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12th September
written by Steph
I bet you don't hear that often, right?  And from a grad student no less!   Well, if you recall, I'm a grad student by day, while I do an internship with BookPage, also by day, but just one half-day per week.  Anyway, as an intern I have a variety of tasks that I perform, like writing copy that no one else wants to, proofreading and some mild editing, opening mail (which is like Christmas, because every envelope is filled with books!) and also the manual labor no one else wants to do.  Because it was recently the start of a new month, this meant that one of our bookcases was now out of date and needed to be purged.  Most people avoid this job because it involves hauling books up and down a flight of stairs, but I love it because it means I get to take home any books that I'd like, and all for the price of FREE.  (Well, I suppose I pay for it in carpal tunnel syndrome and sweat, but it's totally worth it!) Now, I really do try to limit myself when it comes to taking books home from work, since I have to be realistic about what I actually want to read (and then again, what I actually will).  Since price is no object, it's really about what I know I want to read; sometimes this means sticking to titles I already knew were coming out and will read anyway, but of course one of the greatest things about the Shelves is that you can discover so many great books that you never knew existed. Here's a picture of what I brought home yesterday:

Top Row: Howard, Dicks, Schmitt, Bernstein; Bottom: Updike, Levine, Kokoris, & Coupland

Top Row: Howard, Dicks, Schmitt, Bernstein; Bottom: Updike, Levine, Kokoris, & Coupland

After the jump, I break it all down for you... Johannes Cabal The Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard - Never heard of this one until I found it on the shelf.  Apparently it focuses on a scientist who is obsessed with figuring out a way to raise the dead, and has actually entered into a pact with Satan in order to do so.  But it's supposed to be funny (and was compared to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrel, which admittedly I haven't read, but I was intrigued!) and quirky, and involves a "charismatic vampire"... I had to know more! Something Missing by Matthew Dicks - Another one that was new to me, this one focuses on a criminal who has made a career out of robbing the same people over and over again (he's a bit OCD).  As such, Martin feels he has a bond with his victims and decides that he's going to start meddling a bit in their lives, like a misguided guardian angel.  It's supposed to be very funny, and my editor said this was one she had really wanted to cover but it has a really limited first run, so unfortunately she had to pass.  Oh well, their loss is my gain! The Most Beautiful Book in the World by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt - Tell me, how do you walk away from a book with that title?  Even if it is a short story collection!  Apparently Schmitt is already well-established in Europe, and I admit that the reference to fantastical, magical elements caught my interest.  This collection contains what the publishers refer to as "contemporary fables", and even if short stories normally don't do it for me, I figured there would be no harm in trying a few more.  Also, I've sometimes wondered if I might like "modern fairy tales" a bit more because as a child I'd always get a story before bedtime but no more.  Maybe if I could get into that kind of groove again I could learn to love the short story? The World That Was Ours by Hilda Bernstein - No, your eyes do not deceive you!  That actually is a Persephone in the pile!  My heart skipped a beat when I saw it there, and quickly snatched it up, unable to believe my good fortune!  And unlike all the other titles, this one is a final copy, rather than an advance proof!  I actually can't tell you anything about this one because I didn't bother to find out what it was about.  It was a Persephone which is pretty much all I needed to know! Old Girlfriends: Stories by David Updike - I know, I know, I just finished talking about how short stories and I don't really mesh well, and here I am with another collection.  But this one is filled with love stories of all varieties (parental love, quiet love, bumbling love, illicit love), and I just couldn't pass it up!  I am a sucker for love stories, and for some reason I feel like at least one of these stories might bring me to tears.  I hope that winds up being true! The Blue Notebook by James A. Levine - I've seen this one on a few blogs, and it was covered in the August issue of BookPage, and thought that I might give it a try.  It's about a young Indian prostitute (sold into sexual slavery at a young age by her father) who documents her life and experiences in a small blue notebook.  This is one I'm not 100% certain that I'll like because it's not really the kind of book I generally go for, but I guess we'll jsut have to see. The Pursuit of Other Interests by Jim Kokoris - OK, this is kind of a cheat, because it's actually the book that I'm going to review for the Novemeber issue of BookPage (which means I'll need to start reading it soon to hit my deadline!).  I had a few books to choose from but this one felt like it had the most heart to me, and was also kind of funny.  It's about a man who loses his cushy highpaying CEO job one day out of the blue, and how he attempts to deal with all of the aftermath.   It has subtle vibes that reminded me of Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris, which was one of the best books I read last year, so this book has tough competition with me as the reviewer.  Also, given the subject matter, I'm sure I will get to use the adjective "timely" in my review, which is something I obviously relish. 😉 Generation A by Douglas Coupland - You got me, this is another title I'm reviewing for the November issue of BookPage.  Pretty much there are so many good options for November, I'm pulling double duty so that when the issue goes to press we can make sure we cover the crème de la crème.  I've never read any Coupland before (I know, revoke my Canadian citizenship!), but I read the first 10 - 15 pages at work and tumbled head over heels with the writing.  I am so hoping this one rocks my world.  What's it about?  Uh, not entirely sure.  Something about bees dying out and then 5 relatively young people trying to navigate the 21st century, and possibly they are kidnapped by a scientist for some potentially dubious end.  I think this is one of those books that might kind of defy description... I'll get back to you! So, pretty much, at a time when I needed no new books, I now have plenty to read through.  Were any of these titles that you have been looking forward to? Also, as a bonus for reading this far, I will tease you with this tantalizing tidbit: January in the United States is going to be a VERY good month for us.  Lots of really good titles are set to be published...


  1. Oh, how lovely! No wonder you love your job. As a postgraduate graduate looking for work -especially of the copywriting/editorial variety- I am envious, even of a day’s internship.

    I agree: it being a Persephone is all you needed to know! However, I’m excited to see it as it’s one I really want to read. It is about apartheid; her husband was the only acquitted defendent in the Rivonia Trial and the book is about the lead-up, trial, and aftermath!

  2. What a great perk! I haven’t heard of most of the ones you’ve picked, but I look forward to finding out if they are any good.

  3. 09/12/2009

    The Blue Notebook almost killed me. Seriously. I wouldn’t look at men for about 2 weeks after that!

  4. 09/12/2009

    @ Claire: I knew that you of all people would be able to tell me what this book was about! I think it was just published in July… Again, I wonder if I should wait for the PRW, OR read this AND Goodnight, Mrs. Craven before then (because I don’t really want to wait) and use that as an excuse to buy more books… 😉
    Do you think this is going to be a sad one? I just read Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee (review coming kind of soon), which takes place in South Africa and I found it almost unbearable in its brutality and sadness.
    @ Jackie: I’ve started reading The Pursuit of Other Interests (which unfortunately I won’t be able to review here because it is for work, so you’ll have to wait until November to hear full thoughts), and it’s really quite good. The protagonist is a bit baffling to me, but I have laughed aloud several times and managed to read 150 pages in one day, which I think is always a sign that a book is good. I will keep you posted on the others!
    @ rhapsody: I am fully expecting The Blue Notebook to be gutwrenching, which is why I might avoid it for a while. I worry, as well, that it might feel exploitive… I’m going to search out your review and see how you responded to it.

  5. Eva

    Jealous of the Persephone! 🙂

  6. 09/12/2009

    I am so excited for your reviews! After reading your descriptions, I’m most likely to tackle Howard’s novel first. I need to read something funny, given my penchant for reading twelve murder mysteries in a row. Can’t wait to hear how they are!

  7. 09/12/2009

    Ohhh! My heart skipped a beat, too, when I saw the Hilda Bernstein in your photo! Unlike (the other) Claire, I so want to read it and will get to it sooner than later! 😀 It might be a little sad, but I think I’ve read somewhere that it’s actually a little hopeful, in some way.

  8. 09/12/2009

    @ Eva: I know! This was really the gem of the group, I think, what with it being a final copy, and knowing how expensive and hard these books are to come by!
    @ Chavonne: I have no idea when I’m going to get to any of the ones that I don’t HAVE to review, but I am truly looking forward to all of them. Tony might get to the Howard before I do, because it was also the one from the group that intrigued him the most.
    @ claire: I can’t believe I now have TWO Persephones at home waiting to be read (I won a copy of Mrs. Craven during PRW!), which is so wonderful. I will probably read these before the next PRW so that I can use it as an excuse to buy more! 😉

  9. 09/14/2009

    Wow, Steph! Those books look great; I want your job! (maybe not the grad student part, though). I am so going to start searching for part-time work @ a bookshop 😀

    The Most Beautiful Book in the World sounds the most interesting, but what an oxymoron. Could that cover be any quieter? Speaking of modern fairy-tales, have you ever read Angela Carter’s anthology? I think it’s absolutely breathtaking…

  10. 09/14/2009

    What a great job! Loved your pick of books – talk about good reads! Can’t wait to read your reviews of them. Cheers!

  11. 09/14/2009

    @ Tuesday: To be fair, my copy of The Most Beautiful Book is a cheaply bound advance reader copy, so the finished version is much nicer… Here’s a link to the final copy of the North American version. Much better than a blah blue cover!

    I’ve read bits and pieces from Carter’s anthology – I actually have Burning Your Boats which has a bunch of her fiction collected, including a lot of stuff from The Bloody Chamber. I should read more of it! (Though I think it may have been a poor choice to buy BYB because I fear that some of the items in it might be abridged – clearly something I cannot abide! I have to do some sleuthing to be sure!).
    @ Nadia: I hope they all will be good reads! I will keep everyone posted!

  12. 09/14/2009

    I am so envious of the perks of your new job! It looks like you got a great stack of new stuff there. I am really curious about The Most Beautiful Book in the World and will be interested in seeing how you like it. And also, a Persephone book? Woohoo!

  13. 09/15/2009

    @ zibilee: The free books are a really nice perk, but are hardly the only good thing about my internship! (Though of course I’m not going to balk at taking a Persephone home when the chance presents itself!) It’s really stimulating and rewarding to be surrounded by people who love books as much as I do!

  14. 09/15/2009

    I LOVED Levine’s Blue Notebook.

    I just came cross your blog; it’s great — I’ll be back 🙂

  15. 09/16/2009

    @ diane: I have heard good things about The Blue Notebook, so I’m glad to hear you also enjoyed it. I hope I do too!

  16. tuesday

    Hmm, I actually like the ARC cover better, although the floating woman is quite interesting!

  17. 09/16/2009

    I wasn’t 100% sold on the floating woman cover either; it doesn’t really evoke “beautiful” to me, BUT that being said, I do like the imagery!

  18. Steph, I think The World that Was Ours will be sad or at least very intense and frustrating. I love Nelson Mandela and will be interested to read about his life (as well as the others) from a different PoV. I’m not entirely sure what to expect but have faith that it will be amazing.

    As for waiting to read this and Good Evening, Mrs Craven until the next PRW … pah! I can’t have enough Persephones and there are some that aren’t conducive to reading in such a busy week (Good Evening is; the stories are super short and easy to read – review coming soon).

    Looking forward to your Disgrace review! I found it brutal too but such a fabulous book (I gushed over it a couple of months ago).

  19. 09/20/2009

    @ Claire: If The World that Was Ours is sad and intense, you’re right that it might not be ideal for a the next PRW, but like you, I’m sure it will be great. I think I’m going to peruse the catalogue and see which titles I might like to buy (based on your review today, I’ll probably put The Blank Wall on the list… probably Lady Rose & Mrs Memmary as well!).

    Disgrace review should be up pretty soon – my part is written, just waiting on Tony to gather his thoughts.

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