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Featured Author: Italo Calvino

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Italo Calvino was born on October 15, 1923 in Cuba to academic parents. His father was an agronomist who spent many years working in Latin America and his mother was a botanist. Shortly after Italo’s birth, the family moved back to Italy where they lived for the rest of his life. Italo studied in the agriculture department of the University of Turin until the German occupation of Northern Italy during WWII. He dropped out of school to join the partisans and his first publications were stories that centered primarily on his war experience

After the war, he re-enrolled in University and transferred from Agriculture to Literature. His first novel, The Path to the Nest of Spiders was initially submitted to a contest sponsored by the Mondadori publishing company and later released in 1947 after not placing in the competition.
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Terry Pratchett Tribute: Part II

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A few weeks ago Book Worm posted her review of Nation in honor of esteemed author Terry Pratchett, who passed away in March 2015. Today it is my turn to pay tribute to Sir Pratchett.

Until recently, I hadn’t read any of Pratchett’s books — with the exception of Good Omens, a book he co-wrote with Neil Gaiman. Why? To say I read a lot is an understatement. And because I read a lot, I have a large TBR shelf and I’m constantly trying to decide which book to read next in my seemingly never-ending pile. I’m always hesitant to begin new series because: a) I have a compulsive need to finish what I start (even if the series is terrible — case in point, I read all of the Twilight books despite loathing every minute of them), b) I’m impatient and don’t like waiting for the next book to come out, and c) Unless I read a series of books back to back, I forget about what happened in the previous books.

So, knowing that there already are 41 Discworld books was pretty daunting. Friends have been telling me for years that I should read Pratchett’s books because I would love them. Deep down, part of me was also concerned that if I loved them, I’d be heartbroken by the fact that Pratchett would never finish the series in his lifetime.
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1001 Book Review: Anagrams by Lorrie Moore

anagramsAnagrams by Lorrie Moore
First Published: 1985
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by: Jen
Find it/Buy it here:Anagrams (Vintage Contemporaries)

Do you ever wonder how your life and all your relationships could be different by shifting small details around? If so, you might just enjoy Lorrie Moore’s Anagrams.

Until this book, I had never read anything by Moore. Perhaps this is because I generally don’t like short stories. I often feel unsatisfied by short stories. As I have mentioned before, I like to get to know my characters and spend time with them before they disappear and new ones take their place. I guess this was a good book for me since it is a short story collection that follows the same characters throughout the course of the whole book. It has much less of a short story feel than do traditional collections.
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The 100 Best books of the Decade so far?

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Am I an overly harsh critic? I have admitted in the past that I can be somewhat of a book snob, but I do often agree with several top ten lists. Then I read the list of 100 best books of the past decade that was just released by Osyter.com, and either, i’ve become crankier with I age, or the literature has gotten worse. Granted we’re only in 2015, so such a list is premature, but I cringe at some of the books that made it on to this list.
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Read Around the World: Botswana

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The next stop on our world tour of reading is Botswana. Here are some facts about Botswana (and please feel free to add your own facts in the comments section):
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1001 Book Review: The Shadow Line Joseph Conrad

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The Shadow-Line by Joseph Conrad
First Published in: 1915
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Rating: ★★★
Find/Buy it here (for free):The Shadow Line (Illustrated)

Synopsis from Amazon: Written in 1915, The Shadow-Line is based upon events and experiences from twenty-seven years earlier to which Conrad returned obsessively in his fiction. A young sea captain’s first command brings with it a succession of crises: his sea is becalmed, the crew laid low by fever, and his deranged first mate is convinced that the ship is haunted by the malignant spirit of a previous captain.

This is indeed a work full of ‘sudden passions’, in which Conrad is able to show how the full intensity of existence can be experienced by the man who, in the words of the older Captain Giles, is prepared to ‘stand up to his bad luck, to his mistakes, to his conscience’. A subtle and penetrating analysis of the nature of manhood, The Shadow-Line investigates varieties of masculinity and desire in a subtext that counterpoints the tale’s seemingly conventional surface.

Book Worm’s Review

This is a novella told from the point of view of an older man looking back at a pivotal moment in his left when he crossed the shadow line between youth and adulthood.

The day he decides to quit his position as a first mate on a ship in the Orient and to return to England, he learns he is considered to be the only man able to captain a ship whose Captain recently died. Unable to resist, the young man travels to join his new crew only to discover that things are not what they seem.

His first voyage is marred with set backs: the crew suffer from Malaria, there is no wind to travel, and his first mate appears to be under the delusion that the previous captain had tried to kill them all.

The novel was first published in 1915 as a serial in New York’s Metropolitan Magazine.

Having previously read Heart of Darkness I was expecting this to be a struggle to read. However, it was a solid straightforward narrative with light-hearted moments as well as tension. What really came across was how the unnamed narrator still felt guilty for events he had no control over.

Spring Cleaning Challenge Update: Reviews

Only two weeks in and readers are really cleaning up their TBR shelves! Below, I’ve posted a few updates with information about prizes, scoreboard, and reviews. Please take the time to read all the reviews — one participant even included a photo. You may find a book that is perfect for you!

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1001 Book Review: Los Jefes/Los Cachorros by Mario Vargas Llosa

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Los Jefes/Los Cachorros by Mario Vargas Llosa
English Title: The Cubs and Other Stories
Originally published in: Spanish
Reviewed by: Jen
Rating: 3.5 stars
Find it here: The Cubs and Other Stories

Synopsis: The Cubs and Other Stories is a collection of six short fictions about young men in Peru. It is Llosa’s only volume of short stories available in English. The stories all center on issues of masculinity, machismo, and manhood. Protagonists are mostly boys and young men who play out their masculinity in everyday places: a soccer field, school, with friends, etc. The title story, and the most interesting in the collection, is the tale of a young man named Cuéllar who is partially castrated in a childhood accident. The story focuses on his life after the incident and highlights his struggles to define himself after losing what he perceives to be the thing that defines his masculinity.

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Love it or Hate it: The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Have you ever noticed how some books seem to drive a wedge between people? You check the reviews and find almost no middle-of-the-road ratings. Instead people either seem to love it or hate it. Well, welcome to the Love it or Hate it post category! Each month, we’ll pick one book to review and two contributors will battle it out to convince you to pick it up or throw it out. Last month we discussed Life of Pi and once again the “love it” fans won with 66% of the vote. Many thanks to Sara and Kristel for their wonderful reviews.

This month we will be discussing: The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. We have two contributors this month and their names will be revealed after voting closes! Please make sure to vote for this month’s book even if you haven’t read the book you can vote! The poll is at the bottom of this post.

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Book Summary (from GoodReads): Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight ghetto nerd, a New Jersey romantic who dreams of becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But he may never get what he wants, thanks to the fukú — the ancient curse that has haunted Oscar’s family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and, above all, ill-starred love. Oscar, still dreaming of his first kiss, is only its most recent victim – until the fateful summer that he decides to be its last.

With dazzling energy and insight, Junot Díaz immerses us in the uproarious lives of our hero Oscar, his runaway sister Lola, and their ferocious beauty-queen mother Belicia, and in the epic journey from Santo Domingo to Washington Heights to New Jersey’s Bergenline and back again. Rendered with uncommon warmth and humor, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao presents an astonishing vision of the contemporary American experience and the endless human capacity to persevere – and to risk it all – in the name of love.
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