Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view


Tuesday News: Fake memoirist must pay back publisher; made-to-order libraries; preserving digital books; and 100-year old how-to manuals

Tuesday News: Fake memoirist must pay back publisher; made-to-order libraries; preserving...

Author of fake Holocaust memoir ordered to return $22.5m to publisher – In another chapter of the strange case of Misha Defonseca, the author of the fake Holocaust Memoir has been ordered by a judge to return $22.5 million that she won in another suit against her US publisher. Defonseca’s bestselling book was even made into a film, and the story of a little Jewish girl who was raised by wolves after losing her parents captivated readers all over the world. When Defonseca’s claims were found to be false — including her insistence that she was Jewish — she defended herself by asserting that “it’s not the true reality, but it is my reality”, and “there are times when I find it difficult to differentiate between reality and my inner world.”

Before the fabrications were exposed, the author and her ghostwriter Vera Lee had won $32.4 million from her US publisher Mt Ivy and its founder Jane Daniel after bringing a copyright case against them. Daniel went on to appeal the ruling, and to conduct her own research into the story, discovering documents revealing Defonseca’s date and place of birth, and that rather than “running with the wolf pack”, she was actually “enrolled in a Brussels school in 1943″, reported Courthouse News. –The Guardian

‘Your collection of books says a lot about you’: meet the creators of the bespoke library – Speaking of false fronts, here’s an article on a company that will build a library for you — for a mere few hundred thousand dollars, of course. Referring to the well-stocked library as “intelligent luxury,” Ultimate Library works with a lot of hotels to create beautiful library spaces that are meant to convey an upscale appeal. On the one hand, these folks create some stunning private libraries, but I find it sad that in some ways these are more about creating the appearance of something than actually building that thing as an authentic collection of hand selected books.

Next, the team analyses the kinds of people who are likely to stay at the hotel, their interests, how long they will spend there, where they come from and their language. Finally, Ultimate Library looks at the décor and how the books will complement the interior design brief of the hotel.

“We understand and can advise on library set up and layout, and much more importantly we understand where to go and buy fabulous books that will give that layer of intelligent luxury. We build a library that doesn’t look like it was bought off a shelf in April 2014 – it looks like it has been built up over time and has a sort of depth and longevity to it.” –Spear’s

The fight to save endangered ebooks – While some still view physical libraries as symbolic of being “civilized,” actual research libraries are working on the preservation of digital books, a process that may sound counter-intuitive, but one that is essential to the perpetuation of this rapidly growing segment of the book market. Of course, DRM and other legal obstacles problematize this essential undertaking, and, in the process, endanger the long-term survival of our digital resources. A really fascinating article, and one anyone who appreciates books in any format should read.

“You’re speaking to an institution that is in its birth pangs,” says Library of Congress project manager Carl Fleischhauer of digital preservation. He and Lynch are both preoccupied with technical questions as well as legal ones. The Library of Congress works with publishers to get DRM-free files that can be migrated to different formats over time, a luxury that rules against breaking copy protection can make dicey. It also works on developing tools to prevent content from being degraded or corrupted, including a piece of software called BagIt, which wraps content into self-contained, folder-like digital “bags” complete with a manifest listing everything that should be preserved.

As troublesome as preserving text-only files can be, it’s relatively straightforward compared to what ebooks could one day become: interactive pieces of media that blur the line between website, game, and database. Even mathematical symbols have turned out to be hard to format correctly. “Culturally, we still seem to have this sort of dichotomy in our heads,” says Lynch, between ebooks and other digital artifacts like websites and games. “We’re having a terrible time intellectually, as well as technically, understanding what preservation means for this latter menagerie of things in the digital world.” –The Verge

8 How-To Books From 100 Years Ago That Are Still (Sort of) Useful – And if you have any lingering questions about why we need to be preserving today’s books for many tomorrows, maybe some of these century-old books will convince you otherwise. Or maybe not. Personally, I think the one on how to make a shoe could be a bestseller today, and I’m especially curious to read the 1901 how-to on how to write a novel.–Mental Floss

Reading List by Jennie for November and December

Reading List by Jennie for November and December


I also read and reviewed Addicted to You, Ricochet and Fallingand read The Luckiest Lady in London (review by Willaful; I gave it a slightly higher grade than she did, a B+).

babyitscold_200Baby, It’s Cold Outside by HelenKay Dimon

I’d never read this author but I must have come across this book in Daily Deals or somewhere cheap enough to tempt me to try her. I was influenced by the book blurb, which sounded vaguely old-school Linda Howard-ish, and the sort-of holiday theme hit the spot as well. The plot concerns a CEO and his assistant who hook up (very hotly, I might add); almost immediately after he discovers that she has been involved in passing company secrets to a rival (at least so he thinks), fires her and has her escorted off company property. From there the story unfolds in a rather typical old-fashioned way – he has second thoughts, goes to find her, discovers that there was a consequence to their tryst. I thought the writing and characterization were both kind of weak and gave it a C+.

AmazonBNSonyKoboARE HQN

pictureThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

I’ve only ever read The Importance of Being Earnest by Wilde, and liked it rather well; it was very funny. The Picture of Dorian Gray is of course, quite different, being really a sort of horror novel. The plot is familiar to most, but to summarize: Dorian Gray is a beautiful young man in London who makes an idle wish that the recently finished portrait of him ages in his stead. The wish is mysteriously granted. The horrifying part is not so much that the portrait ages in Gray’s place (though certainly the fear of aging is a theme in the story), but that Gray himself becomes more and more corrupt and evil, perhaps in part as a consequence of the fact that his dissipation never shows on his face or body. I thought this story was very effective psychological horror, and gave it a B+. The one quibble I had was that I think in real life being around people who speak constantly in epigrams and bon mots would be exhausting and actually really annoying after a while.

AmazonBNSonyKoboARE HQN

book thief 2The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I’m not sure what I expected from this book, but somehow I was left vaguely dissatisfied. I had heard of it for years but forgot until I started it that its conceit is that it’s narrated by Death. I found Death an irritating narrator at first and his constant interjections distracting. Eventually I did get used to the device, but it took maybe a quarter of the book. The story concerns Liesel Meminger, a young girl in Germany before and during World War II. It begins with Liesel traveling with her mother and brother to Molching, a town outside Munich. Her mother is giving her children up to foster care because she’s not able to take care of them. Liesel’s sick younger brother dies on the journey. It’s implied that her father, arrested earlier as a Communist, is already dead, and that her mother soon will be, arrested herself or done in by grief and loss. Liesel slowly fits in with her foster parents the Heubermanns – the kindly Hans and the stern (actually, stern is probably too faint a word; she’s really kind of abusive) but ultimately solid Rosa. She finds a place in the neighborhood, playing soccer with Rudy, her eventual best friend and first love, and the other neighborhood children. As war clouds gather, the Heubermanns make a dangerous decision that puts the whole family in jeopardy.

There was a lot I liked about The Book Thief – as I said, I eventually got used to the unusual prose style and actually came to appreciate it. I liked the characters – Death makes for an interesting narrator, skillfully balancing a sorrowful pity for the foibles of humans with an ironic and detached air. Liesel is lovely, tough and intelligent, Rudy is a charming partner in crime, and the Heubermanns are appealing as well, even Rosa who constantly insults her husband and Liesel. So what didn’t work? I guess I was expecting the book to work up to a denouement that was somehow more dramatically satisfying. Instead, it’s depressingly prosaic and honestly, just plain depressing. Somehow it didn’t feel right to me. My grade was a B.

AmazonBNSonyKoboARE HQN

let'sLet’s Spend the Night Together by Pamela Des Barres

Long, long ago I read Des Barres’ groupie memoir I’m with the Band, and I’ve always remembered it with fondness. It’s a trashily entertaining depiction of the 1960s and 1970s rock star lifestyle from the point of view of one of the most famous groupies of the era, and details Des Barres’ tortured romances with, among others, Jimmy Page, as well as flings with Jim Morrison and Mick Jagger. (She was also Don Johnson’s girlfriend until he dumped her for a 14-year-old Melanie Griffith. Yuck.) This book covers a number of other groupies, both from Des Barres’ age of prominence and other eras, up to the present day. I had a couple of major problems with Let’s Spend the Night Together. The first was Des Barres’ prose style, which is godawful overwritten and flowery. I don’t remember having that issue before, but again, I read I’m with the Band back in the Paleozoic Age. The other issue is perhaps also a by-product of my advanced age: several of the stories are less entertainingly seamy and more just kind of gross. Despite protestations to the contrary (which are numerous and plentiful from a number of the subjects Des Barres interviewed and the author herself) groupiedom comes off as less like being a noble “band-aid” (ala Kate Hudson in Almost Famous), and more, well, pathetic. That isn’t true in all of the stories, but certainly a number of them, particularly the interviews with more contemporary groupies. I’m not sure if that’s because the ’60s and ’70s groupies are able to gild their reminiscences with the passage of time, or it really was a more innocent era (even given all the sex and drugs). I just know that some of the younger or current groupies seem troubled, beset by drug, mental health and self-esteem issues. It ended up kind of depressing to read about. I gave this a C.

AmazonBNSonyKoboARE HQN