Armchair BEA: Interview with Kate Barber, Book Artist

A musician friend of mine (Hi, Patrick!) came through town a few weeks ago, and I had the opportunity to get to know his wife a bit better. Kate just finished up a degree in something I think most (if not all) of us book lovers will find absolutely fascinating: Book Arts.Visit Kate Barber's website to see stunning examples of her work. You can also visit her blog, Between the Pages, which is chock full of photos and descriptions of some of the processes involved in creating books.Design by Amber of Shelf NotesToday we are free to choose our own topic for Armchair BEA, so I asked Kate if I could interview her with all many of the questions I had swimming about…

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Armchair BEA: Beyond the Borders

Design by Amber of Shelf NotesIt’s time to step outside your comfort zone, outside your borders, or outside of your own country or culture. Tell us about the books that transported you to a different world, taught you about a different culture, and/or helped you step into the shoes of someone different from you. What impacted you the most about this book? What books would you recommend to others who are ready or not ready to step over the line? In essence, let’s start the conversation about diversity and keep it going! To me, reading diversely means being brought into the experiences of characters who are different from me, whether that difference is one of race, culture, or even socioeconomic status.…

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Armchair BEA: Novellas & Short Stories Recommendations

Design by Amber of Shelf NotesToday we're giving love to those little stories in our lives. These are my recommendations for short story collections and novellas by genre. I'm a huge fan of shorts, so I got a little carried away when working on this topic. (Also, I promise I don't work for CCLaP or anything! They just publish a lot of short works, and I've enjoyed everything I've read so far). I've divided my recommendations into three categories: coming of age literary fiction, sci-fi and speculative fiction, and quirky reads with elements of surrealism and magical realism.Adé: A Love Story by Rebecca Walker - American & Swahili Muslim fall in loveWomen Float by Maureen Foley - complex female relationshipsfour sparks…

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The Unfinished Child by Theresa Shea

  Only ten pages into The Unfinished Child, my heart was already in my throat. I could tell this was going to be one powerful read. The novel tells the story of three women: Marie MacPherson, mother of two and unexpectedly pregnant at age 39; her best friend, Elizabeth, infertile for years despite treatments; and Margaret, whose daughter was born with Down syndrome in 1947. Their experiences finally converge in a shocking conclusion that lingers well after setting the book down. Shea writes with such incredible care and sensitivity, I felt connected to each of these characters on a deeply personal level; whether I'd faced their struggles or not. Little details as simple as putting the word "failed" in quotes when…

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In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

  "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." This is the main theme throughout and a good summary of Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food; it even appears on the cover! The book is divided into three parts: Part 1, The Age of Nutritionism, dismantled a lot of misconceptions I had, leaving me frustrated and suspicious of most nutritional information I've received throughout my life. The problems with research are so complex, with countless variables impossible to isolate. On top of that, business and politics muddy the waters in some pretty despicable ways. Part 2, The Western Diet and the Diseases of Civilization, is where I started to feel bogged down. Reading this section was slow going, but I greatly appreciated…

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The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

  Naoki Higashida is thirteen years old and severely autistic, "a writer still with one foot in childhood," as described in the introduction by translator David Mitchell. He is nonverbal, communicating via an alphabet grid. Written in Q&A format and concluding with one of Higashida's short stories, The Reason I Jump is a quick read which offers a peek into the mind of an autistic child. I think it's important to remember this is one person's perspective. The word "we" is used so often in his responses, it'd be easy to make sweeping assumptions that Higashida's perceptions mirror what others with autism experience; but we all know that autism disorders vary greatly from person to person. However, The Reason I Jump offers unique insight and…

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Bout of Books 10 Wrap Up

My goals for Bout of Books 10 were:- Read. A lot.- Participate in at least one Twitter chat- Participate in at least one challenge- Find a new-to-me blog to followI had a fantastic readathon! I read 1,225 pages and finished 6 books (don't be too impressed, there were novellas thrown in to the mix). I participated in three Twitter chats, a bunch of challenges, and I started following shoutame reads.Here are the books I completed last week:If I had to pick a favorite from the week, it would be The Unfinished Child, hands down.As for my current read, I'm about halfway through The Year She Left Us by Kathryn Ma. After that, I'll probably start The Sixteenth of June by Maya…

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Bout of Books 10 Challenge: Spell It Out

This challenge is hosted by kimberlyfaye reads. Use the first letter in any book you’ve read or want to read to spell out a word. You can choose first name, initials, your birthday month, or your zodiac sign.This challenge ended up being a lot of fun! I originally wanted to use books by my favorite author. Unfortunately, I was missing a couple of letters when I tried to do this in English. When I switched to the Japanese titles, it was easy peasy! Here's my name spelled out in Haruki Murakami titles:

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Bout of Books 10 Challenge: Books You’re Looking Forward To

This challenge is being hosted by Shannon at River City Reading. The challenge is quite simple: create a list of titles you're looking forward to reading. They can be upcoming titles in a specific season, titles that have been on your shelves, it's up to you!I'm looking forward to these three music-related non-fiction titles:Violins of Hope by James A. GrymesThe Late Starters Orchestra by Ari L. GoldmanThe Day I Almost Destroyed the Boston Symphony by John Sant'AmbrogioAs well as these three novels:2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajamas by Marie-Helene BertinoWorld of Trouble: The Last Policeman Book III by Ben H. WintersColorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

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Blossoms and Bayonets by Jana McBurney-Lin and Hi-Dong Chai

  Based on the true story of co-author Hi-Dong Chai, Blossoms and Bayonets is the fictional coming-of-age story of 15-year-old He-Seung, the middle child in a Korean Christian family in 1942. After his father's arrest, He-Seung must leave his mother and baby brother behind as his family and country are torn apart. Told in alternating first-person perspectives, this novel gives a personal account of Japan's occupation of Korea, which involved all the trademark assimilation tactics of colonization: taking away the native language, religion, even the local flora. Anything Koreans identified with was stripped away, declared illegal, and replaced with the Japanese equivalent. Actual quotes from Japanese propaganda start each section, which makes for a haunting blend of history and fiction.…

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