Springtime on Mars – Book Review and Blog Tour Stop

June 9, 2008

Springtime on Mars: Short Stories” by Susan Woodring

I received “Springtime on Mars” as part of a blog tour for Susan Woodring.  This book of short stories was released at the end of February by Press 53, a small, independent press whose goal is to showcase exemplary literary fiction, poetry, and nonfiction and whose website admonishes you to “Literate Yourself” (a motto I love, by the way).  “Springtime on Mars” is proof that small publishers like Press 53 can put out works which can compete in quality with offerings from the major publishing houses.

I was amazed with the variety of stories told in “Springtime.”  All of the stories are set approximately between the 1950s and the 1970s and deal with life in middle-income middle America.  Some stories are told in first person, others in third, some from the perspective of children, other from adult perspectives.  Yet somehow all of the stories seem to have their own, authentic personality, no two sounding alike.

The slight exception to that rule is the couple that is the focus of two stories.  We see them first a married couple with two children, then later are taken back to the early days of their marriage, which provides a greater depth and background for the original story.  The decision to tell Marianne and Joe’s story out of chronological order lends complexity to the characters that the reader is left to discover for his or herself, upon realizing that this couple’s future has already been revealed to her or him.

I am not generally a fan of short stories, I often cannot stay interested in a set of characters I know will only be around for 20 pages or so.  However, “Springtime on Mars” kept me wanting to see what characters Woodring was going to introduce next.  I was more invested in “Springtime on Mars” than I have been with any collection of short stories since “Interpreter of Maladies.”  The subjects, and even the writing styles, of the two books are very different, but the heart is the same.  I would recommend “Springtime on Mars” to fans of short stories as well as to those who would like to give short stories a try.

You can see a guest post by Susan about using short story collections for book clubs here, and an interview with her here.

Buy “Springtime on Mars” from Amazon

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Sunday Salon – Printer’s Row, Part 2

June 8, 2008

Well, my day at the Printer’s Row Book Fair got cancelled due to weather.  I left church and it was pouring, but the wind was too strong to use an umbrella.  It was like jumping into the shower with all of my clothes on.  We have strong thunderstorm warnings for the rest of the day.

I do have a fair amount of work to get done today, but I think I’ll spend at least some of the time that I would have been down there reading.  I’m working on “Dolphins Under My Bed” by Sandra Clayton.  It is interesting, but I don’t think it is something I can spend hours at a time reading.  It seems to work best reading just 2-3 chapters at a time.  I just can’t figure out what I want to read with it…

Oh, and by the way, here’s a copy of the business cards we made up.  Too bad I can’t use them today.

Sunday Salon – Printer’s Row

June 8, 2008

Today may not end up being comprised of a lot of reading, but there are sure going to be a ton of books!

This afternoon I will be traveling to downtown Chicago to attend the Printer’s Row Book Fair.  There are author events, booksellers, and exhibitors.  I plan to focus primarily on the exhibitors and pretend I got to go to the BEA.  If I can make it down there in time, I will also be going with my friend Megan to see Augusten Burroughs speak for a bit.  Megan actually created some business cards for me to hand out to exhibitors , if appropriate, but Brian and I had a very difficult time getting them to print out.  I’m actually off to Kinkos right now to see if I can copy one from regular paper onto the nice business card paper.  If not, I’m tempted to buy some card stock and try to print it and cut it.  Or we’ll just have to wait on the nifty business card thing.  I’ll try to add a picture of them later…

Read-athon

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. 

Search Terms

June 6, 2008

Here is ANOTHER fun idea I am stealing from Natasha over at Maw Books. For a couple of months now she’s been listing the search terms people used to find her blog. Fyrefly did this recently as well. I’ve been saying I want to do it for awhile, then a search term leading to me this last week made me decide I definitely needed to do this as soon as possible. See if you can guess what it was…

devourer of books – This is the #1 most-searched thing for people to find my blog. I guess that means people are actually looking for me.

librarything top 106 unread – Not only did I do that meme here, but TheLiterateHousewife and I are planning to create a challenge based off of this meme this fall. Check back!

andrew davidson gargoyle – An amazing book that I couldn’t put down. See my review here.

“doug dorst” necropolis – Another great first novel that I just reviewed. The full title is “Alive in Necropolis”

“beatrice colin” glimmer palace – I have this book, a review is coming sometime this summer before it is released.

npr summer reading – I posted about this, listing the choices that most interested me as well linking to the actual list.

“pagan kennedy” “dangerous joy” – Another one that I have and that will be reviewed soonish.

jennifer cardwell book blog – Yup, you’re at the right place!

three cups of tea movie – Not according to IMDB, but that would be pretty cool. The book was my very first review here!

the last queen by cw gortner – Good choice, that was my #1 pick in April!

jurassic park book and movies difference – No idea. I hope that you found something else interesting here, because I have definitely not posted about that.  My sister wants me to add that I DID post about Jurassic Park, both the movie and the book, in a Booking Through Thursday post.  I didn’t talk about the difference between them, though, just that I preferred the movie because I saw it before I read the book.

the illegitimate children of henry viii – Really, does NOBODY use capitals when searching? Henry had a few illegitimate children, if you believe that he really fathered Mary Boleyn’s two kids. Here’s some research that suggests he did.

Books – Yes, I DO like books! I can’t believe you noticed!

“dangerous joy of dr sex” – This book gets a fair amount of searches. I may have to move it up my TBR pile, because it seems like lots of people are interested.

people devourer – Twice this was searched and people ended up here. I’m slightly afraid.

devourer of book – Don’t forget the ‘s’! Honestly, I think maybe some people need to be using their bookmarks on their browser or google reader a little more.

mary boleyn tudor period – What other period would she have lived in? She was younger than Henry, so she wouldn’t have been born before his father took the throne, and she certainly didn’t outlive her sister’s daughter, Queen Elizabeth I.

devourer – Again. Bookmark/google reader.

book blogs – This is one, and there are other good ones in my blogroll (which needs badly to be updated) and on my May Thank Yous list.

how many kings and queens have there been – In the whole WORLD? I’ve got no clue. Lots and lots, I would imagine. I need a country to be able to answer that question. It looks like 46 in France before they started losing their heads, and 40 in England starting with William the Conqueror and not counting Oliver Cromwell et. al. I did read a good book about the Kings and Queens of England which, I suspect, is how you ended up here.

mary boylyn – You aren’t going to get too far misspelling her name like that…

sara boleyn sister of anne Boleyn – Yah, no such person. You are thinking of MARY.

mary carey nee rochford – No, she wasn’t born Rochford. She was born Boleyn. Rochford is a town in England and it was the site of one of the Boleyn family’s estates. Mary and Anne’s brother George was Viscount Rochford.

mary boleyn movies – Philippa Gregory’s “The Other Boleyn Girl” was made into a movie. I reviewed it here.

movie historical inaccuracies BoleynTons of them!

read the book two brothers – If you mean “Two Brothers: One North, One South,” I honestly wouldn’t if I were you.

what the bible says about devourer – I have no words and no idea. I found these two passages. Pretty much not at all related to anything on this site. Hope you eventually found what you were looking for!

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.

This Blog Goes to 11(th grade)

June 4, 2008

blog readability test

Excuse the terrible, terrible, headline, but I’m tired and punchy while writing this post. This is something I found while checking out Heather’s blog: Age 30 – A Year of Books. Basically the site calculates the readability of your blog, determining the requisite level of education for comprehension. I had a great deal of fun sticking everyone’s urls in to see what everyone else’s readability level is. Unfortunately the site doesn’t give any information on how they calculate, average readabilities, or anything else that is fun. Based on the fact that many of the blogs I checked were listed as being ‘Elementary School’ or ‘Junior High’ I’ve come to two conclusions:

  1. There are some stinkin’ smart grade school kids out there!
  2. I’m probably a bit pretentious in my writing, as I certainly wouldn’t label as ‘juvenile’ the blogs that came up “Elementary’ or ‘Junior High.’ In fact, those are some of my favorite blogs!

What is YOUR blog’s readability, and what conclusions did you draw from that?

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