Archive for the ‘books’ Category


June 7, 2008

Dewey is hosting a 24-hour Readathon on June 28th, 2008, beginning at 9 am Pacific Standard Time.  People can sponsor the readers, giving X dollars for each hour (or hundred pages, or whatever, I’m sure) read.  The proceeds will be going to Reading is Fundamental

I’m contemplating doing this.  The timing is really bad for me, but I really want to do it anyway.  The evening before the read-athon I will be returning from an 8-day work event and my wedding takes place exactly 2 weeks later.  On the other hand, with my wedding coming up two weeks later, this might be my last big chance to read until the plane to Mexico for the honeymoon.  Plus, it could allow me to get some books read and reviews written that can be set to post at various times while I’m gone so that my blog doesn’t just go dark that whole time.   Hmm, when I think of it like that, it might just be a GOOD idea!

More readers and cheerleaders are still needed, so hop on over and sign up, or let me know if you’d be interested in ‘sponsoring’ me. 


Author Meme and Catch Up

June 6, 2008

Towards the end of my contest, I was essentially rationing my posts.  I didn’t want the contest to end too soon, and I didn’t want to get stuck where I COULDN’T do Sunday Salon or Tuesday Thingers because that would be the 100th post.  Because of that, I put off doing the memes I was tagged for.  Both Lisa from “Alive on the Shelves” and Carey from “The Tome Traveller” tagged me for the author meme.  I cannot find the comment, but someone also tagged me for the 6 random things meme.  Since I’ve already done that, here’s a link if you want to see it again.

Author Meme:
1. Who’s your all-time favorite author, and why?

John Steinbeck.  No question.  He is the author of two out of the five books on the “Read These or Never Talk to Me Again” (opens a word document) portion of my book list (opens as a Word document).  The books are “East of Eden” and “Grapes of Wrath,” by the way.

2. Who was your first favorite author, and why?

Again, there is no question.  It was definitely Dr. Seuss.  “Green Eggs and Ham,” “The Cat in the Hat,” and my all time favorite (which nobody has ever heard of)….”The Butter Battle Book.”  Imagine my surprise as a history- and politics-loving high schooler when I picked up “The Butter Battle Book” again and realized it was thinly disguised commentary on the Cold War and the arms race, dressed up with fun rhymes!  Talk about a book that works at a lot of levels!

3. Who’s the most recent addition to your list of favorite authors, and why?

Margaret Atwood and Margaret George.  I’ve only read one of Atwood’s books, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” but I LOVED it.  I’ve read two by George at this point (including “Memoirs of Cleopatra“)

4. If someone asked you who your favorite authors were right now, which authors would first pop out of your mouth? Are there any you’d add on a moment of further reflection?
Steinbeck, Atwood, Jean Plaidy.

Andrew Davidson and Doug Dorst may be there if they can keep up their good work.  Perhaps Jeffrey Eugenides too, because I really loved Middlesex.

I’m not going to tag anyone, because I think that most people already did it while I was procrastinating.  If you haven’t and you want to, though, feel free!

The Leper Compound – Book Review

June 5, 2008

The Leper Compound by Paula Nangle

“The Leper Compound” is the story of Colleen, the daughter of a white Rhodesian settler. Colleen is growing up in Rhodesia around the time of the Rhodesian civil war and the creation of the state of Zimbabwe. This is Paula Nangle’s first novel and it is fantastic for a first novel. Nangle is clearly very familiar with her subject matter – she lived as a child in southern Africa with her missionary parents. Touching on racial tensions in both Zimbabwe and South Africa, Nangle’s book should challenge so many Americans who consider Africa to be a mono-culture.

All this being said, this book really just wasn’t for me. It was the moving story a girl growing up and searching for connection, about racial tensions and the aftermath of colonialism. Sounds like a great book for me, right? However, Nangle’s storytelling style just isn’t my favorite. Although the writing was beautiful, the story felt as if it was being told from a distance, as if Colleen never managed to attain a connection even with herself. Perhaps this is what Nangle was attempting and she is just that genius, or perhaps that is simply her style. It is not by any means a bad style, I just prefer a more personal method of story telling, one that is more in the head of the main character.

So although this book wasn’t for me, it might be for you. I am amazed that this is a first novel, and will definitely be looking to give Nangle’s next book a try.

Buy this book on Amazon

BTT – Reading Trends

June 5, 2008

Have your book-tastes changed over the years? More fiction? Less? Books that are darker and more serious? Lighter and more frivolous? Challenging? Easy? How-to books over novels? Mysteries over Romance?

My reading tastes have changed a fair amount, although I don’t always realize it as it tends to happen gradually.  One major change is that I have cut out those ultra-prolific writers who churn out the same story over and over with slight variations.  In high school I was a huge fan of both John Grisham and Mary Higgins Clark.  I read everything that both of them wrote.  Now, though, I’m not sure you could induce me to return.  There are so many fantastic authors telling fantastic stories that are not simply variations on the same theme.

Having this blog has also helped me even out my reading.  For a couple of years there I was reading almost exclusively historical fiction, primarily set in England and largely dealing with the Tudors.  Lots of Jean Plaidy and Philippa Gregory.  I didn’t want my blog to be pigeon-holed as just an historical fiction blog, though, so I’ve re-broadened my horizons a bit.  Lots more memoirs than before, I’m finally getting into short stories.  Plus, I have been trying to read more books realistically set around the world for my Read Around the World challenge to myself.  This, in addition with LibraryThing recommendations, has made me a more well-rounded reader.

Alive in Necropolis – Book Review

June 4, 2008

Alive in Necropolis” by Doug Dorst

Available July 17th, 2008

Let me just begin with an exceprt of the publisher’s description of the book, as I don’t think I can describe the premise of “Alive in Necropolis” nearly as well as they do:

Colma, California, is the only incorporated city in America where the dead outnumber the living. The longtime cemetery for San Francisco, it is the resting place of the likes of joe DiMaggio, Wyatt Earp, and aviation pioneer Lincoln Beachey. It is also the home of Michael Mercer, a rookie cop trying to go by the book as he struggles to navigate a new realm of grown-up relationships…

But instead of settling comfortably into adult life, Mercer becomes obsessed with the mysterious fate of his predecessor in the police unit, Sergeant featherstone, who seems to have become confused about whether he was policing the living or the dead…

This is not a typical description of the books I read. It sounds like an odd cross of mystery and fantasy. I read almost nothing in the mystery genre and not much in the fantasy genre, and there mainly in young adult fantasy. However, I figured that this was a review copy and I might as well give it a chance, branch out a bit.

I am extremely glad that I decided to be openminded about this book! Surprisingly, the whole ‘policing the dead’ aspect turned out to be less prevalent than expected. “Alive in Necropolis” was more about relationships, about being ‘alive’ in this city most notable for graveyards. I was quite impressed with Dorst’s skill, particularly as this is his first novel. I figured that the book would feature some ridiculously inventive plot that would excuse a lack of substantial writing. This wasn’t remotely true. Yes, there was a fantastic aspect to the plot, but this book was primarily made by the writing. Dorst gave his main character(s) in particular a good deal of depth and was able to show the reader this depth through the actions and reactions of the characters.

I would recommend this book for those who love good, solid, well-written fiction, fantasy fans or not.

Buy this book on Amazon

May Thank Yous

June 2, 2008

I saw a huge increase in traffic in May over April (one week in particular had more views than the entire month of April!), so I wanted to thank everyone has visited. Of course, I don’t know who you are if you don’t comment, so thanks to the following people (in no particular order):

Thank you all! Come back and let me know it in June!

Sunday Salon – Rolling Along

June 1, 2008

It is an absolutely gorgeous day here outside of Chicago.  This is quite lucky, as our church met outside this morning.  We don’t have our own building yet and generally meet in a local high school.  However, this weekend said high school is having their graduation, so instead we met at the gazebo in the little town center.  Brian and I decided that today would be a good day to try to ride our bikes down to the service.  It was between 30 and 45 minutes down there, we had church, everyone hung out for a bit on the lawn, Brian and I rode up to lunch and sat outdoors, rode over to the bike shop to pick up more accessories, and finally rode home (found short cut that only took just over 20 minutes).  Suffice as to say, I’m a bit sunburned and have not gotten a lot of reading done.

This week was a book club week for me, which are always fun.  Our book this month was “Middlesex” by Jeffrey Eugenides.  Those of us who read it really quite enjoyed it (you can see my review here).  Our wine for the night was Albarino which is a white from Spain.  I must say, I thought better of the book than of the wine.  Of course, I’m more of a red wine girl.  If it is too hot for red wine, I’d generally prefer a mojito or a daquiri to a glass of white wine.  It was a good time overall, however.  We aren’t able to meet in June, so we’re going to read “The Double Bind” together with “The Great Gatsby” and discuss them both in July. 

The other good thing about book club is the extra time it gives me.  I work in Chicago, and all of the girls in my book/wine club actually live in the city, as I used to do.  Brian and I live a way out in the Chicago suburbs.  If I were to drive home after work and before book club, I’d have just enough time to get comfortable enough that I would never want to leave again.  So instead, I generally either babysit for a friend so she can go out, or I sit at my office when everyone’s gone and just read.  This month was a ‘just read’ sort of month.  I sat at my desk for about three hours and just read.  I finished up “Have I got a Guy for You” (review here) and started a “The Leper Compound,” which was sent to me by Literary Ventures Fund.  I’m also working on an ARC of “Alive in Necropolis,” which is not at all the sort of book I would normally read, but I am enjoying it so far.  the plot has something to do with vengeful ghosts, although that hasn’t become a huge part of the action yet. 

Well, Saloners, I’m off to do some work around the house so I can do some more reading tonight!  Make sure to check out my big contest, there are only a couple more days to enter.  I will likely announce winners either Tuesday or Wednesday.  You can win ANY book I have reviewed so far. 

“Have I Got a Guy for You” – Book Review

May 31, 2008

 Have I Got a Guy for You” edited by Alix Strauss

Have you ever wished that “Sex and the City” was a book (okay, other than the actual book called “Sex and the City“)?  If so, perhaps you would enjoy “Have I Got a Guy for You.”

“Have I Got a Guy for You,” is a collection of 26 stories about girls whose moms set them up on blind dates.  Each individual story is clever, well written, and humorous.  Read all at once, however, they get a bit repetitive.  I would estimate that about 75% of the stories are set in New York and at least half of them involve Jewish mothers. 

This book would be great to pick up from time to time, reading one or, at most, two stories in a sitting.  These stories would be great to read after a bad date, when you wish you were having even a bad date, when you want to remind yourself why you’re glad you are no longer dating, or even in a long line at the grocery store. 

Buy this book on Amazon

Middlesex – Book Review

May 31, 2008

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Jeffrey Eugenides’ “Middlesex” is another beautifully written book.  ‘Cal’ Stephanides, the narrator, is the intersex grandchild of Greek immigrants.  This was our book for book club this month, and all of us expected that the entire book would basically be about Calliope/Cal dealing with the switch from female to male.  Instead, the book was essentially an epic family novel. 

Although not what we expected, this book was a fantastic read.  Eugenides chose a very interesting style of storytelling.  The primary story thread was chronological.  However, Cal was nearly an omnicient narrator looking back on his family’s story from a view in the ‘present’ and occasionally describing his present life as well. 

More than anything, this novel was a story of the immigrant experience and the experience of 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants.  2nd and 3rd generation immigrants who just happen to be dealing with a recessive gene causing hermaphroditism and the discovery of a young person raised as a girl who discovers at puberty that he is actually male. 

This book is absolutely fantasic and I truly recommend it.

Buy Middlesex on Amazon

The Gargoyle – Book Review

May 30, 2008

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

Release date: August 5, 2008

Everyone has had the experience. You’re sitting in traffic forever, seemingly for no reason. Suddenly, up ahead, you can see cars start to move again. As you get up to that point, you realize that there has been an horrific car accident on the side of the road and traffic is backed up because everyone slowed or stopped to watch, their curiosity mixed with distaste.

Normally those people drive me crazy but, with Andrew Davidson’s “The Gargoyle,” I was one of those people. Through the first few chapters especially I read in horror and awe, wanting but unable to look away. Within that period of time the narrator actually described both his (literal) ghastly car accident that leaves him horribly burned and disfigured and his (metaphorical) train wreck of a life to that point. In all honesty, during part of those chapters, I felt physically ill.

It is a testament to the author’s skill that I continued to read. Normally books that elicit such a visceral reaction really aren’t my cup of tea. However, Davidson’s writing was as beautiful as the details were disgusting. I was literally unable to tear myself away from the pages, other than to look at the back of the book in disbelief to confirm that, yes, this really IS his first novel.

I truly had no idea where this story was going to go and was surprised to find a very moving love story. Actually a number of very moving love stories. While hospitalized for his burns, the narrator meets a woman named Marianne, a sculptor of gargoyles who is convinced that she and the narrator were married 700 years ago when he was in a different life.

The story is funny, sweet, touching, and unpredictable. I absolutely recommend it, although I do want to warn readers of graphic imagery and language.

Buy this book on Amazon