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, April 30, 2008

Finished Reading...

Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Finally. This took me longer than usual to read, but it was worth every minute. What a fantastic book. Dame Agatha certainly kept me guessing until the very end, and what an ending! Never saw it coming. I'll write my review tomorrow when I've had more time to process my thoughts.

Wow.

36. The Dangerous Alphabet by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Gris Grimly

#36



Title: The Dangerous Alphabet
Authors: Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Gris Grimly
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 32
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 4/5 stars
Finished: 4-30-08

Told through 13 rhyming couplets and accompanying illustrations, Neil Gaiman and Gris Grimly's The Dangerous Alphabet is a delightful (if suspiciously inaccurate) study of the alphabet. We follow the adventures of 2 children, their pet gazelle and their treasure map as they travel underground, on adventures both macabre and perilous, as the alphabet is presented in conjunction with the story.

The story is fun and the rhymes imaginative, but the art is the star here. Gris Grimly's illustrations bring the story to life, and really add an element of almost the grotesque to the story. From the almost rag doll likeness of the children, to the ghosts and ghoulies that inhabit the underground, Grimly's illustration are both beautiful and disturbing at the same time. Take time to study each page, as you'll discover something new each time you look at it.

Meme: Top 106 books tagged "Unread" on LT

OK, so I just read about this on LT's blog. Apparently the idea is to look at the top 106 books on LT that have been tagged "Unread" and see where you stand with that 106. (Why 106? I have no idea. It's just the magical number.)

Anyway, here's mine:
  1. The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide by Douglas Adams **own and read**
  2. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke **own and read**
  3. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  4. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  5. Life of Pi : a novel by Yann Martel
  6. Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes Saavedra
  7. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  8. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  9. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray **own and haven't read**
  10. The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien **own and haven't read**
  11. Ulysses by James Joyce **I tried to read this one**
  12. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  13. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  14. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  15. Catch-22 a Novel by Joseph Heller **own and haven't read**
  16. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  17. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
  18. Quicksilver (The Baroque Cycle I) by Neal Stephenson
  19. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  20. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
  21. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  22. Reading Lolita in Tehran: a Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi
  23. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  24. The Kor'an by Anonymous
  25. Moby Dick by Herman Melville **I read this for school**
  26. The Odyssey by Homer **I read this for school**
  27. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer **I read this for school**
  28. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  29. The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo **own and haven't read**
  30. The Historian: a Novel by Elizabeth Kostova **I tried to read this one**
  31. Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco
  32. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand **own and haven't read**
  33. The History of Tom Jones, a foundling by Henry Fielding **I think I read this for school**
  34. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
  35. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  36. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner **own and haven't read**
  37. The Iliad by Homer **I read this for school**
  38. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf **own and haven't read**
  39. Emma by Jane Austen
  40. Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
  41. Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence
  42. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
  43. The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne **own and read**
  44. Guns, Germs, and Steel: the Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond
  45. Dracula by Bram Stoker **own and read**
  46. Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence
  47. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
  48. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens **own and haven't read**
  49. The Once and Future King by T. H. White
  50. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
  51. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  52. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  53. Oryx and Crake : a novel by Margaret Atwood
  54. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens **own and haven't read**
  55. Labyrinth by Kate Mosse **own and haven't read**
  56. Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  57. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond
  58. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  59. Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
  60. Underworld by Don DeLillo
  61. Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
  62. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck **own and haven't read**
  63. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte **own and haven't read**
  64. The Gormenghast trilogy by Mervyn Peake
  65. The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells **own and read**
  66. Jude the Bbscure by Thomas Hardy
  67. The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
  68. Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  69. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce **own and haven't read**
  70. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain
  71. The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri **own and read**
  72. The Inferno by Dante Alighieri **own and read**
  73. Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
  74. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand **I tried to read this one**
  75. Swann's Way by Marcel Proust
  76. The Poisonwood Bible: a Novel by Barbara Kingsolver
  77. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay: a Novel by Michael Chabon
  78. Sense and Aensibility by Jane Austen **own and haven't read**
  79. The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
  80. Silas Marner by George Eliot
  81. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  82. The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas
  83. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
  84. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak **this is in my TBR pile right now**
  85. The Confusion by Neal Stephenson
  86. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey **own and haven't read**
  87. Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley **own and read**
  88. Bleak House by Charles Dickens **own and haven't read**
  89. The System of the World by Neal Stephenson
  90. The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and… by Brian Greene
  91. Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
  92. The Known World by Edward P. Jones
  93. The Time Traveler's wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  94. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
  95. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje **own and haven't read**
  96. Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon
  97. Dubliners by James Joyce
  98. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
  99. The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan
  100. Infinite Jest: a Novel by David Foster Wallace
  101. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
  102. Beloved: a Novel by Toni Morrison **own and haven't read**
  103. Persuasion by Jane Austen
  104. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  105. The Personal History of David Copperfield by Charles Dickens **own and haven't read**
  106. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
OK, so of the 106, I own and have read 8 (although I can say that I have read the top 2 "Unread" books on LT, and one of them (Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell) is one of my favorite books, and there are 5 that I read back in school that I do not own. I own and have not read 23 (I think 3 of which I've tried to start and one of them is in my TBR pile right now). There are some on that list that, while I know they are considered classic and that I should read, I know that I will probably never get around to reading. There are too many books that I do want to read and not enough hours in a day to get those read, let alone adding in books I know I should be reading, but have no interest in. **le sigh**

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Oh, the randomness of it all...

Well, it seems like I have fallen right back into the realm of indecision. I'm still reading The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (which by all rights should not be taking me this long to read), and I'm already eyeing my shelf to see what I want to read next, but nothing seems to be speaking to me. So I'm trying a random drawing. I've entered all the books that are in my LT account that are labeled "Unread" and I've used a random number generator to pick a number that correlates to a book in my excel spreadsheet.

And the winner is... The Valkyries by Paulo Coelho.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sunday Salon 4/27 - Live from Cincinnati

Hello, everyone! I hope you've all had an enjoyable week, full of wonderful reading opportunities.

This weeks Salon will be a short one for me, as I'm still in Cincinnati visiting family and am posting this from my phone (ah, the joys of technology!). Combine that with the fact that I've only read half of Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd this past week, and I actually have very little to post about. I don't know what happened to my week. One minute I've got all the time in the world, and suddenly, whiz bang, there it goes! Oh well, hopefully this week will be better.

I've continued reading Jeff Smith's Bone and have stuck to my one issue a day rule. I've finished the first section of the book, and we've learned who most of the principle characters are now, so we should be moving into the full development of the story now.

It's getting late and I need my beauty sleep, but I didn't want to let a Sunday slip by without at least a little Salon.

Happy reading, everyone!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

35. Irish Tales and Sagas by Ulick O'Connor

#35



Title: Irish Tales and Sagas
Author: Ulick O'Connor
Copyright: 1981
Pages: 96
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 4/5 stars
Finished: 4-18-08

Ulick O'Connor's Irish Tales and Sagas is a re-telling of Irish legends and lore. In my eyes, the stories seem to be somewhat simplified, but they are still interesting all the same. Anyone interested in Irish legend and lore would probably enjoy this book.

Favorite Authors A-Z

OK, so I'm stealing this idea from Lizzy's Literary Life, who pinched the idea from Stuck in a Book; just so we're all clear on where the idea came from. ;) Basically, an A-Z list of my favorite authors.

A - Piers Anthony - the Xanth series
B - Frank Beddor - the Looking Glass Wars series
C - Agatha Christie - Murder on the Orient Express
D - Patrick Dennis - Auntie Mame and Around the World with Auntie Mame
E - J.F. Englert - A Dog About Town
F - Fannie Flagg - Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café (really, anything by her!)
G - Neil Gaiman - the Sandman series
H - Helen Hanff - 84 Charing Cross Road
I - I've don't know that I've read anybody in the "I's"
J - Brian Jacques - the Redwall series
K - Beth Kephart - Into the Tangle of Friendship
L - C.S. Lewis - The Chronicles of Narnia
M - Toni Morrison - The Bluest Eye
N - Henry H. Neff - The Hound of Rowan: Book One of the Tapestry
O - James A. Owen - Here, There be Dragons: Book One of the Imaginarium Geographica
P - Philip Pullman - His Dark Materials
Q - Anna Quindlen - Good Dog. Stay.
R - Anne Rice - the Vampire series
S - May Sarton - everything! (especially A Reckoning or A Journal of a Solitude)
T - J.R.R. Tolkien - The Lord of the Rings
U - Alfred Uhry - Driving Miss Daisy
V - Voltaire - Candide
W - Edith Wharton - The Age of Innocence
X - I've don't think I even own a book by anybody in the "X's"
Y - I've don't know that I've read anybody in the "Y's"
Z - Carlos Ruiz Zafon - The Shadow of the Wind


There are obviously others that I enjoy just as much; some that spring immediately to mind are E.M. Forster, Jonathan Barnes, J.K. Rowling, Truman Capote, Susanna Clarke, Paulo Coelho. But that list up there pretty much sums up my all time favorites.

Sunday Salon 4/20/08 - In a Mood for Murder! **dun dun dunnn!**






Good morning, fellow Salon members!

In a turn of weather events from last week, I'm sitting at my computer looking out the window and marveling at the trees and their buds of green, listening to the birds sing and enjoying a fine spring morning. I'm also trying to ward off a cold, but I'm afraid it's getting the better of me.

This week, it seems that I've been in the mood for murder! First off, I read J.F. Englert's A Dog About Town, which proved to be a really fun little book. I discovered the book through LT's Early Reviewer program, which offered the second book in the series this past month. It caught me attention since I have a black lab of my own, named Mame, and I thought what a great idea! A friend of mine says it was like somebody wrote a book just for me. It follows the adventures of Harry and his sentient black lab, Randolph, who has to guide Harry via various means to solving a murder mystery. The book is told from the POV of Randolph, and Englert does a fine job of letting us see the world through Randolph's eyes, as well as giving us some insight into certain doggie behaviors.

After I finished A Dog About Town, I decided to stick with the murder mystery theme, and start Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. My grandmother was a huge fan of Agatha Christie, having read every book she had written. After she passed away, most of my grandmother's book went to my aunt and cousin, who split them up amongst the rest of the family. My aunt had realized that she hadn't read many of Christie's books, so started a reading challenge of her own, to read every Christie book, just like my grandmother. Well, when we got together at the end of last year, we were talking about books, and when she told me about her challenge, I realized I had never read any Christie books before, so I picked up The Mysterious Affair at Styles, and loved it! When I went on vacation earlier this year, I picked up Murder on the Orient Express, and loved it even more. So, not long ago I was perusing the 1001 Books You Should Read in Your Lifetime and discovered there was a Christie on that list, so picked up The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. I know that's a long, drawn-out way to getting around to saying that I'm reading The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, but that's how it went.

I'm not that far into it right now. Christie has just started to introduce the main characters of the story, so we haven't had a chance to get into the meat of the story yet. I'll let you know how it progresses.

I finished Ulick O'Connor's Irish Tales and Sagas this past week as well (just not gotten around to reviewing it yet). My mother brought this book back for me from Ireland 20ish years ago, and I pull it down off the shelf every couple of years to read. I was going through, reading just one story at a time to spread it out a little this time. It is a simply-written book that retells some of Ireland's more popular legends and lore. It's aimed more at children, but it is still a good little book if you are into Irish myths and legends.

I am also in the process of reading Jeff Smith's Bone: The One Volume Edition. Bone was an independently published comic book series that Smith both wrote and drew. It told a finite story, unlike most comics these days, and the entire story was told in 55, almost monthly, black and white issues. The One Volume Edition collects all 55 issues and weighs in at 1,332 pages. I'm taking this one slow, too, and only reading one issue's worth per night. So far, I'm 5 issues into the story.

I had read Bone originally, but only piecemeal. I've always wanted to read the entire story from beginning to end, but the individual issues are getting harder to find, so I decided to pick up this collected edition and give that a try. It's a little overwhelming, just due to the size of the book, but I think if I keep reading one issue at a time, it shouldn't be too bad. I had the same problem when I bought The Lord of the Rings as a single-volume edition; I just couldn't read it. Every time I looked at that huge book, my mind just shut off. I took it back to the store, and bought the 3 separate editions, and those I was able to handle.

Bone starts off slow, but eventually the story starts to take on an epic feel, and the story grows and grows as the series progresses. Smith is able to keep a decidedly smart, funny and witty tone throughout, however, which really made Bone a joy to read. I've seen it described as The Lord of the Rings, if LOTR were funnier. I never finished the story originally, so I don't know if that is true, but I do know that Bone is one of those rare occasions where comics can step away from being comics and start to become illustrated literature.

And lastly, I've been listening to Matthew Pearl's The Dante Club in the evenings when I've been able to go for my walks. It is also something of a murder mystery, and I haven't gotten far enough into it to really get the gist of the story yet, but I've enjoyed what I've heard so far.

Next week, I don't know if I'll be able to join in on the Salon. I'm heading to Cincinnati for a convention, and don't think I'll be around a computer. I may be stopping at my aunt's house, so may be able to use her computer. If not, everyone have a great Sunday this week and next, and happy reading!



Saturday, April 19, 2008

34. A Dog About Town by J.F. Englert



Title: A Dog About Town
Series: A Bull Moose Dog Run Mystery, Book 1
Author: J.F. Englert
Copyright: 2007
Pages: 271
Format: Paperback
Rating: 5/5 stars
Finished: 4-19-08

I first learned about J.F. Englert's Bull Moose Dog Run Mysteries through LT's Early Reviewer program, where they were giving away the second book in the series, A Dog Among Diplomats, this past month. The premise of the series or at least of the first book) is Harry's black lab, Randolph, helps guide Harry to help solve a murder mystery. That's what it seemed to be at first, at least. I was immediately attracted to this book due to the fact that I have a black lab of my own (her name is Mame) and I just thought the premise sounded cute, so I thought I'd give the first one a try.

What I discovered was a surprisingly well written book. A great deal of the story deals with a secondary (yet primary in Harry and Randolph's eyes) mystery, the disappearance a year ago of Harry's girlfriend and Randolph's mistress, Imogen. It is apparent from the beginning of the book that Harry has taken Imogen's disappearance hard, and it is brought up numerous times how it has affected his day to day life, and these are the parts of the book that surprised me the most, Harry's feelings and how he is dealing with the grief of loss.

The entire book is told from the POV of Randolph, who lets you know right away that he is a most peculiar and special dog, that he is sentient. He can read, write (using Alpha-Bits), has long-term memory and is all-around quite the intelligent dog. Englert handles explaining things from the POV of Randolph extremely well, even giving some insight into doggie behavior.

The mystery portion of the book is well played out, even though most of it is explained as the book progresses, but it is Randolph's way of explaining it to Harry that is the most fun (I don't want to give too much of this away, but I've left a clue in this review!).

It's certainly not a challenging read, but it is well-written and just plain fun! I'm looking forward to A Dog Among Diplomats release at the end of the month.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

33. The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes

#33



Title: The Somnambulist
Author: Jonathan Barnes
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 353
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 5/5 stars
Finished: 4-13-08

I've been in need of an escape and what my fellow LT'er Irish calls a "brain candy book," and that's just what Jonathan Barnes The Somnambulist is, an escape. A fun romp through a Victorian London that isn't quite ours, with characters that are just not quite believable, telling a story that borders on the absurd... and I loved every page of it! Part historical fantasy, part murder mystery, part political intrigue, the best way to describe the book is in the authors own words, from the very opening lines of the book:
Be warned. This book has no literary value whatsoever. It is a lurid piece of nonsense, convoluted, implausible, peopled by unconvincing characters, written in drearily pedestrian prose, frequently ridiculous and willfully bizarre. Needless to say, I doubt you'll believe a word of it.
Well, let me tell you right up front, that there is probably no literary value whatsoever found by the end of the book, but that does not take away from the book at all.

The Somnambulistcenters around Edward Moon, an aging, falling from fame magician, and his enigma of a partner, who is known only as the Somnambulist. While being the title character to the novel, the Somnambulist doesn't actually play in the starring role in the book, but is simply always there at the right time it seems, and is the perfect foil to Moon. In his time, it comes to light that Moon has also aided the London police on several occasions, helping them solve seemingly unsolvable crimes. And this presents my one great complaint with the book: we hear about several of these cases from Moon's past, but that's all; we are never given anymore than off-the-cuff remarks about them, no details. I want to know more about Moon and his earlier cases!

The characters in The Somnambulist are just as much fun as the story. Obviously, Edward Moon and the Somnambulist, but there is also the Human Fly, the Albino, the Prefects, the Chairman, Mrs Grossmith, Mr Cribb, Barrabas, the bearded-lady whore... the list goes on and on. Each has a part to play in the story from beginning to end, and each person's story is, for the most part, tidied up by the end of the story.

My hope remains that Jonathan Barnes continues thrilling us with tales of Edward Moon and the Somnambulist; tales of their earlier adventures and cases that are only hinted at in The Somnambulist. This book may not be for everyone, but as escapist reading, I don't think you can do much better than this!

Sunday Salon: to Challenge or not to Challenge, that is the Question 4/13/08






Good morning, fellow Salon members!

It's been an unusual week here. We've run a full gamut of weather. Cooler temperatures earlier in the week and Thursday night we had torrential rain. Friday it rained more, with temperatures in the low 70s and for most of the afternoon we were under a tornado watch. Yesterday, it stayed an almost constant 41 and it threatened rain for the better part of the day. This morning, I woke up to 33 and snow flakes in the air, and it's forecasted to never leave the low 40s today. What I wouldn't give for a good stretch of warm, sunny weather... *sigh*

Of course, with the warmer weather also comes less reading time! Knowing I was going to be busy for the next couple of weeks, and knowing I had yesterday to spare, I spent most of the day reading.

Much to my surprise, I discovered on Friday night that Philip Pullman has released another story based in the His Dark Materials universe, Once Upon a Time in the North. It is a prequel of sorts, telling the story of Lee Scoresby and Iorek Byrnison's first meeting and how they came to know each other. It's a quick tale, but well paced and well written. Since this comes before the events of His Dark Materials, you know that Scoresby, his daemon Hester and Iorek will survive the events of Once Upon a Time in the North, but I will say that the gun fight at the end almost had me on the edge of my seat. I found it very well written, and even knowing that they had to survive, I was still holding my breath until the climax of the fight! None of this is giving away spoilers to the book, from the very moment the main action of the story starts, I knew what was coming; it's fairly obvious.

I really enjoy the His Dark Materials books. There is so much thought put into the characters and their world. The idea of the daemons really intrigues me. Basically, their daemon in their soul, in animal form, that has a personality all it's own and is usually the opposite in nature to you, causing you to stop and think about your actions and to be your own personal foil.

I think the His Dark Materials books are one of those rare occasions where the book makes you think about the subject matter, and while I know there are plenty of people out there that do not agree with some of the aspects and symbolism of the story, I still feel it's a series everyone should read once. I won't go into the whys and hows of this series, as it starts to delve into one of those 2 subjects that I feel should never be discussed in public and I don't want a debate started at the Salon on this subject, but I know plenty of people who have used the books as a stepping stone to discussion, either for or against their ideals, and not gone off denouncing them right away as heretical. I think this is one of the most important roles books play in our lives, to challenge us, to make us reconsider and to think.


Of course, on the flip side of that argument, I think it's also important for books to be, simply, an escape from time to time, and that's just what Jonathan Barnes The Somnambulist is, an escape. A fun romp through a Victorian London that isn't quite ours, with characters that are just not quite believable, telling a story that borders on the absurd... and I loved every page of it! Part historical fantasy, part murder mystery, part political intrigue, the best way to describe the book is in the authors own words, from the very opening lines of the book:

Be warned. This book has no literary value whatsoever. It is a lurid piece of nonsense, convoluted, implausible, peopled by unconvincing characters, written in drearily pedestrian prose, frequently ridiculous and willfully bizarre. Needless to say, I doubt you'll believe a word of it.


Well, let me tell you right up front, that there is probably no literary value whatsoever found by the end of the book, but that does not take away from the book at all.

The Somnambulist centers around Edward Moon, an aging, falling from fame magician, and his enigma of a partner, who is known only as the Somnambulist. While being the title character to the novel, the Somnambulist doesn't actually play in the starring role in the book, but is simply always there at the right time it seems, and is the perfect foil to Moon. In his time, it comes to light that Moon has also aided the London police on several occasions, helping them solve seemingly unsolvable crimes. And this presents my one great complaint with the book: we hear about several of these cases from Moon's past, but that's all; we are never given anymore than off-the-cuff remarks about them, no details. I want to know more about Moon and his earlier cases!

The characters in The Somnambulist are just as much fun as the story. Obviously, Edward Moon and the Somnambulist, but there is also the Human Fly, the Albino, the Prefects, the Chairman, Mrs Grossmith, Mr Cribb, Barrabas, the bearded-lady whore... the list goes on and on. Each has a part to play in the story from beginning to end, and each person's story is, for the most part, tidied up by the end of the story.

My hope remains that Jonathan Barnes continues thrilling us with tales of Edward Moon and the Somnambulist; tales of their earlier adventures and cases that are only hinted at in The Somnambulist. This book may not be for everyone, but as escapist reading, I don't think you can do much better than this!


So there you have it, the question of the day. Is it better to read the book that challenges you, or to read the book that simply creates an escape from the everyday? I'd like to think that it's a little bit of both, that you need an equal balance of challenge and escape in your life to make it interesting.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

32. Once Upon a Time in the North by Philip Pullman

#32



Title: Once Upon a Time in the North
Series: His Dark Materials
Author: Philip Pullman
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 104
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 4/5 stars
Finished: 4-12-08

A prequel to the events of the His Dark Materials series, Philip Pullman's Once Upon a Time in the North tells the story of Lee Scoresby and Iorek Byrinson's first meeting, and how they came to be friends. While not delving at all into the mysteries or intrigues that were the heart of the rest of the His Dark Materials books, it was still a treat all the same to return to the world that Pullman created.

It is a short story (it is printed as a matching volume to Lyra's Oxford) and takes place over the course of a day or two, at most. Lee Scoresby has only had his balloon for a short time, after winning it in a hand of poker, and is still learning the ropes to flying it. He has traveled to the North to look for work, and after landing on the island of Novy Odense, is pulled into a political intrigue that he quickly discovers he wants no part of, yet his sense of honor prevails and he finds himself in the middle of a gun fight towards the end of the story, trying to help those he feels are being treated wrongly. Iorek Byrnison is also at odds with the same group, so befriends Scoresby and together they take on the enemy.

The gunfight towards the end of the book is well written, and even though I know Scoresby lives through this (as he plays a strong part in the later stories) I found myself still anxious as to the outcome of the story. I think that's a merit of Pullman's writing; that even though you know Scoresby will survive the situation, you still find yourself concerned for his well-being.

A nice edition and a good story to provide a little background to these two characters. The addition of "historically correct" documents to the book just add to the details.

There is a board game that is included in the back of the book, which has no bearing on the story whatsoever. I just thought that I'd mention that it was there.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Books in the mail

It's my lucky day!

I found out last night that I was selected to read The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton for LT and this afternoon I found out I got in on the B&N First Look of Stewart O'Nan's next book, Songs for the Missing. Both sound like they will be interesting reads.



And on another note, I also won tickets to see Avenue Q today! Yay!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Journal of Curious Letters Trailer

So, this is fun! I found this on James Dashner's blog and thought I'd post it over here, too.



This is for his excellent book, The Journal of Curious Letters, the first book in The 13th Reality series, which is an incredibly fun read and worth picking up.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Find Your Magic: Blog Tour


OK, so I just discovered something very cool. (Thanks Irish!)

J. Scott Savage, who I first heard about through various connections made after receiving an ARC of James Dashner's excellent The Journal of Curious Letters, is promoting his book through a blog tour. Basically, if you email him your blog information after 7pm MST on Friday, April 11, 2008, and are willing to review his new book, Farworld - Water, and host a short author Q&A, he and his publisher, Shadow Mountain, will send you 2 advance copies of Farworld - Water, one for you and one to give away. I think this is a genius way to get word spread on a book, and besides, who doesn't like to interact with authors?

I think this is a very cool and creative way for J. Scott Savage to connect with his readers! Good job!!

David Petersen


I had the pleasure tonight of meeting David Petersen, creator, writer and artist of Mouse Guard, Fall 1152, at our monthly graphic novel discussion group. He proved to be very nice and funny, taking time to answer everyone's questions and telling us a little history on the background and development of the Mouse Guard storyline, as well as some tidbits on the future of the series. Afterward, he took the time to talk to each of us while he signed our books (and sketched in them too!). I thought that was very generous that he gave each of us a sketch of a mouse in our editions. I imagine that must be a little daunting sometimes to come up with an original drawing on the spot like that, but he did it all the same! It was also very generous of him to give up his time like that, because from the way it sounded, he's got quite the work load right now trying to get artwork completed for an RPG that is in the works based on Mouse Guard.

Here are my thoughts on Mouse Guard, Fall 1152 from LT:

To be honest, the only reason I picked up David Petersen's Mouse Guard, Fall 1152 originally is because I've read the Redwall series by Brian Jacques for years, and since this dealt with mice as well, I thought that I'd give it a try. Happily, I wasn't disappointed.

Originally published as 6 separate comics, I initially felt that the story was played out better in that serial format. On my first reading of the collected edition, there didn't seem to be too much meat to the actual story. I thought that the collected edition actually hampered the story-telling process, as each individual issue would have had a month or 2 break to whet the appetites of those reading for the next installment. However, as I've gone back on several more occasions to revisit the lands of Mouse Guard, I can honestly say that the story has grown on me, and I can see the subtleties both in Petersen's story as well as his artwork.

The artwork on Mouse Guard Fall 1152 is stunning. Handling all art chores himself, Petersen has created a beautifully rendered and colored world, with an almost hand-painted yet organic feel to the entire story.

Taken as a whole, the entire book is quite an achievement. I'm anxiously awaiting the release of its sequel, Winter 1152. (5/5 stars)


I hope that the next time he's around the area, I will be able to meet up with him again.

Thanks again, David, for a great evening.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

31. Fables, Vol 2: Animal Farm by Bill Willingham, illustrated by Mark Buckingham

#31



Title: Fables, Vol 2: Animal Farm
Series: Fables
Authors: Bill Willingham, illustrated by Mark Buckingham
Copyright: 2003
Pages: 112
Format: Paperback
Rating: 3/5 stars
Finished: 4-6-08

The continuing adventures of the inhabitants of Fabletown, Bill Willingham's Fables series continues in the second story arc, Animal Farm. With the more "un"-human occupants of Fabletown not being able to live in NYC with those that can pass as human, they have moved into the Fabletown extension in upstate New York called the Farm. Feeling they are being treated unfairly, they decide to rebel against the rules and regulations of Fabletown to try and make it back to their homelands, until one of their number decides to take things too far.

I continue to be impressed with this series. Bill Willingham is able to create ties between seemingly unrelated fairy tales and fables and create one of the most original stories I've seen in comics in a long time.

This particular volume I felt fell a little bit from the strong beginning of the first volume, Legends in Exile and the prelude volume 1001 Nights of Snowfall, but I still enjoyed it all the same. Looking forward to continuing reading this series.

Sunday Salon 4/6/08 **edited**






This is going to be a short Sunday Salon post this morning, as some friends and I will be leaving soon for the Michigan Antiquarian Book and Paper Show. It is held twice a year and it claims to be Michigan's largest book and paper show. I actually haven't purchased anything there in about 3 years as it seems the authors that I am looking for (basically the ones that are no longer being printed) are rather obscure and nobody ever seems to have heard of them (2 in particular are May Sarton and Louise Dickinson Rich). Hopefully this time around I'll find something!

As for reading, it's been one of those weeks where I've been lucky if I've had 15 minutes to sit down to read at all. I've just about finished The Somnambulist, which is still proving to be a fun read. I'm also working on Irish Tales and Sagas by Ulick O'Connor, a book that my mom brought me back from Ireland 20ish years ago, and that I pull down and read every couple of years. I take it one story at a time so that I can spread it out a little. I'm hoping that when I get home, I can sit down and finish up The Somnambulist.

I'll post again when I get back from the book show.

Happy Sunday everyone!



**edit**

I just got home from the Book and Paper Show, and yet again, no luck. For those wondering, the Book and Paper Show consists of anything made of paper that can be considered "antique": books, magazines, newspapers, postcards, stamps, posters, maps, etc. They usually hold one in the spring and one in the fall, and the last couple of years we've noticed that there has been a decided shift to more "paper" offerings than books. This time I would say that close to half the vendors were of the paper variety.

The authors that I am looking for still seem to be too elusive for around here. The two that I am most interested in finding, May Saron and Louise Dickinson Rich, are both from Maine, so I have a feeling that if I were ever to find the equivalent type of book show out in the New England area I would have better luck. With May Sarton, I have most of what she has written (see my LT catalog) but her earlier books of poetry seem to be rather rare and are hard to find. Most of what she has written is still in print, but I'm trying to get most of her library as first editions. Conveniently, eBay has proven fruitful in helping me track down her books. As for Louise Dickinson Rich, eBay may prove as helpful, but as I just started trying to track down her books (on a suggestion from my aunt, who says I will love them) I haven't searched quite as earnestly, to be honest.

It's truthfully been a couple of years since I found anything at the Book and Paper Show. I go each time, because you never know, that could be the show that I find something! The spring show next year will actually be on my birthday, so I have high hopes that the fates will smile on me that day. My roomie found a first edition, signed copy of Anne Rice's Blood Canticle and my other friend found a quaint little copy of a Louisa May Alcott book, so all was good for them.

Not all was a waste for me though, as my friends and I decided to have a little lunch and, since the day was so nice, wander over to 2 of our favorite used book shops. The first was closed (possibly to be at the Book and Paper Show) but the other was open, and I found Raymond Feist's Faerie Tale on the $1 table. We then stopped over to the "other" B&N (we've got one right across the street from my apartment, which is "our" B&N, therefore the one on the other side of town is the "other" B&N) and found the second volume in Bill Willingham's Fables series of graphic novels, as well as a loverly edition of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, with the classic illustrations by Gustave Doré. This is the third such volume that I've found at B&N of a classic with the accompanying Doré illustrations (the first two being Milton's Paradise Lost and Dante's Divine Comedy). Gustave Doré was a 19th century French engraver who, in my opinion, has created some of the most amazing engravings in history, and that someone is publishing works with his accompanying illustrations is pure genius, as far as I'm concerned.

Now I think I'm going to take The Somnambulist and sit in the park and read for awhile and then I shall come back and catch up on some of the Salon for the day.


**edit 2**

Wow! What an extraordinarily long and rambling previous edit...

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

30. Innocent, Vol 1: 2006-2007 Collection by Shawn Granger

LibraryThing Early Reviewers



Title: Innocent, Vol 1: 2006-2007 Collection
Author: Shawn Granger
Copyright: 2007
Pages: 196
Format: Paperback through the LibraryThing Early Reviewer Program
Rating: 2.5/5 stars
Finished: 3-31-08

I received Innocent, Vol 1 as an LT Early Reviewer edition from the March 08 batch. Overall, Innocent is an interesting premise: an angel (Innocent) is sent to Earth to dispatch demons and those whose souls are beyond redemption. He is befriended by a sociopath, David, who aids him in ridding the world of evil. There are 5 chapters in this volume, and for the most part are all unrelated, other than the fact that each chapter deals with Innocent and David hunting down a demon/evildoer and doing away with them.

I would like to see a little more background on Innocent and David's relationship to each other. This was originally published as a web comic, and I feel almost as if I've been dropped into the middle of the story. However, Granger does a good job not letting you feel too left behind in the story. The final chapter (which is Part 1 of a continuation to the next volume) I believe will be telling a little more of Innocent's background, but I'd need to wait until Vol 2 is released to know for sure.

Each chapter is illustrated by a different artist, and while as a whole the art is fluid and readable, there are some instances where I feel had this been published in color as opposed to B&W, it would have been a bit easier to distinguish what was going on on the page. This may also have something to do with the size of the physical book. Published in the very popular manga/digest sized format, sometime I think the type was a little too small and might have benefited better from a physically larger sized printing (more along the lines of a comic TPB).

This is really an interesting take on the avenging angel story, and the only thing that I would like to see in future editions is a more cohesive story line and a little more background offered on the characters and their relationship.