Friday, October 31, 2008

James Dashner bookplate


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

Thanks Gail!!

Friday, October 24, 2008

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

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

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

Author Meet - Brunonia Barry

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

Thanks again, Brunonia, for such a great evening!

Tuesday Thingers 21 X 08






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

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

Monday, October 20, 2008

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

#81

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

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

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

#80

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sunday Salon 19 X 2008






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

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

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

Happy reading!

Friday, October 17, 2008

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

#79

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

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

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Tuesday (Thursday) Thingers - 16 October 2008






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

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

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

78. The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

#78

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

Go and read this book! Right now!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#77

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

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

76. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

#76

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

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

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

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

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

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

75. Come, Tell Me How You Live by Agatha Christie Mallowan

#75

Title: Come, Tell Me How You Live
Author: Agatha Christie Mallowan
Copyright: 1985 (1946)
Pages: 188
Format: Hardcover from library
Rating: 4/5 stars
Finished: 10-8-08

Come, Tell Me How You Live is Agatha Christie's memoir of her time spent with her husband while he was on an archaeological dig in Syria. Christie proves she is just as capable of writing about her everyday life as she is her murder mysteries. And she's surprisingly funny, too! There was more than one occasion where I laughed out loud at some of her descriptions of her adventures.

What surprised me most was how adaptable she was to her surroundings. I think I've been carrying around a inaccurate mental image of the Christie; one of a woman who enjoys her comforts and wouldn't be the type to be roughing it in tents in the Syrian wilderness, but what was presented in this memoir was the complete opposite. Christie had no problems going camping on route to the various digs that her husband was scouting out, but at the same time, she certainly didn't mind returning to London after several months abroad. It was very interesting to "see" firsthand what it was like to work on one of these archaeological digs in the 1930s-40s.

The only thing that I found lacking in the book was just a personal observation. She mentions writing one of her books during one of the seasons in Syria, but she never says which one it is! I would love to know which book she was writing at the time to see if her experience on the dig influenced the tone or feel of the story that she was writing.

Overall this was a fun little book and a nice departure from the usual Christie mystery fare. If you are a fan of Agatha Christie, I'd highly recommend giving this book a read. It's been out of print for awhile, so you may need to see if your library can get a copy for you, but I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Friday, October 10, 2008

I just had a treat! I got to meet Brunonia Barry!

My sister and I are sitting, right now, at the House of the Seven Gables in Salem, MA waiting to take the tour of the house. I also just got done talking to Brunonia Barry, author of The Lace Reader, in the museum gift shop!

Brunonia Barry had been doing a signing at the Borders in Portland the night before I arrived in town and I was very bitter that I was missing a chance to meet her here. I shipped my book out to my sister and she was gracious enough to take it to the store to have it signed for me.

We had no idea that Brunonia Barry was going to be in Salem today! My sister and I had already planned a trip to Salem for sightseeing and had just wandered over to the House of the Seven Gables to take a tour when we overheard someone saying that Brunonia Barry was in the garden. We purchased our tickets and marched into the garden, but no luck. Thinking we'd missed her, we went to the gift shop and there she was! It was providence! We spoke for a few moments and I told her that I'd be seeing her in Ann Arbor when she was going to be there later in the month (found that out after I sent my book to my sister). She was completely gracious and very pleasnt to talk to, even after I accosted her in the gift shop. I'm looking forward to meeting her again!

OK, the tours about to start. I'll write more later!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

You know you have a book buying problem when...

you are heading out on vacation to visit your sister and can't even get out of your departing airport without buying a book.


It's 5:50am, and I haven't even left Detroit yet and I just picked up Neil Gaiman's new book. I had set aside $15 for the new baggage fee but I bought my ticket early enough that the airline waived the fee, so I figure that's found money now, so The Graveyard Book is mine!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Book reviews are up

I have finally gotten around to posting up some of the reviews that I have been behind on.

Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go
Frank Miller's 300
John Krakauer's Into the Wild


And I think that gets me caught up on my missing reviews. Yay!