Nonfiction November Readalong Announcement

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The new addition to this year’s Nonfiction November celebration is a readalong, in an effort to encourage non-bloggers to participate in a discussion in addition to bloggers. Last week we asked you to vote on what that readalong title would be. We each picked a book we were interested in reading and in the end, you decided! There were two winners throughout the week that were pretty close in votes: Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff and The Restless Sleep by Stacy Horn.

Since everyone has such varied nonfiction tastes, we thought we’d give you an option to read one or both of these books along with us. Kim and I will be reading The Restless Sleep and Rebecca and Katie will be reading Cleopatra.

We will be wrapping up the readalong on November 19th, before the Thanksgiving holiday in the US, with discussion posts on our blogs and a link-up. You’re welcome to include your links to posts where you talked about the books or to join in the discussion of the book in the comments section. We’ll also be chatting about the books on Twitter, using the hashtag #nonficnov.

I’m looking forward to reading The Restless Sleep with everyone!

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

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I first downloaded The Raven Boys on audio because I thought it was a different book. It was an excellent mistake.

I first fell in love with The Raven Boys because of the narrator, Will Patton. The particular lilt of his voice is beautiful, the cadence like poetry or song. It calms me. I always keep an audiobook from The Raven Cycle downloaded on my phone so I can pick a point in the middle of the story and listen if I’m feeling nervous. I especially like to listen to it on airplanes.

It was more than just the narration of The Raven Boys that made it great, of course. I do think that Will Patton could read me the phone book and I would be happy, but Stiefvater’s prose is like magic, effortless and intricate and lovely and surprising. Sentences that shouldn’t work do. Things that should sound cheesy instead just sound right and like there is simply no other way to describe it.

It’s everything else that keeps me coming back for more. The characters are complex. Good and bad. No one is wholly evil and no one is wholly good. The characters surprise and charm  Now that I’m back in Virginia, I’ve been enjoying the setting even more. I’m originally from Virginia and I’ve been spending a lot of time in the area where Henrietta is supposed to be. It’s just fun to read about places and landscapes you recognize, people you could know.  I’m looking forward to more explanation of the magic, but oh how I love the combination of folklore and psychic powers and traditions.

When I first got The Dream Thieves, I read it much too quickly. I didn’t want to make that same mistake with Blue Lily, so I savored it and it is everything you have come to expect from this series. It is much less like a series than one continuous novel that has just been broken up into chunks, which is not a complaint. I’m looking forward to reading them all cover to cover one day.

We spent The Raven Boys getting to know our characters. The Dream Thieves was all about the magic of Cabeswater and two different dreamers. Blue Lily, Lily Blue is much more about moving the plot along to some kind of conclusion, though not without character development (so much Noah!) and more exploration of the magic that lives on the ley line. I loved that we got to know the women of Fox Way a little bit more in this installment.

It’s just nice to find a story to get lost in again.

I received a promotional copy of Blue Lily, Lily Blue from the publisher.

What I’ve Been Up To

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My new job is near the mountains. This was where we had our annual party celebrating the founding of our company. I can’t get over how beautiful the mountains are.

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I’ve long wanted my own kayak, but I wasn’t sure if it was just something I was holding onto, so I thought I’d take a kayak tour of the Potomac. It ended up being a rainy day and everyone else canceled, so it was a private kayaking adventure with just me and the guide. It was the best, and yes, I do still want a kayak. Time to start saving up. (And figuring out where to keep it…)

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IMG_20141004_141241We went to a bbq festival in Richmond a few weekends ago and it was a perfectly beautiful, warm, lovely blue day. The neighborhood we walked through had some amazing flowers and front porches. Plus this adorable fairy garden.

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Finally, this weekend we went to the Farm Festival at Sky Meadows Park. It was a gray, cold day, but perfectly lovely for taking tours of old houses and learning about beekeeping and staring at the beautiful colors on the trees.

Introducing Nonfiction November!

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I’m so excited to announce that Nonfiction November is returning for 2014! The idea for Nonfiction November came because I had had such a great year of themed reading and I had (and have) way too many nonfiction books languishing unread on my shelves, plus alliteration is a wonderful thing, so Nonfiction November was born. Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness, nonfiction blogging hero and all around wonderful person, co-hosted with me and it ended up being one of my favorite blogging months ever! This year I’m happy to say we have two new bloggers who have joined us – Rebecca from I’m Lost in Books and Katie from Doing Dewey will be co-hosting with us this year!

Like last year, this is an event that can be as low-key or as involved as you want it to be! There are three main ways you can participate and, of course, we hope you’ll be able to do all three! I’m most excited about our new readalong this year, but we need your help to pick out the book we’ll be reading. See below!

Option One

Read and post about one nonfiction book during the month of November and include it in one of our linky posts!

Option Two

Participate in our weekly discussions about nonfiction! Each week there will be a different topic, hosted by a different co-host. On Monday, we’ll post about that week’s topic and on Friday we’ll do a round up of that week’s participants. You can put your post up on anytime during the week, just be sure to add your link to the linky before Friday so we can include you in the round up post! Here are this year’s topics, so you can plan ahead:

Week 1 (Nov 3-7), Hosted by Kim – Your Year in Nonfiction

Take a look back at your year in nonfiction and answer the following questions:

  • What was your favorite nonfiction read of 2014?
  • What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?
  • What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet?
  • What do you hope to get out of Nonfiction November?

Week 2 (Nov 10-14), Hosted by Leslie (me!) – Be the Expert/Become the Expert/Ask the Expert

This was one of my favorite topics last year. Everyone loves a list, after all! If you decide to Be the Expert, post a list of books about a certain topic that you’ve read and can recommend. If you’d like to Become the Expert, do a little research and create a list of books on a certain topic that you’d like to read. Finally, if you’d just like suggestions from other participants on which books to read about a certain topic, you can Ask the Expert. Here are a few examples from last year.

Week Three (Nov 17-21), Hosted by Rebecca – Diversity in Nonfiction

What does diversity in nonfiction mean to you? Is it about the topic or theme of the book? Or is it the race or ethnicity of the author? Do you have any recommendations for diverse nonfiction books? Are there any topics that you’d like to see written about and/or read more widely?

Week Four (Nov 24-28), Hosted by Katie – New to My TBR

It’s been a week full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!

Option Three

POLL COLLAGE_2Finally, the third way you can participate is new this year: our Nonfiction November Readalong! This year we’re adding a readalong component and we’d like you to help us pick which book we’ll be reading. Please go to this link to vote on which of the following four books you’d like to read for the readalong: Cleopatra by Stacy SchiffThe Sports Gene by David Epstein, The Restless Sleep by Stacy Hornor Wild Ones by Jon Mooallem. 

PHEW. That was a lot to say in one post, but I hope you’re as excited about participating in Nonfiction November as we are about reading your posts! I can’t wait!

The Sparrow Readalong: Final Thoughts

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I never blogged about the first time I read The Sparrow, but I wish I had. It left me feeling so conflicted the first time I read it. The ending left me feeling completely miserable, affected me so profoundly, but I found much of the first three quarters of the book to be difficult to connect with. But after I finished reading The Sparrow, it stuck with me. I just kept thinking about it. When that meme went around on Facebook a few weeks ago, where you listed your most influential books, The Sparrow made my list. It’s a book I haven’t really stopped thinking about since I read it: the tragedy of it, yes, but also the characters, the science fiction element, and,  the questions of fate and faith and what we do when we’re faced with the impossible.

When I found out Trish was reading The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell in September, I knew I wanted to join in for a reread. Would I feel less conflicted this time around? Would it be less powerful?

It took me a long time to reread The Sparrow, as long as it took me to read it the first time. I still found the beginning to be very slow, but I find nonlinear narratives difficult to get into in general. They are often very rewarding, though, and The Sparrow is proof of that. As sudden and abrupt as the ending felt, the novel prepares you for it and it felt real. What I appreciated much more this time around was the reality of The Sparrow. If there was a discovery of another planet, if we had the technology to get there, and if we did get there – I believed it could happen in this way.

The story really brightens and comes alive for me when Anne is introduced to the story. I understand and appreciate Emilio more through her eyes. The rest of the characters do feel somewhat less solid in comparison to Emilio and Anne, but Jimmy, DW, George, and Sofia all have their place in my heart. I think this is the novel’s strength and why the structure made it somewhat difficult to connect with the rest of the novel: I just wanted to spend all my time in 2019 with Emilio, his friends, and the discovery. I loved the joy of the scientific discovery, the pleasure the crew took in discovering something new about Rakhat. Emilio’s questioning of fate and faith, which propelled him on the journey that eventually lead him to tragedy, felt raw and honest.

These are the things that stuck with me after I read The Sparrow for the first time, and I imagine they are the things I will remember after this reread. It’s a beautifully written novel and I am glad I reread it, if only to sort out all the feelings I had about it. While I don’t expect it’s a novel I’ll reread again in the near future, it’s one I want to share with people, encourage them to read. It makes you think. It makes you wonder what you would have done in Anne’s position, in Emilio’s. And that, I think, is this novel’s greatest strength and its staying power.

The Most Useful Gift

I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity. – Eleanor Roosevelt

I noticed something a while back – I stopped asking why.

I accepted things. I almost just didn’t even notice unusual things or things I didn’t understand. They were just swept aside, categorized as unknown and left at that. I think I have a fear of not knowing, of being ridiculed for what I don’t understand. I don’t know what eventually made me stop and wonder what I was missing, but I started to notice. I woke up. How many interesting things in the world had I missed because I didn’t ask why? Because I didn’t try to learn something new?

I almost felt like I’d been robbed. It’s so easy to get stuck – you take the same way to work every day, you go to the same stores, you walk the same paths. It’s routine, and there are some lovely things about routine, but it’s also so easy to forget to pursue something else. Time seems to pass so quickly when you have a routine. Your days run together and you can’t pick out one from the other. There were times in the last year or so that felt scary fast, like time was slipping away too quickly and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

But there is something I can do to slow it down. As this New York Times article says, “the velocity of time is a big fat cognitive illusion” and you slow it down by asking questions, learning new things, pursuing interests. “Become a student again,” learn. Be curious. Ask.

I started a new job a few weeks ago and it truly does feel like the past few months have crawled. In fact, it hasn’t even been two months. It’s barely been a month and a week! I’ve learned so many new things. It’s a completely new industry and a completely new job. I’m on my toes constantly, trying to observe and learn as much as possible. Last week I gave my first training and I think I did a great job. It was amazing to feel that satisfaction again.

I’m the kind of person who easily gets frustrated when I can’t master something quickly and I just need to get over that. I have been pining to learn to knit for years, but give up because I’m already good at crocheting and I’ll just go crochet something. I forget that it took me a lot of time and a lot of scarves that were shaped like triangles to learn how to crochet well. Knitting isn’t something I can’t do. It’s something I haven’t been willing to devote the time to practicing.

I saw a quote from Bob Ross on tumblr recently and it was a good reminder: “Talent is a pursued interest. Anything that you’re willing to practice you can do.” If I want to knit, all I have to do is practice. I want to do a lot of things. I am interested in learning how to build furniture. We need three bookshelves and I don’t want to just buy them, I’d love to be able to build them myself. I found a four week woodworking class at a local community center on building for less than $200. Then I found all their other classes. There are SO MANY things I can learn and try. Botanical drawing. Stargazing. Sewing. Calligraphy. I can’t wait to sign up for my first class.

This is a thought that has really been spinning in my head since we moved. I don’t want to be a person who doesn’t use the greatest gift of curiosity. I don’t want to be a person who doesn’t learn, doesn’t ask why. I don’t want to be a person who is too lazy and discouraged to try and master something. So I’m trying. I’m reminding myself. I’m telling myself. Learn. Be curious. Ask. It’s my new mantra. It’s a perfect gift to myself.

Food Tour: Grey Dog

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Borough: Manhattan
Neighborhood: West Village and Chelsea (and a few others, but those are the only two I’ve been to!)
Address: Check out their website for all their locations
Subways that will get you there: ACE/BDFM to West 4th or the 1 to Houston for the West Village location
Fare: Breakfast, sandwiches, delicious desserts

Favorite dish: Peanut butter and jelly on challah bread, jalapeño popper tacos
Cons: For sandwiches, it can be a bit on the pricey side. Not outrageous for NYC, but it’s not cheap either

Why It’s A Favorite: A lot of my love for Grey Dog is sentimental. When I started my job, my coworker who would soon be one of my closest work friends took me to lunch at Grey Dog’s original location on Carmine St. A few weeks later, that location closed, much to the dismay of everyone who worked in the general area. Fortunately, they opened up in a larger place down the street a few years later and everyone was happy again. The first week or so it was open, we might have been making daily trips.

Everything at Grey Dog tastes fresh and homemade and delicious. I know it’s crazy, but one of my favorite things to get there is a peanut butter and jelly for breakfast. You can pick your bread and I always get it on the challah, which is soft and perfect with the peanut butter and jelly. The jelly is homemade and not too sweet, just the perfect amount of tartness. And, of course, I always get the crunchy peanut butter. Once I had that peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I never ordered anything else from Grey Dog. And yes, it does feel kind of silly to go to a restaurant and get a PB&J, but it’s a fancy PB&J and worth it.

I have friends who swear by the chicken salad sandwich (with melted cheese and bacon, of course) and it was always nice to stop in Grey Dog on warm spring days for an Arnold Palmer and a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie. It’s a fun place for brunch because they have a lot of different choices and everyone’s going to go home happy. With a warm, casual atmosphere and good coffee and happy hour specials, you really can’t go wrong at Grey Dog.

Grey Dog Coffee” by Robyn Lee is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

This post is a part of a series of restaurant reviews on Regular Rumination called Food Tour and alsoWeekend Cooking hosted by the wonderful Beth Fish Reads.

 

Top Ten Authors I’ve Only Read One Book From But NEED to Read More

After looking through my GoodReads for the year, I’ve realized that I’ve spent most of the year reading series and rereading favorite authors. It’s been a year of changes and I’ve mostly gravitated to comfort reads.

1. Luke Pearson – I read Hilda and the Midnight Giant earlier in the year and loved it, but I haven’t picked up any of Luke Pearson’s other books in the Hilda series. These books are quirky and cute and so fun to read, so I’m not really sure what I’ve been waiting for.

2. Diana Wynn Jones – I know! I finally read Howl’s Moving Castle last year and it was practically life changing, I loved it so much. I’ve been a little worried that the rest of her books wouldn’t live up to how much I loved Howl’s, so I’m counting on you to tell me what to read in the comments. Please!

3. Kelly Braffet – I’ll take any chance I can get to tell you to read Save Yourself, so I’m not sure why I haven’t picked up any other books by Kelly Braffet yet. I need to read Josie & Jack or Last Seen Leaving stat.

4. Matthew Quick – Amy makes me want to read everything Matthew Quick has ever written. I liked Silver Linings Playbook, so I look forward to reading more.

5. Richard Lloyd Parry – People Who Eat Darkness was one of the most interesting nonfiction reads of 2013 and the topics of his other titles all sound interesting, like In the Time of Madness: Indonesia on the Edge of Chaos.

6. Franny Billingsley – Chime was such a strange, wonderful reading experience, I’d love to recreate that with Franny Billingsley’s other novels.

7. Eva Rice – Meg convinced me to read The Art of Keeping Secrets, even though it wasn’t quite my kind of novel. I enjoyed it thoroughly and would love to read another of her novels.

8. Jesmyn Ward – I’ve been meaning for a long time to read Men We Reaped, the new nonfiction book by the author of the amazing Salvage the Bones.

9. Mary Doria Russel – I’m rereading The Sparrow this month and I’ve heard from a few people that I should also explore her other books.

10. Eleanor Brown, Amor Towles, Jenny Wingfield, Lauren Graham, Carol Rifka Brunt… and all the other debut novelists who need to get writing their second novels right away! I’ve been waiting patiently. Please hurry!

toptentuesdayTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke & The Bookish.

Quotes & Notes: Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

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QUOTES:

Summer was here again. Summer, summer, summer. I loved and hated summers. Summers had a logic all their own and they always brought something out in me. Summer was supposed to be about freedom and youth and no school and possibilities and adventure and exploration. Summer was a book of hope. That’s why I loved and hated summers. Because they made me want to believe.

NOTES:

I have waited a long time to write about Aristotle & Dante, which is usually a mistake. In this case, though, I’m happy I waited, because the longer I sit with Aristotle & Dante, the more I like it, the happier it makes me, the more real it feels. I may not remember the details, but I remember the joy of listening to it and how wonderful it was to spend time with the characters. I loved this book and I honestly can’t wait to read it again.

Ari is angry, about a lot of things, but especially because his brother is in prison and no one will talk about it. He doesn’t like or get along with the other teenage boys in school. He doesn’t get along with his father, at all. He loves his mother and doesn’t understand what she ever saw in his father. When he meets Dante one fateful day at the swimming pool, he is surprised when they become fast friends after Dante offers to teach Ari how to swim. Dante is unlike any boy he’s ever known: sensitive, willing to talk to him about anything and everything, eager and earnest. When Ari meets Dante’s parents, he’s not surprised to find that they’re not quite like anyone else he’s met before either. But when Dante’s feelings for Ari cross over from friendship into something more, they have to navigate this change in their relationship without sacrificing their friendship. Ari knows that he loves Dante, but is as a friend? More? And what doest that mean for him?

There were a lot of things to love about Aristotle and Dante. The writing is just lovely and Lin-Manuel Miranda does a marvelous job bringing Ari to life. I think what I loved most of all is that Ari and Dante’s parents were a huge part of this novel and they’re fallible, realistic, loving, amazing parents. It was as much their story as it was Ari and Dante’s story and that made me so happy. There is also the frank discussions about race and feeling accepted by a community. Dante doesn’t feel “Mexican enough,” doesn’t feel connected to his community in a way that Ari does.

I love what the author says about Ari and Dante in this NPR interview: “I think when you’re 15, you kind of are a philosopher, you are a thinker. And I wanted to give their names some weight.” There was something very genuine about Aristotle and Dante as teenagers, discovering each other, discovering how to be themselves in the world they were given, how to love each other, their families, but especially themselves.

Food Tour NYC: Murray’s Cheese Shop and Murray’s Cheese Bar

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Borough: Manhattan
Neighborhood: West Village
Address: 254 Bleecker St
New York, NY 10014
Subways that will get you there: ACE/BDFM to West 4th St or the 1 train to Christopher St.
Fare: CHEEEEESE

Favorite Dish: At the restaurant, get the cheese plate. It’s all good, but they’ll give you as many cheeses as you like with something special to pair with it, like honey or jam, and it’s divine.
Cons: Excuse me, it’s a cheese shop, there are no cons. (Ok, it’s a little pricey.)

Why It’s A Favorite: I’m going to resist just typing the word cheese over and over again. I can’t tell you how many times I went to Murray’s Cheese shop, whether it was to pick up a dinner of a few cheeses and olives and pickles, or to grab an amazing grilled cheese for lunch. Unfortunately, I only went to Murray’s Cheese Bar once, for my anniversary, but it was one of the best meals of my life.

If you go into Murray’s, whether it’s the Shop or the Bar, the cheesemongers are so helpful. Just tell them what you want, your price point, and what you’re planning on serving with it and they’ll come up with a winning cheese every time. Plus you get to sample the deliciousness.  While the goods and cheese at Murray’s can be expensive, they’re definitely worth it. Plus if you stick to a budget, you can get a really nice cheese to accompany a home cooked meal for not a lot of extra money. Just make sure you tell your cheesemonger the price point you’d like to match… because they might give you a taste of the super expensive cheese and you’ll be very tempted. That happened to me more than once! And I might have given in. (You might have overheard me saying, “What is the smallest amount possible of that amazing, absurdly expensive cheese you can give me?”)

Similarly, the restaurant is definitely special occasion nice if you’re eating a full meal there, but if you want to just stop in for a drink and a cheese plate, it could be an inexpensive date or get together with friends. Look at that photo of a cheese plate I took on my anniversary. It’s calling your name! In addition to the shop and the bar, Murray’s also has classes on cheese, making it, enjoying it, finding wine and beer to go with it, that you can take. I never got a chance to take one and I was just so disappointed that I missed out on it.

Finally, just to entice you a little bit more, in between the shop and the bar, which are both on Bleecker St, is a great little bookstore called Book Book. Books and cheese. You can’t go wrong!

This post is a part of a series of restaurant reviews on Regular Rumination called Food Tour and also Weekend Cooking hosted by the wonderful Beth Fish Reads.

The Sparrow Readalong

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It seems like everyone has been talking about The Sparrow lately and I found myself leaving the same comment on the blogs that mentioned it: this is a book that totally destroyed me and I desperately want to read it again, but I don’t know if I can. This book affected me in a way few other books have and I think a lot of people feel that way. But the truth is, for a lot of the book I felt disconnected from it, which made my strong reaction to the last half of the book so surprising to me. I have long wanted to reread it, even though I knew it would be difficult, to reread the beginning of the book with the knowledge I have of the ending. Plus, I never reviewed The Sparrow on my blog and I’m looking forward to having the chance to write about it here.

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So when Trish decided to do a readalong in September, it seemed like the perfect time to reread it. Fall has always felt like a good time to reread the books that have meant something to me and I’m looking forward to seeing how I feel about the book this time around. It’s not too late to join in! It’s a pretty informal readalong with a post to go up on the 15th and the 30th. I think it’s best to go into this one knowing next to nothing about the plot, so I won’t give anything away here. If you haven’t read The Sparrow, I do hope you’ll join us for the readalong or add it to your TBR.

Quotes & Notes: Chasers of the Light by Tyler Knott Gregson

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QUOTES:

I will never, ever believe in the words
“too late” because it is never too late
to be exactly who you wish, do exactly
what you should, say exactly what needs
to be heard, and live the exactly life
you should be living.

NOTES:

The Typewriter Series is a series of poems created by Tyler Knott Gregson, which was born of a spontaneous poem that Gregson wrote on a typewriter. Fascinated by the immediacy, the inability to edit, and the fact that he had written the poem on a found piece of paper that gave new meaning to it, Gregson turned it into a series. The book is comprised of scans of the actual pieces of found paper (the backs of calendar pages, old library cards, book end pages, receipts etc) with the poems, photographs by Gregson, and black out poetry.

One of the best things about this book is the object itself. It’s a slim hardcover and I enjoyed flipping through it and discovering all the different types of paper that Gregson used for his poetry. My favorite poems were the shortest ones, comprised of only one line or two, of a delightful insight. The photographs are beautiful, but a little disjointed in the overall presentation of the book.

Unfortunately, for me, one of the best things about poetry is how careful it is, how thoughtful it is. Spontaneous poems, with little editing, can be beautiful and insightful, and there were a few in Gregson’s collection that fit that description, but I found an entire book of them to be disappointing. After a while, the poems all began to sound the same and the charm wore off. While I wish the poems had been a little bit more carefully considered and a little bit more craft put into them, I do appreciate the sentiment behind Gregson’s project and this book as an object and piece of art.

Chasers of Light was published by Perigree, an imprint of Penguin, on September 2nd, 2014. I received a free review copy from the publisher.