Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Oh la la

--Via Bookshelves of Doom: The French, specifically girls aged thirteen to sixteen, have fallen in love with Emily Bronte.  No wait, to be specific, they've been bitten by the Bronte bug.

Oh Twilight, why can't I quit you?  Seriously.

--An internet-age writing course I'd love to take: McSweeny for the win.

And now to sleep.  It's been an exhausting, sun-filled day.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A meme

It's nice here in Brooklyn, really really nice.  So nice that staying indoors is hard; I want to be outside, enjoying the sun, but at the same time I want to be indoors, not getting sunburned.  Le sigh, welcome to my life.

So, instead of posting things I will link to them instead.

Like this diversity in reading meme from Dani.  I'd take it myself, but fail so miserably.  I've noticed over the past few years that I've become a reader of mostly white men and women from the U.S.  I'm going to have to address that issue, and soon.  Maybe May is the month I start reading 2666.

I had a few thoughts this morning on the way to church about The Forest of Hands and Teeth... which if you haven't read, skip this next part because it will be full of SPOILERS.  

1) I wondered when the different communities lost contact with one another.  They had to know the others existed, or had existed, and the Guardians were keeping the path stocked with food at the request of the Sisters... but when did they lose contact?

2) It's interesting how the two communities that we see evolved after the plague hit.  Mary's community eventually became ultra-religious while the other community, the one Gabriella was from, seemed to be much more modern and liberal.  They had shops and a marketplace set up, while in Mary's community everything was provided by the Sisterhood.  Gabriella's community also had access to the truth, in the form of the old articles that Mary discovers in the attic, while back in Mary's community, they're taught (by the Sisterhood) that the Unconsecrated happened as a result of sin.  It makes me wonder if the founder of Mary's community wasn't a religious person, who saw the plague as a sign of humanity's sins.   I wonder what the other sixteen (or however many there are) communities were like.  And how many of them survived.  And what they knew about the origins of the plague. 

3) When is the sequel coming out?  Because I dearly want to know what happened to Angus.


Mhh, I think I'll go outside now.  Or maybe I'll just take a wee nap here on the couch.

Decisions, decisions.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Today is Earth Day! Use the library more!

Scanning through the Book section of the New York Times this morning brought me two articles that yielded promising results.  

The first was a review of a new biography on Helen Gurley Brown, former editor of Cosmo for thirty-two years and the author of Sex and the Single Girl (1962). Dubbed the original Carrie Bradshaw for her views, Brown sounds like a fascinating woman who climbed her way to the top by using everything she had available to her.

I also found it interesting that the year she was "gently forced out of the editorship of Cosmopolitan" was the same year I graduated high school.

The second article that caught my eye is about the upcoming print book from Randall Munroe, the genius behind the on line comic strip xkcd.

I love that the author of this article describes the book as "you know, dead trees, ink, no text search, nonadjustable font size."

Also, just for fun: my favorite strip at xkcd.

I'm reading several different accounts of this year's London Book Fair and they all seem to be saying the same thing: just like last year, except smaller.  As cool as I think it would be to go to the London Book Fair (or the Frankfurt Book Fair, etc.), I think that BEA would be a lot more fun.  From everything I've heard about it, it sounds just like Comic Con, except there won't be anyone dressed up like a Wookie.

The fourth book in Diane Peterfreund's Secret Society series, Tap & Gown, comes out at the end of May.  This series has become my perfect start-of-summer book for me; I read the last one, Rites of Spring (Break), on the plane when I moved to New York.

An informative post about Judith Krug, the director of the ALA's Office of Intellectual Freedom and the founder of Banned Books Week, is up at Blogher.  I have to say that I never once thought about who started Banned Books Week and perhaps I should have.  It's never to late, right?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


How long it will take Penguin to issue the rights to Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta here in the states.

Also, I think I'm due for a reread of Jellicoe Road.  It's been, what, four months since I last read it?

OH!  The sequel to The Hunger Games, Catching Fire,  is coming out in September!  Excellent! There are a lot of books coming out in the latter half of this year and I can't wait.

Monday, April 20, 2009

My skies are grey

We've gone from beautiful, wear-a-t-shirt-it's-so-warm weather to cold, wet, miserable weather and it sucks.  Really.  Sucks.

I felt bad for my poor showing during the twenty-four hour readathon, so to make up for it, I read War for the Oaks, by Emma Bull, last night.  Well, that wasn't the only reason I read "War for the Oaks," but it was one of them.

I'm not sure what it is about this story that grabs me so, although I know it's more the story then the way Bull writes.  I find myself relating to the character of Eddi, although I don't have a lick of musical talent.  Or anything close to the same fashion sense.  Maybe it's Phouka; I do like his character, sly, tricksy devil that he is.  

It's full of British folklore, which I love, and it's totally just a coincidence that I can use this book in the Once Upon A Time III challenge.  Now all that's left is a June reading of A Midsummer Night's Dream.  I'm also wondering if I can find any  non-fiction books or essay collections about any of those four genres. Anyone have any recommendations?

I've started reading Mere Christianity again and I have to say that taking two months off was a huge mistake.  I've completely forgotten where I am in this collection of essays on Christianity.  I think I might have to start over at the beginning, although I'm going to try and avoid that.  

I've seen two different posts now about a new book that was recently reviewed in Vanity Fair.  Both Colleen of Chasing Ray and Dani of A Work in Progress have just posted about The Crimes of Paris by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler.  It sounds really interesting and I'm going to try and get my hands on a copy of it. 

From the publisher:
Turn-of-the-century Paris was the beating heart of a rapidly changing world. Painters, scientists, revolutionaries, poets--all were there. But so, too, were the shadows: Paris was a violent, criminal place, its sinister alleyways the haunts of Apache gangsters and its cafes the gathering places of murderous anarchists. In 1911, it fell victim to perhaps the greatest theft of all time--the taking of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre. Immediately, Alphonse Bertillon, a detective world-renowned for pioneering crime-scene investigation techniques, was called upon to solve the crime. And quickly the Paris police had a suspect: a young Spanish artist named Pablo Picasso....

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Twelve Hour Readathon

It's 2:26 p.m. and I haven't started reading yet.


ETA:  It's 10:03 p.m. and I haven't actually finished a whole book yet.  I know, I know.  I've read two short stories and my favorite parts of three other books, but I still haven't picked up an unread book yet.

Only three hours left for me.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Never enough time

To do or participate in all the things I find interesting.

Sassymonkey just posted about the 24 hour read-a-thon happening on Saturday and don't I wish I had the time to participate.  It sounds like so much; twenty-four hours of nonstop reading.  Is there anything better?

Honestly, I don't think so.  But I have plans and if I participate in Dewey's challenge, I won't be able to do anything else. Hmm... maybe I can do a mini-challenge, like read from 1 p.m. on Saturday to 1 a.m. Sunday morning.  I'm liking the sound of that.

OK, so now I just need a reading list...

The Amadeus Net by Mark Rayner 
The Shadow Queen by Anne Bishop
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
a chapter or four of Bleak House by Charles Dickens
Cook with Jamie by Jamie Oliver
The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice
Dry Storeroom No. 1 by Richard Fortey
and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

I'm so excited now for my *modified* challenge!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Forest of Hands and Teeth

The Forest of Hands and Teeth, by Carrie Ryan, was exactly the book I needed to read over the weekend.  It was rainy and dark and the only thing I wanted to do was stay curled up on my couch.

From the flap:

In Mary's world there are simple truths. 
The Sisterhood always knows best. 
The Guardians will protect and serve. 
The Unconsecrated will never relent. 
And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth. 
But, slowly, Mary’s truths are failing her. She’s learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future—between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. 
Could there be life outside a world surrounded in so much death?

The story starts in Mary's now, although we don't know when that is.  Mary has been raised on her great-great-great-grandmother's stories of the sea, passed down to her by Mary's mother. Mary has never seen the sea, Mary's mother never did, and a lot of people believe that it's only a myth, that there is nothing beyond the fence of the village but the Forest of Hands and Teeth.

But Mary believes differently, and it's this belief that there is something else out there that sets her apart from everyone else in the village.  It's also what gets her into trouble with the Sisterhood, the nunlike women who run the village with an iron fist.  Part Catholic church, part cult, the Sisterhood is responsible for the people within the village; teaching, healing, and preaching to the villagers.  

They are also one half of the group--the other half are the Guardians, the ones who physically protect the fence--that protects the village from the Unconsecrated, the walking dead.  No one remembers how or why the Unconsecrated came into being, but everyone knows what these mindless beings want; flesh and blood, and they're absolutely determined to tear every last one of the villagers within Mary's village to shreds.  That is why maintaining the fence that encircles their village is so important; it's the only thing that keeps them from being overrun by the Unconsecrated.  

Both Mary's belief that she will one day see the sea and the Unconsecrated's determination to tear the village apart come to a head when Mary discovers that the Sisterhood is hiding someone within their Cathedral.  

Someone who came from outside the fence.  

From beyond the Forest of Hand and Teeth.  

Her existence would shake everything the Sisterhood has ever told the village. Proof that there are people living elsewhere.  Proof that there is a way past the Unconsecrated.  Proof that the ocean might exist.   

Proof that Mary has spent her whole life wishing for and the only thing that might save her the day the Unconsecrated breach the fence.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Interview with Richard Kaempfer

I’m excited to announce my first author interview! Richard Kaempfer,  author of $everance—a novel I recently read and thoroughly enjoyed—agreed to answer a few question for me about what led him to writing $everance, what he thinks about the state of the media business today, and his beloved Cubs.

What gave you the idea to write a novel? Was it one article too many on the consolidation of the media industry or had the idea been milling about in your head for a while and you decided it was time to put pen to paper?

RK: There were actually three moments in my radio career that inspired me to write this book. The first occurred in 1996. Five or six media companies, including the one I worked for, were pushing for deregulation, but nobody else was. My boss at the time called each employee into his office one at a time and said: “Write a letter to the FCC telling them that you’re in favor of deregulation.” I told him that I wouldn’t write the letter because I thought it was a terrible idea, to which he replied, “If you don’t, you’re fired.” I never wrote the letter. The day that legislation passed and was signed by President Clinton, I started researching the subject because I couldn’t believe it would pass with absolutely zero support from the public.

The second moment occurred in early 2003, during the lead up to the Iraq War. I was already putting my notes together for the novel at the time, but I had no intention of making it political. At the time, we were playing the National Anthem to start our show every morning—a beautiful three-part harmony version sung by the Dixie Chicks. But then one day, the lead singer from the Dixie Chicks made a remark about being embarrassed to be from the same state as George Bush, and suddenly playing that song was considered a huge problem.

I couldn’t understand why. No one had complained about it. We got zero complaints. We thought that if we stopped playing it, we would be making a political statement. (We did a wacky morning show, by the way, not a political show.) We explained this to our boss in his office, but he said, “If you play it again, you’re fired.” That’s right; he was threatening to fire us for playing the National Anthem. (You can read more about this here.) That’s when I started researching the relationship between the political parties and the media.

The third moment occurred later that year. We were in a meeting discussing a promotion for our show that had been arranged by the sales department. It was a ridiculous idea, I can’t even remember where they wanted to send us, but it made absolutely no sense at all...I think it was a Jiffy Lube or something like that...at 5:30 in the morning.

I raised my hand and pointed out that in addition to the slight problems of no one being there, and the store not even being open for the first two hours of the show, there was no benefit at all to the listeners. My boss stared at me like I was from outer space. We weren’t broadcasting for the listeners, we were broadcasting for the sponsors. Jiffy Lube was giving us money to do this. End of story.

How did you come up with your main characters? Are there pieces of your personality in Zagorski? And where did you come up with the last name, Zagorski?

RK: Zagorski is every morning radio guy I’ve ever known—all of them are troublemakers at heart. His passive-aggressive tendencies, however, are totally me. I was never as overt as the morning guys were. They had more power and were able to openly dis the bosses. I had to be creative about it because as I’ve already mentioned, the threat of being fired was very real, and I have three kids.

The name Zagorski is an inside joke from my radio days. At one point we were looking to hire someone to do technical work for us, so we asked people to send in tapes. Some poor guy named Zagorski sent in such a half-assed effort, a crappy little cassette labeled only with his last name and nothing else, that we started giving out “Zagorski Awards” whenever somebody screwed up. From there it morphed into a compliment. “Way to pull a Zagorski out of your ass.”

I used the name in the book because it already rolled off my tongue, and Zagorski is such a great Chicago name. We’ve got the largest population of Polish people here outside of Warsaw.

To me, some of the funniest parts of your novel were the scenes that described the ways in which Zagorski was going to torment Siegel, like the decorating of the offices and the way Zagorski was (basically) just giving money away. I also loved Deepak, the cabbie. Did you have any favorite scenes or parts of your own novel?

RK: You just named my favorite parts too. Writing about tormenting the boss was unbelievably therapeutic. Anyone who has ever worked for a boss they couldn’t stand should try it sometime. I was giggling with glee as I came up with that stuff.

The guys that run radio, in particular, are pretty despicable guys. They aren’t radio guys, they’re Wall Street guys. They’re so easy to caricature, and that caricature resonates so much, because they’re all the same. They’re incredibly vain, incredibly thin-skinned, and they only care about one thing—money. They would sell their own mothers for a 5-cent increase in the daily stock price.

As for Deepak, he was based on a cabbie I knew in Chicago. When I was doing the morning show, he picked me up every morning at 3:30 a.m. I feared for my life every day as he careened through the streets of Chicago, but he was the only guy who would wait outside my door at that hour.

My favorite chapter of the book, however, is the one that takes place at Wrigley Field. That’s my summertime home. I love that place.

I found the NASCARization of the news desk hysterical, but scary when I started to think about it. I recently read an article on Intel becoming the latest sponsor for PBS' The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer and I have to say that I hadn't realized that big business was sponsoring shows on PBS. Was this something you saw coming?

RK: I definitely saw it coming. It’s the main point of my book.

For years I’ve been hearing all these conspiracy theories about the liberal media and the conservative media, and the people that believe it, believe it with such passion. They will not be convinced otherwise, even when they talk to someone like me who worked in the business for so long. Obviously I’m part of the conspiracy, right?

I love when people tell me how the media works. You know what, pal, let me fly your jet and tell you how to land it. I’ve read about it. I’ve heard the stories of how you do it. I watched Top Gun. I know better than you.

The whole political control of the media is missing the point entirely. It’s true that each party has its favorite outlets to get the word out, but they offset each other. The conservatives control radio. Period. It’s a conservative medium. The liberals have a huge edge in television. The newspapers are 50/50. The workers in every medium have political opinions, because they’re humans and not robots. If you find someone with an opinion, that’s not an Aha! moment, it’s a Duh! moment.

But the people who really run the media, the people that can’t be criticized by the left or the right, are the advertisers. The corporations that advertise are buying more than air time. They’re buying the right to stop any meaningful criticism from the press.

As someone who worked in the media industry for twenty years, what do you think about what's going on today with the media?

RK: The media is in deep doo-doo. I don’t feel sorry for them at all because they brought it on themselves with their short-sighted approach. It was all about raising the stock price and the revenue stream, and the content was ignored. It was just “the stuff between commercials.” Anything that cost money was cut, and companies are now so understaffed that the product is a shell of what it once was.

Now those debt payments are due, and they can’t cut any more staff, AND the content isn’t good enough to draw the audience necessary to attract advertisers. They’ll tell you that the bad economy destroyed the business. I’m here to tell you that these guys are the reason the economy is bad. It was the Wall-Street-ification of America. Some businesses simply can’t be run that way (as it turns out, nearly all businesses shouldn’t be run this way, but who knew?).

I think in the long run, the media will be fine. The big guys will be forced to sell at discount prices, and smaller operators will come in and discover the dirty little secret of the media. That is that most radio stations, television stations, newspapers, etc., are actually quite profitable on an individual basis. They were all bought for waaaaaaaaaaay more money than they were worth, leveraged to the hilt, and now it looks like they’re failures. They aren’t.

Your bio says that you were a radio host for ten years and then an executive producer for a well-known radio talk show; which position did you like better?

RK: I always enjoyed being on the air, but I’m really not a born performer. I was raised by Germans. We’re taught to suppress our flamboyance. That’s probably why I enjoyed producing more. I would give material to these gifted entertainers, and they would make it much, much better than it would have been if I did it myself.

All of these guys have one thing in common—they don’t possess the embarrassment gene. It’s a gift, it really is.

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

RK: I’m definitely a plot writer. I do full back stories on every character so that I know them inside and out, but much of that doesn’t make it onto the page. It shows up in more subtle ways, like through the dialogue. I love writing dialogue that gives you a sense of the character, and moves the plot along at the same time. An intriguing plot is what gets the reader to turn the page.

The most difficult part of writing for me is setting the scene. I have to physically experience each location, to take notes about all the little things, in order to make it come alive. In the chapters of $everance that take place in imaginary places like the crazy offices or the nightclub, I had to literally map out the rooms on paper, so that I could physically see them, before I could write those chapters.

How did you find the time to write with your three young boys around? Did you work on your novel while they were asleep or at school?

RK: My two oldest boys were in school all day already when I started writing $everance, and my mom watched my youngest son (who is six now) two days a week. It was never that hard to find the time, believe it or not. Plus, I worked on a morning show for many years, and I basically didn’t sleep for a decade. During those years, I learned how to stay creative with very little sleep, and how to write when I wasn’t at full speed. I also discovered that I had the ability to write on demand. I had no choice. We had four and a half hours of air time to fill every day.

So, while the boys were around, I let the ideas gestate. I had little notepads all over the house so that I didn’t forget anything. Then, when the boys left the house, I sat down to write. Just like that. Never a moment wasted. It’s what I love to do, so it’s not like it was drudgery.

You have a very funny and witty website, with lots of information about you, your family, and your Cubs; why did you start blogging? Was it something you started doing for self-promotion, or just because you enjoyed the "social" atmosphere?

RK: For me it’s not about the social atmosphere or the self-promotion. I was going through withdrawal after working on radio shows for twenty years. The ideas didn’t stop coming the day I signed off the air—they built up in my brain and were starting to drive me crazy. I started the blog just to have an outlet to unload them.

People joke about how prolific I am, but I’ve always been this way. I explain it like this: I’m a right-brained creative who was raised by Germans. So, I’m very organized and efficient with my ideas. It seems like I’m writing a lot because I have a column, and a blog, and a website, and a couple of books, and I’m working on several more, but to me this is a piece of cake. I honestly was working much harder coming up with ideas for a radio show. We needed ten, fifteen, twenty quality new ideas every single day.

In fact, I can’t believe I’m actually getting paid to write about my family (I write a weekly column for NWI Parent called “Father Knows Nothing”). I started writing about them just to chronicle their lives, so that they could read about themselves when they grow up. My father died when I was young, and there are a million questions I would love to ask him about being a father, to find out why he did certain things, or didn’t do other things, but I can’t.

To me, the audience for everything I write is three grown-up boys. I don’t even know them, and I may never meet them, but they’ll always be able to get inside their father’s head...even if I’m no longer here. That other people also get a kick out of those stories, or can relate to them, is just icing on the cake.

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

RK: I’m currently working on three new books and three screenplays. I’m writing a humorous parenting book with an author friend (about raising boys), a novel set in 1918 Chicago (a spy thriller, believe it or not), and another novel that’s a bit of an experiment. A buddy of mine is an improv artist who does seminars about collaborating, and he wanted to try to collaborate on a novel to show his students and clients what is possible. It’s been a lot of fun so far.

One of my screenplays is being pitched in Hollywood as we speak (it’s a true story about a bank robbery). The screenplay for $everance is done too—but needs polishing, and the third screenplay is my current favorite idea—I’d rather not even tell you what it is. It’s a comedy. Surprise, surprise.

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

RK: I do love reading, but I get frustrated because everything I read gives me more ideas, and really—that’s a problem. Now when I read it’s mainly for research. I do appreciate great writing though. I know this is crazy, but my favorite author was always Charles Dickens. I love the way he weaves his characters in and out. My favorite contemporary writer is probably Nick Hornby. No one is wittier, and no one has a darker sense of humor.

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

RK: Yes, I do read my reviews. A writer’s life is a strange one. You sit in a room by yourself and get absolutely no feedback for days, weeks, months, and years at a time. My wife actually groans now when I ask her to read something, because she knows that sometimes I just need some feedback, and I write so much that it’s a pain in the tush for her. I also know her reviews are going to be tough—and I need that.

I’ve actually been quite pleased with the reviews from the media. I was bracing for a backlash, waiting for someone in the media to say my premise was flawed just to cover their own backsides, but it hasn’t happened. I’ve only done two confrontational interviews, and they were both political in nature. A liberal radio show in Madison, Wisconsin, was outraged by my portrayal of animal rights activists and a conservative show in Chicago thought I was unfair to Republicans. The fact that those happened in the same week made me laugh, and made me think that maybe I had the politics exactly right.

What do you think the Cubs chances are this year? And how many games do you make it to a year?

RK: The first part of that question is easy. They won’t win it all. There, I said it. After 100 straight years, the odds are on my side. Last year I created a website dedicated to finding out why, and that’s been a fun voyage. Their history is really fascinating (and downright hilarious).

The answer to the second part of your question is a little embarrassing. I go to at least ten games a year. I share season tickets with buddies of mine, and we split the games. I only have two seats (the actual seats I mention in $everance, by the way), so I can only bring one son at a time. They never get one-on-one time with Dad otherwise, so it’s really wonderful. It’s a shame the Cubs never win it all, but to be honest, I don’t care. I love baseball, and I love the time with my boys, and I love that ballpark.

And I was serious about this in $everance: Don’t get ketchup on your hot dog at Wrigley Field. Nothing screams “TOURIST!” louder than that.*

Richard Kaempfer has several different blogs, with links to all of them here at his main site. His hysterically funny novel, $everance, can be purchased online through the publisher, ENC Press.


* On a whim, I Googled “ketchup hot dog Wrigley Field.” Based on the 27,300 results I got back, it’s quite clear to me now. No one, but no one, puts ketchup on a hot dog in Chicago.

Friday, April 03, 2009

First Quarter

So, the first third of 2009 is over.  Shall we see what I've done?

  1. I've read thirteen books in three months. 
  2. I've turned thirty.
  3. I've been told to file for unemployment.
  4. I've become an intern.
  5. I haven't mastered Korean. (Yet.)
  6. I haven't finished a single self-imposed reading challenge.
All in all, beyond turning thirty and landing my internship, I have to say that this hasn't been a great start to 2009.  I've read less books in the past three months than I thought I did, I haven't come close to finishing a single challenge, I have no form of employment at the moment, and did I mention that I got sick the day BEFORE my birthday?  Or that I'm still sick?


OK, enough with that.  Let's look at what I'm planning on doing in the second quarter:

  1. Interviewing an author.
  2. Filing for unemployment.
  3. Reading.
  4. A lot of reading.
  5. Interning.
  6. Studying Korean again.
Being unemployed won't last forever, and I can only surf the internet for so long until I have to do something else.  Like laundry.

I forgot I was doing laundry.


Magic Strikes

Magic Strikes, by Illona Andrews, is one of those books that I feel like I've been waiting months, no years to read.  The author has a website where she posts snippets of her stories, including pieces from the upcoming books.  I get such a charge out of reading those snippets and I tear through them, only to leave me salivating for more.

Well, more finally arrived (thank you FedEX for sucking so very, very much!  You will face my wrath!) and I tore through Magic Strikes in a night.  (And again over the next couple of days.)  Really, it was everything I wanted and it left me wanting so much more.

Drafted into working for the Order of Merciful Aid, mercenary Kate Daniels has more paranormal problems than she knows what to do with these days. And in Atlanta, where magic comes and goes like the tide, that's saying a lot.

But when Kate's werewolf friend Derek is discovered nearly dead, she must confront her greatest challenge yet. As her investigation leads her to the Midnight Games - an invitation only, no holds barred, ultimate preternatural fighting tournament - she and Curran, the Lord of the Beasts, uncover a dark plot that may forever alter the face of Atlanta's shapeshifting community...
Not only did we get more of Kate's life as a child (growing up with Voron, the training she underwent as a child, even her "bedtime" story), but we got more of Julie, Andrea, Saiman, and Derek in this novel, which helps to round the plot out so it's not all about Kate.  (Not that I would mind that, but have other characters to follow is fun.)  We also get more of the Kate/Curran drama, in which Curran shows/tells/demonstrates just how confident he is in their inevitable togetherness, while Kate shows/tells/demonstrates just how confident she is in it never happening. (Hee.)  

Although I very much liked the relationship aspects of this book, I think the biggest draw for me was learning more about Kate's past.  I love reading about her life growing up with Voron, as well as the additional tidbits about her biological father.  In the first two books, Kate was very much trying to keep a low profile, but in Magic Strikes, the low-profile life is over.  Kate's making her presence known in all sorts of ways, despite knowing what it will cost her.

I can't wait for Book Four.

Oh, Illona and Gordon recently did an interview with their publisher, which can be found here.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Oh, I think I need more coffee for this

"Anita Blake" books coming to a TV screen near you?

I just...  OK.  I'll admit it.  I was (and still am) a huge fan of the first (FIRST) part of this series.  I liked the writing, I liked the characters, I liked the way they got beat up, but then got back up (you ain't ever going to keep me down), I liked the emotions, and yes, I liked the tension between the characters.

But then the series turned into pron (yes, deliberately misspelled, thank you very much) and I can't stomach reading the series anymore.  Just, no.

Although, given the fact that IFC plans to market the series to their core group of men ages 18-34, I can see why this series (and especially the later two-thirds) would be ideal for them.

Still sick

but really, overall, feeling much better.  And since I'm feeling better, I really can't avoid the piles* of work I have to do anymore.  Taking it easy is the only good thing about being sick.


So, Mother's Milk, by Andrew Thomas Breslin, is the first book I promised to review and yeah, that story was a mouthful.  A chewy, take it slow so you don't choke, mouthful that has more or less turned me from milk.  (I'd say dairy, except I have had both chocolate and cheese today. Twice.  Looks like the aliens still have me.) It was rather delicious though, and I've been a big fan of rice milk for ages now.
Cindy Kichlklug, a young, emphatically non-idealistic attorney finds herself in Washington, DC, working for a group of radical nutrition advocates with a passionate distaste for cow milk. Little does she suspect that their militant intolerance for lactose is a reaction to a secret global conspiracy orchestrated by the dairy industry, itself a puppet of alien masters from a distant planet orbiting the star Vega.

These Vegans (the ones from Vega, not the other kind) have been running things on Earth for thousands of years through mind-controlling substances secreted by the cows they brought here long ago, but now one of Cindy’s colleagues, socially inept mathematician Eddie Fishman, has discovered an innovative analytical technique that may expose their nefarious schemes. When Eddie is captured, Cindy teams up with cranky old anti-conspiracy veteran Tom Logan and a host of other rabble-rousing extremists to rescue Eddie and put an end to the diabolical (albeit delicious) machinations, all the while pursued by the dapper but devious “milk thugs” and fighting her own overwhelming desire for lattes and cheesecake.
It was a fun, but slow read; beyond the main storyline, there were footnotes about the legal profession, the history of various cultures, details about the vegan lifestyle, and a few jokes thrown in for good measure.  Cindy's point of view is rather the one that I think I would have had in her situation; a bit of a cynic mixed with a compassionate animal lover and a caffeine addict.  She's annoyed by the people she works for and then, when she finds out that they aren't simply crazy and they have a point, she looks for the quickest way she can get out of the mess she's been drug into.  

I will be honest; the clinical breakdown of what milk was and the vivid description of a cow being slaughtered were not something that I really wanted to read.  But I countered that with the numerous characters (the paranoid farmer, the vulgar-speaking debutant, the psychic dolphin, etc.) and the interesting twists in the plot (Tom Logan is a hoot), and I have to say that I liked it.  The ending didn't go quite as I expected it would, in fact it was nothing like I expected it to be, but it was a nice way to end the story.  The main characters are living their diary-free lives (I wonder if Cindy's cat still gets cream, or if Cindy will try converting him to a dairy-free lifestyle too?) and are more or less happy.  I think.  Mostly happy.  

Review of Magic Strikes to follow tomorrow.

*piles of work is more of a figure of speech, since all of my work is electronic these days.