Thursday, September 28, 2006

Last chance to enter...

Buy a Friend a Book Week is coming up soon!

Don't miss your chance to enter the fabulous contest my friend Susan (of West of Mars) is hosting.
Here's what she says:
"During the month of September, I want YOU to send ME a story of how music has touched your life. [...] What I'll do, during Buy A Friend a Book Week, coming up this first week of October, is Buy a Groupie a Book. [...] Seven of you lucky groupies will win a copy of a book."
Visit her blog to see all the details and learn how you can enter the contest.

my biggest fan?

As you all know, on your birthday lots of people call you to wish you well. Yesterday a friend from India called and we chatted for a bit. He's not a big reader so he doesn't really bother to read my blog much, but apparently he tells his friends about it. Anyway, yesterday he informed me that my biggest fan (I have a biggest fan, who knew!) works with his girlfriend in Bangalore.

This all seems pretty suspicious to me since this mystery fan has never actually commented on any of my posts AND my statcounter doesn't list anyone from India, let alone someone from Karnataka.
(ok, I know the statcounter isn't infallible, but still)

Honestly, I think my friend is pulling my leg.

There's only one person who can prove me wrong...

So, mystery fan, if you're out there, comment on this post. While you're here, you might as well give me a list of your five favorite books. To prove that you are who you say you are, you'll need to tell me the names of your officemate and her boyfriend. ;)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

birthday books

I got some books for my birthday ;)

Blue Angel by Francine Prose

Confessions of a Coffee Bean: the Complete Guide to Coffee Cuisine by Marie Nadine Antol

The Devil's Cup: a History of the World According to Coffee by Stewart Lee Allen

The Fourth Bear (Nursery Crime Series) by Jasper Fforde

The Illustrated Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë and Dame Darcy

Let it Rain Coffee by Angie Cruz

Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee by Meera Syal

* Yes, I know there seems to be a theme here... but I have to admit, I do love coffee. Actually all those books are straight from my wishlist (well, all of them except Confessions of a Coffee Bean, which hubby picked up as a surprise)

Also, my coworker also gave me a little pile of books that she picked up from a library sale. She likes to feed my BookCrossing habit. :D

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

I read the first half of the book yesterday and I have to admit that had a hard time falling asleep last night. The images and feeling invoked by the book haunted me.

Having just finished the book I'm a bit at a loss for words. For now, I think the best I can do is quote from a much more eloquent reviewer from The Washington Post Book World:
"A powerful book... no frills, no nonsense, just hard, spare prose... an intimate account of family and friendship, betrayal and salvation that requires no atlas or translation to engage and enlighten us. Parts of The Kite Runner are raw and excruciating to read, yet the book in its entirety is lovingly written."

We'll be discussing the book at my book club meeting tomorrow. Hopefully I'll have figured out a way to talk about it by then.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Jane Eyre... bigger and better

I saw the coolest book at the book store yesterday... an absolute must-have book...

Charlotte Brontë’s sweeping Victorian romance is reborn through the striking illustrations of the inimitable Dame Darcy.

A devoted readership will recognize Dame Darcy as the creator of highly original and off-kilter comic books. Here she uses her lavishly detailed illustrations to bring the best-loved Victorian novel Jane Eyre back into the spotlight. Darkly elegant illustrations draw back the novel’s curtain, revealing the depths of human depravity, despair, and ultimate redemption. Sure to impress traditional fans and newcomers alike, The Illustrated Jane Eyre updates the classic for a new era.

It's time to start your holiday shopping (not to mention Buy a Friend a Book Week) and this is the perfect gift for the lit majors on your list! Also a good choice for teenagers that could use a little motivation to read the classics.

I'm pretty sure that I'll be getting a copy for my birthday ;)

Friday, September 22, 2006

more YA fiction

The one benefit of being home sick with a cold is having the chance to do some extra reading. Of course, the problem with being sick is that anything heavy is out of the picture. Here are a couple of books I've read amid the coughing and sneezing:

Son of the Mob by Gordon Korman

Vince Luca is just like any other high school guy. His best friend, Alex, is trying to score vicariously through him; his brother is a giant pain; and his father keeps bugging him to get motivated. There is just one thing that really sets him apart for other kids: his father happens to be the head of a powerful crime organization. Needless to say, while Vince's family's connections can be handy for certain things — like when teachers are afraid to give him a bad grade as they can put a serious crimp in his dating life. How is he supposed to explain to a girl what his father does for a living? But when Vince finally meets one who seems to be worth the trouble, her family turns out to be the biggest problem of all. Because her father is an FBI agent — the one who wants to put his father away for good.

Pretty basic plot line, a modern-day Romeo and Juliet where Romeo/Vince is from a mob family and Juliet/Kendra's father is an FBI agent. This book just doesn't seem particularly fresh.

I liked the book (definitely liked it better than Mafia Chic), but I'm not exactly sure why it was named a 'best book for young adults' by the American Library Association.

It also looks like there is a second 'Son of the Mob' book out. It's called Hollywood Hustle.

The Secret Hour by Scott Westerfeld

The first book in the Midnighters series:
For one secret hour each night, the town belongs to the dark creatures that haunt the shadows. Only a small group of teenagers know about the secret hour — only they are free to move about the midnight time. They call themselves Midnighters.

Interesting concept, kinda scary.

This book is definitely the first in a series. It leaves you feeling unresolved and wanting to jump into the next book (Touching Darkness).

So far, though, I don't like this series as much as the Uglies trilogy. The Uglies books were my first introduction to Westerfeld and I thought they were phenomenal.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Egyptian

The Egyptian by Mika Waltari

Hubby and I literally just finished listening to this book. The first adjective that comes to mind when trying to describe this book is LONG (20 CDs!). It seems like we've be listening to it forever, but that's also because we could only listen to it when we were together.
Overall, good book. An epic tale of one man's life is the best way for me to describe it.
Book description:
A full-bodied re-creation of a largely forgotten era in the world's history: the Egypt of the 14th century B.C.E., when pharaohs and gods contended with the near-collapse of history's greatest empire. This epic tale encompasses the whole of the then-known world, from Babylon to Crete, from Thebes to Jerusalem, while centering around one unforgettable figure: Sinuhe, a man of mysterious origins who rises from the depths of degradation to become personal physician to Pharaoh Akhnaton.
The best part about the book is definitely its scope. It also seems to be really well researched. Waltari does a wonderful job describing the ancient world. He brings Egypt (and the rest of the places to which Sinuhe travels) to life for his readers.

Of course the book isn't perfect.
Sinuhe is "a complete imbecile" (quoting hubby here). In all honestly, though, it's hard to relate to the protagonist because keeps doing the stupidest things. That being said, his life is a fascinating one.
My only other complaint is about audio version (by Audio Connoisseur, available at in particular. Charlton Griffin, the reader, gives the book's female characters (as well as Sinuhe's slave/friend Kaptah) the most annoying voices, voices that grate on the nerves.

You will not believe what I found in the store this weekend...
A brand new (copyright 2006) game called Aton!

The whole of Egypt is in uproar – Akhnaton, who has just acceded to the throne, wants to ban the old deity Amon from the temples of the land. Aton is to be worshipped as the new God.
But the priests of the land are not willing to give up their temples without resistance so the 4 largest temples are fiercely disputed.
The players are adversaries and fight out this battle of the Gods between them. Both have the same starting position, but who will be able to make better use of his abilities and help his God to victory?

After reading this book, we just have to get it (we play alot of euro board games). I put it on our wishlist as soon as we got home. ;)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Thirty-three Swoons

Thirty-three Swoons by Martha Cooley

I loved The Archivist (because or despite the fact that I am an archivist), so I was pleased to be able to review Cooley's second offering for Curled Up With A Good Book.

The novel is well-plotted, keeping readers interested as its stories unfold. A number of different themes thread through the novel--perfumerie, theatre, dreams--providing cohesion. Thirty-Three Swoons works as a novel precisely because of Cooley’s attention to detail. The accuracy with which Cooley is able to describe the art of perfume-making is evidence of the amount of research that went into this novel.

In Thirty-Three Swoons, Cooley has given readers a novel that is both similar to and different from her debut. A psychological novel that showcases Cooley’s understanding of the human condition, Thirty-Three Swoons seems to be a study in duality. The novel is both contemporary and historical. Multilayered, it reads as both a novel and a play.

Read my full review on here.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Surviving the Applewhites

I just finished reading Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie Tolan. What a lovely book. A heart-warming tale filled with an eccentric cast of likeable characters, Surviving the Applewhites works on so many different levels. It definitely deserves its designation as a Newbery Honor Book.

Jake Semple is a scary kid. Word has it that he burned down his old school and then was kicked out of every other school in his home state. Only weeks into September, the middle school in Traybridge, North Carolina, has thrown him out, too.

Now there's only one place left that will take him -- a home school run by the most outrageous, forgetful, chaotic, quarrelsome family you'll ever meet. Each and every Applewhite is an artist through and through -- except E.D., the smart, scruffy girl with a deep longing for order and predictability. E.D. and Jake, so nearly the same age, are quickly paired in the family's first experiment in "cooperative education."

The two clash immediately, of course. The only thing they have in common is the determination to survive the family's eccentricities.

In Stephanie S. Tolan's hilarious tale, a local production of The Sound of Music directed, stagecrafted, choreographed, and costumed by Apple-whites -- brings the family together and shows E.D. and Jake the value of the special gifts they've had all along.

* If you'd like, you can read the first two chapters of the book on Stephanie Tolan's website

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Mister Monday

I just finished reading Mister Monday, the first book in Garth Nix's The Keys to the Kingdom series.
A great start to a promising series: "Seven days. Seven keys. Seven virtues. Seven sins. One mysterious house is the doorway to a very mysterious world -- where one boy is about to venture and unlock a number of fantastical secrets."
I'm definitely going to have to pick up the next two books Grim Tuesday and Drowned Wednesday since they are already out in paperback.

Literature in translation swap

Today a new swap debuted, the literature in translation swap. I came up with this theme myself, thinking it would be a good way of introducing each other to new authors. (If you don't know what a swap is, check out the SWAP FAQ)

What are participants allowed to offer in the swap?
Any book originally written in French, Norwegian, Russian, Serbia, Spanish, etc. (the list is endless) and subsequently translated into English.

Here's what I decided to offer:
The Dark Bride by Laura Restrepo...
Translated from the Spanish by the author!

I picked up this book because I needed a new Colombian author for an international reading challenge that I'm working on this year (see this post for more details on the challenge). I'm eager to read it, especially having seen positive blurbs from Allende and García Márquez.

Book description:
Once a month, the refinery workers of the Tropical Oil Company descend upon Tora, a city in the Colombian forest. They journey down from the mountains searching for earthly bliss and hoping to encounter Sayonara, the legendary Indian prostitute who rules their squalid paradise like a queen. Beautiful, exotic, and mysterious, Sayonara, the undisputed barrio angel, captivates whoever crosses her path. Then, one day, she violates the unwritten rules of her profession and falls in love with a man she can never have. Sayonara's unrequited passion has tragic consequences not only for her, but for all those whose lives ultimately depend on the Tropical Oil Company.

A slyly humorous yet poignant love story, The Dark Bride lovingly recreates the lusty, heartrending world of Colombian prostitutes and the men of the oil fields who are entranced by them. Full of wit and intelligence, tragedy and compassion, The Dark Bride is luminous and unforgettable.

"Love, lust, despair, pride, violence, magic and irrational hope give depth and texture to this page-turning novel." --Isabel Allende

"Laura Restrepo breathes life into a singular amalgam of journalistic investigation and literary creation." --Gabriel García Márquez

Elle Readers Jury 2006

On Friday I finally finished reading all the books for Elle magazine's Readers' Prize Grand Prix. I've figured out my top three books, but I am having a hard time ranking them. The votes are due tomorrow so I guess I'll have to figure out my rankings soon. Expect to see my comments here when the year's final issue comes out (November/December).

If you are interested in being part of the Readers Jury for 2007, apply here.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Booker Prize Shortlist annouced

Yesterday the Man Booker Judges announced the Prize's shortlist. (Check out the press release!)

I am happy to report that Kiran Desai's The Inheritance of Loss, the only longlist book that I've managed to read this year, did make it to the shortlist.

I'll just share with you the first line of this lovely book:
"All day, the colors had been those of dusk, mist moving like a water creature across the great flanks of mountains possessed of ocean shadows and depths."

literary Peter Jackson

It goes without saying that we were all impressed with Jackson and Co.'s adaptation of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy. I haven't been paying too much attention to his new projects, but I was really pleased to read earlier this week that he's optioned Naomi Novik's Téméraire series (for more details, check out this article from The Guardian).

My friend Sarra reviewed the books earlier this year and recommended them highly.
I have the first book, His Majesty's Dragon, on Mt. TBR (to be read), but now I'm definitely going to have to pick up the other two.

Actually, I was more intrigued to find out that Jackson is adapting Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones, filming to start in late 2007. I loved The Lovely Bones (check out this blog post for my comments), but I really have no idea how it could be adapted for film.

I'm excited to see what Jackson does with these books. Usually I'm not keen on movie adaptations (with the exception of Bridget Jones's Diary: strangely enough I disliked the book, but loved the movie), but Jackson has a good track record so I'm optimistic.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Anonymous Lawyer

Anonymous Lawyer by Jeremy Blachman

It's just about that time of year when we begin thinking about what we are going to be giving our friends and loved ones this holiday season. Have any lawyers on your list? I know just what to get them. This book.

A satire of the legal profession, the novel consists entirely of blog posts and email messages. It is very hard to pull off a novel in this form, but Blachman somehow makes it work. He even manages to give the story a good flow.

The novel focuses exclusively on a month and a half in the life of its protagonist, Anonymous Lawyer, a hiring partner at a Los Angeles-based international law firm. He is a completely unsympathetic character. He's a sexist, weightist, workaholic, who abuses his underlings. He's also exceedingly arrogant. In short, he's a complete jerk. Here's a sample from one of Anonymous Lawyer's early posts:
"Besides The New Chairman's quick exit, the party went off without a hitch--except for an early mishap with an associate during the cocktail hour. The Frumpy Litigator is allergic to shellfish, but one of the partners didn't know and offered her a bite of his lobster cake. Like any good associate, she knows the rules. When a partner tells you to do something, you do it, no matter what. Anaphylatic shock be damned. She politely took a bite, and as soon as she had a chance, turned and spit it into her napkin. But by then it was too late. She pulled me aside and said she thought she might need to go to the hospital. Of course I let her leave, despite the importance of the party. She handled the whole situation very discreetly. I'll be sure to send her an e-card on Monday wishing her a speedy recovery" (21-22).
What is truly amazing about the book is that by the end of it we don't hate Anonymous Lawyer nearly as much as we should. I don't know how Blachman does it.

Anonymous Lawyer is an based on Blachman's hugely successful blog, subtitled "stories from the trenches, by a fictional hiring partner at a large law firm in a major city." Blachman isn't a hiring partner. Actually, he's about my age, a recent law school graduate. He started the blog on a whim and it took off from there.
There's actually an interesting page on his website ( about translating the blog to a book.

After reading Anonymous Lawyer, I can't help but wonder if we'll see more from Blachman. I know he's keeping up with the blog, but I can't imagine that there'll be a second AL novel (but, hey, what do I know!). I'm interested to see whether Blachman can parlay this blog-writing into something bigger and better in the future.

As a side note, one thing that I found particularly amusing in the book is Anonymous Lawyer's penchant for revisionist history. The longer he publishes the blog, the less concerned he is about the authenticity of what he writes in his entries. Read the book and you'll see what I mean.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

quotable Auster

"Reading was my escape and my comfort, my consolation, my stimulant of choice: reading for the pure pleasure of it, for the beautiful stillness that surrounds you when you hear an author’s words reverberating in your head" (The Brooklyn Follies, 13).

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

What a fascinating novel.

Set in China's Jiangyong County in the 1800s, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan tells the story of two women and their lifelong friendship. It also tells the broader story of women's culture during that period with special attention paid to nu shu, the women's secret writing, and the formal friendship relationships between women.

Constructed as an autobiography and an accounting of the narrator's life for her ancestors (it’s interesting to note that the Library of Congress "Reminiscing in old age--Fiction" as the primary subject of the book), the novel is constrained by this structure and by the narrator’s own reticence. However, I think those constraints add authenticity to the tale.

I'm not a scholar of Imperial China by any stretch, but I will say that the book seems very well-researched. I, for one, appreciated See’s comments in the ‘Author’s Note and Acknowledgements’ section.

I think I'm going to pick up a copy for my mom for Christmas because I think she’d love it.

One thing that sticks in my mind...
When Lily, the narrator, described someone as having feet that are fourteenth centimeters long, twice as big as her own. It just blew my mind. Seven centimeters. That’s unfathomable.

As westerners we may feel the need to dwell on the physical horrors of footbinding when reading this novel, but there is so much more to it than that. Again, I was struck by something that the narrator penned in her prologue:
"The binding altered not only my feet but my whole character, and in a strange way I feel as though that process continued throughout my life [...]. By the time I was forty, the rigidity of my footbinding had moved from my golden lilies to my heart, which held on to injustices and grievances so strongly that I could no longer forgive those I loved and who loved me" (4).

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

amazing mooch

I came home to find a beautiful hard cover copy of Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlen, a book I reviewed for Elle magazine (for more information see this post), in my mail. Having already read, reviewed, and passed on my Advanced Reader Copy, I was pleasantly surprised to receive this unexpected gift from the wonderful folks at Random House.

I listed the book on BookMooch hoping to find it an enthusiastic reader and, well, I think I did because the book was mooched within minutes of me listing it, quite literally.
Now that's what I call an enthusiastic new reader!

Buy a Friend a Book Week... coming October 1

I learned about Buy a Friend a Book Week just recently. What a great concept!
The first weeks of January, April, July, and October are each designated as a 'Buy a Friend a Book Week'. The concept is pretty straight forward -- during that week, you buy a friend a book...
"But here's the fun part: you can't buy your friend a book because it's their birthday or they just graduated or got engaged or had a baby or anything else. You have to give them a book for no good reason. In fact, this present out of the blue from you should shock the pants off of whomever you decide to give it to. And it'll make them happy. And that's the point: promote reading, promote friendships." (BAFABW website)

And, there are contests associated with BAFAWB! :D
My friend Susan (of West of Mars) is hosting one.
Here's what she says:
"During the month of September, I want YOU to send ME a story of how music has touched your life. [...] What I'll do, during Buy A Friend a Book Week, coming up this first week of October, is Buy a Groupie a Book. [...] Seven of you lucky groupies will win a copy of a book."
Visit her blog to see all the details and learn how you can enter the contest.

After you do that, head over to Front Street Reviews and learn how you can win even more books during BAFABW!

Monday, September 04, 2006

reading my way through the long weekend

Reading... what a lovely way to spend the weekend.

So far I've finished Morality for Beautiful Girls, the 3rd No.1 Ladies Detective Agency book.
More of the same from Alexander McCall Smith, but in this case, it's a good thing.
However, the situation with Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni in this book is an enigma so I'm interested to see how McCall Smith continues to deal it in the subsequent books.

I read Shopgirl by Steve Martin.
When the book first came out, I kind of poo-pooed it because I figured Steve Martin just got published because he's a celebrity. Of course, I feel horribly guilty about that and, obviously, I decided to give the book a try (incidentally I also have Martin's lastest book, The Pleasure of my Company, on Mt. TBR).
Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised by the book. I though Mirabelle was a sympathetic character (probably even more so because she's alot like me). I also appreciated the ending - realistic, but not depressing (I guess that's my biggest complaint about "serious" fiction is that many times the endings leave me feeling hopeless).

I spent some time listening to the audio version of The Egyptian by Mika Waltari with hubby.
Right now we are on CD 12 of 20.
The book is long, but it is fascinating. An epic tale that follows the life of an Egyptian doctor, it seems to be an at-least-somewhat realistic look into life in the ancient world.

I also read Thirty-three Swoons by Martha Cooley and am currently working on a review of it for Curled Up.
Expect a review later this week.

Additionally, I stuck my nose in a few other books that are at the top of Mt. TBR: The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See, The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones, and The Whole World Over by Julia Glass.

Saturday, September 02, 2006


On August 15th I joined a brand new book trading site, I'm not a member of any of the other trading sites (PaperbackSwap, TitleTrader, etc.) so I can't compare it to them, but I do have to say that BookMooch is awesome.

Conceived, designed, written and administered by John Buckman, BookMooch is growing quickly. Right now the site has approximately 5,800 members and 45,000 books available for mooching.

BookMooch is based on a points system. Users gain points by listing books (0.10 per book) and by granting mooch requests (1 for domestic, 3 for international). They can use those points to mooch books from other members (1 point for domestic, 2 for international).

The best things about the site:
~ the book selection
~ it encourages international trading
~ it gives back by partnering with a number of different charities

So far I've mooched six books and had three books mooched from me. It's been a great experience.

Check it out and see what you think!

Here's a link to my inventory ;)

Friday, September 01, 2006

it's September

We're finally out of the dregs of August.
I'm hoping that the calendar page change will bring me out of my August flakiness and lethargy as well as out of the general malaise that summer brings.

The first good thing about September:
See me in Elle magazine online. If you want to learn more about how I got there, check out this post.

Other things to look forward to this month:
~ Labor Day... lovely long weekend
~ H.H. the Dalai Lama coming to Buffalo.
Though I have to admit that excitement has worn off and with all the ruckus it's caused I'm just looking forward to the visit being over.
~ Autumn
~ my birthday ;)
~ Good books
including the The Kite Runner, which is on the book club schedule for September. I've been dying to read it and now I finally have an excuse.