Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A look ahead to 2010

Things you can anticipate from me in 2010:
  • Saying 20-10. Not 2000 & 10, but 20-10. Anyone else doing this?
  • Military nonfiction. Yup, you read that right. Lately, it seems that all I want to read about is the military. And not even military fiction; I burned through that genre when I was a teenager and I haven't looked back.* No, instead it's memoirs about serving, or following a platoon through boot camp, or a historical view on battles throughout history. I've come up with a list longer than you'd think of books I want to read on military conflicts, women serving throughout history, and--God forbid--politics. (And I despise politics.)
As it stands now, my reading list:

One Bullet Away--reread (Finished this one last week)
Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army--finished 1/4/10
Generation Kill--reread
Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts: The American Military in the Air, at Sea, and on the Ground
Imperial Grunts: On the Ground with the American Military, from Mongolia to the Philippines to Iraq and
Beyond House to House
First to Fight: An Inside View of the U.S. Marine Corps
American Spartans
AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America's Upper Classes from Military Service -- and How It Hurts Our Country
and finally, Fiasco
  • A complete avoidance of reading challenges. Seriously, I'm swearing off of them. (Note the irony in this statement when compared to the above point.)
  • A possible move. I'm becoming... tired of Blogger. Nothing wrong with it, but I'm kind of feeling like a change might possibly be in order. We'll see.
  • More posting. I'm putting myself on a schedule.

*I wish I could remember that book. It was about a platoon, two platoons, in Vietnam, the Double Deuces, or Double Aces, and the nurses at the camp. A guy died, I think his name was Ace, and Susan/Sue--one of the nurses--married the dead guy's friend, who was a the head of one of the platoons. And there a was a nurse named Jane who was sleeping with someone. If I recall, there was a sequel/second book too. Ugh.This is going to bug me now. If anyone wants to be, I don't know, psychic and tell me what book this was, my brain would really appreciate it.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Holiday Spirit

Thank you, Penguin Books, for the four books the FedEx man just delivered to me! How did you know that was all I wanted for Christmas?

ETA: And thank you for the two more that arrived today!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Yes, I'm still here

Promise. Things are just very, very busy for me right now, so I'm taking a semi-hiatus. Posting--regular posting--to resume in the new year.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Winner, what I am

With hours to go, I clocked in at 50,044.

Such horrible prose, such a wandering plot.

Such a pretty, pretty picture.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Things that shouldn't surprise me, but do:

Philip Pullman, the author of His Dark Materials, has written his own
version of the New Testament
in which the story of Jesus is given a
'different ending'

More than 1,000 people queued for up to 24 hours to have their books
signed on the first stop of Sarah Palin's tour to promote her new book

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Every month Colleen posts another list of books at Bookslut for teens and every month I wish (again) for more free time so I could just read them already.

So it's November

And I think that no matter how much I want to post fun, interesting things, it's not going to happen this month.

I literally don't have enough hours in the day.

So instead: Teaser Tuesday

From The Light in High Places by Joe Hutto, page 89:

At Kathy's, a biologist can pull a plastic container from her refrigerator, casually sit down at the dinning room table, and spend two hours sorting through a hundred ziplock bags filled with fecal samples from bighorn sheep, mountain lions, and bears, and she will never bat an eye. "Make sure my cats don't get into that."

I know, a nonfiction book about biologists in Wyoming studying the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep; so not my usual taste. But I'm branching out, or trying to anyway.

Disclaimer: No one asked me to read and review. And it's my book.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


Dear Mr. Unabomber by Ray Cavanaugh wasn't quite what I expected it to be, but in some ways I think that made it better.

From the publisher's website:

In the best classical tradition, this epistolary novel strives to make sense of the world in which the letter-writer finds himself, alone and misunderstood by everyone.

Whom is a young man to call upon to share his yearning for a simpler, more natural life? The narrator appeals to the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, whose deranged Santa Claus image transfixed him as a boy and whose terminal anti-tech vendetta now captivates him in these ever-more-simulated days.

Having procured the Unabomber’s inmate address from the Internet, the narrator uncaps his pen and starts writing letters. Lots of them. Letters about college that feels like glorified obedience training; about the prospect of mediocre careerism sitting on his head like an obese girlfriend; about relationships guided by fashion-magazine tips; about the conservation land where he puffed his first joint being paved over for luxury housing; about his best friend gradually opting for more cyber-chat and less real-life interaction . . .

With humor, self-deprecation, and irony that are only intensified by despair, Dear Mr. Unabomber explores the barrenness and lavish conformity running ghostlike in circles of the MySpace hell. When you have no one else to turn to, Ted Kaczynski must become your BFF.

Although each letter starts off by "talking" with Kaczynski about how he can relate to his end goal, or reminiscing about how long it's been since he--Kaczynski--has touched a bomb (fourteen years), each chapter quickly moves from there to a whole range of subjects, including imagined IM conversations between Paris Hilton and Kaczynski, musings about what night classes are the easiest, failed attempts to find someone via, the letter writer's attempts at dating, and a whole host of other wild tangents. Choosing the Unabomber because he too yearns for a simpler, easier way of life (note: he really doesn't), he relates his adventures, missteps, and frustrations, seeing in himself someone who can relate to Kaczynski... (although he has no plans to do anything quite so drastic.)

Despite my misgivings about his character--and I mean the character's character, not Cavanaugh's creation--I liked him. He pointed out flaws that are readily apparent in modern society, although he couldn't seem to spot them in himself. He's lost, confused, but so sure he's on the right path--and that he's the only person who is. How can you not enjoy a character like that?

Content aside, it's a thought-provoking book about what happens when someone who can't relate to the modern world latches on to someone else who can't--or won't--relate. I have to say that I'm not quite sure where the letter writer is going at the end of the book, having graduated college but feeling like he failed anyway; it's got one of those ambiguous endings that get me thinking.

But then I sign onto Twitter. Things always become clearer then.

Disclaimer: I had to look up "epistolary."

Thursday, October 29, 2009


I know it's still 2009, but I've started to ponder 2010. Specifically, book challenges in 2010.

I think I might not do any.

It's scary, saying that, because I love book challenges. I love reading something new, something in a genre I don't normally read, something I've never heard of before... but I never seem to complete them. Looking at my sideboard, I can see that I have finished one challenge, and only one. I didn't even start the challenge I made for myself!

So yeah, I'm thinking next year, I'm not going to do any reading challenges. I'll just track what I read and go from there.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

So much to write about

Like my thoughts on Dear Mr Unabomber, The Return, and Catching Fire, but my time is not my own.

And even if it was, I'm still fuming over this recent interview with Anne Rice.

It's like fate knew I was going to write something similar for NaNo.

Speaking of, I'm doing NaNo again; cheer me on?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Free book

Remember when I raved over The Alphabet Challenge by Olga Gardner Galvin? A future U.S., where things like chocolate and salt were outlawed, where the needs of the few could completely outweigh the needs of the many? A place where it was perfectly OK to drive without a license or insurance?

Well I just found out the the publisher is giving away 100 free e-copies via LibraryThing. Have an account there? Curious what a future without salt looks like?

I'd love to hear what you thought of The Alphabet Challenge.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

This actually appeals to me, even though I know it's a horrible idea. There's no guarantee that anything uploaded to Wikipedia is correct and there have been several recent issues with the founders blocking people because they don't like what they have to say, but for some reason I kind of want to do this.

The founder of online encyclopedia Wikipedia said on Wednesday he had entered into a partnership with computer company Hewlett Packard that will allow users to create and print magazines.

Following on this trend, there is an interesting article at Bookslut today, which says that we are living in an era where anyone can--and does--publish, either in the more traditional forms or via social networking sites.

Also at Bookslut today, a link to a BBC article. It seems the Spanish government is preparing to exhume a mass grave where it's believed that the body of Federico García Lorca, poet, might be located. While normally this would not be something I'd jump on, one of the main characters in The Return is a fan of Lorca's work; there is a scene in the book where she goes on a tour of his home. I'd never heard of Lorca before, but based on what Hislop wrote, I think I'll have to add some of his poetry to my reading list.

From Bookshelves of Doom, Gentlemen by Michael Northrop; sounds too good to pass up.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New authors, old series

So, first it was Sebastian Faulks, who wrote Devil May Care, a new book in Ian Fleming's James Bond series. Now we have Eoin Colfer, who was tapped to write the sixth book in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series.

What series and what author do you think will be next?

ETA:Sassymonkey wrote "[T]here's a new Winnie The Pooh book too (clearly not written by Milne)," which for some reason reminded me of all the Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice continuations (I won't read them, no matter how good you tell me they are).

ETA 2: Thank you Tor/Forge, for reminding me about The Gathering Storm, which has Brandon Sanderson finishing/completing Robert Jordan’s Book 12 in the Wheel of Time series.

ETA 3: Looks like I'm not the only person musing on this subject these days. Bookninja put up a post on this subject as well (found via Books, Inq.), which linked to a recent article written by the Washington Post.

Tuesday Teaser Times Two

Hee, I love alliteration!

The Return by Victoria Hislop. I've only just started this, so my random page isn't going to be super random (I don't want to spoil myself!)

Page 49:

Purposefully, she strode toward the sunniest table and sat down. She hastily scribbled the postcard to her father and then began to read her guidebook. It seemed that the city had much more to offer than the famed Alhambra and its gardens.

Dear Mr Unabomber by Ray Cavanaugh. Again, a book I've just started reading, so I think this teaser will also be from the first third of the book.

Page 44:
I tried to console her, but then it dawned on me that I was supposed to be angry. I was actually getting a bit irritated by her histrionics. I went to her refrigerator and began helping myself to some of her food. There was a package of brownies I knew she liked, and I ate them all.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Librarians + Teamsters = Unionized Library?

Telling her mother that she wanted to come to the aid of a library under attack, 11-year-old Sydney Sabbagha stood at the podium before the Oak Brook village board.

Mr. Xions, you totally have my vote. Seriously. Right after I jump off that cliff.

Sick, sick, sick

Sick, sick, sick...

From over at A Work in Progress, Danielle is recommending her recent read, “We Were Young and At War,” which looks very good. I’m adding that to my library queue.

I finished my reread of “Good Omens” and I have to say that it was funnier the second time around. That dry, British humor gets me every time.

I’ve started reading two new books, “The Return” by Victoria Hislop—found this one on a newsletter I subscribe to—and “Dear Mr. Unabomber” by Ray Cavanaugh. I’ll be posting reviews this week, and snippets tomorrow!

I think I’m trying to cram everything I want to read—and can get my hands on—into October, because I know once November starts, I’m not going to have any free time left, not with NaNoWriMo taking up all my non-work and non-sleep time. Oh, the insanity that is NaNoWriMo.

I can’t wait!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Thoughts on the FTC

I've been reading and rereading other people's posts on the announcement from the FTC regarding book bloggers and endorsements. There have a lot of thoughtful, detailed posts on the subject, ranging from bloggers who have said they will no longer review books received from publishers to those who say they already have a disclaimer on their site to the ones who think the whole thing is a joke and there is no way the FTC can actually enforce this ruling.

I'm not 100% sure what I think.

One the one hand, I do think that acknowledging where I got a book is fair. I'm fairly confident that I do that now with any ARCs I receive, although I suppose that I'll need to be extra sure going forward. As it stands, most of the books I read now are from the library (I read about a book on another blogger's site* or I saw it at B&N but didn't want to pay for it**). Do I have to acknowledge where I get books that aren't ARCs? Won them in a giveaway? Received as a gift? Borrowed from someplace other than the library?

And what about those of us who have no ads on our site? Or don't link the book to Amazon, etc.?
And also, an ARC--by nature--has no value, so how exactly am I supposed to value it? And I don't think anyone has touched on electronic copies of texts...

There's also the fact that blogging, even about books, is a hobby for a lot of people; we want to talk about books that we like with other people, who might also like the same books we like, that like a different book, or with people who just like books. It's not a paying job for us.

Really, I guess I'm left with more questions. I don't understand how the FTC will track this (requiring publishers to submit a list of all the people they've sent books to seems ridiculous and impractical) and I don't get how I--or any other non-paid book blogger--can be required to send back a book, especially when in some cases we haven't asked for it.

I just don't get it.

*I've actually been meaning to start this, because I always forget where I find books. But if I do that, am I endorsing someone else's endorsement?

**I know that they are worth it, but books are expensive! I have a really hard time justifying to myself the cost when I could spend that $22.95 on food for a week.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Ill, ill, ill

And for this, someone must pay. I'm thinking... biblically.

Since my brain has been nothing but cotton wool for days now, bullets!

  • National Book Foundation has released the finalists for the 2009 award.
  • I read the last three books in the Sookie Stackhouse series over the weekend while on cold medicine.
  • Summers at Castle Auburn is as good around the eighth time as it was the sixith.
  • The FTC is not going away, although they are, because we bloggers are responsible people. (Thanks for the tip, Mr. Wilson.)
  • NaNo is getting closer and closer and I'm so not ready to write anything worth writing right now. (Stupid cold.)
  • Neil Gaiman is a very smart man: "When I was a child, adults would tell me not to make things up, warning me of what would happen if I did. As far as I can tell so far, it seems to involve lots of foreign travel and not having to get up too early in the morning. (From Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions)
  • Regarding above, I need new career goals. I miss sleeping in.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Picked up

I swung by the library on Tuesday to return a few items and as I was leaving, spotted an old favorite on a shelf, Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn. It's has been a delightful read this time around--my sixth or seventh--and I enjoy it all the more for the slow way that Shinn gives us pieces of the overall plot.

I may read it again this weekend.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

I think I'm in a slump

Because nothing sounds good to me right now.

Hmm. Anyone have any recommendations?

Monday, October 05, 2009

What do you do with your books?

This morning, the Federal Trade Commission announced that its Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials would be revised in relation to bloggers. The new guidelines (PDF) specified that bloggers making any representation of a product must disclose the material connections they (the presumed endorsers) share with the advertisers. What this means is that, under the new guidelines, a blogger’s positive review of a product may qualify as an “endorsement” and that keeping a product after a review may qualify as “compensation.”

These guidelines, which will be effective as of December 1, 2009, require all bloggers to disclose any tangible connections.

There's more at here at EdRants, including an interview with the FTC's Richard Cleland.

The part that really struck me was where Cleland said that book bloggers would have to send the books back, because keeping them was a form of compensation.

Yeah, that's going to happen. I can see it now.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Banned Book Week

Every year, I tell myself I'm going to read the ALA's top ten banned or challenged books... and every year I don't. Well, that isn't exactly true. I've read The Kite Runner and the Dark Materials trilogy and liked them all.

Maybe going forward I'll just choose, at random, books from the list of the top 100 challenged or banned books.

Also, a reply to a would-be book banner by someone much more eloquent--and patience--than I am: Jamie at MYLIBBOG

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

From "A Field Guide to the Western Birds" by Wallace Stegner, page 345.
Ruth gives me an absolutely expressionless, pleasant look in which I read some future unpleasantness, but what the hell, shall a man keep quiet while his lifework is trampled on?

"Would you admit," says Kaminski with his tight dogfish smile, "that an agent without an artist is a vine without an oak?"
As much as I really want to enjoy this collection of stories, I'm having a hard time getting into them. Wallace Stegner's style of writing is completely different from what I'm used to reading and it's causing me to read and reread these stories.

Also, he had one with really graphic descriptions of a boy killing gophers. I couldn't finish that one.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Review of the weekend's reading

I finished two books over the weekend, Jacqueline Winspear's Among the Mad and Kate Ross's Cut to the Quick. I've been reading Among the Mad while riding the subway to and from my jobs, while Cut to the Quick has been my "before bed" book.

The fifth book in the Maisie Dobbs series, Among the Mad find Maisie and her apprentice Billy on Christmas Eve, 1931, heading out the door to deliver reports before going their separate ways for the upcoming holiday. Spotting a man who appears to be begging, both Maisie and Billy head over to give the man some money when Maisie has a feeling* and urges Billy to stay back as she moves closer. She isn't fast enough though, to stop the man from killing himself and injuring several others, including Maisie herself.

It turns out that the man's suicide is only the beginning, as there is a vast plot boiling away under the veneer of society and Maisie finds herself chasing after a very smart, dangerous man. One who plans to bring the city to its knees, if necessary.

After my disappointment with the last Maisie Dobbs novel, I was rather pleased to find that I enjoyed this one, although not as much I enjoyed the first three novels in the series. Maisie finds herself seconded to Special Forces, working with her maybe at one time, would have been suitor Detective Inspector Stanton, and working for the maverick Detective Chief Superintendent MacFarlane, head of Special Branch.**

It was a solidly plotted novel, with pieces of the story coming from all corners. Maisie does her investigations her usual way, following her intuition where it leads her (mental institutes, secret government buildings, to the country side and dank warrens where the poor, the displaced, and the forgotten live) and figures out the who's and why's behind the mad man's plot. She also pieces a bit more of herself back together, although the inclusion of her best friend Priscilla feels like a forced move to let Maisie do a bit of self-reflexion.

All in all, a good read for the subway commute.

I can't remember on which blog I read about Cut to the Quick, but whoever wrote about it sold me on it in an instant. A London dandy who investigates crime? Sold.

After getting in over his head at a gambling hall, Hugh Fontclair finds himself rescued by Julian Kestrel, an English dandy. Although he only saved Hugh on a whim, Hugh sees it as something more and invites Julian to be the best man at his upcoming wedding. Figuring it would be a good way to save money--always tight--and curious as to why he was picked, Julian agrees and sets off for the Fontclair's country estate, Bellegarde. Julian gets more than he expected on this trip, though, as it seems Hugh and his family are being blackmailed into the marriage, although no one is willing to say why. Not only that, but the dead woman found one afternoon in Julian's locked bedroom makes things especially interesting.

After proving that there is no possible way he could have killed the unknown woman, Julian is forced to prove his manservant's innocence; made slightly more difficult considering that Dipper is a former pickpocket. Long buried secrets are uncovered at every turn, as Julian leaves no stone unturned in his search for the truth. His search takes him through the past of everyone present at Bellegarde, from Mr. Craddock and Lady Tarleton bitter hatred for one another, to Colonel Fontclair's war record, to Guy, Hugh's cousin, and his fondness for the drink.

I really enjoyed Cut to the Quick, although I had to force myself to read very slowly so that I could savor each word. Ross had a very detailed way of writing, drawing attention to the little things that made the story feel more real. I also enjoyed how the story wasn't just from Julian's point of view, but from the other characters as well; it fleshed out the story in a way that would have been impossible from just one person's point of view. From Maud Craddock, the bride being forced into a marriage to a man she's come to love, to Hugh Fontclair, who is willing to fall on the proverbial sword to save the family's name, to Dipper, sent out on a fact-finding mission by Julian, each additional point of view was unique and enjoyable.

As much as I enjoyed Julian and the way he solved the murder (and subsequent mysteries), I have to say that my favorite character was Phillipa, the eleven year old sister of Hugh. She's a minor character in all of this, but an integral one.

Philippa had a poor opinion of authority and did not submit to it very well. When she was forbidden to do something she had set her heart on, she thought the prohibition over carefully, and if she decided it was unfair or unnecessary, she disobeyed it. Which was why, when her governess told her she could not meet Mr. Kestrel until tomorrow, she decided to slip away from the schoolroom and have a peek at him that evening.
and also,

"I'm sorry you're leaving," said Philippa. "I haven't half finished telling you things."
"It might be just as well to save something for the next time we meet," Julian pointed out.
"But that won't be for a long time, will it? Mama and Papa won't want to go to town, after everything that's happened, and I don't suppose you'll come to visit us here again."
"That might be awkward," he admitted. "At least for the time being."
"I hoped you'd come often, till you were quite one of the family. And then, when I was old enough, you might like to marry me. I shall have money, you know, and I am a Fontclair."
"If I were you, I should wait for a husband who cared for something besides my pocketbook and my pedigree."

and then, after assuring Philippa that it was better to be thought of as clever and interesting, instead of just merely pretty,

"No," she said slowly. "You are supposed to know about these things." She pondered. "I shall be eighteen in seven years. I suppose you'll have forgot all about me by then."
"It's you who'll have forgot about me," he said lightly.
"Oh, no," Philippa shook her head. "I have a very long memory."

How can you not love a character like that? She's so self-assured and knowing, as only an eleven year old girl can be. Most of the characters were great, and I look forward to seeing some of them in future books.

(Sadly, there are only three more and a short story, as the author died several years ago.)

*I really wanted to type "one of her" feelings, but I feel like that would be unfair.

**I've got odds on Maisie finding herself seeing one of these men in the next book; better money on MacFarlane.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Finished the most recent Maisie Dobbs book, Among the Mad, last night. I was hesitant to read it because I disliked the last one so much, but I was quite pleased with the latest story. I'll post a review this weekend.

Only about halfway through Cut to the Quick. I didn't get any reading done last night and it's killing me, having to wait to find out who those people were talking in the snippet I put up! I plan to finish the book this weekend.

I'm taking Collected Stories by Wallace Stegner as my new subway book. I have no idea who this man was, but I remember reading an article about his death in the NYT and decided check out some of his stuff. This collection looks quite promising.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

Gacked from Marg, of Reading Adventures.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read

  • Open to a random page

  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
    BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

  • Oh, I shouldn't be doing this, because now I want to read to the section I'm randomly opening too, but...

    Cut to the Quick, by Kate Ross, page 211:

    "It wasn't Mr. Craddock who told me. It was someone who overheard your conversation with him."

    "No!" She flung herself at him, all but tore the lapels off his coat. "Who overheard us? What have you found out?"

    And I'm only on page 47!

    Monday, September 21, 2009

    Labor Day by Joyce Maynard

    My roommate and I don't have exactly the same taste; I love science fiction, she dislikes that genre. She wants something long to read on the subway, I want to read something entertaining enough to make me forget I'm on the subway. I like fantasy, she likes reality. Sometimes I think the only thing we have in common--in regards to our reading preferences--is that we like quality.

    So, when she handed me Labor Day, by Joyce Maynard, and told me she thought I'd like it, I was a little bit sceptical.

    I'm publicly apologizing for doubting you, Nee. I loved Labor Day.

    From Amazon:

    With the end of summer closing in and a steamy Labor Day weekend looming in the town of Holton Mills, New Hampshire, thirteen-year-old Henry—lonely, friendless, not too good at sports—spends most of his time watching television, reading, and daydreaming about the soft skin and budding bodies of his female classmates. For company Henry has his long-divorced mother, Adele—a onetime dancer whose summer project was to teach him how to foxtrot; his hamster, Joe; and awkward Saturday-night outings to Friendly's with his estranged father and new stepfamily. As much as he tries, Henry knows that even with his jokes and his "Husband for a Day" coupon, he still can't make his emotionally fragile mother happy. Adele has a secret that makes it hard for her to leave their house, and seems to possess an irreparably broken heart.

    But all that changes on the Thursday before Labor Day, when a mysterious bleeding man named Frank approaches Henry and asks for a hand. Over the next five days, Henry will learn some of life's most valuable lessons: how to throw a baseball, the secret to perfect piecrust, the breathless pain of jealousy, the power of betrayal, and the importance of putting others—especially those we love—above ourselves. And the knowledge that real love is worth waiting for.

    When I started reading, I wasn't all that impressed. The story moves slowly, introducing us to Henry and his mother, but once I got into the story, I quickly became hooked. Adele, Henry's mother, has become a shut-in after too many disappointments; now she sells vitamins over the phone, teaching her son the fox trot, herself the cello, and explaining about sex and music and the truth about life while serving microwaved fish and chips.
    "You never knew how my mother was going to react to things. There could be some guy going door-to-door with religious pamphlets, and she'd yell at him to go away, but other times I'd come home from school and there'd be this person sitting on our couch having coffee with her."
    Then, there's Frank, who Henry first meets while looking over the magazines. Thirteen and curious, Henry really wants to open the Playboy, but settles for a book on puzzles instead. The man standing next to him strikes up a conversation.
    "I fell out a window. He said it the way a person would if all that happened to him was he got a mosquito bite. Maybe this was why, at the time, this didn't seem like such an odd remark. Or maybe it was that everything seemed so odd back the, this comment in particular didn't stand out."
    Everything moves very slowly in this story, with flashbacks to the time when Henry's father left them, to when Adele was able to interact with the outside world, intermixed with Henry's now. Frank and his mother connect on a level that leaves Henry both yearning and angry. For so long, Henry was his mother's world, but Frank comes into their lives one long Labor Day weekend and suddenly it's as though he's always been there and it's just the three of them in this perfect world.

    And it would be perfect, if Frank hadn't been an escaped convict. The knowledge that the police are looking for him hangs over the three of them silently, softly coloring their decisions.

    It's not until Henry meets Eleanor, though, that things really start to go pear-shaped. Feeling left out by his mother and Frank, Henry is looking for anyone to connect with. Sent to the library to do research, Henry spots a girl he's never seen before.
    "I asked the girl if she went to school around here.

    I didn't before, but I just moved here, she said. I'm supposed to try out living with my dad this year. The official reason is I have an eating disorder and they're hoping a new school environment will help, but really I think my mom just wanted to get rid of me so she can fool around with her boyfriend without me getting in the way."
    You know, reading the story, that it can't end happily... except that in a way, it does. It didn't end at all the way I thought--and feared that it would--but it was a good, plausible, satisfying ending. Not the fairy tale ending, but a real one, with life and its truths echoing throughout Henry's life.

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009

    The Alphabet Challenge by Olga Gardner Galvin

    I've spent the past week reading The Alphabet Challenge by Olga Gardner Galvin and found it completely brilliant. From the publisher's website:

    Set several decades in the future, the nearly unrecognizable Manhattan is made kinder and gentler by PeopleCare, an umbrella organization of myriad victims’ rights groups whose members work their fingers to the bone to make caring, compassion, and lowest-common-denominator equality a federal law, now that they have already fought for and won their campaigns for federal prohibition on smoking and obesity, among other unhealthy things.

    Enter entrepreneur Howell Langston Toland, who has learned absolutely nothing in the seven years he’d spent in jail for failure to recycle empty bottles. To cash in on the prevailing zeitgeist, he creates a new category of victimization, which encompasses the broadest audience yet. Threatened by the brazen invasion of its turf and the sudden popularity of the new cause, PeopleCare mounts a counterattack against the upstart. Toland, meanwhile, succumbs to the more natural for him entrepreneurial mode of thinking, urging his annoying followers to become self-reliant so that he may cut them loose.

    Vicious politics ensue . . .

    One word: hysterical. Totally and completely hysterical. And I mean that in both the “haha, can’t stop laughing” and the “unmanageable fear” sort of way that my Merriam Webster describes.

    In this future, people care. They care so much that you can’t do anything for yourself anymore, and why should you? You don’t know how to take care of yourself, but that’s OK, because that’s what PeopleCare is for. They’re there to make all your decisions and totally control every aspect of your life.

    Think people who eat meat are insane? There’s a group for that (People for Complete Coexistence with Animals). Think you should be allowed to steal, beat, and rape? There’s a group for you (People with Different Moral and Ethical Values). Think recycling should be a choice? Sorry, that’ll get you five years in lock up. Think you should be allowed to park where you want, eat red meat, or educate your own children? Sorry, but no, you can’t do that anymore. It’s not fair to everyone else. It hurts them and the way they want to live. You’ll have to give up all of your wants and needs and personal rights for the greater good.

    It’s OK though, because PeopleCare cares for people.

    (In that future, I totally want to be their ad writer.)

    Howell Langston Toland has finally had enough. Sentenced to a group home (Adjusted Environment Home) because his parents decided to home school him, and then sentenced to seven years in jail for not recycling and committing grievous bodily harm (tired of being robbed, Howell put cement on a window sill and stuck broken glass in it; poor thief cut himself trying to break in and immediately turned Howell in for his crimes), he decides that it’s time he gets his and starts the ABChallenge, a support group for those who have spent their entire lives being treated like lesser beings because their names start with a letter between N and Z. He’ll collect a small donation from everyone who has ever been treated unfairly because of where they fall in the alphabetical queue, make a fortune, and then run off to live in Australia, where it’s still legal to sunbathe, eat read meat, and have an opinion of your own.

    I know, it’s got to be a joke, right?

    Not in this future world, it isn’t. Most of America has been brainwashed into believing that it’s not their fault, no it’s the other guy’s fault and dammit, laws need to be passed against them so that you can have a fair shake. No matter that it’s asinine and stupid, it’s the way it has to be so that everything is equal.

    As ridiculous as this novel is (and I mean that in a good way!), it’s frightening when you think about how things are changing here, now, ever so slightly starting to resemble things in The Alphabet Challenge. True, we can still make most of our own choices, but look at what’s going on in the food and restaurant industries. Health care. Education. Exercise. I’m not saying that I think all of the changes are for the bad, but I do think it’s a slippery slope we’re on and satire or not, this book has a point.

    The day I wake up in America and find out chocolate has been outlawed, or God forbid, salt, I am totally moving to Europe, where they’ll still be allowing such hedonistic, evil, unfair things.

    Read The Alphabet Challenge. Then join me in my consumption of chocolate and salt. At the same time. (They're totally delicious together.)

    Posts to come: review of the Brooklyn Book Fair, what I have on my nightstand now, and the new challenges I've made for myself (because I'm not failing the ones I'm currently doing, or anything like that).

    And recycle. A pox on you and yours if you don't recycle.

    Sunday, September 13, 2009

    Cherry Blossom Designs Hair Accessories GUEST GIVEAWAY!!!!

    Cherry Blossom Designs Hair Accessories GUEST GIVEAWAY!!!!

    C'mon, it's literary inspired hair things for kids! I think my niece would love one of these.

    (Soon to come, a post on the Brooklyn Book Fair, my recent discovery that I've read some of the NBA winners, and did you know they've made Jane Austen into a comic?)

    Thursday, September 10, 2009

    On the Edge by Ilona Andrews

    Well, Tuesday night, after the misery that was a full day of work, I came home to find a package at my door. Right shape, right size, and yes! An advance copy of On the Edge by Ilona Andrews. I immediately went inside, dropped everything on the floor, and began to read.

    I'm so glad I did.

    Rose Drayton lives on the Edge, between the world of the Broken (where people drive cars, shop at Wal-Mart, and magic is a fairy tale) and the Weird (where blueblood aristocrats rule, changelings roam, and the strength of your magic can change your destiny). Only Edgers like Rose can easily travel from one world to the next, but they never truly belong in either.

    Rose thought if she practiced her magic, she could build a better life for herself. But things didn’t turn out how she planned, and now she works a minimum wage, off the books job in the Broken just to survive. Then Declan Camarine, a blueblood noble straight out of the deepest part of the Weird, comes into her life, determined to have her (and her power).

    But when a terrible danger invades the Edge from the Weird, a flood of creatures hungry for magic, Declan and Rose must work together to destroy them—or they’ll devour the Edge and everyone in it . . .

    This story was a great, fun ride and I'm already looking forward to the sequel. Rose is a complex character, struggling to keep herself and her two younger brothers (Georgie is a necromancer, Jack turns into a cat) fed and alive. Her entire life becomes more complicated though, with the appearance of Declan, a blueblood from the Weird. He's turning Rose's life upside down in his pursuit... although what that pursuit is isn't as clear cut as Rose thinks. Making things more complicated is the big bad that's muscling it's way through the Edge. It's going to take everything Rose has to keep her head and her family together.

    Tightly plotted, with plenty of twists, this is a great novel. Ilona Andrews did a fantastic job leading us down a plot path, only to plant a switchback right after the blind turn, so I totally didn't see things coming. Declan's reasons for being in the Edge, the real reason why William (who you meet in the story) won't talk to Declan, even the truth about certain articles of clothing. They were all nicely done and I'm happy to say that even after I reread the book (twice) I couldn't see any obvious signs of what was to come.

    There is romance (hot), blood, feuds, power trips, evil hounds, cool bits of magic and cursing, and absolutely adorable little boys (Rose's two younger brothers). I want to steal Jack and keep him for my very own, that's how much I liked him. (Well, him and William; they were my favorites. Poor guy, he needs some chocolate.)

    On the Edge will be released on September 29; I know, so far away. Lucky for you, Ilona is posting snippets here.

    Tuesday, September 08, 2009

    Hot off the press

    Hee! Not only do I have an awesome interview for you (see my previous post!), but I'm holding an advance copy of Ilona Andrews' On the Edge.

    *wards off the grabby hands*

    My day, it just keeps getting better.

    PS: Thank you, Ilona, and thank you, publicist at Penguin.

    Interview with Walt Maguire

    Where has my summer gone?

    Well, in part, it's gone because of another author interview! Yes, I was lucky enough to set up an interview with Walt Maguire, the author of Monkey See, my book of the summer. Monkey See is about animal testing, job interviews (excerpt available here), and science experiments gone awry. Here’s what he had to say about the idea behind his genetically enhanced apes:

    What gave you the idea to write this novel? Was it one article too many on animal testing or had the idea been mulling about in your head for a while and you decided it was time to put pen to paper?

    I have a friend who completely falls apart when he hears a reference to talking monkeys. It’s actually a little frightening. But this started me thinking that there hadn’t really been a talking monkey book in almost fifty years, and the last one wasn’t all that funny.

    So you wrote a book that you hoped would deliberately horrify your friend? (That's very funny to me, if so.) Did you give him a copy?

    Oops! I meant he fell apart laughing. But I like the other version.

    How did you come up with your main characters? Are there pieces of your personality in Ed, Chekchek, or Dr. Cogitomni? And where did you come up with your characters names?

    The scientists and the militant chimp started out as stock movie characters—you just have to have them in a story like this, or people are distracted waiting for them to show up—but in writing they evolved (pardon the expression) into full personalities. I’m not sure where Ed came from—I sort of learned about him as I wrote him down. The funny part is people keep thinking Chekchek is based on a real person, but nobody ever agrees on who that person is. The names Ed and Chekchek just came to me, and I’m terrible at names generally, so I just accepted them gratefully. Cogitomni is very bad Latin for “Mr. Know-it-all,” which demonstrates just how bad I am at names.

    To me, some of the funniest parts of your novel were the scenes where you describe how the reader can make their own monster ape at home, and then what to do once s/he has grown to large, escapes, and runs rampant without any control. Did you have a favorite part?

    Thanks. I like the monster name guide, and the walk to town in the section on Wreckage.

    What kind—if any—research did you do before writing Monkey See? Is there a monster-ape-hybrid in your basement?

    There is. I left my cat alone in the basement for a week with some mice, paint thinner fumes, and a strange glowing mold, and the results were ugly. Though we’re no longer bothered by mice.

    Your bio says that you write novels, plays, and articles; which of the three do you enjoy writing more?

    The ones that get published.

    Many writers describe themselves as "character" or "plot" writers. Which are you? What do you find to be the hardest part of writing?

    Names. Also, plot. I usually start with some characters, some scenes, and a point, but the slow part is figuring out how to tie them all together. Once I do have a plot mapped out, it’s like a lighthouse leading my story across the darkness. Although you never want to steer towards a lighthouse or you would crash on rocks, so that’s a bad metaphor. Maybe it’s like a clothesline that gives me a place to string everything together.

    What are your goals for the future? Do you have other ideas for novels or plays that you'd like to write or do you plan to focus more on your articles? (Personally, I hope you're writing another novel.)

    I am starting on another novel, now you mention it. It’s monkey-free, but I hope to work in some equally bad career advice as I go.

    Your website mentions some future titles that you might be writing, including: Letting Go: A memoir of getting far enough up Everest and A Good Walk Spoiled: How America’s love of dogs led us off our ruined sidewalks onto the Federal Highway System. Have you climbed Mt. Everest? Do you have a dog that regularly takes you for walks on the side of the highway?

    I once climbed a steep hill in the hot April sun of a Greek day. It took me four hours, and when I reached the top I discovered the tram that ran up the other side every fifteen minutes to drop people off at the hilltop café. I don’t have a dog, but I used to dog-sit a lab that had a talent for peeing on drunken Mummers in spots I would have not expected to find Mummers during the Philadelphia Mummers Parade.

    You mention on your website that you’re happy to explain yourself at a juggling festival; do you juggle?

    I am completely uncoordinated and have twice dropped this computer while reaching for the mouse. But I know some jugglers, and I like taking bets on when they’ll hurt themselves.

    As a reader, what do you enjoy reading? Any favorite authors?

    I think I enjoy clever dialog, provided it’s not tied to a contrived story that’s trying very hard to pretend it’s not contrived. Lots of favorite authors: Tom Stoppard, Lorrie Moore, James Thurber, Peter Benchley, P.G. Wodehouse, Michael Chabon, Annie Proulx, Alexie Sherman, and whoever wrote “Rapunzel,” a story that makes less and less sense every time you read it. And yet it keeps popping up.

    Do you read your reviews, and if so, what's the oddest one you've ever received?

    I do read reviews. I haven’t seen many odd ones yet, though I do notice a temptation by the writers to reminisce about their own favorite talking-monkey memories. I hope Monkey See ends up as another one.

    More information about Walt Maguire is available at his website here and here. His latest book, Monkey See, is available at ENC Press.

    Wednesday, August 05, 2009


    I cannot believe I jammed my finger again by playing (touch) rugby. Seriously, you'd have thought I had learned my lesson last time. (Sadly, I didn't. Maybe this time the lesson will stick.)

    I used to love, love, love mysteries when I was younger; I devoured them, reading them through as quickly as I could before moving on to the next one. I used to hand them to my mother was done; I turned her on to A.E. Maxwell and J.A. Jance that way. Sadly, as I grew older, I became less interested in mysteries and turned towards science fiction; I can't figure out why. Is it because the mystery plots became outlandish or because after a while, they all sort of seemed the same? (Hmm, I think I answered my own question there.)

    And now, science fiction is leaving me bored and I'm hunting for new things to read. Cycles, gotta love them. In an effort to inspire myself, reading wise, I've turned back to mysteries... and I really mean back. I'm going to read all the classics, things I've never read but should have, like Agatha Christie's "Miss Marple Series." (I don't think I'll read the other ones, featuring the french detective; he leaves me cold. Kind of like the guy on "Law & Order: CI." You know the one I mean, the white, brown-haired detective who ALWAYS figures it out. I don't like that character.)

    Anyway... as I mentioned before, I'm a huge fan of the "Miss Marple Mysteries" on PBS and when I realized I had hit another reading rut, I thought why not read those books? True, I'll know how some of them are going to end, but there have been enough changes in the televisionization of the novels that even knowing whodunnit, it'll still be a new story to me. I'm starting with Murder at the Vicarage and Why Didn't They Ask Evans?. I also picked up a non-Marple book, The A.B.C. Murders. Hopefully they'll keep me occupied for a week, which is what I need, since I'm going home to visit family for two weeks after that.

    (Note to self: Tap & Gown should be bought, and soon!)

    Well, damn. Looks like I'm a liar, because The A.B.C. Murders features that french detective guy. Now what do I do? Suck it up and read the book anyway, or return the book unread because the french detective guy pisses me off?

    (Yes, I know that the french detective guy's name is actually Hercule Poirot. I just like my way of naming better.)

    Wednesday, July 29, 2009

    Books I'm excited to read this year

    The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam by Chris Ewan. I have to know how the series starts, there were so many mentions of things that happened in Amsterdam that it's driving me nuts.

    Tap & Gown: An Ivy League Novel by Diana Peterfreund. Last summer, when I moved to Brooklyn I read Rites of Spring(Break) on the plane. Hopefully, if I get my act together, I'll have a chance to pick up Tap & Gown for my flight back. (Woo hoo, vacation!)

    On the Edge by Ilona Andrews. It's the first book in her new series and I'm very excited. I still desperately want the new Kate book, but I am looking forward to meeting Rose.
    (ETA: READ)

    The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession by Susan Orlean. I saw a review of this on Goodreads and thought it sounded great.

    Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs. Can't wait to see how Anna's settling in with her new pack.
    (ETA: READ)

    Cast in Silence by Michelle Sagara. Wait, when did this get released? How did I miss that? Self, remember to stop by B&N tomorrow. I love this series; Kaylin is a fantastic character.
    (ETA: READ)

    Libyrinth by Pearl North. This sounds fascinating, featuring a libyrian who can hear books. Also:

    The libyrarians are protecting Earth’s knowledge and culture; they fear the Eradicants, who are bent on destroying the books because they feel that words held captive in books die. But it’s not all black-and-white. The Eradicants call themselves Singers, and their culture is one which loves words…but they don’t read then; they sing them, like bards in many Earth cultures.

    How awesome does that sound?

    Treason's Shore by Sherwood Smith. One of my favorite authors and one of my favorite series. Can't wait to find out how Inda's saga will end.

    Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear. OK, I know I wasn't completely thrilled with her last book, but I still love this series. Also, I've been waiting for Maisie and the Inspector to just get together already, so here's to keeping my fingers crossed that it happens.

    OK, I'm sure I'm missing something great; anyone want to help me out?

    PS: I've been watching PBS's Masterpiece Mystery series for years. My favorite series? The Agatha Christie ones. I enjoy the movies so much that I've decided it's time I read the books.

    Summer Reading

    Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson was a nice summer reread. I think I was fifteen when I first read this; it was something my younger brother left lying on the floor and I picked it up, bored. I wish I could say I've read something else by this author, but although I keep meaning too, I've yet to pick up any other book by him.

    Ahead of Time: My Early Years as a Foreign Correspondent by Ruth Gruber was a recommendation from my roommate. She was reading it for her book club and thought I might like it. Sadly, I was a bit disappointed with it; although I found her story interesting, it wasn't exactly the book I thought I was going to be reading. Instead of focusing on her entire career, it seemed to center on the first third. I guess I just wanted to read more.

    The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows was sent to me by Random House. That said, I thought it was a great story; I love books written in letter format. The story was very detailed and rich, made moreso because the authors could get away with over-describing things; it's allowed in letters.

    Club Dead and Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris were much better than the first book. I'm glad I decided to give this series another chance, although it's becoming slightly Anita Blakeish to me, what with vampires AND weres AND shifters AND faries... what's next? Leprechauns? Unicorns?

    Cavern of Socrates by Dennis L. McKiernan was another reread and another book I was first introduced to by my younger brother. (He was into science fiction before me, to my everlasting chagrin.) I'm told by fans of McKiernan that this is one of his "worst" books, but again, I haven't managed to read anything else by him. (I really like this book too, FYI.)

    Skin Trade by Laurel Hamilton. Finally, Edward is back. I love Edward. And that's all I'm going to say. (Yay, Edward!)

    The Good Thief's Guide to Paris by Chris Ewan was great. I've been eyeing it at Barnes & Noble for a couple of weeks now and it was as much fun as I thought it would be from the flap copy. The author of the guide is a thief who moonlights as a writer of dime store novels; he decides to write a novel about a thief, using his own adventures for the plot. I didn't know that this novel was actually a sequel though, so now I need to track down Ewan's first book, The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam.

    The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger was yet another reread. I picked it up to reread it before I go and see the movie; it was just as good as I remember it being, if not that much better because this time, I was able to see things I'd missed before. I love rereading books with plots like that, ones that subtly slip in details.

    The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry was a book I picked up by chance at the library. I wanted a mystery, as it's been a while since I've read a good one. The plot was great; I loved the characters and the setting (Salem, MA), and the teaser chapters for the Lace Reader's Guide. I thought I had the mystery figured out, but was so, so wrong. I'm not disappointed though; the author's twist was much better than what I'd come up with.

    Wow, I think that's it for me, as far as catching up goes. I've got several other books going right now, including Mere Christianity (still!), ExecTV, Harry: A History, and The Rose of Sebastopol.

    Wednesday, July 01, 2009

    Taking stock

    So, now that June is officially over and I've survived the first half of 2009, I thought I'd take stock of how I'm doing, reading wise. Sadly, it's not so good. I've only read thirty-three books this year, which is 1/5 of how many books I read in all of 2008.

    Granted, I've been busier this year, but still. Thirty-three books?

    I have to go now; I have some major catching up to do if I'm going to make my goal of reading 178 books this year.

    Monday, June 22, 2009

    Book of the Summer

    I know it's early, but I think that Monkey See by Walt Maguire, is going to be the book of the summer for me. Taking jabs at political and social issues, while never letting the laughs stop, this science-fiction novel has everything I, or any other reader, could want. Genetic experiments on primates who will one day rise up and crush humanity: check. Heart-tugging moments of baby monkey cuteness: check. A twisted and intricate plot that jumps around repeatedly while still making sense: check. And as a bonus, a do-it-yourself guide to making your own monster. 

    Monkey See starts by introducing us to Ed the Talking Monkey. A science experiment gone awry—the scientist, Dr. Cogitomni, was actually trying to create a cure for asthma—Ed the Talking Monkey finds himself in an unique situation. Unable to communicate with unenhanced primates, he is stuck trying to figure out where in this new world he actually belongs. Is it with the humans who don't understand or really like him or with other enhanced primates who alternately try to befriend and look down upon Ed the Talking Monkey for his friendships with humans?

    Constantly feeling like the odd man out, Ed the Talking Monkey’s life changes when he meets Gigi, Dr. Cogitomni’s latest experiment. A young spider monkey, Gigi winds up in Dr. Cogitomni’s lab where she undergoes weeks of experimentation. The two hit it off, once Gigi has undergone enough genetic manipulation to actually understand and speak English. She’s a fifteen foot spiked monster and Ed the Talking Monkey works as a janitor in Dr. Cogitomni’s lab, but none of those matters to these two. Alas, their love is destined to die because Gigi is not only Dr. Cogitomni's newest experiment, but she's also his secret weapon in his evil plan to rule the world.

    Spliced throughout the whole twisted story of Ed the Talking Monkey's journey and Gigi's metamorphosis are two other intricate plots. The first is a step-by-step guide to creating your own monster—so you, too, can rule the world—which includes a detailed plan on what to do afterward, and clever, witty lines to spout off when confronted by other scientists, your monster, and the cops.

    The second plot deals with the upcoming monkey uprising. Genetically enhanced by Dr. Cogitomni and his fellow scientist, these primates have decided that they’re tired of being treated like second-class citizens. They’ve plotted out how to best take over and enslave humanity and are planning on staging a coup. Several members of this plot are trying to convince Ed the Talking Monkey that he should join their side, and it isn’t easy for Ed the Talking Monkey to turn them down. And there is a small sub-plot in this plot, showing what life for humans will be like under the new monkey overlords.

    Monkey See is a very well-written novel and I highly recommend that you read it now, before the monkeys can get you.

    PS: Let me know if you too catch the Cylon reference.

    Thursday, June 04, 2009

    Winner, what I am

    Yay me!  Not only did I win one of the book giveaways at, but it's by one of my favorite authors!

    I didn't even realize who the author was when I entered the giveaway, but when the book, Silver Falls by Anne Stuart arrived today, I felt that I knew that name.  Flipping through the other work section, I realized that she's the author of the Ice series, which I love.  My favorite is Black Ice, probably because it was the first one I read.

    So yay, yay me.  I am on a roll with the awesome books lately.  Tore through Mean Martin Manning, reread Snow Crash, and now Silver Falls.

    OH!  Completely forgot.  I received the new paperback edition of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society in the mail two days ago through my old book club.  

    Yay me!