Coming soon! A brand new From My Bookshelf experience.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Skellig by David Almond


Title: Skellig
Author: David Almond
Copyright: 1998
Pages: 182
ISBN: 9780440416029
Publisher: Yearling Books
Author Website:
Format: Paperback (borrowed)
Rating: 4/5 stars
Finished: 1-8-11
Awards: Printz Honor, 2000

From Amazon:
Ten-year-old Michael was looking forward to moving into a new house. But now his baby sister is ill, his parents are frantic, and Doctor Death has come to call. Michael feels helpless. Then he steps into the crumbling garage... What is this thing beneath the spiders' webs and dead flies? A human being, or a strange kind of beast never before seen? The only person Michael can confide in is his new friend, Mina. Together, they carry the creature out into the light, and Michael's world changes forever...

Skellig is one of those books that each reader will take something distinctly different from it. I'm not even sure I know what I took away from it. Was it a book about hope and faith? The mysteries of the great beyond? I'm not really sure, but given that I'm still thinking about it a couple of weeks after I read the book is a good sign that it did make me think.

Michael's life has been turned upside down. He's moved to a what was promising to be a shiny, new home but instead has found himself in a rundown house that is in need of severe renovations. He has moved away from his usual school, but has elected to take the bus across town to be able to still attend so he can be with his friends. Add to all this his little sister being born prematurely, and Michael finds that his mother and father may be a little too preoccupied to be able to pay much attention to him and he's forced to "understand" a lot when things aren't going as he thought they were going to. One day while exploring the ramshackle garage behind the house, Michael discovers what may or may not be a person under the spiderwebs and dead flies.

The only person that Michael feels confident in disclosing his secret to is his new friend Mina. Mina seems to understand what the man in the garage is and what he means, and together Michael and Mina help to bring him out into the open again.

I'm going to stop there. What makes the book so powerful is the discovery and journey you take with Michael and Mina as their lives begin to change as a result of the being in the garage. This is a reasonably fast read, so it won't take anyone long to finish it, but the story lingers far after you've finished reading it. David Almond gives you just enough of the pieces of the puzzle so that you can almost understand what's happening, but leaves everything just ambiguous enough so that you can reach your own conclusion without being weighed down by a finite answer. I don't usually like ambiguous storytelling; I generally like my story spelled out in black and white for me, but in this case, I'm happy to have my own thoughts on what the book means to me.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Books in the mail; or, I'm recovering from the plague and I've no reviews right now...

So, to top everything else off, I've been fighting off a cold for the better part of a month now, which finally took it's final toll and sent me to the doctor. On that note, I can't believe I'm already 7 reviews behind! I don't think I've ever been this far behind before, but I've barely had the energy to read, let alone write about what I've been reading.

But, having said that, I can at least tell you what I've read these last couple of weeks:

Skellig by David Almond
Pibgorn: the Girl in the Coffee Cup by Brooke McEldowney
Pibgorn and the Poltergeist in the Piano by Brooke McEldowney
Pibgorn and the Cantus Borgia by Brooke McEldowney
Grandville by Bryan Talbot
Doctor Grordbort Presents: Victory by Greg Broadmore
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

I've also received two packages in the mail in the last 2 weeks with sample books from HarperCollins. In these packages I've received:

Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan
Sometimes I Feel Like a Nut: Essays and Observations by Jill Kargman
Call Me Irresistible: A Novel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
A Lonely Death: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery by Charles Todd
To Have and to Kill: A Wedding Cake Mystery by Mark Jane Clark
Family Affair by Debbie Macomber

While these books are probably ones that I wouldn't have picked up on my own, I'm always on the lookout for new authors, and these are all new to me, so I'm pretty excited about reading them all. Thank you, HarperCollins!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Reviews are coming! I promise!!

Dear Patient Reader, thank you for being so patient. It's been a long week. It's been a long couple of weeks. However, I have been reading! I just haven't had time to post my reviews yet. They are coming, though, I promise. I'll have them written up and start posting them this weekend.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Just Being Audrey Book Trailer

It's no secret that I adore Audrey Hepburn, so it comes as no surprise that I'm thoroughly excited about this book! Here is a delightful little trailer for Just Being Audrey by Margaret Cardillo and illustrated by Julia Denos, from Balzer + Bray available January 25, 2011. Enjoy!

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Hunting of the Snark: An Agony in Eight Fits by Lewis Carroll, illustrated by Mahendra Singh


Title: The Hunting of the Snark: An Agony in Eight Fits
Authors: Lewis Carroll, illustrated by Mahendra Singh
Copyright: 2010
Pages: 96
ISBN: 9781935554240
Publisher: Melville House Publishing
Twitter: @melvillehouse
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 4/5 stars
Finished: 1-5-11

From Amazon:
The Hunting of the Snark, Lewis Carroll’s classic masterpiece of nonsense verse, takes the reader on a wonderfully witty and inventive hunt for the ever-elusive Snark. The tantalizing mysteries of the poem are here perfectly matched in these brilliant new illustrations by artist Mahendra Singh, who has created a visual treasure hunt, full of riddles, puns, and allusions.

When asked what his poem meant, Carroll would always reply that he did not know. But, on one occasion, he did write to friends that perhaps “…the whole book is an allegory on the search for happiness.”

“To seek it with thimbles, to seek it with care;
To pursue it with forks and hope,
To threaten its life with a railway-share;
To charm it with smiles and soap!”
What does it all mean? No one seems to know. Not even Lewis Carroll, apparently. He claimed to have no more idea on what the poem was about than anybody else, although he did mention at one point, "...the whole book is an allegory on the search for happiness." Carroll's acme of Nonsense poetry, The Hunting of the Snark: An Agony in Eight Fits is an experience to read. Does it make any sense? Not at all. Did I enjoy it all the same? Absolutely.

This was a Christmas gift from my friend Sarah as I'm a huge fan of Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. However, I'll admit that my reading experience with Carroll stops there, so this was a real treat to receive as I had not even heard of this book before!

The poem opens with the captain of the hunt gathering his traveling companions for the voyage that will take them to the Snark, so that they may hunt it. As the poem progresses, I was left in mind of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, as we get to hear tales from most of the traveling companions. Each tale leads on to the continuing hunt for the Snark, which leaves its mark on several of the traveling companions. There are several plays on words in the poem, and we even meet a couple of familiar faces from Carroll's earlier works, such as the Bandersnatch and the Jubjub Bird.

Mahendra Singh's illustrations are simply amazing. In his afterword, he explains how he used a Surrealist technique to illustrate this version of The Hunting of the Snark, a technique which I think fits the theme and tone of the poem perfectly. Singh hides jokes and visual puns in his illustrations that go along with the poems stanzas, just as Carroll hides puns, plays on words and puzzles in his poem. As I read through the poem, I would become equally involved looking at the illustrations as I was trying to figure out what it all means. I eventually gave up, and enjoyed the entire book exactly for what it is: Nonsense!

Even though it took me a couple nights to read, The Hunting of the Snark is a very fast read. In fact, I read through the entire poem a second time in one sitting, making sure I was able to follow what was happening. Even though there really isn't much rhyme (no pun intended!) or reason to the flow of the story, it still makes some sort of absurd sense and follows a natural progression to its ending. What you'll get out that ending, however, will differ from person to person. Personally, I think Carroll had it right about his poem: it has something to do with the elusiveness of that one thing in life that will make you perfectly happy. You search and hunt and may never quite find it, but it's the searching and hunting that turns the journey into an adventure.

Highly recommended.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

It's a Bookalicious Anniversary, and we're the ones getting the presents!

Pam over at Bookalicious is celebrating her two-year blogging anniversary at Bookalicious, and has she got some great prizes for us to help her celebrate! The ultimate prize? A NookColor! Click here to learn more and to enter into her great contest. While you're there, be sure to wish her a happy anniversary!!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Top-Selling Titles Last Week in Chicagoland

Top-Selling Titles Last Week in Chicagoland

Top-Selling Titles Last Week in Chicagoland

The following were the bestselling books at independent bookstores in and around Chicago during the week ended Sunday, January 2:

Hardcover Fiction

1. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson
2. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
3. Room by Emma Donoghue
4. The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
5. An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin

Hardcover Nonfiction

1. Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand
2. Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff
3. Life by Keith Richards
4. American Rose by Karen Abbott
5. The Wave by Susan Casey

Paperback Fiction

1. Major Petttigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
3. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
4. Tinkers by Paul Harding
5. Little Bee by Chris Cleave

Paperback Nonfiction

1. Just Kids by Patti Smith
2. Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
3. Michelin Red Guide Chicago 2011 by Michelin
4. Best American Nonrequired Reading 2010 by Dave Eggers and David Sedaris
5. Ron Santo: Heart and Soul of the Cubs by Chicago Tribune


1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
2. Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
3. Of Thee I Sing by Barack Obama
4. Lost Hero by Rick Riordan
5. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth by Jeff Kinney

Reporting bookstores: Anderson's, Naperville and Downers Grove; Read Between the Lynes, Woodstock; the Book Table, Oak Park; the Book Cellar, Lincoln Square; Lake Forest Books, Lake Forest; the Bookstall at Chestnut Court, Winnetka; and 57th St. Books; Seminary Co-op; Women and Children First, Chicago.

[Many thanks to the booksellers and Carl Lennertz!]

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Kindle Geeks: Ebooks for Your Geeky Side: 99 Cent Steampunk Ebooks for the Kindle

Kindle Geeks: Ebooks for Your Geeky Side: 99 Cent Steampunk Ebooks for the Kindle: "So, you like steampunk? And you like a good deal? Good! Today's post highlights five steampunk ebooks currently available for 99 cents in the Kindle store."

I just thought I'd pass this on. Sounds like a great deal, and one that I'll be taking advantage of!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Icons: The DC Comics and Wildstorm Art of Jim Lee by Jim Lee & Bill Baker


Title: Icons: The DC Comics and Wildstorm Art of Jim Lee
Authors: Jim Lee & Bill Baker
Copyright: 2010
Pages: 296
ISBN: 9781845765194
Publisher: Titan Books
Author Website:
Twitter: @jimlee00
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 5/5 stars
Finished: 1-1-11

From Amazon:
One of the most successful and popular artists to work in comics, Jim Lee is revered by fans worldwide thanks to his hyper-dynamic artwork and innovative character and costume design.

Now, his work on Batman and Superman — not to mention his legion of WildStorm heroes including WildC.A.T.s, Divine Right and Deathblow — is celebrated in this beautiful hardback, which includes an exclusive interview with Jim Lee, a tour of his studio and hundreds of full-colour illustrations and pencils spanning his entire career!

Plus an all-new cover by Lee and an exclusive, all-new eight-page comic strip, written by Paul Levitz (
Legion of Super-Heroes) with art by Lee!

A fantastic retrospective on arguably my favorite artist out there, Jim Lee, Icons is a beautifully presented volume covering Lee's time with Wildstorm and DC Comics. Including artwork that covers his entire career with both companies including sketches and art that I've never seen before, this really is the perfect book for any Jim Lee fan. The physical look of the book, too, from the shear size of the volume to the layout of the interior pages does nothing but add to the beauty of the book. I think that this is a volume that can truly show that comics are not just a form of entertainment but can also be viewed as a true work of art. Bill Baker's running comments on the art and background information on Lee and his studio makes for a nice finishing touch.

Naturally, the only thing that would make this volume perfect would be to also include his art and time with Marvel, but since he is now DC Comics' co-publisher, this may be the best book that we'll get for the foreseeable future.

Highly recommended to anyone who is a fan of Jim Lee's artwork or to anyone who enjoys a beautifully presented book of art.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Goodbye 2010, Hello 2011

Another year has come and gone, and I do believe it was my best reading year yet, at least in volume. My overall reading stats for the year:

JAN - Books read: 15 - Pages read: 2696
FEB - Books read: 5 - Pages read: 843
MAR - Books read: 7 - Pages read: 1923
APR - Books read: 6 - Pages read: 1513
MAY - Books read: 10 - Pages read: 2188
JUN - Books read: 16 - Pages read: 3276
JUL - Books read: 11 - Pages read: 2086
AUG - Books read: 5 - Pages read: 852
SEP - Books read: 7 - Pages read: 1554
OCT - Books read: 7 Pages read: 1363
NOV - Books read: 7 Pages read: 1664
DEC - Books read: 6 Pages read: 968

Books Read Total: 102
Pages Read Total: 20926

Genre/Book Type Breakdown:
Childrens - 1
Classic - 3
Fantasy - 3
Fiction - 18
Graphic Novel - 43
Horror - 5
Manga - 1
Non-Fic - 2
Travel - 1
YA - 12
Steampunk - 4
Short Story - 4
SciFi - 3
Humor - 2

Favorite Books of the Year
January - Soulless by Gail Carriger
February - Complete Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde by Oscar Wilde
March - His Majesty's Dragon, Temeraire Book 1 by Naomi Novik
April - 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill
May - Under the Dome by Stephen King
June - A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon
July - Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
August - Dangerous Neighbors by Beth Kephart
September - Blameless by Gail Carriger
October - Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge
November - The Raising by Laura Kasischke
December - Modern Fairies, Dwarves, Goblins & Other Nasties: A Practical Guide by Miss Edythe McFate by Lesley M. M. Blume, illustrated by David Foote

Favorite "New to Me" Authors of the Year:
Gail Carriger
Laura Kasischke
Naomi Novik
Norman Partridge

Favorite "New to Me" Series of the Year: This is going to be a tie between Gail Carriger's The Parasol Protectorate series and Naomi Novik's Temeraire series. Both are equally fantastic!

Largest book I read this year: Under the Dome by Stephen King (1,074 pages)

Shortest book I read this year: Princess Alyss of Wonderland by Frank Beddor (30 pages)

Book it took me the longest to read: 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill (This was actually started in October, 2009 and finished April, 2010. It is a collection of short stories, so I was reading them in between other books that I was reading.)

Book I didn't finish this year: Tinkers by Paul Harding (I just could not get into this book. At all. So, after 70 pages, I put it down and moved on.)

I know I was a little heavy on the graphic novels this year, but I had a particularly challenging year personally in 2010, and I generally fall back on graphic novels as a safety for my reading time, so in 2011 I'm hoping to maybe balance everything out a little bit better. But really, I love graphic novels, so I'm not too concerned about it.

One thing that I've promised myself for this year is NO READING CHALLENGES! I felt like I bogged myself down in challenges last year, and I want to be able to just read what I want to read. If something I'm reading lines up with a particular challenge or group read, I'll join in then, but I really want to leave my reading schedule completely open and see how that goes.

And on that note, I've been looking at my bookshelves lately and realize that I've got some really great books that I've never read, so... I'm also going to try to not buy any new books for the year... first half(ish) of the year. Now, after you've all quit laughing at this statement, I realize it's not even remotely realistic. In fact, as I'm sitting here typing this, I'm thinking of several books that I want to go pick up, right now. But I'm going to try. Let's be honest, I'll be lucky if I get through the week without buying a new book, but a guy can dream, right? The only books that I'll continue to pick up as they are released are my graphic novels. They usually have a small print run, and more often than not, I've waited to pick up something and then it becomes too hard to find, so those are being picked up as they come along. (Hello, loophole, how are you?)

Anyway, so there it is. 2010 was a great reading year. Lots of fantastic books, and some seriously wonderful new authors, and I'm looking forward to just as much reading pleasure in 2011.

Happy New Year, everyone, and happy reading!

I'm not going to lie. I rewrote this post after reading Literary Feline's year end recap post over at Musings of a Bookish Kitty. I just loved it and wanted to borrow a couple of the elements. If you're reading this, LF, I hope you don't mind! Mea culpa!