Coming soon! A brand new From My Bookshelf experience.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

60. Hellboy, Vol 1: Seed of Destruction by Mike Mignola


Title: Hellboy, Vol 1: Seed of Destruction
Series: Hellboy
Author: Mike Mignola
Copyright: 2003
Pages: 128
Format: Paperback
Rating: 4/5 stars
Finished: 7-31-08

Mike Mignola's first collection of his Hellboy series, Seed of Destruction sets the tone and feel for the rest of the series. With a story and art by Mike Mignola and a script by John Byrne, Seed of Destruction introduces us to Hellboy, a demon brought over to our dimension by Rasputin in an effort by the Nazis to gain supernatural help during WWII. Hellboy is brought to our dimension as a young child, hence the name that sticks, and when we are introduced to him as an adult, Hellboy is working for the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, or BPRD, where he investigates supernatural phenomena. Truth be told, I don't think there was too much to this story, but it was a well-crafted introduction to the mythos and characters of Hellboy.

59. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien


Title: The Hobbit
Series: The Lord of the Rings
Author(s): J.R.R. Tolkien
Copyright: 2001 (1937)
Pages: 333
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 5/5 stars
Finished: 7-31-08

Realistically, what more could be said about The Hobbit that hasn't been said before? J.R.R. Tolkien's classic introduction to Middle-Earth and the humans, hobbits, elves, magicians and every other sort of magical creature that inhabits it. A fun story that starts out humbly and slowly becomes something grander than what it seems should be possible, much like the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins.

J.K. Rowling's The Tales of Beedle the Bard

Imagine my surprise today when I logged onto Amazon to track a package and discovered that J.K. Rowling's The Tales of Beedle the Bard is going to be released! There will be two versions released:

a standard hardcover (which you can preorder here);

and a collector's edition (you can preorder that here).

I tried to resist. Really I did. That lasted about an hour. I now have one of each edition on preorder...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

58. Genuine Men: Journeys in Stories and Stills by Nancy Bruno

Title: Genuine Men: Journeys in Stories and Stills
Author: Nancy Bruno
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 105
Format: Hardcover from publisher for review
Rating: 4/5 stars
Finished: 7-28-08

Nancy Bruno saw a need; a need for positive, real, everyday male role models. Men who have risen above the obstacles of their lives and have become men that both they themselves and their families can be proud of. Out of this need, the Genuine Men Project was born. Her 35 subjects range in age from twelve to ninety-one years old, and each knows that life can be a struggle and it's not always easy to become the man that they want to be. These men aren't perfect; they have had their fair share of problems in their lives, but each has looked beyond these struggles and found a path that has worked for them.

Sometimes, the stories seem a little vague when explaining what the men have gone through and overcome in their lives to bring them to the place where they are now. While this doesn't hinder the individual storytelling process for each subject, it does make for some of the stories seeming a little incomplete, as if we're not being given the entire story.

From a design standpoint, the book is beautifully laid out with the stories flowing around Bruno's black and white photographs of her subjects. There are 2 occasions where the face of the main focus of the photo is placed across the binding, making it hard to see, but other than that, you can tell there was close attention paid to the visual look of the book. The photographs themselves are very good; they present the essence of the man and what is important in his life, be it his job, family or favorite sport.

The only thing that I would have liked to have seen done differently is a little more focus on single men who are not fathers who are still positive role models. It seemed the majority of the men out of high school were fathers. I'm not saying that this is a bad thing, far from it, but I did get the feeling that the idea of fatherhood seemed a prerequisite in being considered a "genuine" man. I don't know if Bruno had this idea in mind or not, but it was something that struck my almost halfway through the book, and I couldn't shake that feeling.

Overall, Genuine Men is obviously a labor of love for Nancy Bruno. She took these men and their stories to heart and presented a book that accomplishes what it set out to do: showing that everyday men from any number of walks of life can be a positive role model.

To find out more about The Genuine Men project, you can visit Nancy Bruno's website.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Today's blog entry is brought to you by the letter "E"

"E" for Excellent, apparently!

I started my blog back in a far off time (February to be exact - it doesn't seem possible that I've only been doing this for 6 months!) as a way to keep better track of what I am reading and as an extension of my LibraryThing account. I had been posting some reviews on my general blog, but thought it would be a better idea and easier to condense all my book related entries into one blog. Well, much to my surprise this past weekend, I found out that my good friend Gail has nominated me for a blog award! If you haven't stopped by her blog, you should do so regularly. Her reviews are always well written and honest and she has a great, eclectic taste in books; you never know what she's going to be reading next.

I guess it's now my job to nominate seven more great blogs that I read on a regular basis (since Gail nominated me, I can't be nominating her back, but she'd be on this list!).
  • First off is Ann's blog, Table Talk. I have discovered so many wonderful new authors and books through her blog! I know that if Ann reads a book and says it's good, it is. In Gail's words, "Go... read her words... and you'll understand."
  • Next up is The Boston Bibliophile. She always has some new great blog idea to share and she is always reading the most interesting books. My favorite day is Monday, when she reviews a new graphic novel. I've gotten some great ideas to expand my knowledge of graphic novels.
  • A regular stop for me is also Libba Bray's blog. Libba is the author of the The Gemma Doyle Trilogy. It may not be completely book related all the time, but her blog never fails to make me laugh.
  • Another author's blog that I check regularly is James Dashner's The Dashner Dude. James is the author of The 13th Reality series, and he isn't shy about sharing how he got into the book business and the progress of his books. It's a great look into the life and writing habits of a great, new and upcoming author.
  • My journey through reading... always has great reviews and writes her blog as if everyone visiting is an old friend.
  • Another fun blog is Musings of a Bookish Kitty. I can always find some insightful reviews there.
  • Last but certainly not least, I'm also nominating Joy's Blog. Again, she always has some great reviews, and hre blog entries are always fun to read.
The thing about all these blogs, everyone has such eclectic taste in books, I'm always finding more and more great ideas for books. It's hard to narrow down to just seven because there is such a huge, wonderful network of book bloggers out there. I don't know if I am supposed to be nominating authors either, but I think it's great to see the other side of an author's writing, to see where they come from for their ideas.

So, now for the nominees, here are some guidelines:

  1. Put the logo on your blog.
  2. Add a link to the person who awarded you.
  3. Nominate at least seven other blogs.
  4. Add links to those blogs on your blog.
  5. Leave a message for your nominee on their blog.
Thanks again to Gail for the nomination. You're the bestest!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Book Giveaway - The Lace Reader

The Boston Bibliophile is giving away a copy of Brunonia Barry's The Lace Reader and all you need to do to get entered is to leave a comment over there with your email address.

Book Promo - Immortal by Traci L. Slatton

I will be receiving a copy of Traci L. Slatton's Immortal soon, so for the moment, please enjoy the following interview with Traci!

1. Tell us about your book, Immortal.
Immortal is a rags-to-riches-to-burnt-at-the-stake story. It’s a journey of spirit and an education of the heart. That said, it’s the story of a mysteriously gifted street urchin who undergoes the darkest moments possible and still goes on to find true love, deep friendship, hope, faith, and ultimately the deepest secrets of his origins.

2. Why did you write this book?
I love to tell stories! I was working on a non-fiction book about science and spirituality. (Piercing Time & Space, ARE Press, Virginia Beach, VA: 2005.) It was fascinating research, but I found myself longing to write fiction, to create characters and wrap myself around adventure, conflict, and obstacle. Story lust drove me.

3. The book takes place in Florence during the Renaissance: What inspired you to choose this setting?
This goes back to the previous question. Renaissance Florence is a character in this novel--it’s inextricably interwoven into the story. It’s why I wrote THIS book. More explicitly, I am married to Sabin Howard, who is one of the foremost classical figurative sculptors working today. ( Think Michelangelo’s work: that’s what my husband’s work resembles. Moreover, Sabin is half-Italian; his mother is from Torino and he is completely fluent in the language. So, for him, Renaissance Italy is alive and well. It’s a part of our everyday discourse. I was always interested in Renaissance art but it’s become a passion because of living with Sabin.

Also, Florence between 1300 and 1500 was an intense and extraordinary place, almost unequaled in history. Art, philosophy, learning, commerce, banking, and government were all burgeoning and concentrated into this small city, making it the center of Europe. Out of Florence radiated invention and innovation. One of the popes called it “The fifth element of the universe.” Only Paris between the two world wars comes close to the fervor of creativity that was taking place in Florence during the Renaissance. It’s a powerful time to write about.

4. How did you come up with a protagonist like Luca?
I wanted a character who would meet and make an impression on my two great Renaissance heroes: Giotto and Leonardo. This character had to be the kind of man who could inspire love, lust, envy, admiration, and riveting hatred in other people. And he was going to face terrible challenges, so he had to have personal resources to help him through. And his suffering would make him humble and give him a hunger to love and be loved.

5. Lucas plays many different roles – orphan, companion, healer - throughout the story, which do you personally relate best to?
Perhaps to the healer and the companion. I was a hands-on or spiritual healer for many years, and Luca gets to do what I always longed to do: lay hands on and cure someone completely, even bring a dying man back to life.

I have four daughters, and in the best moments of parenting, there is a companionable aspect to it. There are moments when all the little stuff falls away, all the blah-blah-blah about messy bedrooms and parties and grades and allowances and health concerns, and my children and I are friends, laughing together. Even my little one, who is 3, sometimes sits and chats with me as if we were two good buddies. I treasure those moments.

6. Luca meets da Vinci, Botticelli…“immortals” whose impact on society is still apparent. Can you talk to us about some of those figures, and the way they still shape modern society?
They have left a legacy of art and ideas which is the foundation of western civilization. Petrarch, who is a friend of Luca’s in Immortal, articulated the notion of the individual self (see Ascent of Mount Ventoux) on which we built the United States: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” This is a radical change from the earlier systems of society, and it came out of the Renaissance. The great Cosimo de Medici who led Florence from 1434 to 1464 established the Platonic Academy, which formulated the ideals of humanism which are now axiomatic in our worldview. Even our pop philosophy, eg The Secret, has its roots in Pico della Mirandella’s Oration on the Dignity of Man: “O highest and most admirable felicity of man to whom it is granted to have whatever he chooses, to be whatever he wills!”

The great artists like Leonardo and Botticelli left us ideals of beauty that are still unparalleled. Leonardo left behind a prototype of a polymath genius as the highest aspiration.

7. Part of what makes Luca’s story so beautiful is the time period it is set in and the people he encounters. Do you think it would have had the same significance had it been placed at another time, such as the present?
Renaissance Florence is such an integral part of the story that it’s hard to say. I am, however, considering bringing Luca back in a future book that is set in Paris between the two world wars. Readers who love Luca can stay tuned…

8. Luca witnesses many important historical events throughout his life. What kind of research did you conduct for these?
I read a million books (okay, maybe a hundred), searched on-line, spoke with friends and relatives with extensive historical knowledge (my husband is a Renaissance sculptor and my father-in-law is a history teacher with a PhD), and I corresponded with, or spoke to, a couple of professors. I also like the History channel for shows on history! And we visited Italy several times, spending much time in the Medici chapel in Florence and the Pinacoteca Vaticano in Rome.

No one but me is to blame for inaccuracies, distortions, and out right fallacies.

9. What are your future writing plans in writing?
I am working on the sequel to Immortal right now.

10. Any advice you could give to beginning novelists out there?
Persist! And know who to trust with your work.

If you are interested in finding out more about Traci L. Slatton and her book Immortal, you can visit her website at

Monday, July 21, 2008

57. 100 Years of Ermintrude by Tom Evans


Title: 100 Years of Ermintrude
Author: Tom Evans
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 33
Format: ebook from publisher for review
Rating: 3/5 stars
Finished: 7-20-08

A woman's entire life told in one book consisting of 33 stanzas, Tom Evans' 100 Years of Ermintude tries to be the touching and heart-felt life story of Ermintrude. The idea, however, just doesn't come off quite as well as I think the author intends it to.

Ermintrude's life story is told backwards, from her 100th birthday going back. Each major life happening (her husband's death, her daughter's breast cancer, her gay son's wedding) is told through a stanza. While this seems like it could be a unique way in telling a life story, and it is, I think it's due to the forced nature of some of the rhymes that the story looses it's strength; the story doesn't flow as naturally as it should. It's a strong story told through a medium that just doesn't seem to hit it's stride.

Flaws aside, 100 Years of Ermintrude is still an interesting character study. Ermintrude comes across as a feisty, determined person, the type whom old age has snuck up on and they aren't ready for it. Throughout her life, she seems to have stood strong and accepted what life has handed her and moved forward. That is a point that I must emphasize. Even though Evans tells Ermintrude's story in reverse, you can still see how she has moved forward in her life. The story telling process creates an interesting contrast in seeing how Ermintrude's life has progressed while we are watching her grow younger.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sample Chapter of Aberrations

If you are interested, click here for a free pdf of the first chapter of Penelope Przekop's excellent novel, Aberrations. I read this this past weekend and was glad that I did.

Happy reading!

Tuesday Thingers 15 July 2008

This weeks question: Book-swapping. Do you do it? What site(s) do you use? How did you find out about them? What do you think of them? Do you use LT's book-swapping column feature for information on what to swap? Do you participate in any of the LT communities that discuss bookswapping, like the Bookmooch group for example?

Simple answer, no. First off, generally I keep any book that I read (I'm a little neurotic about that - once I've read a book, that particular copy becomes mine, and I have a hard time parting with it or reading another copy of the same story - weird, I know). If I know a book won't be enjoyed again in the future, I take it to my local library and donate it to them. I know I can use sites like Bookmooch to get other books, but mailing anything is such a hassle anymore, and the library is right across the street, so it's just easier to give the books to them.

Usually, if I take a book to the library, I find one in their store that I'm looking for anyway, and they also only charge 50¢ for paperbacks and $1 for hardcovers, so it still works out cheaper to do it that way that to pay for postage, too.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Aberrations by Penelope Przekop


Title: Aberrations
Author: Penelope Przekop
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 336
Publisher: Emerald Book Company
Author Website:
Rating: 5/5 stars

From Amazon:
Twenty-one-year-old narcoleptic Angel Duet knows her father harbors secrets. He loves and protects her, but his suspicious refusal to discuss her mother's death drives Angel to worship an image created from the little history she does have: her father's sketchy stories and her mother's treasured photography, studies of clouds that have hung in the their foyer for more than twenty years.

When her father's girlfriend moves in, the photographs come down, and Angel's search for truth becomes an obsession. As she struggles to uncover the past and gain control over the narcolepsy that often fogs her world, Angel descends into a dizzying realm of drugs, adultery, and confused desire that further obscures reality.

As Angel begins to expose a history she could never have imagined, she discovers her entire life has been anchored around lies. Accepting the truth, once found, is the key to understanding herself, her family, and her life. To truly awaken, Angel must realize that sometimes the gifts we receive are not what we want--and only in time do we see their worth.

At first glance,
Aberrations is the story of a young woman who learns to live with her narcolepsy, and who struggles immensely to understand how her mom died when she was born and to discover who her mother really was. But the debut novel of Penelope Przekop moves insightfully into a whole other dimension, showing the reader how each of us lives a life of aberration, that we each have some kind of stigma or conflict or handicap to overcome. We also discover that having the strength to first seek out the truth and then to live with it can be quite challenging.

A marvelous and unique coming of age story, Penelope Przekop's Aberrations is the story of Angel Duet as she discovers the who she is and how she can find the missing pieces of herself. It is a book about discovering who you are to yourself, and not what others want you to be, about accepting all the bits that make you who you are and about finding unconditional love, even if it isn't necessarily where you thought it would come from.

Angel Duet, 21, suffers from narcolepsy and has strengthened herself over the years by closing herself off emotionally from others, living a solitary existence with her father and the memories of her deceased mother. The only real contact she has emotionally with anyone else is Mac, the married doctor whom she is having an affair with. Through new friends that she makes at her summer job, Tim and Kimmy, Angel begins to see the rut that her life is in (as are the others). Each discovers that they hold a secret that they believe sets them apart from everyone else around them; Angel's narcolepsy, Tim is gay and Kimmy is a virgin. After Tim convinces Angel to come out one night with him to the local gay bar, she meets his cousin, Scarlette, and more confusion sets into Angel's life, as there is an attraction to Scarlette, but is it sexual or simply the comforting idea that in Scarlette, Angel can find her idea of mother?

The book is ultimately about unconditional love, and the want and need of everyone to find that. I believe it's a fairly universal need. Generally, that idea is found in the idea of mother and that is what Angel feels she is missing in her life. She searches for it everywhere; through confrontation with her father over the true nature of her mother's death, through sex, both with Mac and with Scarlette, through artificial means while using Ecstasy. When Angel finally finds her idea of mother, it isn't necessarily where she thought it would come from, but it ultimately was the perfect way for her to find it.

Each character has a slight aberration that sets them apart from what they consider, or what society considers, normal; but are the characteristics that make you unique an aberration, or just part of who you are, to be accepted and nurtured, both by yourself and others? Through Tim's newness of discovering friends that he can share his homosexuality with, through Kimmy's emotional growth, through Angel's discovery of mother, each character grows and discovers it isn't always necessarily the best thing to be the person that other's want you to be or to hide behind your secrets; ultimately the unconditional love that each of us is searching needs to come from within.

To be honest, I couldn't put this book down. I thought I'd get it read in a couple of readings, but after I started, the story moved so well and the writing was so beautiful, I didn't want to stop. The prose is lyrical and flowing and the story moves without shoving it's way through. The characters are real, with real problems and real emotion. The only drawback I had was the "southern-accent spelling." It kept distracting me as I kept trying to read in a southern accent as opposed to simply reading the story. But realistically, it could simply be me. Aberrations is a beautiful story, and I look forward to what gems Penelope Przekop will be giving us in the future.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Sunday Salon 13 July 2008

Hello, fellow Salon Members! I hope this loverly Sunday morning finds all of you healthy and well-read for the week.

It's nice to be back in a mood for reading. I've had a far more productive first 2 weeks in July than I did the entire month of June, such a dismal reading month! This last week, I tried to read the ARC The Spirit of the Place by Samuel Shem, which was a disappointment. I have moved on to my next ARC, Penelope Przekop's Aberrations, which proves to be a much better selection. I also enjoyed Walter Moers' A Wild Ride Through the Night. I also admit to cheating horribly on my reading challenge for the year, with a recent reread of Brian Froud's Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book, 10 3/4 Anniversary Edition.

Well, it appears to be a short Salon for me this week. My roomie just stopped by from housesitting for his parents, and we have decided to have lunch today and enjoy the beautiful day, so off I go. It is too loverly a day to be wasted indoors today.

I hope to be able to visit some of your Salons later in the day.

Happy reading, everyone!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

55. A Wild Ride Through the Night by Walter Moers


Title: A Wild Ride Through the Night
Author: Walter Moers
Copyright: 2003
Pages: 182
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 4/5 stars
Finished: 7-12-08

Some of you may or may not remember, but a couple of months back I had found a copy of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner with the accompanying Gustave Doré illustrations? Well, much to my delight, last weekend I stumbled across Walter Moers' A Wild Ride Through the Night. I'd heard about this book, but had had a terrible time locating a copy anywhere. Cut to last weekend, and I'm standing in the Borders Outlet and discover a pile of them for $4 each. I was ecstatic! Well, it turns out the reason I haven't been able to find a copy is because it hasn't been released in the States yet (September something, I think) and this is a UK edition (it is priced £16.99).

Walter Moers' A Wild Ride Through the Night is a very clever book. Moers takes 21 of Doré's illustrations and uses them to create a story of how Doré grew up to became the artist that he did. The illustrations are taken from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Orlando Furioso, The Raven, Don Quixote, Legend of Croquemitane, Gargantua and Pantagruel, Paradise Lost, and the Bible. While the story can seem a little simplistic in some parts and rather contrived in others, but remember, he's needing to create a story to fit around previously created works of art.

The idea works well. We meet Doré as a young boy, who happens to be captaining his own ship, which is being chased down by Siamese Twin Tornadoes. The ship is destroyed, his crew scattered to the heavens by the storm, and Death and his sister, Dementia, are waiting to take his soul. Doré strikes a deal with Death. If he is able to accomplish 6 tasks (such as traversing a forest filled with evil spirits while bringing as much attention to himself as possible; and bringing Death a tooth from the Most Monstrous of all Monsters).

You can tell that Moers spent a great deal of time in choosing just the right illustrations to use to create the story, as it all flows nicely together and they all work well as plot points. Moers will usually give a description in the story of what is happening in the accompanying illustration, which comes in handy, as there is usually so much happening in a Doré illustration, I found it very helpful to have a "map" as to the action going on in the illustration, and I noticed things in the drawing that I don't think I would have noticed before. It is a fairly fast read, but it does raise some interesting ideas about time, death, life and the purpose of life. Overall, an enjoyable little book.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

54. Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book 10 3/4 Anniversary Edition by Brian Froud


Title: Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book 10 3/4 Anniversary Edition
Series: Lady Cottington
Author: Brian Froud
Copyright: 2005
Pages: 72
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 4/5 stars
Finished: 7-8-08

OK, I admit, this is cheating on my reading challenge just a little bit. I read the original edition of Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book earlier in the year after I received the next 2 books in Brian Froud's "series" of Lady Cottington books for Christmas. I found this edition at an outlet store for $4 and couldn't pass it up. In addition to the original text, the new 10 3/4 Anniversary Edition comes with new cover art, a new foreword, 8 additional pages of story, a DVD mockumentary about Lady Cottington and her unique ability to trap fairies in her scrapbook and a new pressed fairy window cling (which I admit to having the first one in my car now - I have it on the corner of my windshield, so that it doesn't look so much as a pressed fairy as a fairy that has been smashed on my windshield whilst driving down the road). It's a very witty and clever book, and the drawings of the pressed fairies are hysterical.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Book Info - Aberrations by Penelope Przekop

If you'd like to learn some more about Penelope Przekop's new novel, Aberrations, you can visit the fan page on Facebook.

I received this from the publisher and will be reading it next week for a review, so check back here for more information.

Monday, July 7, 2008

53. Fablehaven by Brandon Mull


Title: Fablehaven
Series: Fablehaven, Book 1
Author: Brandon Mull
Copyright: 2006
Pages: 351
Format: Paperback
Rating: 4/5 stars
Finished: 7-4-08

Kendra and her brother, Seth, are forced into a 2 week visit with their grandfather Sorenson when their parents go on a cruise for vacation. Neither kid wants to visit with their grandfather, who hasn't had much contact with them over the years, and they view as being a little weird. And then there's the mystery as to why their grandmother Sorenson is never around anymore...

Turns out that their grandfather is caretaker to Fablehaven, a natural refuge of sorts for creatures of myth and fable. As they come to discover their grandfather's secret, Seth proves to be a little too curious for his own good, and progressively finds himself deeper and deeper in trouble as he breaks the ancient laws that keep the creatures of Fablehaven in check and the caretakers safe. When matters get a little out of hand, it's up to Kendra and Seth to save the day and Fablehaven.

Brandon Mull has created a plain fun book with Fablehaven. It was a relatively quick read but was still very well written. The characters are fleshed out and the action is paced just fast enough to allow the story to flow nicely. I'm looking forward to reading the rest in the series.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Spirit of the Place by Samuel Shem

Title: The Spirit of the Place
Author: Samuel Shem
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 334 (only read 132)
Format: Paperback from publisher for review
Rating: DNF
Finished: quit on 7-6-08

Samuel Shem's The Spirit of the Place is the story of Orville Rose, who is forced to leave Europe and live in his mother's home after her death by the bequest of her will; he is to live in the house for 1 year and 13 days in order to receive his inheritance. I am assuming that it is his mother's idea that after that much time, he will settle down and stop running from the things in his life that make him unhappy.

I tried to finish this book. I even went beyond my 100 page mark, even though the I did not care what happened with the sometimes overly clichéd story or to the sometimes overly stereotyped characters (if by 100 pages, it hasn't entirely grabbed my attention yet, I'm done with it - there are far more books on my shelf that warrant reading at that point). I waded through overbearing remarks on how a man is only happy with a family that included a child; an overbearing over-Jewish mother who seems to find it necessary to bring guilt on her son even after death, through "mysterious" letters written to him from beyond the grave, and then also haunting him as a ghost; constant reminders for what a poor excuse for a town Columbia is. I can't decide if Samuel Shem is writing a love story or some sort of medical story steeped in magical realism.

I was willing to give this all a try until the "explosion." We've all read the story in our emails, of the drunken fishermen using dynamite to break a hole in the ice; the dog fetching the stick of dynamite and bringing it back to the stunned fishermen, only to have it then explode. Fun little story to be emailed back and forth ad nauseam, right? Well, apparently Samuel Shem thinks this is worthy of placing in his novel, as well. At that point, I'm through with the story. If he can't come up with a plausible type of tragedy on his own, that he has to resort to ridiculous emailed urban legends and pass them off as his own, then I don't see much hope for the rest of the book.

Sunday Salon 6 July 2008

Hello, fellow Saloners! It seems like it's been an age since I was around last, but as happens during the summer, my schedule was full to brimming! However, with the loverly long holiday weekend, I am able to set aside some time to come and visit with you all.

Truth be told, another reason I wasn't around much in June is my lack of reading that I put in for the entire month. I truly only read one book the entire month long (the first in Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series, Full Moon - lots of fun, I highly recommend!). I'd gotten a couple of short readings in (the first Asterix the Gaul, which was another fun read, and then Mr. Fooster Traveling on a Whim, which I read at B&N and wouldn't recommend - it's not that it's bad, I just couldn't quite find the point of the story) and I didn't even really finish my 1001 Book for June until July 1 (Kate Chopin's The Awakening). It is embarrassing.

However, July is proving to be much better. Through The Gutenberg Project, I was able to listen to almost all of Howards End at work this week while the co-worker was on vacation, and I've read Brandon Mull's Fablehaven, which I'll be reviewing later today.

Yesterday, my roomie and I met with a friend to simply get out of town for the day, and what was supposed to be just a day spent window shopping turned into a shopping extravaganza! I found a Walt Disney Classics Collection sculpture that I've been looking for for 13 years, and the store was selling it for 1/2 price, so I couldn't pass that up. My bag that I carry everywhere (we call it my man-purse) has been looking a little worst for wear and I've been looking for a new one for quite some time now, and finally found one that I liked. I'm very particular about these bags. It took me almost a year to find the one that I carry now, and it's been the better part of 7 months that I've been looking for a new one, so while this was a bit more than I was wanting to spend, I still bought it.

And now for the books! Oh, the joy of outlet book stores!! I picked up Brian Froud's Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book, 10 3/4 Anniversary Edition (these are hilarious - I read the original 3 earlier in the year) for $5, Steve Augarde's The Various (I have never heard of this book, and according to LT, I'm the only member with it in their library, but it looked interesting and was only $4) and Walter Moers' A Wild Ride Through the Night for $4. I have been looking for this book for almost a year now. It is the story of Gustave Doré and his deal with Death to become an artist. Moers uses 21 of Doré's illustrations to tell his story. I can't wait to sit down to this little treat. (I think I just discovered why this book was so hard to find... While reading the blurb on the inside cover, I noticed the price is £16.99. Maybe it was never released in the States?). I also picked up John Scalzi's Old Man's War, since I received Zoe's Tale as an ARC and it is part of that series, and my friend K said that it was a great, fast read. She also gave me my birthday present yesterday, a copy of Edgar Allan Poe stories and poems (there is a long story behind why she bought this for me, and it's one of those stories where you really had to be there to appreciate it, but it means all the world to me that she remembered it). So all in all, a grand book buying day.

Thank you to everyone who stops by, and I hope to make my rounds to your Salons later today.

Happy reading!!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

52. Howards End by E.M.Forster


Title: Howards End
Author: E.M. Forster
Copyright: 2003 (1910)
Pages: 319
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 5/5 stars
Finished: 7-3-08

Howards End is one of my favorite books, and every couple of years I pull it down off the shelf to reacquaint myself with it. It's one of those books that has become an old friend over the years.

The story revolves around the Schlegels, Wilcoxes and Basts, three families whose lives interconnect over the course of several years and not necessarily always for the better, and at the center of the story is always the country home, Howards End. The book is an amazing study of class distinctions; passion versus intellect; constraint versus action; wealth versus poverty.

The Schlegel sisters, Margaret and Helen, are passionate for life; they want to experience as much as they can from it. The Wilcoxes come from a more conservative stock, more it tune with their wealth and possessions than anything else. After a hastily announced (as just as hastily broken) engagement between the youngest Wilcox son, Paul, and Helen, the families find themselves at odds, until an unlikely friendship forms between Mrs. Wilcox and Margaret Schlegel. Upon Mrs. Wilcox's death, she leaves Howards End to Margaret, but the Wilcoxes as a whole do not feel that Mrs. Wilcox was in her right frame of mind and never let Margaret know of Mrs. Wilcox's bequest. In amidst these settings we are also introduced to Leonard Bast, who lives on the brink of poverty and feels that through education and enlightenment he might better his life and that of his fiancée, Jacky.

There are so many subtle nuances to this story, I have a hard time getting it all down on paper. Forster has created an amazing story that is poignant in its telling and staggering in it depth. No matter how many times I read Howards End, I am always amazed at the intricacies of the story and feel that I take something new away with each reading.

I don't usually feel that movies made from books are all that memorable, but the film version of Howards End is one of those rare exceptions. Released in 1992 by the amazing film making duo of Ismail Merchant (producer) and James Ivory (director) with a screen-play by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, and starring Anthony Hopkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Emma Thompson and Helena Bonham Carter, the movie stays true throughout to the essence and feel of the book. The acting is simply amazing, the cinematography is beautiful and the direction is superb. If you've never watched it, I'd highly recommend it.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

51. The Awakening by Kate Chopin


Title: The Awakening
Author: Kate Chopin
Copyright: 1972 (1899)
Pages: 190
Format: Paperback
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Finished: 7-1-08

A novel of growth, both personal and emotional, Kate Chopin's The Awakening follows the journey of Edna Pontellier, who after spending a summer vacationing with her husband and children, decides to give up the archetypical role of wife and mother and strikes out on her own, realizing there is more to life than what society deems appropriate for a woman. The principal reasoning for her "awakening" is the realization that she is in love with another man, and believes that he loves her in return. Feeling overpowered by her own life and obligations to family, she does what few women did in that time, and moved out of her home into another house, and begins a life that is her own.

When The Awakening was first published, is was looked on as being "unwholesome," both in its independent attitude towards women and its rather frank attitude towards Edna Pontellier's sexual nature. In today's regard, the novel wouldn't be seen as being all that shocking, but it still speaks clearly for the need of independence and freedom in one's own life.

To be frank, I had a hard time getting into the book. I think I found the flow of the writing to be distracting, and halfway through reading switched to an audio book, and was able to follow the story much more clearly this way. The story did prove to be powerful in its telling, and in how Edna finally moves forward with her life.

A terrible reading month! And a pleasant surprise!

I can't believe what a terrible month June was for my reading pile! Realistically, I only read 2 books the entire month (Jim Butcher's Storm Front and Mr. Wooster Traveling on a Whim, which isn't even from my own library - I read it in B&N one evening). I finished Stewart O'Nan's Songs for the Missing on June 1, so I don't really count that, and I read the first Asterix the Gaul graphic novel, and that was so short I don't feel right counting that either!

I've been reading both Fablehaven and The Awakening for the better part of the month, and haven't been able to finish either of them. The Awakening was my 1001 Book Challenge book for June, and I did finish it this morning (via audio book), so I'm still counting it for June.

I'm hoping that July will go a little better.

Now, for the pleasant surprise. I just wanted to pass along the website for the Gutenberg Project. The Gutenberg Project has just about any classic book that is in the public domain on their website in ebook form, but today I discovered that they also have audio files for some of the books online as well. I was able to finish "reading" The Awakening today while at work by listening to it on my computer. And it is completely free. I'm enjoying listening to Howards End right now, one of my favorite books.

I just thought I'd pass it along in case some other people could take advantage of it as well.