Monday, July 31, 2006

July reading recap

I know it's not quite the end of the month yet, but I don't think I'll have much time to read this evening...

This month I read 18 books, 5 of which were mysteries (that's very abnormal for me)

Best book of the month:
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

This is a wonderful book. It worked well on audio because Alyssa Bresnahan is a good reader and was very realistic as Susie (I haven't read the book, so I might not spell the characters names correctly).

I started this book on a day when I had a fairly long drive (1 hour 30 min each way), but I had to finish it off during my 20 minute commutes to work. It was really hard for me to only have the story in those small chunks. I really wanted to read it straight through. It was agonizing for me to have to wait for my next segment.

The Lovely Bones is a story that will stay with you. The novel has a really unique premise, but it is one that would have had to be told just right. Sebold does this masterfully. Her characters are imminently sympathetic (with the obvious exception of George Harvey). During the course of the novel, readers become like Susie, concerned only with the comings and goings of these characters. My heart was in my throat when Mr. Salman was in the cornfield, similarly when Lindsay broke into the house.

The thing that happens to Ray on the 7th tape seemed to be pushing the premise just a little too far, but that was the only time that I really questioned the believability of the story.

Biggest disappointment of the month:
Life of Pi by Yann Martel.

I have to confess that despite this book being literary and award-winning, I really didn't like it very much. Maybe it's because I'm vegetarian and ichthyophobic (completely insane, I know, but I have an irrational fear of fish) so the whole castaway thing was just a bit too much for me.
Also, I don't think it is a "story that will make you believe in God" (viii).

On a more positive note...
I loved chapter 92, the "exceptional bontanical discovery" (284), but I don't want to say too much about it fo fear of spoiling it for those who haven't read the book yet.
I also liked the character of Pi, particularly early in the book. I enjoyed the awakening of his poly-religious tendencies and how they affected the people around him.
I also really love the cover art of the Canadian edition (illustration by Jamie Bennett and design by Paul Hodgson / pHd). I think it's much compelling at first glance than the American one I've see around.

more crazy good news

I just got an email from M.J. Rose and Co.
Apparently I'm this week's Summer Buzz Promotion winner (imagine my jaw dropping to the floor)
I'll be getting a signed copy of The Venus Fix...
All because of my little blog post
How unbelievably cool!
And good for Rose too because now I'm going to have to go get the first two books! LOL

a little Poe for me

I am so excited.

I just found out that I'm definitely going to be getting Matthew Pearl's new book, The Poe Shadow, to review for Armchair Interviews.

Here's the synopsis from the publisher's website:

Baltimore, 1849. The body of Edgar Allan Poe has been buried in an unmarked grave. The public, the press, and even Poe’s own family and friends accept the conclusion that Poe was a second-rate writer who met a disgraceful end as a drunkard. Everyone, in fact, seems to believe this except a young Baltimore lawyer named Quentin Clark, an ardent admirer who puts his own career and reputation at risk in a passionate crusade to salvage Poe’s.

As Quentin explores the puzzling circumstances of Poe’s demise, he discovers that the writer’s last days are riddled with unanswered questions the police are possibly willfully ignoring. Just when Poe’s death seems destined to remain a mystery, and forever sealing his ignominy, inspiration strikes Quentin–in the form of Poe’s own stories. The young attorney realizes that he must find the one person who can solve the strange case of Poe’s death: the real-life model for Poe’s brilliant fictional detective character, C. Auguste Dupin, the hero of ingenious tales of crime and detection.

In short order, Quentin finds himself enmeshed in sinister machinations involving political agents, a female assassin, the corrupt Baltimore slave trade, and the lost secrets of Poe’s final hours. With his own future hanging in the balance, Quentin Clark must turn master investigator himself to unchain his now imperiled fate from that of Poe’s.

ETA: They never sent me the book to review

Sunday, July 30, 2006

cool bookrest

The "Peeramid"

I had never seen these before my trip to Cleveland earlier this month. It's the neatest thing: a cross between a pillow and a bookrest. I was so intrigued that I had to buy one (I got the orange suede, though I was pretty close to picking up the one pictured here).

Now that I've tested it out, I can say that it's especially good for hardcover books and that the tassel makes a great cat toy.

I'm definitely gettting one for my mom for Christmas... it's "the perfect gift for a nomadic reader" (the tag says something along those lines).

Go to the Peeramid website to learn more about this unique bookrest.

authors doing self-promotion

So my friend Susan (who has an awesome blog: WestofMars) is letting me borrow JA Konrath's first two Jack Daniels books, Whiskey Sour and Bloody Mary, so I can take part in the Great Jack Daniels Blog Experiment. The books are on their way so expect to see some reviews here as soon as I find the time because I definitely want to get a signed copy of the new book! (ETA: so I'm a big doofus and the contest is over... don't mind me...)

If you've never heard of Konrath before, you should definitely check him and his work out (here are some links to
his website and his blog). He seems to be a self-promotion genius.

Another self-promotion pioneer is M.J. Rose. She's running a "
Summer Buzz Promotion" for her latest book, The Venus Fix (the 3rd in the Butterfield Institute series, which includes The Halo Effect and The Delilah Complex). I haven't read any of these books yet, but they sound good.

Anyway, because I am a sucker for a contest (even though I rarely win anything) and I love to see an author taking things into their own hands (and donating to charity while she's at it!), I'm going to try to help generate some buzz for her this summer...
If you want to know more about The Venus Fix, pop over to
VidLit to see a trailer. If you want to know more about Rose and her books, pop over to her website.

I should also point out that it was Susan who told me about both these contests in the first place... I'm looking forward to the time when I'll be shamelessly plugging her own books. ;)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

morsie's lending library

Since I joined BookCrossing [if you don't know what BookCrossing is, visit the site to learn all about it] I've become my mom's personal lending library. I'm going to be seeing her on Tuesday and she requested that I bring her a bag of books.

I, of course, was more than happy to oblige (especially since it makes my to-be-read shelves seem more manageable (at least temporarily LOL)) and have packed her a nice shopping bag full of books.

Here's a sampling of what I put in it:

84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff,
The Borgia Bride by Jeanne Kalogridis,
Cloud of Sparrows by Takashi Matsuoka,
The Dress Lodger by Sheri Holman,
The Great Indoors by Sabine Durrant,
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, and
the first two books in James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club series:
1st to Die and 2nd Chance.

Read and Release at

Friday, July 28, 2006

Best Books - January-June

~ ~ ~ My favorite books so far this year ~ ~ ~

Brick Lane by Monica Ali
Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter by Blaize Clement
Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
Green Angel by Alice Hoffman
The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea
I'll Steal You Away by Niccolo Ammaniti
In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant
In the Wake by Per Petterson
The Map of Love by Ahdaf Soueif
The Seven Fabulous Wonders Series by Katherine Roberts:
The Amazon Temple Quest
The Babylon Game
The Colossus Crisis
The Great Pyramid Robbery
The Mausoleum Murder
The Olympic Conspiracy
The Thursday Next books by Jasper Fforde:
The Eyre Affair
Lost in a Good Book
The Well of Lost Plots
Something Rotten
Uglies Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld:

~ ~ ~ Some other good ones ~ ~ ~

Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt by Anne Rice
The Conspiracy of Paper by David Liss
The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory
Every Visible Thing by Lisa Carey
Goodbye Lemon by Adam Davies
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
My Dream of You by Nuala O'Faolain
The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
The Queen's Soprano by Carol Dines
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Seven Houses by Alev Lytle Croutier
A Spectacle of Corruption by David Liss
The Swallows of Kabul by Yasmina Khadra
When Rain Clouds Gather by Bessie Head

living in an amazoogle world

Even though "we are living in a amazoogle world" (quoting my coworker quoting the CEO of RLG quoting the CEO of OCLC) I'm not going to be linking to amazon in this blog.

Instead I'll be linking to:, because it is a cool independent bookstore that I became acquainted with when I lived in Chicago; to
Barnes& ,because they post Library Journal reviews to their item pages much more quickly than amazon does; and to, so that everyone can enjoy the journal entries.

Barnes &

Read and Release at

International reading challenge

My big reading challenge for the year...
5 Books, 5 Countries, 5 Continents Challenge
I'm trying to do 6 continents... and,
When possible, I'm trying not to count books from countries that I normally read...
or authors I've read before
(I know, I'm making it really hard on myself)

So far I've finished Africa and Europe:

1. Algeria -
The Swallows of Kabul by Yasmina Khadra
2. Botswana -
When Rain Clouds Gather by Bessie Head
3. Cameroon -
Dog Days by Patrice Nganang (read my Library Journal review here)
4. Egypt -
Map of Love by Ahdaf Soueif
5. Senegal -
Ambiguous Adventure by Cheikh Hamidou Kane

1. Belgium -
Summer in Termuren by Louis Paul Boon
2. Ireland -
My Dream of You by Nuala O’Faolain
3. Italy -
I'll Steal You Away by Niccolò Ammaniti
4. Norway -
In the Wake by Per Petterson (if you scroll down this page you'll see my Library Journal review)
5. Portugal - Blindness by Jose Saramago

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Some reviews

Here are some of my book reviews that are currently available online:
I've starred the ones I liked best ;)

Echoes of the Ozarks, Vol. 1, Louella Turner and Delois McGrew, editors

Everything I'm Cracked Up to Be: A Rock and Roll Fairy Tale by Jen Trynin

* The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea

My Lucky Star by Joe Keenan

On Literature by Umberto Eco

* The Queen's Soprano by Carol Dines

The Secret Sisters by Joni Rodgers

* The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar

* Ursula's Maiden Army by Philip Griffin

The Why Café by John Strelecky

Starting a book blog - my favs

I thought I'd start out by sharing
a few of my all-time favorite books...

The Storyteller by Mario Vargas Llosa

At a small gallery in Florence, a Peruvian writer happens upon a photograph of a tribal storyteller deep in the jungles of the Amazon. He is overcome with the eerie sense that he knows this man...that the storyteller is not an Indian at all but an old school friend, Saul Zuratas. As recollections of Zuratas flow through his mind, the writer begins to imagine Zuratas's transformation from a modern to a central member of the unacculturated Machiguenga tribe. Weaving the mysteries of identity, storytelling, and truth, Vargas Llosa has created a spellbinding tale of one man's journey from the modern world to our origins, abandoning one in order to find meaning in both.

I haven't read this one in a while, but I still consider it my favorite book.

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera

Rich in its stories, characters, and imaginative range, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting is the novel that brought Milan Kundera his first big international success in the late 1970s. Like all his work, it is valuable for far more than its historical implications. In seven wonderfully integrated parts, different aspects of human existence are magnified and reduced, reordered and emphasized, newly examined, analyzed, and experienced.

Ok, I'm a bit of a Kundera junkie. I've read every book the man has written, but this one is my favorite (though Immortality is a close second... and his nonfiction books are superb!).

Some quotes from the novel.

All We Know of Love by Katie Schneider

Jo Shepherd grew up on a farm in the Pacific Northwest under the loving care of her grandfather, Frank. After spending months nursing him through his final painful illness, Jo receives a vision of the Virgin Mary, who sends her to Italy to live out her dream of becoming an artist. In doing so, Jo must leave behind her home and her best friend Jack, and risk losing him forever.

This is the debut novel from an unknown author.

I thought it was wonderful and I've read it at least three times. What can I say? This book just spoke to me on so many different levels.

I'm eagerly awaiting Schneider's next book, though I'm a little worried that I won't like it as much as this one.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood's dystopian, futuristic novel.

This is one of those books that people either love or they hate. I'm one of those who loves it. It's different than alot of Atwood's other books, but in the same vein as Oryx and Crake.

In an interview about The Handmaid's Tale, Atwood said: "I believe as the Victorian novelists did, that a novel isn't simply a vehicle for private expression, but that it also exists for social examination."

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

The story of the tragic decline of an Indian family whose members suffer the terrible consequences of forbidden love, The God of Small Things is set in the state of Kerala, on the southernmost tip of India.

A beautiful and brilliant book, richly deserving of the Booker Prize that it won in 1997.

I will say that I'm pretty disappointed that we haven't seen more fiction from Roy... I know she wants to do the politics thing, but she has such a talent for fiction that it seems a waste to push it aside.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowlings

The forth book of the Harry Potter series is my favorite so far.

Fourteen-year-old Harry Potter joins the Weasleys at the Quidditch World Cup, then enters his fourth year at Hogwarts Academy where he is mysteriously entered in an unusual contest that challenges his wizarding skills, friendships and character, amid signs that an old enemy is growing stronger.

If you like audio books, Jim Dale's narration of the books from this series is wonderful.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Jane Austen's perfect comedy of manners--one of the most popular novels of all time--features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing-room intrigues.

A classic that's not to be missed, but *PLEASE* steer clear of the latest printings, which include introductions by chick-lit authors... ugh!
See my friend Antheras'
blog for more details.

The Big Book of Martyrs: Amazing but True Tales of Faith in the Face of Certain Death!, published by Factoid Books

by John Wagner and over 50 of the world's top comic book artists.

Taken directly from Church-sanctioned sources, these short bios retell the incredible lives of the saints.

This is really just one of the coolest books... the lives of various martyrs are told through comics. And, amazingly enough, the book is not irreverent.

Invitation to the Voyage: An illustrated poem, published by Bulfinch Press (bi-lingual edition)

Charles Baudelaire's masterpiece is brought to life with mood-laden 19th century photographs in this wonderful new presentation of a classic.

Another book that is just a wonderful experience to read.

The Thurday Next books by Jasper Fforde

Books in the series so far: The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots, and Something Rotten

This series is simply wonderful. I love Fforde's literary references (they make you want to read the classics all over again!), his fabulous sense of humor, and his awe-inspiring imagination.