Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Teaser Tuesday

From The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide, page 711.

Black, roaring silences swam sickeningly through his shattered mind. He knew with a kind of resigned certainty that he would survive, because he had not yet been to Stavromula Beta.

I'm so close to being done with this series and I can't wait to find out how it ends.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

E-books continue to impact the publishing world

Four posts/articles of interest:

Authors Feel Pinch in Age of E-Books from the Wall Street Journal. 


The Acquisition Editor via The Newbie's Guide to Publishing. Interesting "conversation" from the viewpoint of an author.

Two E-Books Cost More Than Amazon Hardcovers from The New York Times.


Special guest post by Neesha Meminger at The Rejectionist, on self-publishing and e-book publishing versus traditional publishing.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Interview with Emma Donoghue, author of "Room"

Nice review of Emma Donoghue's Room over at The New York Times. I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this book at BEA and just fell head-over-heels in love with it. Just a fantastic story (and great cover art*, which was why I picked it up in the first place) and in my opinion it really deserves all of the attention it's been getting lately (reviews at Bookish NYC and Reading Matters, and it was shortlisted for the Man Booker 2010).




*my copy of Room has a white cover, with "Room" written in different colors, like a five-year-old would.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Links of interest

The 16th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style went on sale September 3rd. I wonder how different it is from the 15th edition that I'm using.

English-speaking readers aren't just looking for new Swedish noir novels to read. "...there is a growing demand for new translations of European fiction and nonfiction from the years leading up to and including World War II." 


Brooklyn is going to be inundated with book lovers this weekend. The Brooklyn Book Festival kicks off on Friday night with multiple events, including one I'd like to attend at Greenlight Bookstore. Saturday has a literary pub crawl, aptly named Lit Crawl--note, this is actually not in Brooklyn--and then Sunday is the actual book festival, where there is seemingly an event every hour I want to attend. 

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

September is actually off to a good start

It's only the 8th and I've already read five titles. If this keeps up (and it's highly unlikely), this might be my best month yet.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Monthly Update

Sometimes I wonder why I keep trying to meet my self-imposed, impossible goal of reading 178 books this year. And yet, I keep trying.

In August I read seven books. Of those seven books, two were nonfiction--of which one was military nonfiction). The remaining five were fantasy, and two of them young adult novels.

Books read in 2010: 69
Books that should have been read in 2010: 112
Time I have to catch up: four very short months






Once upon my dystopian summer

Leila has posted an amazing looking list over at her blog of ya dystopian books to read post-Mockingjay. Reading through it, I found that I haven't read most of these books, much less heard of them. The rock I've been spending my "free" time under had been particularly solid lately.

As I picked up Mockingjay at the NYPL this afternoon, I'll have to hold off new books until after I've had a chance to find out how this trilogy ends. (Will Katniss become the figurehead of District 13? Does President Snow really drink the blood of babies? Does Peeta survive? Will the drinking game--via Forever Young Adult--enhance the book or just ensure that I'm dehydrated?) I'm not going to let myself read it until the weekend, which will hopefully be nice and sunny (Hurricane Earl, if you're listening, please go away by Saturday night) so I can sit outside and enjoy the end of my summer.

*Update: I picked up Girl in the Arena last night at B&N. It was interesting...not quite what I expected though. Review to come.

And the Twilight saga continues

Because Bella and Edward can't just go away or anything...

Cleolinda has horrifying news, which I found via bookshelves of doom:

So the tale of Nahuel is left on this really weird note, right before Bella and Edward run off to go have sex again unto forever, the end, with this half-vampire kid staring at the female Cullen-Swans. And now, today, we discover that BOTH HALF-VAMPIRE KIDS HAVE SEA MONSTER NAMES. How totally made for each other are these two? He's grown to full teenage maturity, she will grow to full teenage maturity, he never made out with her mom, it's perfect. Except that, no, Jacob has already imprinted on Renesmee, and, as Jacob explained all the way back in New Moon, everyone who gets imprinted on pretty much imprints back because "it's hard to resist that kind of love and devotion." (Yes, I can quote that direct, specific line from memory. That kind of bullshit gets burnt into your brain.) So we have what would be, in any other book, a blatant setup for a future relationship ("he'll have some competition"). Even at the time I gave it the side-eye, it stuck out so weirdly. Do you see what this means? Do you? IT DIDN'T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY, YOU GUYS. SHE HAD A PERFECT MATCHING HALF-VAMPIRE SEA-MONSTER LOVE INTEREST FOR RENESMEE! IT ACTUALLY MAKES SENSE! IT'S RIGHT THERE! But instead, ~Nessie~ is stuck whether she likes it or not--she doesn't have a choice to like it or not because SHE'S THREE MINUTES OLD--with her mother's ex-boyfriend who delivered her from Bella's bloody mangled body and nearly threw her out the window but instead imprinted on her irrevocably as his soulmate.

I just don't even know what to say.

PS: Apparently, there is this rumor that Meyers might write a fifth book? I don't know how I could have missed this before, except that my hearing must have shut down to preserve my sanity. If so, thank you, hearing!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Recent bits of interest


Booksellers Brace for Mockingjay Landing
, via the NYT. I'm waiting for a copy via my local library, which means I won't get to read this for at least a month.
eta: wrong, self, so wrong. I'm reading it this weekend.

E-Books Make Readers Less Isolated, via the NYT. Having strangers talk to me while I'm reading is something that really irritates me.

The ABC's of E-Reading , via the WSJ. I do have to say that I'm finding myself slightly tempted to get an e-reader these days; my trains have been absolutely packed lately and it's hard to juggle my bag(s), a book, and hold on to something.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The world of publishing

Just gets more interesting every day. E-books are completely revolutionizing the publishing industry, and not just in the way books are produced. I'm not surprised at all that Wylie Agency wants to handle the e-book side of their titles exclusively; e-books are only becoming more popular (although I still don't believe Amazon's figures) and the market is huge. I am slightly surprised by Random House's reaction though. Refusing to do any future business with the Wylie Agency seems slightly drastic.

Reading in verse

Recently, a few coworkers and I have started sharing books that we find interesting. It's worked out surprisingly well so far; we each have a chance to read something new and it doesn't cost us anything. While I've been loaning out the ARCs I picked up at BEA, my coworker loaned me Dante's The Divine Comedy, part 1: Hell. I'd never read it, despite always saying that I would, so when I saw that she was nearly done with it, I asked to borrow it.

I'd forgotten what a chore it can be to read verse. It's so much work! The best way, I found, was to read it like I was going to be reading it aloud, pausing only where there was a punctuation mark. That helped, and I found it much easier reading. (Note: that still doesn't mean it was easy reading. I think I understood maybe half of that whole story, even with the notes and illustrations at the end of each canto.) I'm hoping Part 2: Purgatory will be slightly easier reading. I know it'll be less depressing.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Externships

I've never before heard of an externship, although I think it's a great idea, especially for nontraditional jobs that don't end at 5 p.m. every day. Via The New York Times.

Side note: Carleton College is the college that Pamela Dean based her fictional college, Blackstock College, on in Tam Lin.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

More e-books sold than hardcovers?

Yeah, I don't know that I really believe that. I usually see one ereader device in the morning, but I see ten books to that one device.

via The New York Times

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Adding to the TBR list...

The rest of the Fairy Tale Series, edited by Terri Windling. I've read Pamela Dean's Tam Lin numerous times, including again this summer, so maybe it's time I branched out and read the other books in this series.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Damnit!

I would love to go to Sebastian Junger's talk tomorrow about his book War at the Bryant Park Reading Room. Except it's at 12:30 and there's no way I can duck out of work for two plus hours without my boss noticing.

Book Trailers

So, am I the only person who doesn't like book trailers, much less watch them? I honestly don't see the point of them.

The Author Takes a Star Turn, via NYT

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Monthly Update x 2

So I never got around to actually posting my May or June reads. Clearly, I'm failing as a blogger this year. It could be worse though, I could be failing as a reader. Oh wait..

In May, I read six books.Of the six books, only one was nonfiction, and it was something of a travel memoir.
In June, I read nine books. Of the nine books, five were books I picked up at BEA, one was a military nonfiction, and the other three were fiction.

Books read in 2010: 59
Books that should have been read in 2010: 84
Time I have to catch up: less than six months

Friday, July 09, 2010

Top 100 Science Fiction Novels according to Sci-Fi Lists

Well, according to this list, I am not a well-read science fiction fan as I've only read fourteen of the hundred listed titles. And even if I crossed off the two books I started and hated (The Handmaiden's Tale and A Canticle for Leibowitz), my stats aren't much better.

Guess I know what I'm doing for the rest of the summer. You know, when I'm not rereading the Harry Potter series (WHICH ENDS JULY 31ST, SELF!), the military nonfiction titles I have stacked on the floor, or the YA books I keep requesting from the library.

So yeah, I'm sure I'll make it to fifteen out of ninety-eight in no time at all.
/sarcasm

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Revamping Wonder Woman

Oh, Wonder Woman. I dressed up as her one year for Halloween when I was six? seven? My parents made me wear clothes underneath, though; I was furious. If only her costume then had looked like it does now.

This 69-year-old superheroine, published by DC Comics, will don a new — and less revealing — costume and enjoy the publication of Issue No. 600 of her monthly series.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Translations, aka, my reading list just grew

I still haven't read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. I was iffy about the series and a friend of mine--we have similar tastes when it comes to fiction--told me not to bother with it. But several of my coworkers have read the whole thing and keep raving about it...so I don't know.

What I do know is that I'm thrilled we're going to see more Scandinavian writers translated into English. I love it when my reading horizon spreads just a bit more.

Friday, June 18, 2010

José Saramago, Nobel Prize-Winning Writer, Dies

I read Blindness years ago for an online book club I joined. I had a hard time with it, because I wasn't quite sure how to describe how I felt about the book. I liked it, but it was something completely different from what I normally read. I always meant to read his backlist, but never found the time. Maybe this summer I'll pick up Seeing. Or, reread Blindness.

Article about his life, works, and death here at The New York Times.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Justin Cronin, interviewed at the NYT

While being interviewed about his upcoming new novel, The Passage, Justin Cronin had this to say about the difference between literary fiction (what he's known for) and commercial fiction:

"I think literary is shorthand for appreciated, and commercial is shorthand for sells."

Hee. That's the best description of the two that I've seen in a long time.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Summer reading

I love reading the summer reading lists; so many new books to get excited over. Like:

Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures by Robert Wittman (Crown)
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender (Doubleday)
Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross (Knopf)
The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt (Hyperion)
The Outlander by Gil Adamson (Harper Perennial)
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic)
Lost Illusions by Honore de Balzac (Penguin) (OK, so this one isn't exactly new, but whatever.)

In addition to keeping track of what genre I read and whether the book is one I purchased or borrowed, I'm also going to try and keep track of what publishers I'm reading. I don't think I have any favorites, but I am curious.


*Note to self: Hey, remember how you were going to reread the Harry Potter series this year? How's that going?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The haul

I'm going on record as saying this was my best BEA yet.*

I walked away with five tote bags, one umbrella, and fifteen books. Yup, fifteen books. One of the senior editors at work chastised me a bit, saying that "books are for the buyers," but I ignored her. The way I see it, the books at BEA are for buyers and poor peons like me, the ones who get paid pennies, work long hours, and grab the perks where we can get them. And a free book is always a perk to me.

Out of the fifteen books I picked up, I've very excited about reading By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan. I had read a review about it earlier this week and thought it sounded very interesting. By a fluke chance, I found myself at the Other Press booth on Wednesday, where they were not only giving away the book, but had the author signing copies. Totally fate. I queued up and got a signed copy. I've only read the first twenty pages or so, but I'm already hooked.

Other books from BEA that I'm (especially) looking forward to reading are The Holy Thief by William Ryan (Minotaur), Satori by Don Winslow (Grand Central Publishing), The Last Speakers by K. David Harrison (National Geographic), and The Wolves of Andover by Kathleen Kent (Reagan Arthur Books). Oh, and Poisonville by Massimo Carlotto (Europa Editions); it sounds like a modern version of Dante's Inferno and the cover art is just amazing.

*It was also my first BEA, but that's just a minor detail.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

So it seems that I did in fact burn out in April. I've read, hmm, six books this month. And I clearly haven't posted about any of them. Yet.

Coming up, reviews of Black Magic Sanction, Magic Burns, the Sebastian St. Cyr novels I devoured, and my haul from BEA. I've got some really great books this year and I can't wait to start all of them.


Friday, April 30, 2010

Monthly Update

So April is the first month that I actually met (mostly) my monthly reading challenge. I read 14 books this month, but now feel the slightest bit burned out. I haven't wanted to read anything since finishing Silver Borne on Tuesday. (That will pass, right?)

As for the rest of my goals, well, I haven't touched any of the stack of military nonfiction I have piled up since, hmm, February, haven't started the Harry Potter reading challenge (although I have until the end of July to read the books), and I haven't finished Mere Christianity or Bleak House. I did pick up 2666 and read about four pages before putting it down. I just can't get into that book.

Books read in 2010: 39
Books that should have been read in 2010: 59
Time I have to catch up: limited

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Realizing a truth can be interesting.

It's slowly dawned on me that the novels I'm choosing to read have all been mysteries. It wasn't a conscious decision, but looking over the list of books I've read this year, there are only a handful that aren't mysteries.

I suppose I lulled myself into thinking I wasn't reading mysteries because they weren't the type of mysteries I had been reading, with police officers and private detectives. So much for branching out.

Still, I can't really complain about this, because if I didn't subconsciously sabotage myself into reading nothing but mysteries, I wouldn't have read the Julian Kestrel series by Kate Ross, or the Sebastian St. Cyr series by C.S. Harris. I wouldn't have read The Broken Teaglass by Emily Arsenault, which gave me words like editrix. And sentences like this, on page 320:

I tried not to despair too much in the notion that this holding pattern of identical days might eat up life while I waited for weekends.*


I would have read the Marilyn Todd titles, but I wouldn't have remembered her if I hadn't read the collection of short mystery stories, which I only read because it featured a story by Kate Ross. (And let's not forget that the Marilyn Todd titles are mysteries.)

So maybe I should just accept that I like to read mysteries and move on. To reading another mystery.

What? It's not like I don't have a stack of them waiting for me.

*Sadly, I find this sentence to be closer to my life sometimes than I'd like.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Victory is mine!

Read Silver Borne yesterday, which brings my total books read for the month to fourteen!

I feel very, very accomplished right now.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Once again, I'm so close, so very, very close

I just have to read one more book this month and I'll meet my goal of fourteen books in a month. Now, if only the weather would cooperate and not rain during my lunch break...

Via the NYT: New York Public Library Sorts Books By Scanner
Whereas in the past the volume of materials coming through frequently required him to hire temporary employees, now his permanent staff of 14 can easily sort 7,500 items per hour, or 125 a minute, he said. As a result, he added, the time it takes for a book to travel through the system has been reduced by at least a day.
Ha!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Long overdue book post...done

The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan was nothing like the BBC adaptation. And the BBC adaptation--with Rupert Penry-Jones, aka, the reason I watched the adaptation--was the reason I read the book in the first place. It was a good book, but I wish it had followed the plot of the movie more. (And yes, I know how wrong that is.) (March)

**spoilers**
The Girl with No Shadow by Joanne Harris was not the sequel to Chocolat that I expected. For one, I honestly didn't care what happened. Two, I thought that Roux was supposed to be in love with Josephine and that's why Vianne left without telling him she was pregnant, not because she was in love with him and thought he didn't want to be tied down. Third, I really didn't care what happened. Very disappointed by that, because I wanted to like this book as much, if not more, than I liked Chocolat. (April)

Figures in Silk by Vanora Bennett; I think I saw this first on Danielle's blog, but I'm not 100% sure. I totally loved this story, except for the very ending. Isabel was such a great character and she stayed true to her character up until the very ending. I'm not going to spoil it for everyone who hasn't read this book, but her sudden "realization" that she can't imagine her life without this certain person in it just strikes me as false. I don't disagree with the actual ending, but this pairing at the end? Yeah, no. (April)

When Gods Die by C.S. Harris was an excellent continuation to the Sebastian St. Cyr mystery series. Sebastian is once again caught up in a woman's murder, only this woman--found dead in the Prince's arms--has an unexpected connection to his long-dead mother. He's a much darker hero than Julian (from Kate Ross' series) and his family life is very twisted. Secrets and lies, fake deaths, illegitimate children; it's all very, very good. I'm really enjoying this series, and this author. (April)

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta wasn't as good as I wanted it to be. I love Jelico Road, so every time I read something by Marchetta I have these incredibly high expectations. This is the first fantasy novel I've read by Marchetta--I think the only one she's written--and while it was good, it just wasn't great. I feel like it was missing something though. (April)
Dream Boat by Marilyn Todd is another book in the Claudia series that I discovered while I was living in London. Unfortunately, neither the NYPL or the BPL has all the books in this series. I think together they have 1/3 of the series. In this book, Claudia ends up trying to rescue her kidnapped stepdaughter, while also discovering who has been killing Roman citizens of an Egyptian cult. And Marcus, the Roman Security policeman, can't help her as he's under house arrest for discovering a corpse bricked into a wall in his house. Hee. (April)

Why Mermaids Sing by C.S. Harris (yes, I'm really tearing through this series) drops us straight into a murder investigation that began at the end of When Gods Die. Someone, for unknown reasons, is killing the children of wealthy men, savaging parts of their bodies, before shoving an object into their mouths. While trying to discover the why's and who's of these crimes, Sebastian is also reeling from the revelation of two long-buried family secrets, both of which effect him in different ways. (April)

The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear was just kind of eh. I'm sad to say it, but I think I'm kind of over Maisie. Ever since An Incomplete Revenge, the fifth book in this series, I just can't seem to enjoy these stories. I'm actually quite saddened by this, because I used to love this character. Maisie is her usual brilliant self her, piecing together the truth about an American cartographer's death in WWI, while also tracking down his mysteries lover, preparing for the loss of a loved one, and finding herself in love again. (April)

Sour Grapes by Marilyn Todd (yup, another one) is (currently) the penultimate book in the Claudia series. It's also the last book that either library system here has. This book finds Claudia visiting her mother-in-law, chasing down murders and false gods, while also trying to stop a wedding--or two--and completely failing to avoid Marcus, who happens to be there for a couple of reasons, only one of which is Claudia. I'm incredibly frustrated that I can't get my hands on the last book in this series, because at the end of Sour Grapes, it really seems like Claudia and Marcus might *actually* be moving closer to, oh, I don't know, resolving all tension and mistrust and moving this part of the storyline forward already. But yeah, who knows? Not me. I don't have the last book. (April)

Friday, April 09, 2010

March update

So close. So very, very close.

In March I read thirteen books. I was ONE book away from reading the required fourteen. I was so, so close.

I know it's early days and all for April, but I've read four books in eight days. April may be the month...

Friday, March 26, 2010

What Angels Fear by C.S. Harris

What Angels Fear was exactly what I needed after finishing the last Julian Kestrel book; a rich, intricately-plotted tale with heroes who aren't heroes, ladies who take care of themselves, family secret after family secret, and at least five books in this series. (The last one might be my favorite part.)

Set in 1811, King George is soon to be replaced by the Prince of Wales. Powerful men make and break deals with powerful men. Bored soldiers, rakes, married men, and gamblers make their nights as amusing as they can by gambling away fortunes, fighting duels at dawn, and framing each other for murder.

Framed for the murder of a beautiful, young actress--who had more secrets than she did roles on stage--Sebastian St. Cyr eludes the constable in a desperate attempt to find out who framed him for murder. His search for the truth will take him from the London stage to masked balls, from political maneuvers to French spies, from secret to secret, until the truth is discovered. From family to friends, pickpockets and old lovers, nothing with stop Sebastian from finding out who framed him.

All in all, it was a fantastic story, I didn't see "it" coming, and I can not wait to read the next book in this series.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Devil in Music by Kate Ross

I held off reading The Devil in Music for as long as I could solely because it's the last book in the Julian Kestrel series and I knew I'd be heartbroken once it was over.

And you know what, I was right.

The final book in this series reveals more about Julian Kestrel and his life than the three previous books, satisfying my need to know something of his past, but ultimately it leaves more questions unanswered than answered. Back in Italy, for the first time in years, Julian finds himself caught up in a murder case that has been unsolved for five years. A young singer--whom only a few people have ever seen--has been assigned the blame, but Julian disagrees. Turning over one stone after another in his search, more questions are raised than answered. It will take everything Julian has to figure out the truth and lay rest to the secrets he has raised.

There's a huge cast of characters, from the beautiful widow, the envious brother, the emasculated son and his wife, her lover, political rivals, the missing tenor, the missing tenor's blind teacher, two traveling Englishmen, and a secret political organization, enough secrets to host an opera, and an ending that I honestly did not see coming. Seriously, I fell for the path Ross laid--hook, line, and singer--and just didn't see it coming.

And now it's over and I'll never learn the truth of Julian's past. Never find out all of his secrets. Never find out if Phillipa, the precocious twelve-year-old from the first book, grows up and fulfills her vow to marry Julian. Never find out anything more.

Except now I can reread the books and pick up on all the little clues I missed the first time. Who knows, maybe there's more of Julian Kestrel for me to discover.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The NYPL is working against me.

I am so close to reading 14.8 books this month. So very, very close. You know what would help? If the NYPL would transit my books already. Seriously. Why does it take a week plus to get my books from one branch of the NYPL to another branch? If my father can mail me a letter via USPS from Silverdale, Washington, to Brooklyn, New York, in two days, why can't the NYPL get me my books within three business days?

Am I asking for too much? I don't think so.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Gentlemen & Players by Joanne Harris

Wow.

I had forgotten how much I enjoyed Harris' stories. They're so beautifully written, with all of these little details that seem so unimportant and yet end up meaning so much. Her characters are real, complex, and never quite what they seem. The plots are straightforwardly full of twists and turns, and nothing ever happens quite like you think it's going to.

I used to love mysteries, devoured them in junior high and high school, but eventually lost my taste for them. The plots became stale, it was evident "whodunit," and I really felt that all of the characters had become the same. Thank God I didn't give up the genre completely, or I never would have read Gentlemen & Players. I can't decide which part of the story I liked the best, the small secrets that are slowly revealed, leading us to the truth, or the very real "players," of which only one knows the rules to this game.

Honestly, this book has it all; a cast full of old grudges and older secrets, an institution ripe for a fall, a town full of hate, and someone who has come back after fifteen years to settle an old score.

You'll never see this one coming.

The End of Publishing

via Moonrat, a video about the end of publishing.

Brilliant, just brilliant.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A brief update

Once again, I don't have enough hours in the day.

I've only just now started editing my NaNoWriMo novel for NaNoEdMo--fourteen days behind--and I think I might end up with something workable. Maybe.

Of course, I also need to write about the six books I've read and haven't posted about, hold down a full-time job, read more books, and find time to sleep.

I wonder which of these I'll let fall by the wayside first?

Friday, March 05, 2010

Monthly Update

And, just like last month, I did not meet my reading goals for the month. In fact, I read one less than I did in January.

Books read in February: 7
Books read total in 2010: 15
Books that should have been read so far in 2010: 28

Monday, March 01, 2010

NaNoEdMo

Please don't expect to see me much in March. It's NaNoEdMo and I have a NaNoWriMo to edit.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I'm breaking my own promise

Argh. Remember that time when I said I wasn't going to do any reading challenges this year? All of what, two months ago?

Yeah, I'm breaking it.

I've had this urge to reread the Harry Potter series for a month or so now and while I've been struggling to suppress it, it's not going away.

So, I figure I might as well join the Harry Potter Reading Challenge while I'm at it. It ends July 31, 2010, so I've got plenty of time to finish.

I cannot believe I broke on this so early in 2010. Shame. Shame on me.

Except, not really. It's going to be so much fun.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

Just read the entire book--thank you, NY MTA and my roommate--and I have to say as much as I loved the entire novel--and all the twists--would someone--Dennis Lehane, maybe--please resolve the last 3 1/2 pages for me.

I mean, I think I know what happened, fairly certain how the ending actually ends, but it doesn't say for sure, 100%, definitely. And that bugs me.

Damnit, am I going to have to see this movie?

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

I knew next to nothing about Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin, before I started to read it. In fact, the only thing I knew about this novel was that it is set in the area of Brooklyn I live. I'm very glad I read it though; I found it to be a very detailed, beautifully written coming-of-age story.

From the publisher:
Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the hard years following World War Two. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor Eilis in America, she decides she must go, leaving her fragile mother and her charismatic sister behind. Eilis finds work in a department store on Fulton Street, and when she least expects it, finds love. Tony, who loves the Dodgers and his big Italian family, slowly wins her over with patient charm. But just as Eilis begins to fall in love, devastating news from Ireland threatens the promise of her future.
Having no idea what the novel was about, I was completely surprised by how much I enjoyed it and by how much of myself I saw in Eilis. From her trip alone across the Atlantic Ocean, how she forces herself to smile so she doesn't lose her job as a salesgirl, even the way she takes walks through the city on her lunch break, trying to see and explore more of her new home.

Eilis doesn't just have to learn how to survive on her own in Brooklyn, manage night classes and work, and dating, but she also has to deal with her ever-present sense of loss for the family she left behind. One day, after almost two years in Brooklyn, finally settling in, she is called home to Ireland to deal with a family crisis. Suddenly, Eilis finds herself in the position of having a choice; she can stay in Ireland with her family, working as a bookkeeper, and settle down, or she can return to Brooklyn, without her family, work as a shop girl, and eventually give up on her professional dreams to keep house and home for Tony, who wants to marry her.

Brooklyn is a beautiful story, not just because of the plot--which is good--but in the way that Toibin describes things in this novel, making each part seem so real.

On one morning, Eilis goes to work and finds there that the store is having its yearly nylon sale.
The morning was full of frenzy; she did not for one moment have peace to look around her. Everyone's voice was loud, and there were times when she thought in a flash of an early evening in October walking with her mother down by the prom in Enniscorthy, the Slaney River glassy and full, and the smell of leaves burning from somewhere close by, and the daylight going slowly and gently. This scene kept coming back to her as she filled the bag with notes and coins and women of all types approached her asking where certain items of clothing could be found or if they could return what they had bought in exchange for other merchandise, or simply wishing to purchase what they had in their hands.
As someone who has worked retail during a holiday sale, that exactly describes how I felt during my shifts. Body on automatic, mind somewhere pleasant.

Another true-to-life description is Eilis' take on her daily walk to work:
As she walked along, however, she knew she was getting closer to the real world, which had wider streets and more traffic. Once she arrived at Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn began to feel like a strange place to her, with so many gaps between buildings and so many derelict buildings. And then suddenly, when she arrived on Fulton Street, there would be so many people crowding to cross the street, and in such dense clusters, that on the first morning she thought a fight had broken out or someone was injured and they had gathered to get a good view.
That paragraph perfectly describes what my mornings--and evening--are like here in New York. Crowds of people, jostling to get closer to the street, forced to dodge them left and right... The whole book is like that; he just sucks you in. Now that I'm done with Brooklyn I'm looking forward to getting my hands on Toibin's other books.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Old favorites found

I have no idea who Ellis Peters is, but I'm beyond grateful that someone--Maxim Jakvbowski--put together a memorial anthology of historic crime in honor of her. Dozens of authors--including my new favorite, Kate Ross--wrote short stories for this anthology. Surprisingly, Ross' story isn't my favorite; perhaps if it had been a Julian Kestrel story, it would have been. Instead, my favorite story is by Marilyn Todd, a British author I fell in love with ten years ago during a semester I spent in London.

Being rather poor--and London being rather expensive--I used to spend a great deal of time in the local library. I spent most of my time in the fiction section, completely enthralled by all of the new authors I "found." One of those authors--in fact the only books I can still remember--was Marilyn Todd, and her Claudia series. I was hooked the instant I started to read them. There were only four stories in the series (I think) at that time, and I read them all. Sadly, I didn't purchase the books before I left. Over the years, I remembered the series, but I forgot who the author was and therefore couldn't find the books here.

But thanks to this anthology--Past Poisons--all that has changed. The NYPL has some of the books from the series in stock and now that I've "found" the author again, I'll start tracking down the other books I missed.

I love it when books and my life come full circle like this.

The Annual & Awesome United Methodist Book Sale

I missed this last year and was bitterly disappointed. I haven't been to a book sale since...fall of 2008? ACK!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Once a Spy, by Keith Thomson

I subscribe to several book newsletters, which I inevitably stop reading and just scan through. I try not to do this, because how am I ever going to find something new to read if I don't read the newsletters, but alas.

Still, every now and then something on the page will catch my eye and I'll stop, scroll back up, and read. In this case, it was a flashing advertisement for an ARC of Once A Spy, the debut novel by Keith Thomson. It looked interesting, so I filled out the request form* and several weeks later, received a copy in the mail.

I'm so glad I did, because this novel was fantastic. Absolutely fantastic.

From the publisher:
Drummond Clark was once a spy of legendary proportions. Now Alzheimer’s disease has taken its toll and he’s just a confused old man who’s wandered away from home, waiting for his son to fetch him.

When Charlie Clark takes a break from his latest losing streak at the track to bring Drummond back to his Brooklyn home, they find it blown sky high—and then bullets start flying in every direction. At first, Charlie thinks his Russian “creditors” are employing aggressive collection tactics. But once Drummond effortlessly hot-wires a car as their escape vehicle, Charlie begins to suspect there’s much more to his father than meets the eye. He soon discovers that Drummond’s unremarkable career as an appliance salesman was actually a clever cover for an elaborate plan to sell would-be terrorists faulty nuclear detonators. Drummond’s intricate knowledge of the “device” is extremely dangerous information to have rattling around in an Alzheimer’s-addled brain. The CIA wants to “contain” him--and so do some other shady characters who send Charlie and Drummond on a wild chase that gives “father and son quality time” a whole new meaning.
From the very beginning of this story, I was hooked. Drummond is fascinating, with his moments of lucidity and the slow revealing of his skills--usually with Charlie looking on completely flabbergasted--contrasted by the effects that Alzheimer's is having on him. He'll hotwire a car, talking to Charlie, and suddenly to him, Charlie is twelve and late for school. Charlie, meanwhile, was less endearing at first, although by the time he's rescued his father from the shelter, I'd started to warm up to him. By the end, when he's actively planning a mission, I've completely warmed up to him.

I was actually a bit disappointed by the ending--since the book doesn't end up resolving itself--but I've gotten over that as I recently (read, today) learned that Thomson is in the process of writing a sequel.

Seriously, this is the best spy duo since Mr. & Mrs. Smith. One completely untrained son. One former spy whose mind is being destroyed by Alzheimer's. Eight million dollars on the table--somewhere--and so many people who want both Charlie and Drummond dead.

How can you doubt a plot like that?

* Yes, this was an ARC, and one I requested. Blah blah disclaimer.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Thursday, February 11, 2010

August 24, 2010, can't come soon enough

Why, you ask?

Because that's when Mockingjay, the third book in the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins comes out!

See the cover here.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Updates

  • I triumphed at the NYPL last night when I found the book I was looking for. It had been horribly misshelved--no where near where it was supposed to be. But I was clever, I persevered, and I unwilling to leave without my book!
  • I'm no where near reading fourteen books this month. I think I've read two.
  • 2666 is one of the books I'm reading (subway book) and I have no idea what it's about. I kind of want to look it up on Amazon--for the synopsis--but I'm worried that will just confuse me more. Anyone read it?
  • Apparently we're supposed to get between twelve and eighteen inches of snow tonight.
  • I am woefully behind on book reviews. WOEFULLY BEHIND.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

2010 update

Taking a leaf from Sassymonkey and her idea to post monthly on her reading goals...
1. Read 178 books. I read 8 books in January, 6 shy of my goal of 14 per month*. Only 170 to go!
2. I read 1 military nonfiction book and started a second.

Sadly, I did not do half of the posting I told myself I would do, despite bookmarking interesting articles and links. I'm also way behind on my reviews.

*Well, there will be some months where I need to read 15 books a month. I'll figure that out later.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Two takes on war

First two books of 2010: a nonfiction view of life in the US Army--Love My Rifle More Than You by Kayla Williams--and a fictional view on the last few moments of John Kipling's life--Kipling's Choice by Geert Spillebeen.

Love My Rifle More Than You ... I've been trying to write this review for a couple of hours now, but it's coming out like crap. Saying I liked it feels wrong, and I don't know that you can like a book like this.

It's not a likable book. It's a demanding book. It's a hard book. It's a challenging book. It dares you to acknowledge things, issues, problems and then deal with them. It wasn't an easy book. Still, I think I liked it.

From the prologue:
A woman soldier has to toughen herself up. Not just for the enemy, for battle, or for her death. I mean toughen herself up to spend months awash in a sea of nervy, hyped-up guys who, when they're not thinking about getting killed, are thinking about getting laid. Their eyes on you all the time, your breasts, your ass--like there is nothing else to watch, no sun, no river, no desert, no mortars at night.
And her story just runs from there.

My back went up a few times, not because of Kayla's actions--OK, sometimes her actions, but more the situations she found herself in while in Iraq. I couldn't help but picture myself in those situations, trying to understand how I would have dealt with them. I honestly don't know what I would have done.

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I linked to Colleen's review of Kipling's Choice above because her review was the reason I read this book. I really don't know much about Rudyard Kipling--I watched The Jungle Book cartoon, but that's about it--but a few months ago I happened upon a line from one of his poems and I decided it was time to read more.

As I understand, Rudyard Kipling desperately wanted to serve in the Navy, but couldn't because of his horrible eyesight. Despite all of his future successes, this failure would haunt him throughout his life. His son, John, had the same problems with his eyes, but at this point Rudyard had enough clout to get his son into the Irish Guards as a second lieutenant. Untried, untrained, and just days after his eighteenth birthday, John dies in a ditch somewhere, body destroyed by poison gas and mortar, his family left without word of his fate.

Kipling's Choice moves from the moments leading up to John's death to the days, weeks, months, and even years that lead him to that point. It's skillfully done, with John flashing back and forth, moving from moments spent with Daddo to letters home to tearing around the country side to leading him men into battle to lying flat on his back, bleeding, to smiling at a pretty girl, to letters home, to his days at school hunting ghosts to letters from his father.

The story's written incredibly well, in my opinion, both detailed, well-researched, and interesting. I've gone from knowing very little about Rudyard Kipling and his family to knowing a bit more and eager to read more.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Interview with Scott Stein, author of "Mean Martin Manning"

A few months ago, I read a novel called Mean Martin Manning, the tale of a man who just wanted to be left alone--dammit--to eat his cheese and salami and to collect his ceramic frogs. Scott Stein, the author of that very funny, satirical novel, agreed to answer a few questions for me here.

Bibleeohfile: What gave you the idea to write this novel?

SS: I guess the initial idea was to jab at the “blank slate” view that some have of human nature and behavior—that it’s infinitely malleable, if only we have the right environment or program to improve people. I address the development of the novel in some detail here.

What do you think of what’s currently going on with some restaurants being required to post caloric information, the “war on obesity,” and the recent news that Mayor Bloomberg is trying to get smoking in New York City’s public parks outlawed? Were you foreshadowing with Mean Martin Manning, or just a coincidence?

SS: I wasn’t thinking specifically of the war on obesity, or Bloomberg. I wasn’t trying to foreshadow a particular policy direction. But it isn’t just a coincidence, either. As a writer of satire, I pay attention to the news, to emerging attitudes, and Mean Martin Manning, exaggerated though it is, was me addressing and making sense of what I saw happening: The redefining of individual behavior and personal choices as public concerns, and what enables a society to go in this direction, and what a toll this takes on the individual. I have addressed some of the specific policies you mention and current developments on my blog.

How did you come up with your main characters? Are there pieces of your personality in Martin? Is Alice based on anyone you know?

SS: Neither character is based on a real person. I don’t think I am much like Martin. We have some things in common. I don’t like being told what to do. I can be stubborn. I see absurdity.

I came up with Martin through writing. Without any ideas or premises in mind, I wrote an initial paragraph:

His mother would sing to her baby in his crib with the voice of an angel. But when the angel sang Martin wept, because Martin was a mean baby. Some might say that babies are neither mean nor nice, that babies simply are—like moldable clay or blank slates. But Martin was mean all right. A mean baby. Later, he was a mean boy, still later, a mean adult, and his meanness, like a garden well tended, grew with age. He was, at 83 years, meaner than in his youth, not the result of a hard childhood or bitterness at old age, but the predictable culmination of a life steeped in cruelty and uncaring.

That paragraph didn’t end up going anywhere – I shifted to first-person and the voice and tone changed dramatically. But I was just playing with words and sentences and got that paragraph, which set up the basic premise of his character. An old, mean guy. He became a bit younger in the actual book. And it’s debatable whether he’s really all that mean. But the opening paragraph got me started, anyway.

Some time later, a hint of a plot developed. Not only was he mean, but he was isolated. He hadn’t left his apartment in a long time. Working out why he was in his apartment, and what he did there, led to details about his character.

Pitney began as a plot device. Martin had to leave his isolation for the plot to develop. “What would get him to leave?” became “Who would get him to leave?” And Pitney was born and became his foil. She took on a life of her own. She was fun to write. Her developing character helped clarify to me that the book was a satire of a certain kind.

To me, some of the funniest parts of your novel were the scenes where you describe how Martin was going to get his revenge on Alice, Henry the dog man, the court, and then on the world. Did you have a favorite part?

SS: I loved writing that whole fourth part. It was fun to invent ways, relevant, appropriate ways, for him to go after those who’d wronged him. It was fast writing. I enjoyed letting Martin Manning loose and watching him do his thing.

Your bio says that you teach writing fiction, writing humor and comedy, creative writing, and freshman writing at Drexel University; do you find yourself drawing on things from your courses for your writing?

SS: I don’t draw on my courses for my writing.

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

SS: Fiction writing is all hard. Until it’s easy. Getting started, finding the right voice and pace, finding the approach that works for that book, that’s very hard for me. Once I’ve found that, it’s still intense, draining, but it’s fun, and easy in that it feels right and moves quickly.

I am a character and plot writer. I can’t separate them. For me, the character dictates the plot very, very early on. Who is the character, what would challenge him? That is the beginning of plot. Then the plot goes forward and shapes the character. How he responds to the challenges of the plot is what makes him the character he is. Character and plot feed off of each other.

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 online magazine, When Falls the Coliseum: a journal of American culture (or lack thereof)? (Personally, I hope you're writing another novel featuring Martin campaigning for president.)

SS: I am working on a new novel. I can’t say much about it except that I’ve got a long way to go. I plan to continue to work on When Falls the Coliseum. No sequel for Mean Martin Manning is in the works. If there were to be one, I don’t see Martin as a willing candidate for office.

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

SS: I read a bit of everything—history, biography, fiction, philosophy, and science. I don’t have a favorite author.

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

SS: I do read the reviews. In publishing these days especially, authors have to be willing to do their own self-promotion. So reading reviews and trying to get press attention for your books is a part of the process that I participate in. I don’t know if I’ve had odd reviews. I can think of one where the reviewer didn’t get the book, didn’t appear to have read carefully, but I’ve been lucky. Most of my reviews were written by people who clearly read and got the books, and thought about them. Both the Philadelphia City Paper and The American Spectator reviews made the connections to the larger issues Mean Martin Manning addresses while still appreciating the humor and fun of the novel.

More of Scott's writings can be found online at his site, When Falls the Coliseum. His book, Mean Martin Manning, can be purchased online through his publisher, ENC Press.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Book 1 of 178, done


Finished Love My Rifle More Than You by Kayla Williams on the subway yesterday. Actual review to come, but I'll say quickly that I liked it. It was a different take on the military and the war, with the additional trials and tribulations of being a female in the military.






Monday, January 04, 2010

One year ago

...I broke down my reading for 2008. I'd read 168 books that year and my goal was to add ten books to that number in 2009.

I read sixty-eight books in 2009. Sixty-eight books. I can't even begin to wrap my head around this small, pitifully tiny number. Sixty-eight books.

Do you think I'll jinx myself (again) if I say I'm going to read 178 books in 2010?

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Sassymonkey just posted her 2010 reading goals, which got me thinking about my own. I've already sworn off reading challenges this year, have already stated my desire to read more military nonfiction, need to finish reading the books I started last year (like Mere Christianity and Bleak House--actually, Bleak House should be started from the beginning, if we're being honest, it's been that long.), need to read 2666 (my roommate gave the set to me eleven months ago and I haven't started it), and I too should spend some time reading the books on my shelves.

That's good, right? I should be able to hit 178 books. That's only ... 14.8 books per month ... 3.7 books per week ... .5 books a day...