Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween

As I've mentioned before, I take part in "secret santa" exchanges all year long. Halloween, of course, is a perfect excuse for an exchange... bring on the wishlist books!

My secret spook (my friend Milan!) sent me some wonderful stuff:
~ The History of Danish Dreams by Peter Hoeg,
~ Snow by Orhan Pamuk, and
~ The Way to Paradise by Mario Vargas Llosa,
as well as a few other goodies including The Blue Day Book by Bradley Trevor Greive.

I sent my partner (my friend Rhonda)
~ The Samurai by Shusaku Endo,
~ The Spring Tone by Kazumi Yumoto, and
~ Strange Bedfellows, Jeff Gelb and Michael Garrett (eds.)
as well as a few other goodies.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Myths series

Reading a post in one of the forums I frequent I came to the realization that not everyone knows about Canongate's wonderful Myth series.

The brainchild of Canongate's Jamie Byng, the series was launched in October 2005 and hailed as "the most ambitious simultaneous world-wide publication ever undertaken". Thirty-seven international publishing houses are now involved.

Basically well-known contemporary authors have been invited to write their own versions of classical myths. While many of the titles currently available focus on Greek mythology, the series is by no means restricted to that arena and I expect that we'll be seeing many more non-Western myths as the series progresses.

This is one of the most exciting literary projects in recent memory so if you've never heard of this series, you have to check it out!

Here is a list of titles currently available: Apparently Su Tong has also penned an installment, Binu: The myth of Meng Jiangnu, which has yet to be translated.

Some of the other authors we'll be seeing Myths titles from are Chinua Achebe, A.S. Byatt, David Grossman, Milton Hatoum, and Donna Tartt.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Song Quest

Song Quest by Katherine Roberts

My first introduction to Roberts came when I stumbled across one of her Seven Fabulous Wonders books at the book store. 'Fabulous' is definitely the right word for this series of books inspired by the seven wonders of the ancient world: a mix of adventure, fantasy, and historical fiction. Though the books haven't been published in the US, I've managed to read all but the most recent one (which came out in the UK in July).

The first volume of the Echorium Sequence, Song Quest is a wonderful adventure very much in Roberts' unique style. A coming-of-age story with both a male and female protagonist, the novel is full of fantasy, but also grounded.
Welcome to a world from another time -- where legendary half-creatures still exist. A world where nature itself can be controlled by unearthly music. A world where the forces of good and evil are held in harmony by the Singers who have mastered the secret Songs of Power. A world on the brink of destruction, threatened by a dark lord whose evil knows no bounds. Rialle and Kherron, two novice Singers, are all that's left to stand in the enemy's way. Stranded in a strange land with only one another to rely on, these former rivals must work together if they are to survive. In a timeless coming-of-age journey, Rialle and Kherron discover the strength of spirit that lies within them in their quest to help good triumph over evil.
If you like young adult fiction, check out Katherine Roberts.
You will not be disappointed!
Okay, I know that's a bit of a pronouncement given the fact that I haven't read all of her books, but I figure that if seven of them are good, there's a pretty good chance that the rest of them are too. ;)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

book clubbing in October

Today my book club discussed Sorrel Wilby's travelogue, Journey Across Tibet (subtitled "a young woman's trek across the rooftop of the world"). During the voting for the year's book club selections Dalai Lama fever, as I called it, was in full swing here in Buffalo (His Holiness visited in September) and I am fairly certain that is precisely why this book received so many votes.
To start, I have to say that I was disappointed by the much-touted foreword by H.H. the Dalai Lama. The half-page forward said very little of substance.

As for the book itself, it was OK. I expected more photographs since Wilby is supposed to be a photojournalist. The story of her trip across Tibet is a very personal story. It focuses more on her and how she grew and changed throughout the trip than on the nation itself. Wilby definitely has a lot of gumption. I can’t even fathom doing what she did. However, I do have to admit, that I found her grating after a while, but that may also be because I read the book in more-or-less one sitting so I never really got a break from her monologue.

Monday, October 23, 2006


1. Ill-temper, sullenness, brooding, anger. [...]
3. a. Sadness, dejection, esp. of a pensive nature; gloominess; pensiveness or introspection; an inclination or tendency to this. Also: perturbation (obs.). [...]
4. Sullenness, anger, or sadness personified. [...]
5. A short literary composition (usually poetical) of a sad or mournful character.
(Oxford English Dictionary)

Melancholy by Jon Fosse
trans. by Grethe Kvernes and Damion Searls

This latest installment from Dalkey Archive Press' Scandinavian Literature series lives up to its name. The novel is nothing if not melancholic. Moody and episodic, Melancholy showcases the author's understanding of human psyche and its flaws. Because of its unique structure--divided into three chapters, each shorter than the last--the novel will be best appreciated if it can be read all in one sitting. While the book's final chapter takes place in the recent past, the majority of the novel is set in the mid-1850s and focuses on Norwegian artist Lars Hertervig. The author's use of the stream-of-consciousness style in this section allows readers an inside look deep within the mind of the neurotic and deeply troubled protagonist. Known primarily as a playwright (and favorably compared to Ibsen), Jon Fosse has produced over thirty literary works in the past twenty years. First published in Norway in 1995, Melancholy is Fosse's first novel to be translated into English.

My review appears in the latest edition of Library Journal.

while I was gone...

I read:

Goodbye Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto
I don't think I was in the right frame of mind to fully appreciate this novel, the story of the strange friendship between two cousins.

The Kalahari Typing School for Men
by Alexander McCall Smith

More from the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency.

Killing Time by Caleb Carr
We listened to this one read by the author. It was heavy-handed to say the least, but it did have a suprisingly statisfying ending.

The Samurai by Shusaku Endo
A somewhat-boring historical novel. I think I would have appreciated it a great deal more if I had read the afterword before I began the novel itself.

Sunday, October 15, 2006


Just fyi I'm going to have limited internet access for the next week or so.
I expect to be posting again on October 24th.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Orhan Pamuk!

I was so excited when I heard today's announcement of the winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature...
Orhan Pamuk...
a Turkish author who, quoting the Swedish Academy, "in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures."

My friend Milan was lucky enough to meet Pamuk in person in May (I'm so jealous!). He was also nice enough to let me use his picture for this blog post.

Pamuk is probably one of the most perfect choices for the Nobel Prize. The announcement is definitely cause for celebration.

How am I going to celebrate?
I am going to pick up a copy of Istanbul: Memories and the City, a book that Milan and I both have on our wishlists. While I fully expect that copy to make it into Milan's m-bag, I'm not going to get a second copy until after Christmas so as not to thwart any gift-giving plans my friends or family might have. ;)

Kiran Desai!

This week Kiran Desai became the youngest woman to win the Man Booker Prize for The Inheritance of Loss.

Absolutely wonderful news!

And, even better, a perfect excuse to bump Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard to the top of my to-be-read pile!

Read the full press release.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

rule of 50

Librarian extraordinaire Nancy Pearl advocates what she calls "the rule of fifty."
The rule of fifty "acknowledges that time is short and the world of books is immense. [...] If you're fifty years old or younger, give every book about fifty pages before you decide whether to commit yourself to reading it or giving it up" (Book Lust, xi-xii). The older you are (over 50) the less you need to read before you make that decision.
The point is, reading should be pure pleasure. You haven't failed that author by not enjoying the book. Instead, the author has, at that moment in your life, failed you. That doesn't mean that in six days, or six months, or six years, or sixty years, you won't go back to the book and find that you love it. All it means is that at that particular moment in your life, you were looking for a different sort of book. (More Book Lust, xiii)
Why am I writing about this?
Well, besides the fact that I love Nancy Pearl, I recently had to give up on a book that I was reading, which always makes me feel guilty. Yes, she's a great role model, but mostly I need Nancy to help assuage my guilt. ;)

That and I'm looking forward to her new book Book Crush, which is set to hit shelves in April.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

slow weekend

I don't have much to report.

This weekend I:
finished reading the lastest version of my friend Susan's manuscript,
started working on my review of The Memory Keeper's Daughter, and
read some of The Dark Bride.

Friday, October 06, 2006

More friendly book buying

After spending a little more time searching wishlists over on amazon.com, I picked out a couple more books:

For Kristen...

Rome Sweet Home by Scott and Kimberly Hahn. Subtitled 'Our Journey to Catholicism,' the book is a joint memoir in which the couple recounts their conversion to Catholicism.
The publisher, Ignatius Press, says:
[The Hahns'] conversion story and love for the Church has captured the hearts and minds of thousands of lukewarm Catholics and brought them back into an active participation in the Church.
Written with simplicity, charity, grace and wit, the Hahns' deep love and knowledge of Christ and of Scripture is evident and contagious throughout their story. Their love of truth and of neighbor is equally evident, and their theological focus on the great importance of the family, both biological and spiritual, will be a source of inspiration for all readers.

For Lizzie...

Lost in a Good Book - the second book in Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series.
In my journal entry, I wrote:
Because so often the second book in a series doesn't measure up the to the first, I was a little worried about starting this one. I am happy to report though that I was not disappointed. I loved this book as much as The Eyre Affair.
Jasper Fforde has an amazing imagination--I am in awe--and I love all the literary references in these books (after reading The Eyre Affair I decided that I really needed to reread Jane Eyre since its been many years since I first read it).
Beyond all the new developments in this book (more "extinct" species, different villians, the Jurisfiction, the footnoterphone, and all the other new things we learn about Thursday's world), I really like the fact that Pickwick's character is more developed in this book. Yes, I'll admit it... I love the dodos!

Again, Happy Buy a Friend a Book Week!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Buying friends books

Giving gifts is one of my favorite things to do. So I definitely can't pass up an opportunity like Buy a Friend a Book Week. Here's what I've done so far:

For Jessica...

Twilight, the 6th book in Meg Cabot's Mediator series.
She's been trying to get her hands on a copy for quite some time.

For Karina...

Lord John and the Private Matter by Diana Gabaldon. She loves Gabaldon's Outlander series and I'm pretty sure she's never heard of this (tangentially-related) book.

For Russell...

Dangerous Waters: Modern Piracy and Terror on the High Seas by John Burnett. It's on on his wishlist and it's about pirates.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka

"Two years after my mother died, my father fell in love with a glamorous blond Ukrainian divorcee. He was eight-four and she was thirty-six. She exploded into our lives life a fluffy pink grenade, churning up the murky water, bringing to the surface a sludge of sloughed-off memories, giving the family ghosts a kick up the backside."

When you hear that a book was nominated for the Man Booker Prize and shortlisted for the Orange Prize, you expect a work of serious fiction; but when you read a book with a first paragraph like the one above, you know you’re in for a treat...

Read my full review at Armchair Interviews.

Monday, October 02, 2006

By the Time You Read This

By the Time You Read This by Giles Blunt

Wow. I just finished reading this book and it's really good.

Crime fiction is not usually my thing, but I have to say that I really enjoyed this one. Beyond having a captivating story, the novel is well-written, remarkably so.
Autumn has arrived in Algonquin Bay, and with it an unusual spate of suicides. The most shocking victim yet is Detective John Cardinal’s wife, who has finally succumbed to her battle with manic depression. As Cardinal takes time to grieve, his partner, Lise Delorme, handles an unsavory assignment: a young girl appears in a series of unspeakable photos being traded online, and background elements indicate she lives in Algonquin Bay. Delorme is desperate to find the girl before she suffers more abuse.
When Cardinal receives a string of hateful anonymous notes about his wife’s death, he begins to suspect homicide. His colleagues believe he is too distraught to think clearly, and he’s forced to investigate alone. In doing so, he comes up against a brand of killer neither he—nor the reader—has ever seen before.
By the Time You Read This (published as The Fields of Grief in the UK) is Blunt's fourth John Cardinal book after Forty Words for Sorrow (2000), The Delicate Storm (2002), and Black Fly Season (2005). Since I'll freely admit that I haven't read any of the earlier books, I can testify that this book stands on its own.

Set in the fictional town of Algonquin Bay, the novel seems to exude the essence of Ontario. The setting is subtle, but it seems to be an integral part of the story.

It is very hard to explain the way this book makes you feel. I can easily imagine it being adapted for film because of the way it's written; it's very cinematic. Blunt takes readers on a journey throughout the course of the novel. There is a slow comprehension. One is carried through the novel always engaged.

I had to include the synopsis because I feel like I can't say anything substantial without including spoilers. Suffice it to say that the killer and the extent of his crimes are horrific. And, it seems to me, the reader figures things out at exactly the right time.

September reading recap

Anonymous Lawyer by Jeremy Blachman
~ see this post

The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster

The Egyptian by Mika Waltari
~ see this post

Fat Kid Rules the World by KL Going

Hexwood by Diana Wynne Jones

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
~ see this post

Mister Monday by Garth Nix
~ see this post

Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith

The Secret Hour by Scott Westerfeld
~ see this post

Shopgirl by Steve Martin

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
~ see this post

Son of the Mob by Gordon Korman

Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie Tolan
~ see this post

Thirty-three Swoons by Martha Cooley
~ see this post

The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones

Varjak Paw by SF Said

The Whole World Over by Julia Glass


Happy Buy a Friend a Book Week, everyone. This is a wonderful excuse to do something nice for your friends.
Just get yourself to a real-life or virtual book store during Buy a Friend a Book Week [...] and, well, buy a friend a book (or e-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)
I've been busy working on a couple of reviews this weekend so I apologize for not posting. I'll try to make up for it this week ;)