat by Henry Chang. Kindle (probably US-only), Topaz format if that means anything to you. (Shortened) summary: “Detective Jack Yu grew up in Chinatown. Some of his friends are criminals now; some are dead. Jack has just been transferred to his old neighborhood, where 99 percent of the cops are white. Unlike the others, confused by the residents who speak another language even when they’re speaking English, Jack knows what’s going on.”
  • Baen just released another CD full of free books, this time by Lois McMaster Bujold. Includes the ENTIRE Vorkosigan Saga! Plus interviews, travel memoirs, speeches, photos, and more! Available in multiple formats worldwide. Yay! (Note: If you prefer to download the entire CD in one go, you can find it hosted here.)
  • The Expeditioner’s Club by Kate Moira Ryan can be downloaded for free from Smashwords using the following coupon: YE53J. It’s been getting some good reviews and looks like a fun book! Summary: “Timothy Elliott, the young master of this middle grade novel, is an ordinary boy at the beginning of an extraordinary life. Living in Brooklyn with his mother, he is just a kid who takes for granted the fact that his doorbell is the actual roar of a lion and that the animals of the great plains come alive at night inside his home at the Expeditioner’s Club. To him, it is all so ordinary; and boring. He is terrified first and delighted later when he learns that as the child of two expeditioners, he has been born with the ability to time travel, and what the plan for his life really is. Through his thrilling adventures, Timothy will discover the world as only an expeditioner can.”
  • In Praise of Copying by Marcus Boon was just published and is available as a free PDF. Quick summary: “This book is devoted to a deceptively simple but original argument: that copying is an essential part of being human, that the ability to copy is worthy of celebration, and that, without recognizing how integral copying is to being human, we cannot understand ourselves or the world we live in.” (via BoingBoing)
  • This isn’t a really new book, but Cory Doctorow’s newest book, For the Win, is available as a free download in multiple formats, just like all his other books. Quick summary: “At any hour of the day or night, millions of people around the globe are engrossed in multiplayer online games, questing and battling to win virtual “gold,” jewels, and precious artifacts. Meanwhile, others seek to exploit this vast shadow economy, running electronic sweatshops in the world’s poorest countries, where countless “gold farmers,” bound to their work by abusive contracts and physical threats, harvest virtual treasure for their employers to sell to First World gamers who are willing to spend real money to skip straight to higher-level gameplay.” (Full summary at the website if you’re interested.)

(I know there are a few more free reads out there right now, especially on publisher websites. But those ones tend to be “read online only” instead of being available to download and read OFF of my computer, which is what I like best. Hm.)

Books I will read once I graduate

I’m graduating from college in December, and since I’m not immediately planning to go to grad school I’m pretty much free from academia FOR-EV-ERRRRRR after Christmas. This is both scary and exciting, and to keep myself from freaking out about ~THE FUTURE~ I’ve been making plans. One of the easiest to accomplish ones is the List of Books I Will Read!

It’s an ambitious list, I’ll grant you that, but why the heck not. I won’t have impending tests and essays and homework to worry about any longer, so I have to fill my brain with SOMETHING. Here’s what I’ve thought up so far. I’m making reading these books a priority in 2011:

I think you can spot a theme, here: big books (for the most part) that require a lot of concentration. I’m assuming that not being in school will a) free up a lot of brain-space for other stuff than memorizing dates and place names, and b) give me more time overall to read. Yay?

What other books do you think I should read in 2011? I’m a little surprised at how many classics are on here, but reading classics on my Kindle is SO awesome because it’s got the built-in Oxford dictionary so I don’t get tripped up by weird, arcane words any more (now it’s just the weird sentence structure)! Plus I’m just into classics more now than I was a few years ago. More recs for classics, please?

Review: People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

196. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
Publication: Penguin (Non-Classics) (December 30, 2008), Paperback, 372pp / ISBN 0143115006
Genre: (Historical) Fiction
Rating: Buy it
Read: October 9, 2010
Source: Bought
Summary from Amazon:

Inspired by a true story, People of the Book is a novel of sweeping historical grandeur and intimate emotional intensity by an acclaimed and beloved author. Called “a tour de force”by the San Francisco Chronicle, this ambitious, electrifying work traces the harrowing journey of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, a beautifully illuminated Hebrew manuscript created in fifteenth-century S pain. When it falls to Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, to conserve this priceless work, the series of tiny artifacts she discovers in its ancient binding-an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair-only begin to unlock its deep mysteries and unexpectedly plunges Hanna into the intrigues of fine art forgers and ultra-nationalist fanatics.


I’m weird about historical fiction. On the one hand, I don’t like it when people take liberties with THE FACTS and fiddle around with things just to make make their story better when it’s completely impossible in real life. On the other hand, I absolutely LOVE books that take a situation or object that’s mostly a mystery and then adds in a story to explain something. Like People of the Book does! I think because the first one is deliberately bad research and the second one normally has a LOT of research behind it, so while it’s probably not actual fact it has a lot of POSSIBLE facts behind it. Do you know what I mean? I hope so, because this is as good as I can explain my weird reading preferences.

The author

People of the Book is a really good book, and not just because it is obviously well-researched. It’s good because it’s a compelling story, and a heart-breaking one besides. It takes you across the world, following the trail of a book and the people who came into contact with it, and that’s always a lot of fun. It also takes you throughout time, with stops in pretty much every horrible major event in the past thousand years or so.


Because it does move around so much between times, places, and people, you might think that you don’t get to know the characters or locations very well. Wrong! For all that it switches around, Ms Brooks knows how to pack a lot of description and character development in a relatively short space. It’s intense, and there wasn’t one character I didn’t feel connected to in some way. I even felt connected to Hanna, and I didn’t really even like her that much. People of the Book is very moving emotionally, and if I didn’t hate crying so much and so refrain from doing it, I would have cried my eyes out at several points in the story.

For all that, it’s not an overall sad book. It’s definitely got the theme of hope and survival running throughout, and that’s always a nice thing to read. Very uplifting, you see. I enjoyed reading it immensely, and if you’re the sort of person who likes to have your heartstrings tugged, you might enjoy it, too.

A page of the haggadah

(Also if you’re interested in the making and history of books, because there’s a lot of that in there, too. I find it fascinating, myself, and I actually learned quite a lot about book preservation from reading People of the Book.)



Get your own copy @ Amazon (Kindle) or Powell’s and support Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog!

Other reviews: A Book A Week | She Is Too Fond of Books | Maggie Reads | | Shelf Love | American Bibliophile | Book Nut | Linus’ Blanket | At Home With Books (audiobook) | Dear Author | The Tome Traveller’s Weblog

Out Soon (November 2010)

Just a new thing I’m trying, wherein I list a bunch of interesting-looking books that are coming out next month. This is not EVERY book coming out in November, only the ones I’m personally interested in. Partially inspired by The Story Siren’s New Reads feature, except I’m not ambitious enough to do it weekly.

You can also find this list on the sidebar, which is updated somewhat more frequently and includes months other than November!

You may also be interested in last month’s releases.

Out November 2nd:

Bartimaeus: Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud, fourth book in the Bartimaeus series.
The Greyfriar (Vampire Empire, Book 1) by Clay & Susan Griffith.
Hero by Mike Lupica.
The Lies That Bind: A Bibliophile Mystery by Kate Carlisle.

Trolls in the Hamptons: A Willow Tate Novel by Celia Jerome.
Virals by Kathy Reichs.

Out November 9th:

The Boy from Ilysies (Libyrinth) by Pearl North.
Empress of Eternity by L. E. Modesitt.
Grounded by Kate Klise.
The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith.

Out November 11th:

Around the World in 100 Days by Gary Blackwood.
The Foundling’s Tale, Part Three: Factotum by D.M. Cornish.
The Painted Boy by Charles de Lint.

Out November 16th:

Luka and the Fire of Life: A Novel by Salman Rushdie.

Out November 23rd:

Miss Dimple Disappears: A Mystery by Mignon F. Ballard.
The Steps Across the Water by Adam Gopnik & Bruce McCall.

Which new books are you excited for?