ANNOUNCEMENT
After a lot of thought, I've decided to take a break from blogging for the foreseeable future. With my little C creeping its way back into my life and possible long term treatment now, I need to take a couple of things off my plate for the time being, and the blog is going to be one of those things. As it is, it felt like it was becoming more of a chore than anything else. I need my reading time to be more enjoyable right now, more of the escape that I really need, and what I don't need is the little voice in the back of my head telling me how many reviews I'm behind and trying to come up with what I need to say about the book.

I simply want to read.

I'll more than likely occasionally post on here what I've been reading, and if there is something that really blows my mind, I'll probably have more to say about it and may write up a proper post, but for right now, things are going to be very quiet around here.

As always, happy reading!
2017 edit
I will continue to blog according to my health and ability, and connecting my posts thru Goodreads, so please be patient if things get quiet around here again this year.


2017 edit #2
I am happy to report that my bone marrow transplant was a success and that I'm feeling more like myself everyday. That said, I'm going to try to start blogging a little more frequently, but please bear with me as I still continue to recover.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 - Final Thoughts

With 2008 coming to a close shortly, I thought I'd take one last look at the last year. I know this has been my most productive reading year ever, having reached my 100 book goal (squeezing that last book in at the last moment!) and I started my blog this year which has really helped me keep better track of what I've read, as well as helped me connect with other readers and authors. I can only hope that 2009 is as good a reading year for me as 2008 was.

In closing, I thought I'd take one last look at some of the books that really shined for me this year. I think I read a varied group of books over the last year, and there were quite a few that have really stuck with me. There were a few duds, but that's to be expected, but overall, I am really happy with the books that I've read over the year.

(These are in no particular order!)

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The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton
I received The Wednesday Sisters as an ARC from LT and it is a fantastic book about the power of friendship and what those friends can mean to you to help you overcome just about anything. I really loved this book, and getting the opportunity to meet Meg was an absolute treat for me.


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Aberrations by Penelope Przekop
Another review copy, Aberrations really took me by surprise. It was so well written, I think I read it in one sitting. A unique coming of age story about accepting yourself and whatever limitations you perceive about yourself and embracing it all to become the person you are instead of the person other people think you should be.

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The 13th Reality: The Journal of Curious Letters by James Dashner
This was an ARC from LT, too (see a theme with the ARCs?). A new YA series by new and up-and-coming author James Dashner, The 13th Reality follows the adventures of Atticus Higginbottom (or Tick) and his friends as they try to save reality from being destroyed. The thing that struck me most about this book is that Tick's family is very supportive of him and is involved directly in his life and he's comfortable with that. In so many cases, these YA novels seem to push the idea that adults aren't going to help with the problems at hand for the protagonist and they feel they have to go it alone, while Dashner makes a point of showing that it is not always a bad thing to have your family involved in your life.

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A Dog About Town & A Dog Among Diplomats by J. F. Englert
I discovered this series through LT's Early Reviewer program, and when I discovered they are about a black lab who solves murders, I had to have them, and I wasn't disappointed in the slightest. Englert has an amazing grasp on the human condition, and these books are so much more than murder mysteries; he touches on so many levels in his books that I think it is hard to pinpoint Englert to one particular genre. And on top of the excellent writing, the books are funny as well! Mr. Englert was also gracious enough to participate in an interview with me as well.

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The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry
Believe it or not, this one had nothing to do with an early reviewer program! I had heard so many good things about this book, I just had to pick it up, and I'm not sorry that I did. What was even better, the weekend after I picked it up I spent in Salem, MA, where the story takes place, and I met Brunonia Barry at the House of the Seven Gables completely by chance! On my plane ride home, I read through the entire book, and I'm so glad that I had that time set aside for it. I would not have been able to put it down otherwise. A week later, Brunonia Barry spoke at a local bookstore, so I had the opportunity to meet her again and hear her speak about her book.

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The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes
This was just a plain fun book. Our protagonists, Edward Moon and the Somnambulist, must solve a murder mystery in a London that isn't quite ours, populated by people that are just on the verge of believability, yet Barnes makes it all seem completely plausible. I can't wait for his next book, The Domino Men.

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Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Part love story, part circus history, I couldn't put this down. Gruen wrote this so well, I wonder if she didn't have some experience living on the road with a circus in the early 20th century.

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The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
As I become more acquainted with Neil Gaiman's writing, the more impressed I am by him. The Graveyard Book is a coming of age story, but like anything Gaiman writes, it's not conventional in the slightest. I mean, what's conventional about a boy raised by centuries-old ghosts in a cemetery? How is that believable? Read this book and Gaiman will make you believe that it can happen.


There were so many other good books this year, but these few really stand out in my mind as needing another mention before the end of the year.

100. Wicked: The Grimmerie, a Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Hit Broadway Musical by David Cote

#100

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Title: Wicked: The Grimmerie, a Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Hit Broadway Musical
Author: David Cote
Copyright: 2005
Pages: 192
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 5/5 stars
Finished: 12-31-08

If you are a fan of the Broadway hit musical, Wicked, than this book is for you! The title speaks for itself, this is nothing more than a look behind the creation of Wicked, with photos and design sketches, info on the cast, spells, inside stories and more throughout. If you love the musical like I do, you have to have this book.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

99. Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Niko Henrichon

#99

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Title: Pride of Baghdad
Authors: Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Niko Henrichon
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 136
Format: Paperback
Rating: 5/5 stars
Finished: 12-29-08

Very rarely a book will take me by surprise like this did. I was angry. I was sad. And I think everyone should read this book.

I think part of the shock from this book is that I didn't know what was coming. I'd heard about Pride of Baghdad but didn't know anything about the story, so had gone into it blind, so if you want to read this and be just as surprised by the ending as I was, just skip the rest of this and go read the book.

In 2003, American soldiers invaded Baghdad and in that invasion, the zoo in Baghdad was destroyed. Of the 650-700 animals housed in the zoo, only 35 survived the aftermath of the attack. Some of the animals were looted from the zoo and there was a group of lions that escaped and were roaming the streets of Baghdad. Four of these lions were shot and killed by American soldiers when they wouldn't return to their cages. Pride of Baghdad is Brian Vaughan's fictionalized account of this story through the eyes of these lions.

The story follows Zill, Zafa, Noor and Ali, a pride of lions who escape from the zoo after it is destroyed by American forces and have a brief taste of freedom. They roam the city of Baghdad, encountering several other animals (a sea turtle, horses, another lion kept in private captivity who is close to death, and a blood-thirsty bear) and how they persevere as a small pride to survive their situation. Just as they come to terms with their freedom and come to understand it for what it is, they are all shot dead by American soldiers.

To be honest, I couldn't believe what I read at first. I had to jump back and forth between pages to make sure I was understanding what was happening to the lions. While Vaughan obviously took liberties with the lions by anthropomorphizing them to make us feel more for them, when I discovered that this was based on a true story, I was even more outraged. Who knows exactly what happened to the lions, but the injustice of it seemed to quake through this book by the last page.

Niko Henrichon's artwork is dazzling throughout the book. The emotion that he is able to render in the animals, their terror at the attacks from the American soldiers, their amazement at their freedom, all spills from each page.

Don't let the fact that this is a graphic novel deter you from reading it. An incredibly powerful tale that will shock you by its strength, Pride of Baghdad is one story that will stay with you far after you've read it.

Monday, December 29, 2008

98. The Gift of the Magi/The Purple Dress by O. Henry

#98

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Title: The Gift of the Magi/The Purple Dress
Author: O. Henry
Copyright: 2006
Pages: 48
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 3/5 stars
Finished: 12-29-08

O. Henry's classic tale of the sometime cost of giving gifts, The Gift of the Magi is the story of a couple almost too poor to afford their small apartment, and who each sell their only prized possession in order to afford a Christmas gift for the other, only to discover that their gift was intended to accentuate the others prized possession, which neither own anymore. It's a touching tale that illustrates the importance more of your loved ones in your life than your possessions.

The Purple Dress is an even shorter story, and tells the tale of a young girl who dreams of her new purple dress that she is having made to wear to her upcoming Thanksgiving dinner. When the time comes to put the final $4 down on her dress, she discovers that a friend is in need of exactly $4 so that she is not evicted from her apartment, so she sacrifices her $4 and her new dress for her friend. However, in the end, she is rewarded for her kindness to her friend.

Both stories are told very quickly and to the point and O. Henry doesn't mince words. As my first experience with O. Henry, it doesn't make me want to rush right out and pick up another volume, but I won't go out of my way to avoid him either. I wasn't that impressed with the accompanying illustrations by Chris Raschka. All I see is splotchy watercolor marks and chunks of fabric that are supposed to be people and the city; it's all representational art, but I think it just looks messy in most cases.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

97. The Forest King: Woodlark's Shadow by Dan Mishkin & Tom Mandrake

#97

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Title: The Forest King: Woodlark's Shadow
Authors: Dan Mishkin & Tom Mandrake
Copyright: 2006
Pages: 103
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 4/5 stars
Finished: 12-28-08

I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick read, but Dan Mishkin packed quite a story into these 101 pages. A coming of age story of sorts, The Forest King is the story of Justin Woodlark, who has moved with his family to his father's childhood home in New England after his father, a police officer, is injured and unable to to work in the police force anymore.

Justin makes several friends within months of arriving, and one of their favorites games is to play Old Man of the Forest in the woods behind town. During one of these games, Justin discovers that there is in fact a monster living in the woods, who Justin believes to the actual Old Man of the Forest. He has to decide to either run away from his fear and let the monster continue to stalk the woods, or stand up to his fear and confront the monster.

The accompanying illustrations by Tom Mandrake really accent the story well and do not take away from it at all. If anything, the illustrations make the story even better.

Sunday Salon 27 XII 2008 (2008: A Recap and Looking Ahead to 2009)






Good morning, fellow Salon Members! 2008 is coming to a close and I'm taking a moment to take stock of my reading this past year. I think overall, this has been a fine year for reading. I upped my personal reading challenge significantly (I challenged myself to 100 books this year, as opposed to my 52 Book in 2007), and while I didn't quite achieve that goal (96 books total - so close, and yet so far), I feel I made a huge accomplishment this year. I do have a few more days this year to finish the last 4 that I need, and I may yet accomplish that, but if I don't, I won't be disappointed in my reading for the year.

My breakdown for 2008 so far is:
  • Graphic Novels - 25
  • Fiction - 20
  • YA - 13
  • Fantasy - 9
  • Humor - 7
  • Mystery - 5
  • Childrens - 5
  • Non-fiction - 4
  • Memoir - 3
  • Short Fiction - 3
  • Poetry - 1
  • Biography - 1
  • Total Page Count - 21,103
I realize that I was a little heavy on the graphic novels this year, and I didn't have much focus in what I was reading. The only other real challenge that I set for myself that I achieved was reading 12 books from the 1001 List this year. I'd like to continue that again next year. I've set an Agatha Christie challenge, which my aunt started, and that's basically to read every book Agatha Christie wrote. I read 5 of her books this year, so I'd like to up that number next year.

Five of my books came from audiobooks this year, and I'm hoping that I can get more in next year on audiobook. It's a good way to pass the time on my morning commute to and from work.

I was lucky enough to received several ARCs this year, and while I didn't get around to reading them all, the reviews are coming! I'm hoping to get on top of the pile that I have and continue to get some more new ones.


I enjoyed most of the books that I read this year. There were a few duds (I simply was not able to finish Samuel Shem's The Spirit of the Place and Hannah Tinti's The Good Thief just didn't move enough for me, but that one I would like to try again), but mostly I lucked out in my reading choices. My top ten list of books for the year, in no particular order:
  1. Peter Høeg's Smilla's Sense of Snow
  2. Beth Kephart's Into the Tangle of Friendship
  3. Penelope Przekop's Aberrations
  4. Meg Waite Clayton's The Wednesday Sisters
  5. Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
  6. Brunonia Barry's The Lace Reader
  7. Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book
  8. Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants
  9. Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime
  10. Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go
Other honorable mentions include:
  • James Dashner's The Journal of Curious Letters, the 13th Reality Book 1
  • J.F. Englert's A Dog About Town and A Dog Among Diplomats
  • Brian K. Vaughan & Niko Henrichon's Pride of Baghdad


I had the good fortune to get to know several authors this year. I was able to meet in person Meg Waite Clayton (who treated me like an old friend!) and Brunonia Barry (twice over, once at the House of the Seven Gables!), and got to know Penelope Przekop, James Dashner and J.F. Englert online and I have been able to connect, through her blog, with Beth Kephart. I count myself lucky to be able to have met such a fine group of writers, and would like to thank all of them for their kindness and the fantastic books they have all written. I would recommend any of their books to anyone.

Looking back on 2008, I can think of it only as a fulfilling reading year!


Looking forward to 2009, I want to try a different approach to my reading; tackling the TBR books in my library! I have an embarrassing amount of books in my library that I have never read, and I'd like to put a dent in that number this coming year. I'm going to continue on with the 100 book goal, but I'm going to view it more as a suggestion than as a challenge. If I can't reach it again, it's just not meant to be. I'm going to continue with trying to fit one book from the 1001 List into my reading each month. I'm also hoping to add one Agatha Christie book to my reading each month as well.

As for a reading challenge, I've gone through my library and have set myself up a 9-9-9 challenge (9 books in 9 categories in 09). I've chosen all of these books from my own library and haven't read any of them yet:

Fiction
  1. Garden Spells
  2. The People of the Book
  3. The Book of Lost Things
  4. The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters
  5. The Stolen Child
  6. A Spot of Bother
  7. Evening
  8. What Was She Thinking?
  9. Atonement
Uncle Tom Challenge (these are books that my uncle has sent me over the years that I have never been able to get through)
  1. Giles Goat-Boy
  2. The Horse's Mouth
  3. As I Lay Dying
  4. Catch 22
  5. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
  6. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
  7. Ulysses
  8. The Eighth Day
  9. Look Homeward, Angel
Classics
  1. Aesop's Fables
  2. Beowulf
  3. Peter Pan
  4. Jane Eyre
  5. Great Expectations
  6. A Room with a View
  7. Vanity Fair
  8. Pride & Prejudice
  9. Orlando
SciFi/Fantasy
  1. Daughter of the Blood
  2. Ender's Game
  3. Kushiel's Dart
  4. Zoe's Tale
  5. Spirit Gate
  6. Redemption of Althalus
  7. The Shadow of His Wings
  8. Baltimore
  9. The Martian Chronicles
Mystery
  1. One for the Money
  2. Casino Royale
  3. The Dante Club
  4. Disappearing Nightly
  5. The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre
  6. The Hound of Death
  7. The Italian Secretery
  8. The Meaning of Night
  9. The Book of Air & Shadows
Non-Fiction
  1. A Song Flung Up To Heaven
  2. Letters to Jenny
  3. 700 Sundays
  4. Marley & Me
  5. Ghosts in the Garden
  6. Merle's Door
  7. The Devil in the White City
  8. The Coming of the Fairies
  9. Underfoot in Show Business
YA
  1. Peter and the Starcatchers
  2. Peter and the Shadow Thieves
  3. Peter Pan in Scarlet
  4. A Great & Terrible Beauty
  5. The Dark is Rising Sequence
  6. Runemarks
  7. Mary Poppins Books
  8. The Book Thief
  9. Balook
1001 Books (other randoms books I have from the 1001 List **edited to reflect updated 1001 List)
  1. The House of the Spirits
  2. In Cold Blood
  3. The Black Dahlia
  4. The Water-Babies
  5. Perfume
  6. Oliver Twist
  7. Life of Pi
  8. The Great Gatsby
  9. The Reluctant Fundamentalist
...punk (this list grew from my amusement of the various ...punk genres of SciFi - it seems that if you stick ...punk onto the end of any word, you can create a whole new SciFi genre! This is the only selection of 9 that may not happen entirely nor are all of these books from my personal library)
  1. Oryx & Crake (biopunk)
  2. The Difference Engine (steampunk)
  3. Mainspring (clockpunk)
  4. The Secret History of Moscow (mythpunk)
  5. Neuromancer (cyberpunk)
  6. Snow Crash (postcyberpunk)
  7. The Good Fairies of New York (elfpunk)
  8. 1984 (dieselpunk)
  9. Swordspoint (mannerpunk)
The "Just in Case" 9 (these are just a handful of other TBR books that I'll substitute out in case something just isn't working for me)
  1. The Historian
  2. The Haunted Bookshop
  3. Quincunx
  4. Once
  5. The Prestige
  6. Four and Twenty Blackbirds
  7. Faerie Tale
  8. The Ghost Writer
  9. Peony in Love

I'm not anticipating such a whirlwind of crazy in 2009 like I had this year, so I'm hoping that this list is very achievable. I haven't had any desire to buy a new book in so long, simply because I have such a huge number of books to read, that I'm hoping I can scale back my book buying next year as well. (Ignore the post from last night!!) We'll see. I say that every year and it never happens! I'd also like to challenge myself a little more as a reader next year, hence several of the choices above, so I'm focusing more on that than I am a set reading challenge.


So there it is, a great year in review and a hopeful year to come. Happy reading!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Hello, new books! or the dangers of stopping into one branch of every book chain in a 90 mile radius!

OK, the roomie and I decided to take advantage of our unseasonably warm weather today (it was 56!) and took a little road trip. We stopped into 5 different book shops (a Borders, a B&N, a Schuler's, an outlet store and a local store, Nicola's Books) and picked up something at each of them... So much for my laying off buying any new books for awhile!

My purchases for the day:
  • Agatha Christie Nemesis
  • Anthony Doerr The Shell Collector
  • Henry Neff The Tapestry, Book 2: The Second Siege
  • Dan Mishkin & Tom Mandrake The Forest King: Woodlark's Shadow
  • Rudyard Kipling The Jungle Books
  • Kazuo Ishiguro Never Let Me Go
  • Brian K. Vaughn & Niko Henrichon Pride of Baghdad
  • O. Henry The Gift of the Magi and The Purple Dress
  • Doré's London edited by Valerie Purton
The best part? I only paid full price for 2 of those books (The Tapestry and The Forest King). The rest were either purchased at the outlet store or on the cheap tables at the stores.

Happy reading!

96. Locke & Key, Vol 1: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez

#96

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Title: Locke & Key, Vol 1: Welcome to Lovecraft
Series: Locke & Key
Authors: Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 158
Twitter: @joe_hill
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 4/5 stars
Finished: 12-27-08

The introduction to the new series, Locke & Key, Welcome to Lovecraft sets up a nice storyline and some very interesting story concepts for future installments. The basic premise follows the Locke family, who has moved to the west coast trying to start a new life after the family has been attacked and the father, Renny Locke, is killed by some local high school students. The home that they move to in Lovecraft, Massachusetts, is called Keyhouse. Keyhouse is a mansion with numerous doors and keys, and depending on which key you use, these doors open onto different realities or can change a person (in one case, into a ghost or in another, using the key will change your sex if you walk through a door). The house has apparently been in the family for decades, and Renny Locke's brother is the current resident of the house.

There is a ghost who lives in the well house who is unable to escape from the well house without the aid of the Anywhere Key, a key able to open any of the doors in Keyhouse to anywhere else the user wants to go. The well house ghost uses numerous means to escape, manipulating both the psychopathic high school student who murdered Renny Locke, and the youngest Locke child, Bode, to try to locate the Anywhere Key. Whether or not this ghost is benevolent is uncertain by the end of the story.

Joe Hill's writing is just creepy enough to give the story a real edge while at the same time not making it seem too far-fetched. Gabriel Rodriguez's art really captures the essence of the story.

I'm really intrigued by how future volumes will play out, and I guess that's the important part; that the story has kept my attention enough to want to read more.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

I just wanted to take a moment and wish everyone a joyful holiday with their families and a healthy and happy New Year!

Happy reading!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

95. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

#95

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Title: A Christmas Carol
Author: Charles Dickens
Copyright: 2003 (1843)
Pages: 129
Format: Paperback
Rating: 4/5 stars
Finished: 12-23-08

Dickens' perennial Christmas classic about Ebenezer Scrooge and his visits from the ghost of his former partner, Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come and the Christmas lessons Scrooge learns from them. I try to read this every year around the holidays, and it never seems to get old.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Hello new books!

I had quite the treat last night when I got home from work; 2 packages sitting on the counter, both full of books!

The first package was my LibraryThing SantaThing book! It was Castle Waiting by Linda Medley and came from member rgherndon. It is a graphic novel set in a magical world, and from what all the book blurbs say on the back, it looks to by quite funny. I'm looking forward to starting that this weekend!

The other package was a complete surprise. Apparently, I had requested a book from Running Press via Shelf Awareness at some point (I have no idea which book it was!), so they sent me a sampling of their Spring 2009 YA titles. In that package, there was Cathy's Ring by Sean Stewart & Jordan Weisman (this is the third in a trilogy, so I hope I'm not too lost!), The Plague by Joanne Dahme, and Rainy Day Rescue and The Quarter Horse Foal, both by Inda Schaenen and the start of the Saddle Wise series. These last 2 I think I'll forward on to a friend after I've read them, as I think these books would be perfect for her.

It was quite a surprise to come home to such an abundance of free books last night! It's almost as if it's Christmas...

Monday, December 22, 2008

94. His Bright Light: The Story of Nick Traina by Danielle Steel

#94

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Title: His Bright Light: The Story of Nick Traina
Author: Danielle Steel
Copyright: 2000
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Finished: 12-22-08

A friend of mine lent me this book, and I was a little apprehensive about reading it, given it was written by Danielle Steel. However, I was quite surprised by how moving this book was, and read it in two sittings. This is the story of Steel's son Nick, who suffered from severe manic-depression his whole life, to the extent that he finally took his own life at 19 because of it. It's a powerful story of their struggle to help Nick with his illness and to let him live as close to a normal life as possible. Steel doesn't mince words or sugar-coat anything; she details every bit of his life, including entries from his journals that must have been heart-wrenching for her, as his mother, to have read. I think this would be an important book for anyone who knows someone who suffers from mental illness to read.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tuesday Thingers 16 XII 2008






Today's topic: The LT Home Page feature. How are you liking it? Or not? Do you go here when you log into LT or do you use your profile page more?

I'm rather indifferent about both, actually. I think the Home Page is obviously the more useful of the two, but I generally don't think about going there. I have my bookmark set to take me directly to my library, and then I go from there. I probably should use it more, though.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Hello New Book! The Tales of Beedle the Bard Collector's Edition by J.K. Rowling

I received my Collector's Edition of The Tales of Beedle the Bard in the mail last night, and all I have to say is it is BEAUTIFUL! You can't truly appreciate how loverly this edition is until you have it in your hands. The only draw back I have to the packaging (and this is just after a cursory glance) is the type used in this edition of the book is very elaborate and seems a little hard to read, but until I can really sit down and give it a thorough look over, I can't say for sure if it really is that difficult to read. It's a little on the pricey side ($100) but if you are a fan of Harry Potter or just love the look and feel of a unique book, this is for you! Here are some pics!


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Book Announced - The Domino Men by Jonathan Barnes

I read Jonathan Barnes debut novel, The Somnambulist, earlier this year and LOVED it. It was just so much gosh-darned fun that I've been waiting patiently to hear of his next book. Well, I found out today that his second book, The Domino Men, will be released in January 09!

While not a sequel to The Somnambulist, the blurb on Amazon for The Domino Men sounds like this should be just as much fun. I'm really looking forward to it!

Bill Willingham at bookreporter.com

It was recently brought to my attention that Bill Willingham, writer of the excellent Fables series of graphic novels, has posted a blog entry on bookreporter.com about one of his favorite books as part of their Author Holiday Blog series, so I thought I'd pass it on to you.

This was the first time that I had heard of bookreporter.com before. It is an amazing site! There is so much information presented there, the first time I stopped there, it was information overload! There are separate sections for various genres, they have reading guides for an huge number of books, a section about books into movies, upcoming books, graphic novels... this website is just chockablock with books news! If you haven't checked it out yet, stop by. I don't think you'll be disappointed. Overwhelmed, maybe, but not disappointed.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

93. Into the Tangle of Friendship: A Memoir of the Things That Matter by Beth Kephart

#93

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Title: Into the Tangle of Friendship: A Memoir of the Things That Matter
Author: Beth Kephart
Copyright: 2000
Pages: 224
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 5/5 stars
Finished: 12-9-08

This is a beautiful book on the power of friendship. Lovingly written and to-the-point, Beth Kephart has put on paper so many of my own feelings that I was never able to put words to. Not all friendships are easy, some are a challenge, but Beth shows us that we can take something away from each friendship and that even the challenging friendships matter.

I first read Into the Tangle of Friendship several years ago when it was first released. At the time, I was going through many life changes, discovering who I was and discovering new friendships through these life changes. There was so much in the book that spoke to me at the time, I was shocked. It was like Beth had reached in my head and pulled all the emotions that I couldn't speak and put them in her book. I found it just as refreshing reading this book again, now, where I am currently in my life. Some of the friendships that I formed then have moved on, others have remained; some have strengthened, some have weakened, but I cannot deny the fact that each and every one of these people mattered to me, in one way or another. I've learned lessons from each of them, and they have all had an impact of some sort on my life, and I can find parallels to so many of these friendships in Beth's book. It has helped me to look on some of these friendships in a new light, and even those that I feel have gone bad are still important in the lessons that they have taught me. I will be interested to read this book again in a few years to see where I am in my life and how the book will speak to me then.

Beth's writing is amazing. More than just telling us her story, she is painting us a picture with words. Lyrical, poetical, flowing; these all describe her writing.

You can read each chapter independently of each other, but taken as a whole, they do tell a story. This isn't the type of book to breeze through; read each chapter, sit with it for awhile to fully realize what it is telling you and treasure it. I think everyone will come away with something different from this book, as each of our friendships are different and unique in their own right, but I do think that everyone can relate to the ideas that Beth puts forth in her book.


Tuesday Thingers 10 XII 08 (on a Wednesday!)






Today's topic: Most of us book bloggers like to write book reviews - if we don't love to write book reviews - but here's today's question. When it comes to LT (and your blog), do you review every book you read? Do you just review Early Reviewers or ARCs? Do you review only if you like a book, or only if you feel like you have to? How soon after reading do you post your review? Do you post them other places - other social networking sites, Amazon, etc.?

I try to review just about everything I read. Some reviews are longer than others, but I at least try to jot down at least a few lines about each book that I read. Usually if it is something that I'm reviewing as an ARC, I try to be a little more involved in my review, and I will review something whether or not I like it or not. Equally opportunity reviewing for me!

I try to review it fairly soon after I've read a book, only so that it's still fresh in my head, but that doesn't always work (and that's usually when the reviews are only a couple of lines).

I try to post all my reviews on LT, and when I think about it, I'll post them over on Amazon or B&N, but that doesn't always happen.

Monday, December 8, 2008

92. Stupid Stupid Rat-Tails by Jeff Smith & Tom Sniegoski

#92

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Title: Stupid Stupid Rat-Tails
Series: Bone
Authors: Jeff Smith & Tom Sniegoski
Copyright: 1997
Pages: 104
Format: Paperback
Rating: 4/5 stars
Finished: 12-8-08

A prequel of sorts to Jeff Smith's Bone saga, Stupid Stupid Rat-Tails tells the story of Big Johnson Bone, Frontier Hero, the founder of Boneville. Quite a funny story, this doesn't tie directly into the Bone series, but if you enjoyed that, you'll definitely want to read this as well.


91. Rose by Jeff Smith and illustrated by Charles Vess

#91

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Title: Rose
Series: Bone
Authors: Jeff Smith, illustrated by Charles Vess
Copyright: 2002
Pages: 160
Format: Paperback
Rating: 5/5 stars
Finished: 12-8-08

A prequel to Jeff Smith's epic Bone, Rose is the story of Rose and her rise and fall. Charles Vess' artwork is breathtaking throughout. I don't know that this story packs as much of a punch as the main series, Bone does given that I know the outcome, but it is still a great companion piece and worth reading if you enjoyed the main series.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

90. The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

#90

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Title: The Uncommon Reader
Author: Alan Bennett
Copyright: 2007
Pages: 118
Format: Paperback
Rating: 5/5 stars
Finished: 12-6-08

A surprisingly enjoyable little book, Alan Bennett's The Uncommon Reader is fundamentally a book about books and the power that they can have over our lives.

When the Queen's dogs accidentally wander by way of a mobile library near Buckingham Palace, she feels obligated to check out a book. From there, she is enthralled by books and soon begins to become obsessed with reading, feeling that she has discovered something important to her that she has missed out on over the years. We get to see her journey as she grows as a reader to a most surprising conclusion to the story.

This is the second time that I've read this story, and I loved it just as much as I did the first. Bennett has constructed a great little story, and the ending is perfect. I love his portrayal of the Queen, and both how she deals with her subjects and how she is handled by those around her in her household and government positions. If you've never read this before, I'd highly recommend it. It is a very quick read and worth it. You won't be disappointed.

89. The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

#89

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Title: The Tales of Beedle the Bard
Series: Harry Potter
Author: J.K. Rowling
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 111
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 5/5 stars
Finished: 12-6-08

The Tales of Beedle the Bard first came to light in J.K. Rowling's seventh HP book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Bequeathed in Professor Dumbledore's will to Hermione Granger, The Tales seemed to be a mystery. However, J.K. Rowling finally presents these five stories in a charity edition, with all proceeds benefiting the Children’s High Level Group.

The five stories read very much like our own fairy tales, however these are geared entirely towards Rowling's fictitious wizarding world. I personally didn't find anything overtly special about the stories themselves; they followed the typical fashion of all fairy tales, teaching lessons to younger ones through the means of the story. What I did really enjoy about this edition are the commentaries left by Professor Dumbledore. It's clear that Rowling fully thought out each of these stories and how they are looked upon by her cast of characters.

I don't think this book will mean much to anyone who is not familiar with the world of Harry Potter, and even then I don't think all HP fans will enjoy this much. For me, though, I found it to be a great companion to the other HP books.

88. The Twelve Terrors of Christmas by John Updike, Illustrations by Edward Gorey

#88

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Title: The Twelve Terrors of Christmas
Authors: John Updike, Illustrations by Edward Gorey
Copyright: 2006
Pages: 32
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Finished: 12-5-08

A gruesome re-imagining of the 12 Days of Christmas, John Updike's The Twelve Terrors of Christmas isn't anything special or amazing, but it was a fun little book to read. The accompanying Edward Gorey illustrations really make the book. It typical Gorey fashion, he takes everyday events and gives them that twist of the macabre to really make you think about what you're looking at.

87. The Customer Is Always Wrong: The Retail Chronicles edited by Jeff Martin

#87

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Title: The Customer Is Always Wrong: The Retail Chronicles
Author: Jeff Martin (editor)
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 166
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 3/5 stars
Finished: 11-28-08

A collection of 21 stories and essays about working in retail, The Customer Is Always Wrong is a humorous look at life and times of the retail associate. Having worked for 11ish years in retail myself, I can relate to quite a few of these stories. While some are better than others, overall the book was fun to read. More later. Maybe.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Tuesday Thingers 2 XII 2008 (on a Thursday!)






Today's topic: What's the most popular book in your library? Have you read it? What did you think? How many users have it?

Well, this comes as no surprise to me whatsoever, but the most popular book that I own is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Currently, there are 37,448 members with this book in their library. I've read it a couple of times now, and will probably end up reading it a couple of more times when all is said and done.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sunday Salon 30 XI 2008






Good morning, fellow Salon Members! Where has the time gone? I have been wildly busy these last couple of weeks getting settled into my new home, and then off to house-sitting for my mother while she is on vacation in Florida. I was hoping to put a large dent into my TBR pile and get myself that much closer to my 100 book goal for the year (I'm at 86!) but suddenly, I find myself suffering from a lack of interest in reading. It's horrible! It has nothing to do with the books that I'm reading, but everything to do with a lack of desire to pick up any book right now. And I brought such loverly books with me to my mother's house to read. **le sigh**

Anyone else ever have this particular problem? I'm in the middle of some excellent books right now (Laura Kasischke's The Life Before Her Eyes, Bebe Moore Campbell's 72 Hour Hold, Evelyn Waugh's Decline and Fall) and I can't seem to concentrate on any of them. I pick one of them up, read a page or two, only to discover that I have no interest in reading any further. It's a most frustrating position to be in!

Hopefully I'll break free of this reader's block soon and have something more than this pitiful attempt to write in a Sunday Salon.

Hope everyone's reading is more productive than mine right now!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

86. Santa Responds: He's Had Enough... and He's Writing Back! by Santa Claus

#86

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Title: Santa Responds: He's Had Enough... And He's Writing Back!
Author: Santa Claus
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 128
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 3/5 stars
Finished: 11-24-08

A comical look at what would happen if Santa finally snapped under the pressure and instead of bringing kids the presents that they asked for, instead delivered letters back telling these kids exactly what's on Santa's mind. This is not the milk-drinking, cookie-eating, Coca-Cola-guzzling Santa of our youths (one look at the cover will tell you that!). This is a jaded, blunt, angry Santa who is tired of being under-appreciated over the years.

Both the letters from the kids as well as Santa's responses are presented here for your reading pleasure. With the kids letters on the left and Santa's on the right, the reader is given a first hand look at what Santa really thinks about the kids who write to him and about what they think they can get away with asking for.

If you are looking for a book that is chockablock with high-class humor, you'll have to move right along passed this one; but if you are looking for something that is just downright funny and in many cases probably considered un-PC, this just might be the book for you.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

85. Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

#85

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Title: Letters to a Young Poet
Author: Rainer Maria Rilke
Copyright: 1993
Pages: 128
Format: Paperback
Rating: 4/5 stars
Finished: 11-20-08

These are the letter Rainer Maria Rilke wrote to the young, aspiring poet Franz Xaver Kappus. Through these letters, Rilke imparts his thoughts and feelings on living your life to its fullest potential, but to also make sure that you stay true to yourself throughout. I read through this book every couple of years, and it never fails to amaze me how a collection of letters written over 90 years ago can still have so much to offer us today. My copy is dog-eared from multiple readings, with numerous passages underlined, but I still seem to find something new in each reading that is relevant to my life right now.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Beth Kephart

I just discovered that Beth Kephart has a blog. Now, who is Beth Kephart, you may ask? To be honest, I don't know of her all that well. What I do know is that her memoir, Into the Tangle of Friendship, has remained with me for years after I read it. Into the Tangle of Friendship is about the strings and threads of friendship that make up our lives. I remember reading it, and how it spoke to me of my friendships at the time. I could relate to so much of the book.

I had always meant to read more by her, but as with so much in life, these thoughts got filed away as more and more books were released that I wanted to read. Well, discovering her blog today has rekindled that desire to read more. I've found that in addition to her memoirs, she has also penned several YA books as well. I picked up another memoir not that long ago at a library sale, Ghosts in the Garden, so I think I know what I'll be reading next.

If you've never read her, I can't recommend anything beyond Into the Tangle of Friendship, but based on that alone, I would say that she is well worth the reading. She just has a way with words. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Happy reading!

Free book!

The Boston Bibliophile is giving away an ARC copy of Jonathan Carroll's The Ghost in Love. You can learn more here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tuesday Thingers - 11 XI 08






Today's topic: LT Things - t-shirts, bags, cue cats - are you into the "stuff"? Do you use a cuecat to enter your books, or do you enter them manually? What do you think of the stuff?

To be honest, I haven't purchased a thing other than my membership. I often think it'd be fun to get a t-shirt or whatnot, but that's about as far as I get with that idea. All my books have been entered in manually. I've got a lot of books, but I've entered them in lots to LT, so it hasn't been too bad.

84. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

#84

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Title: Ella Minnow Pea
Author: Mark Dunn
Copyright: 2001
Pages: 208
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Finished: 11-11-08

This was just a plain fun little book to read. What would happen if letters of the alphabet were systematically forbidden to be used? What would you do? This book answers that question!

Ella Minnow Pea lives on the fictional island of Nollop, an independent country off the coast of South Carolina. Nollop is so named after Nevin Nollop, creator of the pangram "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." When a letter falls from the monument to Nollop, the ruling council determines that this is Nollopian divine intervention and that the fallen letter must be stricken from use, both verbally and literally. As more and more letters fall, all Nollopians must learn to cope with the increasingly difficult task of making sure that they neither speak nor write words that include these letters.

The book is told through correspondence between the people who live on Nollop, and Mark Dunn is genuinely quite clever in how he presents these letters as the Nollopians lose the rights to use one letter after another. I can honestly say that I had a fun time with trying to work out not only the new ways that the Nollopians found to speak, but also the solution to their problem. This wasn't a particularly challenging book to read, but it was a lot of fun and well worth the time. Give it a read sometime if you're looking for something amusing and clever and completely escapist.

Monday, November 10, 2008

83. Star Over Bethlehem by Agatha Christie Mallowan

#83

Title: Star Over Bethlehem
Author: Agatha Christie Mallowan
Copyright: 1999 (1965)
Pages: 84
Format: Hardcover from library
Rating: 4/5 stars
Finished: 11-9-08

Star Over Bethlehem is a collection of Christian short stories and poetry.The stories are not deep or really thought-provoking, but they are touching and kind stories. Christie tells some stories from the Bible and then other stories are about how religion can touch a person's life and leave a positive mark. I like that the stories are not preachy in anyway. They are simple tales that tell their story well.

Friday, November 7, 2008

82. On Beauty by Zadie Smith

#82

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Title: On Beauty
Author: Zadie Smith
Copyright: 2005
Pages: 464
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Finished: 11-7-08

A retelling of Howards End, Smith deftly recasts Forster's characters in today's age and sensibilities. Some bits I found a little off (Carlene's bequest to Kiki, for instance, seemed a little out of place) but overall, as a self-proclaimed "homage" to Howards End, Smith created an admirable work.

If you are familiar with Forster's Howards End, I think you'll get more from On Beauty. While it doesn't follow the original exactly, Smith does take enough from Howards End that much of her story will make better sense if you've read the other first. It is interesting to see how Smith reworks some of the social structure. Instead of being a book about social classes and the differences therein, Smith reworked the story to become more a study about liberal versus conservative sensibilities. She still touches on the class differences in several ways, between the students that can't afford to attend college, and the Haitian immigrants who are trying to get fair treatment in the US.

To be honest however, by the end of the book I really didn't care what happened to the characters one way or the other. I'm not really sure what happened there, but by the last half dozen or so chapters, I lost all interest in what was happening. The book is still incredibly well written, I think I just grew tired of the constant string of lies and deceit that seemed to stream through the Belsey household. There also seemed to be a lot of build up to the eventual confrontation between the two families, and when it did finally happen, it happened quickly and without much fanfare. It seemed like the book was well-paced right up to the end, and then Smith rushed the story to it's conclusion.

I'm not sorry that I read the book; I just think I would have enjoyed a little better pacing at the end of the book.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Michael Crichton Passes

I just read this on BBC. I haven't read many of his books, but what I have read I've enjoyed. A sad day for his fans.

Friday, October 31, 2008

James Dashner bookplate


My friend Gail was able to meet James Dashner a couple of weeks back. James writes the excellent The 13th Reality series. She was going to get a book signed for me, but they sold out of books before she was able to (yay for James!), so she picked up this bookplate for me to put in my book.

Thanks Gail!!

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Sad Day (Not Book Related, but Reading Related)

I just found out one of my favorite comic strips will be ending in just over a week. I have been following the adventures of Berkeley Breathed's Opus character for decades. I've always really enjoyed his strips. They are always hysterical, sometimes touching and often cleverly not-so-disguised editorial comments on the state of the country and world in general. Breathed has some strong viewpoints and isn't afraid to voice them through his characters.

This isn't the first time that he has canceled his strip; Opus is the third incarnation for his cast of characters. The strip started as Bloom County, published from 1980-1989, and was replaced by a new Sunday strip, Outland, at the end of 1989, which ran until 1995. Opus began in 2003 as another Sunday-only strip. His very first cartoon strip, The Academia Waltz, was published in the late 70s when he was a student at the University of Texas. He has used a selection of the same recurring characters through each of these strips. Breathed has also published some great kids books, particularly A Wish for Wings that Work (an Opus Christmas story), Goodnight Opus (one of my favorite bedtime stories) and Red Ranger Came Calling (exactly how adventurous can one child be?).

I'm sad to be saying goodbye to Opus & Co again. They have provided me years of enjoyment. Hopefully, Breathed will see fit to come back to his characters again in a couple of years. Until then, thanks for the laughs Mr. Breathed! And at least I have a brand new kids book to go pick up to tide me over for a little while.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Book in Progress - The Life Before Her Eyes by Laura Kasischke

I picked up Laura Kasischke's The Life Before Her Eyes last night at Nicola's Books on recommendation of Nicola herself. I just read the first 10 pages, just the prologue, and even if I don't finish the book, I feel like I've had a fulfilling reading experience. If the rest of the book is anything like these 10 pages, I think I'm in for a powerful journey.

Author Meet - Brunonia Barry

I'd just like to offer a big thanks to Brunonia Barry! She did a reading at Nicola's Books last night to a large crowd (even on such a rainy night!) and I'm sure everyone had a fantastic time. She read the first chapter of The Lace Reader (which I can't recommend enough) and then gave us some history about herself and the evolution of the story and the book. She talked a little about Salem (where she lives) and gave us a little insight into her next book (it will be taking place on the same street as the House of the Seven Gables, and while the main characters from The Lace Reader won't be directly involved in the story, we will be seeing them as denizens of Salem). She signed our books and took time to talk to each and every one of us there, and then took a little bit more time afterwards to talk with me and another reader to discuss the ending of the book and the possibilities that are raised in the end.

Thanks again, Brunonia, for such a great evening!

Tuesday Thingers 21 X 08






Today's topic: Series. Do you collect any series? Do you read series books? Fantasy? Mystery? Science fiction? Religious? Other genre? Do you use the series feature in LT to help you find new books or figure out what you might be missing from a series?

I do collect some series. Some of the series that I've been reading for some time now are Brian Jacques' Redwall series, Piers Anthony's Xanth series, Frank Beddor's The Looking Glass Wars books, Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, Kelly Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld (I've been very far behind on this one - as in I've read the first one, loved it, picked up the next 5, but haven't read them yet!). I'm sure there are some more, but I can't think of them off the top of my head. I've used the LT series feature a couple of times now, just to make sure that I've got my books in order. I do find it handy and will probably use it right along as I try to catch up on some of the series that I'm behind.

Monday, October 20, 2008

81. Hatter M, Vol 1: The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor & Liz Cavalier, illustrated by Ben Templesmith

#81

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Title: Hatter M, Vol 1: The Looking Glass Wars
Series: The Looking Glass Wars
Authors: Frank Beddor & Liz Cavalier, illustrated by Ben Templesmith
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 176
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 4/5 stars
Finished: 10-20-08

A great companion to The Looking Glass Wars series, Hatter M fleshes out Hatter Madigan's search for the Princess Alyss in our world. The art is appropriately moody and and the story is well paced and accentuates the prose story running in The Looking Glass Wars well. If you are a fan of Frank Beddor's young adult series, you won't be disappointed in this companion piece.

80. All Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder, Volume 1 by Frank Miller, illustrated by Jim Lee & Scott Williams

#80

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Title: All Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder, Vol 1
Series: All Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder
Authors: Frank Miller, illustrated by Jim Lee & Scott Williams
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 240
Twitter: @jimlee00
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Finished: 10-19-08

Collecting the first 9 issues of the series, this new, re-imagined, re-telling of the Batman mythos and his origin, All Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder, is really a muddled mess of a book. The story trundles along at a painfully slow pace (when published as a series of individual issues, it took Batman and Robin 4 issues to GET OUT OF THE BATMOBILE! I'm not kidding.) and while Frank Miller may have been THE Batman writer in his day, he has to resort to a constant string of violence and profanity to make his story seem shocking and edgy in the very slightest.

So why, you ask, did I give it such a high rating? That all comes down to Jim Lee's artwork. It is beautiful. Lee is able to make even the most mundane and insipid story seem appealing. His art is crisp, clean and dynamic and really takes the story to an acceptable level.

Only diehard fans of either Miller, Lee or Batman will find this book even remotely interesting. If you are coming into this as a fan of none of these, then chances are you won't enjoy this book at all. And to be frank, if Jim Lee were to ever quit as artist to this series, I wouldn't have any problem never reading it again.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sunday Salon 19 X 2008






Good morning, fellow Salon members! It's been forever since I joined in on the Salon! Too long, in fact. Unfortunately, this is going to have to be a short post today as I'm finishing up moving into my new place today.

It feels as if my reading has been very sparse lately, but I made up for it when I went to visit my sister in Maine last weekend and read 4 books! It was heaven! I read Agatha Christie's Come, Tell Me How You Live; a collection of "true" ghost stories by Carol Schulte, Ghosts on the Coast of Maine; Neil Gaiman's latest, The Graveyard Book; and finally, Brunonia Barry's The Lace Reader. I had a real treat when I was sightseeing in Salem with my sister, as we ran into Brunonia Barry at the House of the Seven Gables! She is lovely. I'm going to Ann Arbor tomorrow night to see her at a reading, which I'm really looking forward to.

I really don't know what I'm going to read next, as most of my books are in boxes right now, and I'm not sure what is in what box. I may just haveto go buy myself something new to read until I get fully unpacked!

Happy reading!

Friday, October 17, 2008

79. The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

#79

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Title: The Two Towers
Series: The Lord of the Rings
Author: J.R.R. Tolkien
Copyright: 1993 (1954)
Pages: 352
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 5/5 stars
Finished: 10-17-08

As with previous books in The Lord of the Rings series that I've read, there's not much more I can say about The Two Towers that hasn't been said before. It reads very much as the bridge between Fellowship and The Return of the King. I always get the impression that this volume could have been trimmed down a little, but I don't think it would carry the same scope at that point.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Tuesday (Thursday) Thingers - 16 October 2008






Today's topic: Early Reviewers - do you participate? How many books (approximately) have you received through the program? Have you liked them generally? What's your favorite ER book? Do you participate in the discussion group on LT?

I do participate in the ER program; it is one of my favorite LT features! I started with the program in July 07, and the last book that I received was in April 08. I keep hoping that I'll get selected for another one soon! I've received 6 books from the program, and for the most part I've enjoyed them all. The first book I received in July 07, Tipperary by John Delaney, was a huge disappointment. I had enjoyed his book Ireland immensely, and was surprised by what a muddled mess this new book was! Not deterred by one bad experience, I kept requesting. The subsequent books that I have received have all been good, with a few topping my reading list for the year such as Meg Waite Clayton's The Wednesday Sisters. I admit I generally don't participate too much in the discussion group, but I stop in to see what other people have to say about some of the books that I was interested in but didn't get accepted for.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

78. The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

#78

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Title: The Lace Reader
Author: Brunonia Barry
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 390
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 5/5 stars
Finished: 10-14-08

Go and read this book! Right now!

Brunonia Barry's The Lace Reader is a novel that delves into so many realms, it is hard to know where to start. The first chapter introduces us to Towner Whitney, one of a long line of Whitney women who have been labeled "quirky" by the other inhabitants of Salem. The chapter opens:
My name is Towner Whitney. No, that's not exactly true. My real first name is Sophya. Never believe me. I lie all the time.

I am a crazy woman…. That last part is true.
It is an appropriate opening for the book, for it is a book of secrets, of family lies and of history; both familial history and geographic history, as we are given some background of the town of Salem and the events that created it.

Towner comes from a long line of "readers," women who can read you past, present and future in lace. There is a specific process to the reading of lace, which is explained throughout the book. Towner has given up lace reading after the death of her sister and the subsequent depression that forced Towner to escape Salem and move to California, the farthest place she can escape to in her mind. She is brought back to Salem after the death of her great-aunt, where she begins to discover that everything about her past may or may not be as she remembers it.

This is an amazing debut novel. Barry interweaves so many plot threads, it's as if she is creating lace out of her own story. The plot moves along nicely, and Barry gives you just enough of the characters' histories throughout the story that you don't feel like you are being weighed down by their backgrounds. The characters are believable and well-rounded. Never did I feel that she was stretching the suspension of disbelief to make them seem real. I could picture walking the streets of Salem, and meeting these people downtown.

The way The Lace Reader is written is beautiful! The story just sucks you in. Barry's prose just flows throughout the entire book, taking you on this amazing journey. I was amazed by how quickly I became a part of the world that she was creating.

I think I've been a little bit lucky, in that I've been to Salem on two occasions now, so I'm familiar with the surroundings of the story. While some of the places are fictitious, Barry has created a most accurate view of present-day Salem. The city itself is just as much a character in the book as its inhabitants. Barry has set her story in the mid-90s, before Salem became too much of a tourist destination. It was just coming into it's own, and Barry captures the essence of city perfectly.

I think that Brunonia Barry may have something of a witch in her. The spell that she creates with this story was mesmerizing. I couldn't put the book down! Luckily I was traveling when I read it, so was able to finish the book one day. I'm anxiously looking forward to the magic that she will create with her next book.

77. Ghosts on the Coast of Maine by Carol Olivieri Schulte

#77

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Title: Ghosts on the Coast of Maine
Author: Carol Olivieri Schulte
Copyright: 1989
Pages: 160
Format: Paperback
Rating: 3/5 stars
Finished: 10-13-08

A collection of "true" ghost stories, Carol Schulte traveled up and down the coast of Maine, collecting local stories of hauntings and the backgrounds behind those hauntings. I'm such a sucker for these books. I never know whether or not to believe even half of what is said in them, but they are always fun to read. Not the most challenging read you'll ever come across, but still amusing all the same.

76. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

#76

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Title: The Graveyard Book
Author: Neil Gaiman
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 307
Twitter: @neilhimself
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 5/5 stars
Finished: 10-10-08

The Graveyard Book is the story of Nobody Owens, a boy whose family is murdered one night and who is subsequently raised in a graveyard. In typical Gaiman fashion, even though this story is completely implausible, you completely believe that a boy can be raised by ghosts in a graveyard.

I was really pleased to read this book. Gaiman deftly creates something so much more than a ghost story; it is a story about growing up, becoming the person you are meant to be and accepting your place in the world and ultimately having no regrets about the decisions that you make on that journey. At least that's what I got out of it. The story opens with 3 murders; the man Jack is out to kill a family. However, even though he may be the best for this job, the toddler escapes. The man Jack follows him to a graveyard, but the child's family is one step ahead, their ghosts pleading to the inhabitants of the graveyard to protect the child. A ghost, Mrs. Owens, agrees to take in the child, who is given Freedom of the Graveyard, the ability to live there, almost spectral like, and also giving him total protection from the man Jack. Not knowing what he is called, his new extended family names him Nobody Owens, or Bod for short.

Bod has several adventures during his younger days, and the denizens of the graveyard do their best to provide for him, but eventually, as with any young person, Bod begins to questions his place in the only world he has known, the graveyard. He begins to venture out into the real world, bringing unwanted attention to himself, especially from the man Jack. The book finds Bod coming into his own as he confronts the man Jack and overcomes the obstacles set before him.

There are lots of clever moments and turns of phrase in the book (like the man Jack, and the organization he works for) and the story really flows nicely. The accompanying illustrations by Dave McKean work surprisingly well with the story, adding just that much more texture to the reading experience.

This was a real treat of a book, and I was almost sad when I finished the story; it was a world that I would have been happy to have visited for awhile more.