Coming soon! A brand new From My Bookshelf experience.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

46. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon


Title: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Author: Mark Haddon
Copyright: 2003
Pages: 221
Format: Paperback
Rating: 5/5 stars
Finished: 5-28-08

Be careful! The emotional impact of this story sneaks up on you. Told from the point of view of 15-year-old, autistic Christopher Boone, Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time leads you to believe that it is going to be a mystery when Christopher decides to investigate the murder of his neighbor's dog, Wellington, who he finds with a pitchfork through his side. What happens beyond this plot is an amazing study into the needs and struggles of those who suffer from "special needs" and their families.

I want to say that I was pleasantly surprised by this book, but the surprise wasn't necessarily pleasant. Haddon has created an amazing book that has an unbelievable emotional pull that will leave you both shocked and sympathetic for the characters. It is a fast read, but superbly crafted.

45. Watchmen by Alan Moore, illustrated by Dave Gibbons


Title: Watchmen
Author: Alan Moore, illustrated by Dave Gibbons
Copyright: 1995
Pages: 334
Format: Paperback
Rating: 4/5 stars
Finished: 5-26-08

The only graphic novel on the list of 1001 books you should read in your lifetime, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen is an interesting deconstruction of the superhero mythos. The story is a little dated, as the original 12 issues were published in the late 80s and deal with more Cold War issues such as the constant immanent threat of nuclear war, but many of the questions raised would still be relevant today. It is also a study into what it takes to be a hero, and the lengths that one hero would go to to ensure world peace.

The art is a little sparse, but it fits for the tone and feel of the story. Told in a more cinematic style, you should pay attention to the panel flow and the stories in the story to find hidden correlations in the story.

Overall, even with the slightly dated material, it is an amazingly well constructed story, both in dialogue and the visual aspect of the art.

Free books! Hal Spacejock by Simon Hayes

Thought I'd post this up here. I have no idea what this book is about (I've never even heard of it before, let alone read it) but you can download a free copy of Simon Hayes' Hal Spacejock by clicking here.

And who can say no to a free book?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton

LibraryThing Early Reviewers


Title: The Wednesday Sisters
Author: Meg Waite Clayton
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 284
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Author Website:
Twitter: @MegWClayton
Format: Paperback ARC though the LibraryThing Early Review Program
Rating: 5/5 stars
Finished: 5-28-08

From Amazon:
Friendship, loyalty, and love lie at the heart of Meg Waite Clayton’s beautifully written, poignant, and sweeping novel of five women who, over the course of four decades, come to redefine what it means to be family.

For thirty-five years, Frankie, Linda, Kath, Brett, and Ally have met every Wednesday at the park near their homes in Palo Alto, California. Defined when they first meet by what their husbands do, the young homemakers and mothers are far removed from the Summer of Love that has enveloped most of the Bay Area in 1967. These “Wednesday Sisters” seem to have little in common: Frankie is a timid transplant from Chicago, brutally blunt Linda is a remarkable athlete, Kath is a Kentucky debutante, quiet Ally has a secret, and quirky, ultra-intelligent Brett wears little white gloves with her miniskirts. But they are bonded by a shared love of both literature–Fitzgerald, Eliot, Austen, du Maurier, Plath, and Dickens–and the Miss America Pageant, which they watch together every year.

As the years roll on and their children grow, the quintet forms a writers circle to express their hopes and dreams through poems, stories, and, eventually, books. Along the way, they experience history in the making: Vietnam, the race for the moon, and a women’s movement that challenges everything they have ever thought about themselves, while at the same time supporting one another through changes in their personal lives brought on by infidelity, longing, illness, failure, and success.

Humorous and moving,
The Wednesday Sisters is a literary feast for book lovers that earns a place among those popular works that honor the joyful, mysterious, unbreakable bonds between friends.

I received The Wednesday Sisters through the Early Reviewer at LibraryThing. It's an excellently written story about friendship and family (and especially how friends can grow into being more than just friends, they can become family too). From the moment I started reading, I knew that this was going to be a great book.

The story revolves around no-nonsense, athletic Linda, super smart Brett, quiet Frankie, Southern Belle Kath & shy Ally, friends who first meet every Wednesday in the park for play time with their kids, but where they eventually start to discuss what books they've been reading and the general small talk of forming friendships. Later, they discover that each has had a small desire in one way or another to become writers, so the Wednesday meetings change to writing critiques, as they each try to help the other into becoming better writers. The book is so much more than just about their writing, though. It's also about the hopes, dreams and challenges of young families and budding friendships. We get a glimpse into 5 years of their friendship and watch through their eyes as the world is changing around them (the story starts in the summer of 1967) and how they themselves grow as individuals with the rest of the world.

This was a delight to read; smartly written and nicely paced, with believable characters living real lives. I think Meg Waite Clayton describes her own book best, when the Wednesday Sisters are critiquing Brett's book and Frankie asks, "How did you make it so funny and so touching at the same time(?)... It's a little bit of magic, that." When I read that line, I thought the exact same thing about The Wednesday Sisters.

The book will be released on June 17, 2008, and it comes highly recommended.

Hello, new book(s)! The Spirit of the Place by Samuel Shem and I, robot by Howard Smith

I've received two new ARC's this week in the mail. First, The Spirit of the Place by Samuel Shem arrived (which honestly, I had forgotten that I had requested it... maybe that's not a good sign; that I'm starting to forget which books I've requested...) and then 2 days later I received Howard S. Smith's I, robot. Both seem like they should be enjoyable reads.

43. Bone by Jeff Smith


Title: Bone
Series: Bone
Author: Jeff Smith
Copyright: 2004
Pages: 1,332
Format: Paperback
Rating: 5/5 stars
Finished: 5-25-08

Jeff Smith's Bone series, I can honestly say, is one of those occasions where a comic book series grows out of itself into actual literature (and not to bring up the question of what does the "genre" literature actually consist of, I hope you understand my meaning). It is a grand, sweeping, epic story interspersed with humour, tragedy and love. I have heard it compared in some ways to J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, and I can see that comparison. It is a story of good versus evil, where the side of good can only hope to overcome the perils of evil, and yet they find a way. I'd love to be able to recount the entire adventure, but that would take too long.; the series consisted of 51 issues, and the One Volume Edition collects all 1,332 pages of the entire story in one huge tome.

The artwork is beautiful, all rendered in black and white line drawings. It has a cartoony feel to it, but it fits the feel and pace of the story. The dialogue is well written, the characters are fleshed out and believable and the flow of the narrative is perfect. I really can't recommend this more.

Printers Row Book Fair, here we come!

My friends S, B and I will be attending the Printers Row Book Fair in Chicago this year! I found out about this last year from my friend M (who lives in Chicago) and have been hoping to that we'd be able to make it this year.

I'm rather excited. Five city blocks of out-door, book fair goodness. What more could you ask for?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

100 is the new 75

OK, so Irish has convinced me...

I'm switching my reading challenge for the year from 75 to 100 books. At the rate that I'm going, I think that I should be able to easily reach this goal.

Of course, if by the end of the year it doesn't look like I'm going to reach that goal, back to 75 it gets set!!

Tuesday Thingers May 27, 2008

This weeks question: How many books do you have cataloged in your LibraryThing account? How do you decide what to include- everything you have, everything you've read- and are there things you leave off?

Currently, I have (runs and checks)... 1,075 books catalogued on LT. I include everything I own, and simply tag the unread books as "Unread" (clever, aren't I?). I like being able to check if I've got something at home when I'm out shopping, and this is the easiest way for me.

I used to have a bad habit of seeing a book in the store and thinking, "Hey, that looks like a great book!" You know why I thought it looked like a great book? Because I already own it. This way, I can check if it's already in my library from my phone, and avoid having to return something I already own.

I have tried to star rate and tag everything that I've read, but I know I haven't made it all the way through my library on LT yet. The "Unread" tag is not only my most frequently used tag (out of the 1,075 books on LT, 232 are marked "Unread" - I hang my head in shame; so many poor books just crying out to be read) but I feel it is one of my most useful, helping me keep track of what I have and haven't read.

I don't think there is anything I have left off my LT account. I could be wrong, but that would only be because I missed something by accident. Someday I'd like to go through and double check everything and really clean up my account, but for right now, it serves well for my purposes.

I know some people keep a wish list on LT, but I actually use the wish list feature on Amazon to keep track of what books I'm looking for. I usually find books off of other people's blogs, so it's just easy for me to hop over to Amazon and click those books into the wish list there. If there was ever a way to keep a wish list of books separate from your other books on LT, I'd use that to keep it all in one place, but until then I'll continue to use both sources.

Monday, May 26, 2008

A little update

In the last couple of days, I have finished Bone: One Volume Edition by Jeff Smith and The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton (both of which I highly enjoyed and recommend) and have read Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (which I found to be a rather disturbing deconstruction of the superhero mythos). I'll have more to say later on after I collect my thoughts on all three.

Also, I received The Spirit of the Place by Samuel Shem as an ARC last week, as well as Paulo Coelho's The Zahir and Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, both from my sister as belated birthday gifts.

(See, I'm still sticking to my no buying no books for a month rule. I haven't purchased a book since May 1.)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Sunday Salon May 25, 2008 - Saturday Evening edition

Good (Saturday) afternoon to you, fellow Saloners! I know I'm a day early this week, but I won't be around my computer tomorrow, and I've come to enjoy typing up my weekly posts just as much as I enjoy surfing around to everyone's Salons.

It has been yet another slow reading week, but with good excuses this time around! I'm still dogsitting for my friend S while she is teaching in Ireland, so my normal schedule is thrown off. It's not like this is such a disruption of my day, but staying at someone else's home plays with my normal rhythm of a day, so I find myself not being able to get in as much reading, even though I have the same amount of time in a day. Weird, isn't it? (If you're reading this, S, I don't mind! It's just an observation.)

Also, Tuesday night, my friend B and I went to Detroit to see Eddie Izzard and his Stripped show. If you are not familiar with Eddie Izzard (for those in the US, you may know him from Fox's The Riches), he is an English comedian and actor and who is, in my opinion, one of the funniest and smartest men alive. He tends to be extremely liberal in his ideals and isn't for everyone, but he's worth watching. I would recommend his show Dress to Kill for those new to Eddie.

Thursday, B and I went to see the Michigan Opera Theatre's performance of Verdi's La Traviata. They usually perform at the Detroit Opera House (which happens to be where we saw Eddie Izzard on Tuesday) but occasionally they will hold one-night performances at our local theater here in East Lansing, the Wharton Center. It has been probably 20 years since I had last scene La Traviata, and I was thrilled to be seeing it again. This was a beautiful performance. Even though I know how the shows ends, when the curtain fell on Thursday night's performance, I had chills. Click here if you'd like to see a dress rehearsal of the Drinking Song.

And then last night, B and I sat home and watched Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark in anticipation of going to see the new film, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Lost Skull on Monday. I love the Indiana Jones films, and can't wait for Monday to get here! They are just so much gosh-darn fun!!

So you see, so many reasons why I didn't get any reading done this week. I should be able to finish Meg Waite Clayton's The Wednesday Sisters tonight (which is still proving to be an enjoyable read - I hope you aren't let down, Irish! I'll be owing you $15 otherwise.) I'm hoping to finish reading Jeff Smith's Bone tomorrow. I can't tell you how much I've been enjoying this book. It starts out as what seems to be nothing more than the silly adventures of the Bone cousins getting lost in the Valley after they are run out of Boneville due to some cash-making scheme that Phone Bone came up with, and it has transformed into this sprawling, epic tale. I'm sure I'll have more to write later in the week when I get it finished.

Have any of you ever had a book like that? Something that you were sure was going to go in one direction, and thrills you by going in another, completely different direction, and you loved every minute of it? Just curious.

Happy reading everyone and look forward to visiting with everyone later in the week when I'll be around a computer again.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Book in Progress: The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton

OK, so I'm about halfway through The Wednesday Sisters, the Early Reviewer book I got from LT by Meg Waite Clayton, and I'm loving it! It's an excellently written story about friendship and family (and especially how friends can grow into being more than just friends, they can become family too).

The story revolves around no-nonsense, athletic Linda, super smart Brett, quiet Frankie, Southern Belle Kath & shy Ally, friends who first meet every Wednesday in the park for play time with their kids, where they start to discuss what books they've been reading and the small talk of forming friendships. Later, they discover that each has had a small desire in one way or another to become writers, so the Wednesday meetings change to writing critiques, as they each try to help the other into becoming better writers.

The book is so much more than just about their writing. It's also about the hopes, dreams and challenges of young families and budding friendships. I'm really impressed with the book over all; smartly written and nicely paced, with believable characters. I'm hoping the book finishes up as nicely as it has started.

The book will be released on June 17, 2008, and simply based on what I've read so far, Im highly recommending it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tuesday Thingers... but on a Wednesday! May 21, 2008 (see how rebellious I am?)

OK, so the truth is, I simply forgot about Tuesday Thingers this week.
I hang my head in shame.
So here is my contribution to Tuesday Thingers, but on a Wednesday.

On to this week's topic: Discussion groups. Do you belong to any (besides Early Reviewers)? Approximately how many? Are there any in particular that you participate in more avidly? How often do you check?

I belong to 11 and watch one other on LT. I only actively participate in 2 of them (The Green Dragon and 50 Book Challenge). I have been posting regularly in the J.R. Englery AuthorChat discussion thread, and will probably participate in other AuthorChats if the author catches my eye. I have a horrible habit of mostly only watching threads, though. Rarely do I act as a regular participant in any one Discussion Group as a whole. I think "lurker" is the word that best describes my interactions with the Discussion Groups.

Monday, May 19, 2008

42. The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo


Title: The Tale of Despereaux
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Copyright: 2006
Pages: 270
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 3/5 stars
Finished: 5-18-08

The Tale of Despereaux is really 3 stories in one that all intertwine around one central character, the Princess Pea, at the end. It is the story of Despereaux Tilling, an uncommonly small mouse who was born with his eyes open and who has uncommonly large ears and who falls in love with the Princess Pea; it is the story of the rat Chiaroscuro, who discovers the joys of light even though his place should be in the dungeon and learns a great hatred for and wishes for revenge on the Princess Pea; and it is the story of Miggery Sow, a slow-witted servant girl whose greatest wish in the world is to be just like the Princess Pea.

I was intrigued by this book after a friend recommended DiCamillo's The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, which is a beautiful cathartic tale of love and loss. The Tale of Despereaux just doesn't seem to have the same impact on me. Ultimately, it is a story of forgiveness and redemption, but it all seemed a little too mannered and forced for my taste. Perhaps in the right hands, this story would be perfect, but I found it lacking in any real substance. It's not a bad tale, but not perfect.

41. Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis


Title: Prince Caspian
Series: The Chronicles of Narnia
Author: C.S. Lewis
Copyright: 1950
Pages: 216
Format: Paperback
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Finished: 5-17-08

I decided to reread Prince Caspian this weekend after having seen the new, big screen version (which I am very disappointed in).

It's funny, how you come at these books as an adult and take something completely different away from them than you would as a child. I read these books about 20 years ago when my uncle gave me a complete set for my birthday. I think as a child, I think I read them simply as a fantasy/adventure story. As an adult, I can see the subtle religious references sprinkled throughout, and while some may see this as a hindrance to the story, at least through the first 2 books (I go by the original published order, not the new chronological order), I can look beyond that to the story underneath.

However, in the case of Prince Caspian, there doesn't seem to be much in the way of story. It seems to me that the book can be broken up into two sections: the first being the Dwarf relating Caspian's understanding of his role of Narnia's future leader (the entire importance of this seems to be related to him over the course of one evening while star-gazing) and the second being Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy's trek through the jungle to get to Caspian. The ending seemed too contrived for my liking and far too rushed. It was all build up and no follow through as far as I'm concerned.

Looking at the story differently, it is a story about faith; about how faith can be hard to see sometimes, but it's always there and as long as you believe in that faith, it will lead you where you need it to. Overall a good moral to the story, if a little didactic in the telling.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunday Salon May 18, 2008

Good afternoon, fellow Saloners! I hope you have all had a far more successful reading week than I have!

I am dogsitting for a friend while she is in Ireland for the next 2 weeks teaching a study abroad program for the college she works for. I am hoping to spend the time here to get caught up I some of my reading.

I did read C.S. Lewis' Prince Caspian last night. My roommate and I went to see the film version on Friday night, and quite frankly, I was disappointed. It seems to be lacking the charm and the magic that the first film has. It was a very dark film, both literally (most of the scenes were shot at night or in a cave) and figuratively (it is definitely a film about war). I realized when I left the theater that I couldn't remember any of the book (it has been probably 20 years since I last read any of the books except for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) so thought I'd at least pull Caspian down off the shelf and give it a read. I'm shocked by how much they changed from the book to the movie. I'm sure they changed quite a bit in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when they made that film (I would have togo back and reread the book and watch the movie again to remember it all), but there are some significant changes made to the film version of Caspian; entire scenes added, the focus of character motivations changed, scenes rearranged. I'm not in Hollywood, so maybe they felt that these changes needed to be made to make the film "better," but in that, I think they failed. I think the Narnia books are the type that depending on who reads them depends on how the book will be interpreted. After reading Prince Caspian, I felt the book was about faith,; about how faith can grow when you least expect it, and it may not always be easy at first, but if you believe and trust that faith, it will make itself known. I think the movie touched on that a little, but as I said before, the movie was really a war film. The prevalent themes of the movie were racism (instead of thinking the Old Narnians had simply faded into memory, the Telmarines had tried to exterminate them all), revenge (a whole new scene was added to the movie just to show the depths of Caspian's hatred towards Miraz) and egos (much of Caspian's and Peter's interactions at first seemed to be about proving who was the better leader, instead of working together from the first like they do in the book). Needless to say, I don't think they made a better movie.

So, that about sums up the extent of my reading this week. I received both of my Early Reviewer books this week (The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton for LT and Songs for the Missing by Stewart O'Nan for B&N) so I've got some good reading ahead of me for the week.

Happy reading, everyone!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Hello, new book! Songs for the Missing by Stewart O'Nan

I received my copy of Stewart O'Nan's Songs for the Missing last night. It is the June 08 selection for B&N's First Look program.

I've never read anything by O'Nan before, but it sounded like an interested story, so I thought I'd give it another go with the B&N program. I was a little overwhelmed by my first experience with the program (for Poppy Adams' The Sister), but I'm hoping this time will go a little easier.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tuesday Thingers May 13, 2008

Hi! My name is David. I grew up in Florida, but have transplanted myself to Michigan. I've worked at the same job for over 11 years now. I have 2 cats (Pride and Sophie) and a black lab (Mame - she lives with my mom right now as I can't have dogs at my apartment).

As I would have to imagine is the case with anyone involved here, I love books. I have 1 or 2 lying about the place...

A friend of mine introduced me to LT a couple of years ago, and I was originally using it to keep track of the books that I owned that I had read or that I was reading. I quickly realized the scope of the site, and joined up with a lifetime membership (according to my profile, that was Sept 8, 2006), and have since created something of an online love affair with the site! A day doesn't go by (hell, sometimes an hour) where I'm not on there, looking up something or another, checking the talk threads, or just generally perusing my own library from work. I love having this instant access to my books, to be able to check on the spot from anywhere whether or not I already own a book. It's made me (and I'm sure others) more in touch with my library than I have ever been.

Another aspect of LT that I love is the access we have to authors. I have already had 2 great chats with authors (James Dashner for his book The Journal of Curious Letters which I received as an Early Reviewer book and J.F. Englert for his A Dog Among Diplomats through the new LT AuthorChat) and am looking forward to hopefully another lively chat with Meg Waite Clayton as soon as I finish her book, The Wednesday Sisters (another LTER offering).

As for me, I'll read just about anything. My wishlist on Amazon grows exponentially with each blog I read. So many great books out there, so little time to read them all. I've been particularly enjoying Agatha Christie lately (I only recently discovered her!). I have a tendency to read more sci-fi/fantasy and graphic novels than anything else, and I'm trying to break out of that routine and challenge myself as a reader, but that's going slowly. Some favorite books of mine: Patrick Dennis' Auntie Mame and Around the World with Auntie Mame, Fannie Flagg's Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, Helene Hanff's 84, Charing Cross Road and Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.

I started this blog as a way to gather my thoughts on what I've been reading, as I was finding that I am reading so much these days, it was becoming increasingly more and more difficult to keep track of it all. So that's it. A little intro to myself. Thanks for stopping by and reading!

40. A Dog Among Diplomats by J.F. Englert


Title: A Dog Among Diplomats
Series: A Bull Moose Dog Run Mystery, Book 2
Author: J.F. Englert
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 305
Format: Paperback
Rating: 5/5 stars
Finished: 5-13-08

Randolph and Harry are back for more!

A great follow-up to A Dog About Town, J.F. Englert picks right up where he left off with A Dog Among Diplomats, keeping the pace going and the characters strong.

Imogen's story is moved forward as the motives behind her disappearance become clearer. It appears that she is involved in much a much bigger picture than first thought possible, and this time it's possible that she's involved in a murder. It's Randolph's job to put the pieces together to help Harry find out what's going on and clear his mistress' name.

I really like the fact that Harry and Randolph's characters are clearly growing both emotionally and as individuals. They both are coming to terms with Imogen's disappearance, possible betrayal and what that means in their lives and how they need to move forward. Jackson returns to give Harry some much needed focus in a new art project, and Zest Kilpatrick is back to try to lead Harry's heart astray. I like to see Englert moving forward with these aspects of the story, and not letting Harry and Randolph wallow in misery. The characters are clearly becoming their own.

There is a murder, of course, and Randolph is up to the challenge again. Englert leaves Randolph to his own devices this time and creates new ways for him to communicate with Harry, and even lets his more doggie attributes take over, helping him gather the clues through his own cunning. I think Englert has paid attention to his own dog in creating Randolph; there are so many doggie attributes (the snout stamp, for instance) that I can see in my own dog. I like seeing Randolph handle things in a very doggie-fashion (surfing the net and reading aside). It's an original idea that Englert handles perfectly.

The ending is left wide open for another, and I can't wait to run off with Randolph and Harry for more adventures.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Hello, new book! The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton

LibraryThing Early Reviewers

Yay! I finally received The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton in the mail today.

"But wait!" you say. "Didn't you tell us that you weren't going to buy any more books this month, David?"

Ah, yes, I did say that! How astute of you to remind me. However, The Wednesday Sisters was actually an offering through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program from last month, so technically, not only did it became part of my library then, when I was selected to read it, but I actually didn't pay for it either! I can't help it that it didn't arrive in my mailbox until now...

See how tricksy I am? I can find a loophole in my own reasoning!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sunday Salon May 11, 2008 - the Afternoon Edition

Good morning, fellow Salon members! I hope every one has had a wonderful week, and a Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there.

It has rained here for the better part of all day now. It's been a nice steady rain, a little on the cooler side, but not so bad that we've had to close the windows. I love listening to the rain. It reminds me of when I lived in Florida, and that during the summer you could almost be guaranteed a little rain shower each evening. Of course, that was years ago, before the crazy weather patterns they've had lately down there. There is just something soothing to my soul about the sound of rain.

As you can plainly see, this is the first post since my last TSS post, so it has been a slow reading week. My job became joltingly busy in one week's time, and I wasn't getting home until at least 7pm most evenings, and after looking at 18,000+ white page listings a day (I work as production manager for an independent telephone book publishing company), I wasn't much in the mood for reading. I think my books all cried a little this week and felt very neglected.

I've been enjoying J.F. Englert's A Dog Among Diplomats, his follow-up book to A Dog About Town. These books are just plain fun. They follow the adventures of Randolph, a Black lab who lives in Manhattan with his owner Harry, and it's all about murder mysteries that Randolph solves (yes, you read that right, Randolph the Black lab solves the murders!). Just a lot of fun.

I'm continuing with Jeff Smith's Bone. The plot is thickening! So far we have been introduced to the Bone cousins, Fone Bone, Phoney Bone and Smiley Bone. Phoney Bone (the richest Bone in Boneville) was run out of Boneville due to some sketchy business practices he was involved in, and his two cousins helped him to escape. They were separated in the desert, and Fone Bone found himself in a valley, where he befriends Thorn and her Grandma Ben. There are human-sized rat creatures who are looking for Phoney Bone, as he is somehow involved with their lord, the Hooded One, even though Phoney Bone (nor the read at this point) knows what that connection is. There is also the Red Dragon, who is protecting Fone Bone from danger, and Thorn has been having dreams from when she was a child and left in the protection of dragons (the Red Dragon included). Grandma Ben apparently fought the rat creatures in the big war (when she was also called Rose) and knows something about the Red Dragon as well. It's interesting to see how all these plot points are being created, and I'm intrigued to see how they start to come together.

Well that's all for today. Hopefully I will be able to finish A Dog Among Diplomats later this evening and will be able to post up a review then.

Happy reading everyone!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Sunday Salon May 4, 2008

Good morning, fellow Salon members! How is everyone on this fine, crisp, sunny spring morning?

I've had a fairly decent, if not busy week. In amidst trying to get caught up from both being sick and being gone for a few days last week from work while I was in Cincinnati visiting family, my co-worker was sick and out of the office most of this week, so that it seemed like the work week just flew by, and I still don't feel like I'm entirely caught up yet!

I was able to finish reading Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and I think I'm in love. This was my third Christie book, and I've enjoyed each one. I did a little reading about Roger Ackroyd after the fact, and discovered that there has been some debate as to the plot device she used at the end of the book and whether or not it was "fair." Quite frankly, I thought it was ingenious. Really never saw it coming, which I think is important in a mystery, right? I picked up Murder at the Vicarage this week, the first Miss Marple mystery. The three that I have read so far (The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Murder on the Orient Express and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd) were all Hercule Poirot mysteries, and while I love his extravagant flair, I figure it's time to introduce myself to her other great sleuth.

I also read Neil Gaiman and Gris Grimly's The Dangerous Alphabet. Told in 13 rhyming couplets, it's your general alphabet book, but told in Gaiman's usual quirky style. It's the story of 2 children and their pet gazelle as they strike out underground in search of treasure, and the unusual, creepy creatures they meet along the way. The story is fun, but the real star of this book is Gris Grimly's illustrations. I had never been exposed to his art before, and I am intrigued by his art style. The children have almost rag doll proportions, and the ghoulies that inhabit the underground are rather stupendous in their creepiness. If you are interested in seeing more of Grimly's art, visit his website at

The Graphic Novel Discussion Group will be talking about Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's Superman for All Seasons. It's not your usual "spandex and tights" superhero story. It really gets underneath the costume and gets to the "character" of the character and examines what makes Clark Kent, Superman. Originally told in four separate issues, each chapter takes place during one of the four seasons, and each season's story is told from the point of view of a character that is close to Clark Kent and how they perceive him as both a person and a superhero. The story starts off in Spring, with Clark Kent in his senior year of high school, and as he is still learning about the powers that he has, and how his father is also coming to terms with his son's special abilities. Summer finds Clark Kent in Metropolis, working at the Daily Planet, and rivaling Lois Lane as the top reporter for the Daily Planet. Autumn finds Lex Luthor challenged by Superman's presence in Metropolis, and what he will do to break his character. Winter finds Clark Kent back home in Smallville, dealing with the events with Lex Luthor, where he discovers his high school sweetheart, Lana Lang, has moved back to Smallville, and helps him come to terms with the responsibility and burden of being Superman. I haven't read many Superman stories over the years, so I was a little hesitant reading this, not being as familiar with the Superman mythos as some others in the group, but really, he's something of an American mythology these days, and even knowing the limited plot points that I did, I still found myself enjoying this story.

The last book that I read this week was William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, as adapted by Brooke McEldowney. This was a real treat. Brooke McEldowney is the creator and writer/illustrator of 9 Chickweed Lane (a daily comic strip) and Pibgorn (an almost daily comic strip), both of which can be read online. McEldowney took characters from both strips, and recast them as characters in A Midsummer Night's Dream and reset the story with a 1930's gangster theme, and it works amazingly well! McEldowney keeps true to Shakespeare's words for the most part, but as he explains in the foreword, while some lines are great on stage, they don't translate so well to the printed word, so he removed a soliloquy and rearranged some of the lines here and there, and also recast the sexes of some characters, but otherwise the play is presented in it's entirety. I think that he cast some of the characters like he did due to their interactions with each other in the daily strips, so some of the subtle nuances of this aspect of his inner-jokes may be lost on those who don't read the strips on a daily basis, but it doesn't detract from the overall storytelling process. This was a great little read, and I would hope that someday he continues this theme and stages another Shakespeare play (I would love to see his version of Much Ado About Nothing).

I'm still greatly enjoying Bone: The One Volume Edition. I didn't get as much read this week as I would have liked, so I don't have much to report on the progress of this story right now.

This week will find me continuing Martin Millar's The Good Fairies of New York. It was a birthday gift from my friend S this past year. I'm not that far into the story yet, but it does open with a group of fairies from Scotland, who mysteriously find themselves in New York City, with no idea how they got their due to a combination of alcohol and magic mushrooms. So we've got stoned, inebriated Scottish fairies arguing with squirrels in Central Park and passing out in the apartment of a violinist. Needless to say, I'm just a little intrigued where this story will take me. I will also be reading Morgan Llywelyn's Druids on a recommendation from my friend, Irish and it turns out that S has quite a few Llywelyn's books, so I'll be able to borrow those from her.

Well, I'm off to my mother's house to help do some yard work and play with my dog, Mame. I'll be back later in the evening, visiting some other Salon's and trying to sneak in some reading during commercial breaks while watching Desperate Housewives and Brothers & Sisters (2 of my television guilty pleasures). I hope everyone has a loverly week!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

39. Pibgorn Rep: A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare, adapted by Brooke McEldowney


Title: Pibgorn Rep: A Midsummer Night's Dream
Series: Pibgorn
Authors: William Shakespeare, adapted by Brooke McEldowney
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 175
Publisher: Pib Press
Format: Paperback
Rating: 5/5 stars
Finished: 5-3-08

Pibgorn Rep: A Midsummer Night's Dream is William Shakespeare's play told through the eyes and visuals of Brooke McEldowney. McEldowney is the creator and writer/illustrator of the daily comic strip 9 Chickweed Lane and the online Comic strip Pibgorn. I truly think that McEldowney may be one of the funniest, wittiest and smartest writers doing comic strips today. I regularly read both comics online, and it's not a day that goes by that I'm not thoroughly entertained.

I had read 9 Chickweed Lane years ago when I lived in Florida, and our local paper ran the strips. I can't be sure, but I think I read it from the very first strip. When I moved to Michigan, I lost track of the strip (I don't think it was run in the papers here). Within the last couple of months, I rediscovered the daily joy of 9 Chickweed Lane online, and by association, discovered McEldowney's other online-exclusive strip, Pibgorn, a fairy and her adventures. I've missed quite a bit of the beginning of Pibgorn, but as luck would have it, McEldowney, through his Pib Press, recently published the very first strips in a collection, Pibgorn: the Girl in the Coffee Cup. I was instantly enamored. I dashed off an email to the lovely people at Pib Press inquiring about further editions of either Pibgorn or 9 Chickweed Lane and was informed to be on the lookout for A Midsummer Night's Dream, which has now been recently published.

This is a real treat; a little candy confection of Shakespearean fun, told through McEldowney's fluid, organic line drawings. Taking a mix of characters from both strips, and changing character's sexes where appropriate for his telling (for instance, Egeus, Hermia's father, has become Egea, her mother and the acting troupe of Pyramus and Thisby are now chorus girls), and with slight changes in the text (in his foreword, McEldowney explains that what is appealing for stage is not always so in the printed word, so some soliloquies were left out of his edition), McEldowney has taken Shakespeare's play and reworked it into a 1930's fashioned gangster presentation.

And it works.

McEldowney has kept true to the story, the words and the essence of Shakespeare's play, and has added his own visual flair, creating a refreshing and just plain fun version of A Midsummer Night's Dream. If you are interested in acquiring a copy of your own, you can contact the fine people at, provide them with your zip code and how many copies you would like, and they will let you know a cost. (No, I am in no way affiliated with Pib Press, but I feel that if enough people are introduced to the joy that is McEldowney's work, perhaps we will be smiled upon and more of his strips will be published in collected editions. It's purely selfish reasons for this, as I would love to have more collected editions, but I also feel that most people may not have heard of him before, and he's worth reading.)

Friday, May 2, 2008

Free books! Blog a Penguin Classic

More free books! Who doesn't like that?

Irish told me about Blog a Penguin Classic. Basically, if you are among the first 1,400 to register and are willing to read and write a review of a book within 6 weeks of receiving it, they will give you a free Penguin Classic. I rushed right over to the website and signed up, and within minutes received an email saying that I was selected to read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. I've heard of Sir Gawain before, but have never read it, so am anxious to get it in hand.

Thanks Irish for letting me know and thanks Penguin for the free book!

Free books!

So, we're all looking for free books, right? Well, if you enjoy sci-fi, you may want to head over to right now and sign up on their homepage. Every week (until they decide to stop), they will send you a pdf file of a full length book, for free. For instance, this week I received Cherie Priest's Four and Twenty Blackbirds, which my friend S just happened to recommend to me. Next week they will be offering Kate Elliott's Spirit Gate.

Just thought I'd pass the word along to anybody interested.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

38. Superman for All Seasons by Jeph Loeb, illustrated by Time Sale


Title: Superman for All Seasons
Author(s): Jeph Loeb, illustrated by Time Sale
Copyright: 1998
Pages: 206
Format: Paperback
Rating: 4/5 stars
Finished: 5-1-08

Superman for All Seasons by Jeph Loeb and Time Sale was the May selection for my Graphic Novel Discussion Group. It's not your typical spandex-wearing superhero adventure story. The story actually gets underneath the costume to the actual "character" of the character; in other words, what makes Clark Kent, Superman. Why he has all these amazing abilities, and uses them for the benefit of others and not for his own well-being.

Told originally over the course of 4 issues, each during one of the four seasons of the year, we follow the growing pains of young Clark Kent as he graduates high school and is deciding what he wants to do with his life in the Spring. During the Summer, we find Clark adjusting to life as both Clark Kent in Metropolis and as Superman in the public eye, doing what he can to help those around him. In the Fall, Lex Luthor confronts Superman and causes him to question his place in the world, so that during the Winter, he is back home in Smallville, striving to understand his place and where he fits into the bigger the picture. Each month is told from the perspective of a different character in Superman's life, who is looking in from the outside and is giving their impression of the man they know, be it Clark Kent or Superman.

I liked this story. I haven't read much of the Superman comics in my day, but he is something of an American mythology, and it was easy to read this book only knowing the basics of the Superman mythos. If you're looking for a well-paced, smartly written story about a superhero and why they choose right over wrong and what price they must pay for that choice sometimes, this is the book for you.

Randomness too random...

Well, I can tell my little experiment in randomness is not going to work. I started Paulo Coelho's The Valkyries last night, and it's not what I need right now. I'm going to try Martin Millar's The Good Fairies of New York and see how that grabs me.

37. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie


Title: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
Series: Hercule Poirot
Author: Agatha Christie
Copyright: 1926
Pages: 358
Format: Paperback
Rating: 5+/5 stars
Finished: 4-30-08

I'm still relatively new to the world of Agatha Christie as The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is only the third book that Dame Agatha wrote that I have read. I've heard that she has been known to reuse plot devices and that sometimes, some of her stories can become repetitive, but if they are all written like The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, I would be happy with that. This will easily top my list of favorite books.

I don't want to go into too much detail, as I'm always afraid that I'll let something slip that will spoil the end of the story for newcomers to Christie's writing. The book is so complex that I wouldn't even know where to begin. There is a suicide, blackmail, cocaine abuse, secrets, and of course, murder. In his usual flair, Hercule Poirot (who happens to be in the right place at the right time) is brought in to investigate. Through the course of the book, suspicion is plainly brought on each of the main characters in the Ackroyd household, and you will never have a clue as to "who done it" until the very end. Every chapter, I was sure I knew who had committed the murder, yet every time I was wrong. An ingenious book.