Thursday, June 30, 2011

"Life is choosing whom and what you love. Everything else follows.": Todd Johnson

The Sweet By And By (Amazon) by Todd Johnson was a surprise book-basically, I got a gift card for my birthday from my sister, and I decided to just to pick out some random books from Barnes and Noble. I must say, this book was certainly a surprise. It follows the story of women in various walks off life, all struggling with aging.

I thought the book was sad, but in a good way. There were definitely high points, but the nature of the subject made it impossible to sugarcoat. And that's okay. Honestly, when I picked it up, I expected something of a Divine Secrets of The Yaya Sisterhood. It wasn't much of that at all. Instead, it was... well, itself. I really enjoyed it. I thought it seemed like a realistic depiction of aging and all the joy and pain that goes along with it.

Todd Johnson has contact information, so here's the email I wrote him:
"I just wanted to let you know that The Sweet By and By was a wonderfully heart wrenching book. You did an amazing job of capturing the struggles these women went through. I have to say, I was a bit surprised when I realized the book was written by a man. I hope you don't take offense to that-I mean it as a compliment. Good luck on all of your future projects."

See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"He was the best of toms. He was the worst of toms.": Carmen Agra Deedy & Randall Wright

The Cheshire Cheese Cat (Amazon) by Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright is the tale of an alley cat turned mouser who becomes friends with a mouse. The book is an "homage" to Charles Dickens, and indeed, Dickens is not only a character, but is referenced throughout the book.

This book is a quick read, and rather cute. Personally, I really enjoyed it, not just for the literary references, but for the writing style and story. Occasionally, the text would be formatted to show the action happening during the story, which is always fun to read, in my opinion. This book is geared towards a younger audience, but adults can definitely enjoy this too. This book is set to be released in October.

I couldn't find contact information for either of the authors. Oh well.

In other news, Neve Maslakovic wrote a blog entry expanding on one of the questions in her interview! Check it out here. See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Author Interview: Neve Maslakovic

Hello all! I was hoping to get a book done by today, but I did not. On the plus side, I do have an awesome interview with Neve Maslokavic, author of Regarding Ducks and Universes (Amazon)! Check out her website here!

Author Bio
Before writing Regarding Ducks and Universes, Neve Maslakovic was crafting technical
papers and finishing her Ph.D. in electrical engineering at Stanford University’s STAR
Lab (Space, Telecommunications and Radioscience Laboratory). She spent her early
years speaking Serbian in then communist Yugoslavia; after stops along the way in
London, New York, and California, she has settled near Minneapolis/St. Paul, where
she lives with her husband and son. Neve is a member of the Loft Literary Center and is currently hard at work on her second novel. Visit her at

1. You have a background in electrical engineering. What made you decide you also
wanted to be a novelist?

I've been an avid reader all my life and had always wanted to try my hand at writing
fiction. As I was finishing my Ph.D. thesis (on ways of reducing man-made interference at the Big Dish, Stanford University's radio telescope) I came down with repetitive strain syndrome. I could barely open doors and drive myself, so after graduating I had to take time off. I spent that time reading— a lot! — and one day sat down to write and things just clicked. I now limit my typing to an hour at a time, which is a long time to sit still anyway, and vary that with editing on paper, reading, stretching my legs by taking a walk around the neighborhood lake to think about where the book is going, that kind of thing.

2. What was the hardest thing about writing Regarding Ducks and Universes?

The writing is the fun part. I enjoy all aspects of it –- filling up a blank page, research, editing... Well, except maybe for proofreading, because you're supposed to be only concentrating on finding typos and such in the manuscript, but I always want to keep making edits! Not big ones, just little details here and there. I hope I didn't drive my editor nuts doing that.

The business side of things is a different story. At some point you have to let go of the book and suddenly there are deadlines to worry about, reviews, sales numbers, marketing, promotion… It was all a bit overwhelming at first, but I am getting to the point where I feel more comfortable with that stuff.

3. Do you have any advice for new writers?

It's an interesting time to be in the publishing business. So much is changing and there are many paths to publication. I guess I'd say -- stay open to all opportunities. I entered my manuscript in a contest (the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award) and it led to an offer. At the time I was querying agents and also keeping an eye out on all the interesting stuff going on with the Kindle.

4. Can you tell us anything about your next project?

My second novel, which is nearing a first draft, is time-travel one. It follows the story of a motley group of university employees who are marooned in the past. To get back home they need all their wits and a little bit of luck—and a package of cheese, as it happens. I don't want to give away too much at this point (check for updates at, especially since this is the stage when things get pulled together and anything and everything is open to tweaking! Such is the nature of the editing process.

5. What is your favorite (or are your favorite) book(s)?

I'm one of those people who has trouble choosing a favorite anything, and books especially. Movies I have given plenty of online ratings to, but for some reason can't do it with books. If you go to my Goodreads page, for instance, you'll find that I've written brief reviews of books I like, but none of them have ratings. So in lieu of listing a favorite book, I'll list some favorite authors whose books sit on my shelves: Jasper Fforde, Dorothy L. Sayers, Connie Willis, Isaac Asimov, Elizabeth Peters, Douglas Adams, Alexander McCall Smith, Agatha Christie, P.G. Wodehouse, Jules Verne… I could go on, but that's probably a good beginning!

Awesome! Everyone should totally check out her website and book! See you tomorrow!

Monday, June 27, 2011

"Y'all smoke to enjoy it. I smoke to die.": John Green

Looking For Alaska (Amazon) by John Green is a book about a boy who goes to boarding school, trying to find what he calls a Great Perhaps, and he ends up finding... well, quite a few things, including friends (something he had never had before). One of them is a girl named Alaska Young, who he proceeds to fall in love with.

The book is written in sections with titles like "one hundred days before" and "forty-six days after." Now, I just read the Amazon summary, and it spoils what the "before" and "after" is about. I don't want to spoil it, because I liked not really knowing (it is foreshadowed a bit) and guessing. However, I'm going to say this: I got to that part while reading at work and I got pretty close to tears. I assume that if I hadn't been at work it would have been a lot worse.

This book hit home in a lot of ways, and I wanted to send an emotional email to John Green. He does have contact information up, with the caveat that he won't respond, pretty much no exceptions. For some reason, seeing that made me feel uncomfortable. I'm sure it's just because he's busy (he's pretty famous, I suppose-I just had never heard of him before), and doesn't want people to get their hopes up for a reply, but I still feel mildly uncomfortable sending him this emotional message, knowing he won't reply. It seems silly, somehow, even though I don't necessarily expect a reply from anyone else. I decided to send him a quick note instead (he does say that he reads every email):

"I just finished Looking For Alaska (recommended by a friend), and I wanted to commend you on an excellent story. Even though I didn't very much like the character of Alaska (she reminds me of some people I know and don't particularly get along with), it didn't matter. The book hit an emotional nerve with me, and I wanted to let you know that you did a very good job (something I'm sure you already know!). Good luck with all of your future projects!"

EDIT: I just got a delivery failure reply email, using the email on his website. Oh well.

Sorry I didn't post for a few days! It was my birthday weekend and I was rather busy! I should be back to posting daily now though.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Follow Friday

Question: In light of the Summer Solstice. Also known as Midsummer...let's talk about fairies. What is your favorite fairy tale or story that revolves around the fae?

Answer: I'm not entirely sure... I'm honestly not a big fan of faerie stories, nor have I read a whole lot of them. The only thing I can even think now is A Midsummer Night's Dream, because of the word "Midsummer" in the question. Unfortunately, faeries in general aren't really my cup of tea.

Book Blogger Hop

Question: When did you realize reading was your passion and a truly important part of your life?

Answer: I have no idea... it just always was! I read all the time as a child, and I still do now! Though, this past year made me realize how much I truly love it... last year I didn't read as much as I used to. Picking up reading again made me realize how much I missed it.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Author Reply: Joan Lester

A reply from the author of Black, White, Other. (See original post here.) She thanked me for my email and said she was glad that she made the characters real and understandable!

Also, keep an eye out, Neve Maslokovic, author of Regarding Ducks and Universes (see posts here and here.) has agreed to answer some interview style questions for us!

See you tomorrow!

"Some Girls Get In Trouble.": Ellen Levine

In Trouble (Amazon) by Ellen Levine is a book about dealing with teenage pregnancy in the 50's. Girls who get pregnant out of wedlock are shamed to no end, and many resort to desperate measures to get rid of their child. The ones who don't want to get rid of their child through termination of the pregnancy are often sent to group homes, where they make you change your name and give up the child. Now, In Trouble isn't all about teen pregnancy-it's also about McCarthy era politics and a family torn apart by one of their members being accused of being a communist.

Honestly, at first I wasn't a big fan of the book-it felt like Ellen Levine went to some extreme lengths to set up the setting. However, as the book progressed, I forgot about that, and paid more attention to the story. I have to say, I loved it. I honestly think anyone who has an opinion on contraception or abortion or really anything having to do with reproductive rights of women should read this book. I don't think it will change anyone's mind, but I think that understanding the difficult position some people are in when deciding whether or not to terminate a pregnancy or give a child up for adoption is very important. I think Ellen Levine does a pretty good job of conveying the hopelessness and overall confusion of the situation for a young girl.

She has contact information! Here's my email:
"I just finished In Trouble (through and I wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed it. I think you did a remarkable job of portraying girls struggling with teen pregnancy. In Trouble is a book I think anyone with a stance on women's reproductive rights should read. Good luck with all of your future projects!"

This book will be out in September.

An author reply will be posted later today! See you then!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Author Reply: Jasper Fforde

A very exciting author reply came yesterday: Jasper Fforde! (See my original email here.) He was the first author I wrote to! He is definitely one of my favorite authors of all time. In my email to him I mentioned how one of his books (Shades of Grey) reminded me of The Giver by Lois Lowry. He said that many have pointed out the connection to The Giver, and that there is another book (he didn't say what) that people said was similar. He also said that he's glad that in the entire genre of fantasy, only two books have been mentioned to have similar themes.

I think that it's very cool that he wrote back! I wasn't really expecting him to. On his site he says not to expect it. I have another author reply for tomorrow, so expect that and another review!

"But the mountain just ignores him and walks by.": Ben Loory

"Stories For The Nighttime and Some For The Day" (Amazon) by Ben Loory is a collection of short stories, due in July. These stories have a fairly broad range, from the main character being an octopus who lives in an apartment to a tree that discovered it could walk to the ocean and a house that sits by it. Sometimes the main characters are human, but no matter what sort of object or animal the main character is, the stories are all about humanity. Pretty much everything is a metaphor for some aspect of living.

I enjoyed most, if not all, of these stories. They all captured some sort of emotion, and I found myself reacting to quite a few of them. The wide range of subjects in his stories kept it interesting-sometimes reading about people gets dull, and the thought of living in a world where maybe, just maybe, you might find that an octopus has moved into an apartment next door, is pretty cool, actually. Anyway, here is what I wrote to Ben Loory:

"I just read Stories For The Nighttime and Some For The Day (through and I wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed your work. Pretty much all of the stories left me with some emotion or another, which I would say is a pretty good achievement. I read it all in pretty much one sitting, because your stories were just the right length that I could say "Oh, just one more... and now one more..." and so on. Thank you for your book, and good luck on all future projects."'

I'll be posting an author reply later. See you then!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.": Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Amazon) by Ransom Riggs was, at least to me, hyped up quite a bit. Quite a few blogs I read gave it excellent reviews. And I have to say that, in my opinion, it deserved all of the good reviews it could get.

This book is the story of a boy, Jacob, who was told fantastical stories by his grandfather as a child. Stories of a home where "peculiar" children were housed, children who could levitate, or who were invisible, or any other number of strange qualities. He supplemented these stories with photographs. Once Jacob gets older, he stops believing in the stories and his grandfather stops telling them. Then, his grandfather dies, leaving him with some cryptic last words that indicate that he should go to the house his grandfather told him about. While he's there, he makes a number of discoveries, and realizes he's gotten into far more than he bargained for.

I think my favorite part about this book is the fact that every photograph mentioned in the book is also shown in the book (You can see one of them in the cover there. It's a bit hard to see, but the girl is floating above the ground.). It really helps the atmosphere the book creates. Also, the concept itself is fairly unique, and was definitely refreshing. The story itself is exceptionally well told. Basically, anyone interested in fantasy, historical fiction, or just good adventure stories should read this book.

I had better get onto the email, before I just ramble on forever about how much I loved this book. Here it is:
"I just finished reading Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and I wanted to tell you that I thought it was simply amazing. I've seen a bunch of good reviews and you deserve every one of them. I hope you know that you have created something simply fantastic. I hope you continue to write-I'll certainly be looking for more books from you. Good luck on all of your future projects!"

A few more things: I reached 500 total page views today. It may not be a huge achievement in the grand scheme of things, but I'm really proud, so thank you all for reading. Also, I have another author reply for tomorrow. I'm not entirely sure what I'll be reading next, so we'll see! See you tomorrow!

Author Response: Julie N. Ford

So Julie N. Ford, who wrote Count Down To Love (yesterday's post) responded! She thanked me for taking the time to email her! She also mentioned how the first amazon review she got left her feeling worried, and gave her a few sleepless nights. I really like that she was that honest with me. She also commented on yesterday's post AND linked to that page in her blog! Her blog is here. You should all check it out!

Later today, expect a review of Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children-a book that was just released, actually, instead of one that hasn't been released yet. See you then!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Author Reply: Marci Peschke & Tuesday Mourning

Happy to report that both the author and illustrator of Drama Queen (see post here) replied to my emails. Tuesday Mourning said that the Kylie Jean series was "a treat" to work on. Marci Peschke said that the lessons about staying a good person and being beautiful on the inside to be beautiful on the outside "seeped in organically," and that "Being pretty inside and out is a lesson my mother taught me!" She also said that getting the books published is a dream come true!

Pretty cool overall. I really like when the authors write back.

"Is it possible to feel like a stranger in your own skin?": Julie N. Ford

"Count Down To Love" (Amazon) is a cute, if somewhat predictable, romance novel. It tells the story of Kelly Grace Pickens, who is left at the altar on her wedding day. She finds herself with no money and ends up going on a dating show to earn some money and figure out what to do next.

Now, there were parts of this book that made me uncomfortable. Kelly is a southern girl, through and through. She's naive in some ways, and does things that are slightly racist at times, though she doesn't mean to. I think this was supposed to make her more lovable to a certain demographic, but when she talks about the Civil War and claims that just because the south lost, doesn't mean they gave up, well... it just made me a little less on her side. Maybe it's the northerner in me. There are also a lot of invocations to God, which doesn't especially bother me, but might bother some readers.

However, overall I enjoyed this book. It was a light, fun romance novel. A good beach read, I would say. Even if the main character and I didn't see eye to eye all of the time, I still enjoyed the concept and story.

There is an email address for Julie N. Ford, and so here is my email to her:
"I just read Countdown To Love (through and I just wanted to tell you I enjoyed it. Though at times I wanted to cringe at Kelly Grace Pickens' naive insistence about her fiance's good intentions, I liked reading about her gaining her independence and growing as a person. Good job with this book, and good luck on all of your future projects!"

This book is due in July.

Not sure what I'll read next or when I'll post next or anything, so... see you then!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

"Take charge. Listen to your heart, what guides you. Only you can.": Joan Lester

"Black, White, Other" (Amazon) by Joan Lester is the story of a biracial teen, Nina Armstrong, dealing with all sorts of issues. She is learning that kids (and the world) can be cruel to those who don't "fit in." If that weren't hard enough, she has to deal with her parents separation and the feeling that they're not the people she thought they were. She ends up finding solace in the story about her great-great-grandmother's escape from slavery. It aids her in her journey of self discovery.

I enjoyed this book. Joan Lester did a very good job of portraying a typical confused teenager. I will admit, I found all of the characters irritating at times, but I think that that is actually a good thing. The story was about people trying to find their place in the world-emphasis on the "people." By exposing their weaknesses, Joan Lester created a realistic story, about people who didn't know the answers-and were also aware that finding them wasn't going to be easy.

I actually found contact information for Joan Lester! Here's what I wrote:
"I just read Black, White, Other (through and I wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed it. You did an excellent job of crafting believable characters. Even if I didn't agree with a lot of Nina's decisions, I could understand why she would do the things she did. Reading about her not being able to talk to her parents was frustrating-but at the same time I know exactly what that feels like. Once again, excellent job with this book."

Black, White, Other is due to be released on September 1st, so keep an eye out for it! I probably won't be posting later today-but we'll see! (Also, yes I know, this wasn't any of the books I said I'd read-I'm probably going to give up on the idea of accurately predicting my next review.)

Friday, June 17, 2011

"My Halo Attracts Lightning/& So I Am Dead": L.S. Klatt

Cloud of Ink (Amazon) by L.S. Klatt is one of those books that I liked, even if I didn't understand it. It is a book of poems, all freeverse, and all covering different topics. There is a definite theme of nature through, with bees and sea life being very prevalent. Personally, I just liked the way the poems sound, even if I got the feeling I didn't quite understand what was going on. Mostly, I liked certain lines, and not necessarily whole poems. One set of lines I like is "But we should/not blame History/for a message never sent," and another is "the beetle recesses into sanctum/&, all but forgotten, finds/itself next to impossible."

I would say this book is worth buying if you're a fan of poetry. It's pretty good, honestly. It seems like the type of thing you'd be able to read multiple times and get different experiences out of it each time.

Unfortunately, this is another case of me not being able to find contact information. I'm not entirely sure what I'll be reading next... it's probably between Nerd Girls by Alan Lawrence Sitomer, Cinder and Ella by Melissa Lemon, and Napier's Bones by Derryl Murphy. Who knows though? I've been known to be fickle! See you tomorrow!

Friday Hops

A weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee. The question is Genre Wars! What's your favorite genre and which book in that genre made it your favorite?

I'm going to say that Science Fiction and Fantasy are my favorite genres. I'm not sure what book(s) made them my favorite. I can't remember what the first Science Fiction and Fantasy books I read are, but I know that Into The Land of Unicorns and Song of the Wanderer by Bruce Coville were two books I really liked when I was younger. I just realized there is more to the series... maybe I'll pick it up again sometime!

Book Blogger Hop

A weekly meme hosted by Crazy For Books. The question is “How many books are currently in your To-Be-Read (TBR) Pile?”

The answer is: far too many. I have a ton through netgalley. I also have House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski that I've been reading on and off, and The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers.

If you just found this blog through one of these memes, welcome! Leave a comment and I'll be sure to visit you!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

"Pretty Is As Pretty Does": Marci Peschke & Tuesday Mourning

"Drama Queen" (Amazon) by Marci Peschke and illustrated by Tuesday Mourning is obviously for young children (Amazon says ages 4-8). However, I don't see why an adult wouldn't enjoy reading this book with their child. Yes, the plot is simplistic. It's about a young girl wants to be a beauty queen and has to deal with various obstacles. In this case, her obstacle is a mean new girl named Paula who wants the same part in a school play. However, there are a couple of scenes that parents would probably be more amused at than their child-a miscommunication about a dog being one of them.

When I first read the description of this book, I was a little on the fence about it. After all, do young girls need more beauty queen role models? However, the book contains an important lesson: In order to be pretty you have to act pretty. Occasionally Kylie struggles with this. However, she does her best, and I think that it sends a good message to young girls.

Luckily, both Marci Peschke and Tuesday Mourning have contact information! Here is what I wrote to Marci Peschke:
"I just read Drama Queen (I got a copy from and I wanted to say that I enjoyed it, even though I am definitely not the target audience. I applaud your effort to teach girls that to be pretty they have to act pretty-a lesson many people seem to forget.

Good luck with your writing!"

And here's what I wrote to Tuesday Mourning:
"I just finished reading Drama Queen (I got a copy through and I just wanted to let you know that your illustrations were very enjoyable. I really liked your art style, and I think it's the sort of thing that would appeal to both parents and their children.

Good luck with all your future projects!"

I hope two posts a day isn't too much... I have a lot of books to read and I read pretty fast so I don't see why not. The next post will probably be tomorrow and about Cloud of Ink by L.S. Klatt. See you then!

"Solitude causes/Loneliness, yes, but also/Fits of ecstacy": Beth Griffenhagen & Cynthia Vehslage Meyers

Set to be released in October, Haiku For The Single Girl (Amazon) reminds me of a modern day Chicken Soup For The Soul book (do they still make those?). With honest haiku like, "I saw an old flame/And he looked. Just. Terrible/Ah, schadenfreude," any single girl is bound to relate. Cynthia Vehslage Meyers' illustrations of Beth Griffenhagen's words are simply perfect as well.

Unfortunately, I can't actually find actual contact information for Beth Griffenhagen. However, he website for this book is here, and worth checking out. I did find her twitter account (haiku4singlegrl) and send her the following tweet:
@haiku4singlegrl Just read your book and am going to be blogging about it tomorrow. I just wanted to tell you that I loved it!

I also cannot find any information on Cynthia Vehslage Meyers. Oh well.

Anyway, I'll see you tomorrow or later today! I'm not entirely sure what I'll be posting about yet, so it'll be a surprise for everyone!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Author Reply: Paul Tobin

So, a bonus second post for the day! I got a reply from Paul Tobin, the author for Gingerbread Girl. He said it was very challenging to write Gingerbread Girl, but he's proud of the way it turned out. I would be too! By the way, his website is here if you want to check it out.

Also, you may have noticed that I did some redesigning. It's not nearly as fancy as most of the other blogs I follow, but I think it looks nice. I'll probably be messing around with it more in the future. Note the new "Books I've Read" page-an easier way to check if I've written about a book you like or are interested in! Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

One last thing: I will definitely not be posting about Speak Out tomorrow. The reason is this: it is a compilation of short stories, all by different authors. I have been thinking about how I want to handle books like that, and I decided that I would handle each story individually (all in one post) and contact each of the authors individually. I definitely won't have time to finish that by tomorrow. Instead, I will be posting about Haiku for the Single Girl, written by Beth Griffenhagen and illustrated by Cynthia Vehslage Meyers. I may post about a second book later in the evening as well, but it all depends on how much reading I get done tonight. See you tomorrow!

"This Silly World Forces Us to Lead Silly Lives": Paul Tobin & Colleen Coover

First, I need to apologize. In my last post I incorrectly stated that the author of Gingerbread Girl (Amazon) is Colleen Coover. In fact, she is the illustrator and Paul Tobin is the author. On the plus side, both of them have contact information up!

First, a quick description of the book:
Gingerbread Girl is a graphic novel, set to be released on July 12th, 2011. It is the story of a girl named Annah Billips who may or may not have a sister named Ginger. This story is told from the point of view of... well, of everyone. From Annah herself to a pigeon, the reader gets to hear all sorts of points of view on this girl.

Overall, I thought the book was cute. Not exactly my cup of tea, but an excellent way to kill an hour or so. Both the writing and the illustration were fairly no frills, which was appealing.

Anyway, onto the letters!

Paul Tobin:
"I just finished reading Gingerbread Girl (through and I just wanted to let you know that I thought the story was very unique. Though the concept wasn't something I personally find too interesting, I think the way it was executed made it appeal to me. I especially liked the concept of having multiple narrators tell Annah's story.

I see from your website that you are at a writer's retreat. I hope it is going well, and good luck on your writing in the future."

Colleen Coover:
"I just finished reading Gingerbread Girl (through and I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed your illustration style. It was not over detailed, and seemed like the perfect way to tell the story of Annah. Based on your website, it looks like you're working on a secret project. Good luck with that and all of your future projects."

They're fairly short, but honestly, while entertaining, the book didn't appeal to me on any sort of emotional level.

In theory tomorrow's book is Speaking Out: LGBTQ Youth Stand Up by Steve Berman. We'll see if that ends up being true. See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Author Reply: Neve Maslakovic

No new book today. However, I got a reply to one of my emails! Neve Maslakovic (who wrote Regarding Ducks and Universes) sent me a lovely reply. She said Jasper Fforde is one of her favorite authors! She also sent me a link to her blog, which you can find here, so we can all stay up to date as she writes her second book.

I found a website where you can request galleys, and I have a bunch of requests in. I figured it was a good way to find authors I've never heard of on a budget. A few of the requests have been auto approved, so here's a list of what I have tentatively planned for the next few days:
Wednesday-Gingerbread Girl by Colleen Coover (graphic novel)
Thursday-Speaking Out: LGBTQ Youth Stand Up by Steve Berman
Friday-Count Down To Love by Julie N. Ford
Saturday-Liar's Kiss by Jhomar Soriano (graphic novel)

That'll get us through the rest of the week! See you tomorrow!

Monday, June 13, 2011

"Each Bird Must Fly On Its Own Wings": Gaile Parkin

"Baking Cakes In Kigali" (Amazon) is a book about many things. But mostly, it's a book about people. The book takes place in Rwanda, sometime after the genocides-I believe around 2000. I'm not entirely sure. It tells the story of Angel Tungaraza and her community. Though she is not from Rwanda herself, she has many encounters with those who survived the genocide.

Gaile Parkin did something amazing with this book. It covers many heavy topics-AIDS, genocide, genital mutilation-without being heavy. At no point did I want to put the book down because it was too depressing or upsetting. All of these topics are handled very gracefully, and presented as facts of life, albeit facts of life that Angel is struggling to deal with.

Unfortunately, I could not find any contact information for Gaile Parkin. If I were to send her an email, I would tell her that I found her work beautiful and inspiring. It was a book about people surviving, but it was light enough that it wouldn't be out of place as a "beach book." Not once did it feel preachy. Instead, it is up to the reader to form opinions and decide what lessons they want to take away.

Well, this is the last of the books in my possession. Tomorrow I'm supposed to get another couple of books delivered, so there's that. However, I have something else to talk about tomorrow, so there will definitely be a post!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Book Hop

So, I know I already posted today, but I found this while browsing around, and I thought it was a cute idea-a good way for different book bloggers to network. Click on the logo to find new book blogs!

EDIT: The code they gave me appears to not be working... but you can click here to find a list of participating blogs!

And here is my answer to their question, "Who is the ONE author that you are DYING to meet?"
I would have to say Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett (I know it says one but... I want to meet both!) because I love love love their books. I admire both of them greatly and I wish I could write half as well as both of them!

"A Great Artist Can't Belong To Just One Person; She Belongs To Everyone": Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

Today's book is "There Once Lived A Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbor's Baby" (Amazon). Ludmilla Petrushevskaya is a Russian author who is currently 73. She has had quite the life, as the introduction to this book points out. She lived in the Soviet Union and dealt with her works going from being banned to highly respected. Her work shows many signs of her personal struggles in life. Now, I cannot find any contact information for Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, so I'll just elaborate on my thoughts on this book. If anyone stumbles across a way to contact her, I'd love to know.

Apparently this collection won the World Fantasy Award for Best Collection last year. I have no idea who else was nominated, or even if that award works that way, but I have to say, I can see how this would win. The stories are often rather chilling. In some of them, you don't even realize how terrifying the concepts are until a few minutes after you're done reading.

Sometimes the writing style seems very... the best word I can think of is "stark." Very no nonsense and bare bones. However, I think that may be the result of being translated from Petrushevskaya's native Russian. I don't think it necessarily detracts from any of the stories, it just isn't my preferred writing style.

Overall, most of the stories were the kind that stopped and made you think. The one that affected me most was probably "Hygiene," which was a story about a disease and a family's paranoia leading to their downfall. To me, the concept of destroying yourself from within because of fear is a fairly chilling concept. However, some of the stories had happy, or at least satisfying endings, such as "Marilena's Secret" and "The Cabbage-Patch Mother."

This book is definitely correctly classified as a "horror" novel. However, it's not the kind of horror I'm used to. Don't pick it up expecting Stephen King or anything like that. Ludmilla Petrushevskaya has a voice all her own, one definitely worth listening to.

The next book is "Baking Cakes in Kigali" by Gaile Parkin. It will definitely be a change of pace from "There Once Lived A Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbor's Baby." I'm not going into work tomorrow, so I'll have plenty of time to read, and there might be a post then. After that though, the posts are definitely going to be less frequent, as I'll have less free time.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

"Interesting Things Seem To Happen Around Paper Books": Neve Maslakovic

"Regarding Ducks and Universes" (Amazon) was originally entered in the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. Though it did not win, Neve Maslakovic was later contacted by AmazonEncore (something I will probably be using to find new books) and the book was published in February of 2011.

I really enjoyed the writing style of this book. It actually reminded me a lot of Jasper Fforde. The book follows Felix Sayers, resident of Universe A (Universe B having split off in 1986) and his quest to find his alter (the Universe B version of himself). Along the way he meets various people researching the split, who suspect that he has a lot more to do with the branching of the universes than anyone realized.

The following is my email to Neve Maslakovic:
"I just finished your book, Regarding Ducks and Universes. I just wanted to tell you that I really quite enjoyed it. Your writing style and concept remind me a bit of Jasper Fforde, another one of my favorite authors. The lighthearted nature of your narrative, that stayed consistent even during the darker parts of the novel, was really enjoyable to me. I enjoyed the entire "what if" nature of the work as well. Also, Felix's struggles to sit down and just begin a novel is something many aspiring authors can relate to, and provided a nice subplot.

I saw on your website that you're writing your second book. I will definitely keep an eye out for it. Good luck with your writing!"

I'm not entirely sure what book to read next-I have two to pick from. However, both are relatively short, so I'll probably finish one in the next day or two. So expect a post then! By the way, any recommendations of books to read would be great. Leave a comment!

Friday, June 10, 2011

The First Letter: Jasper Fforde

Well, technically the title is a misnomer, as I have decided to write an email instead. Anyway, Jasper Fforde is probably not as obscure as many of the other authors I'm going to be tackling this summer. However, I think it will be a good "warm up" sort of email. I will be focusing primarily on Shades of Grey, which was published in 2009. I must say, Jasper Fforde is one of my favorite authors. I highly recommend reading anything you can find by him.

The follow is the email I wrote:

"I just wanted to take a minute to thank you for all of your work. I have read almost everything you have written so far, but I especially wanted to comment on "Shades of Grey." I thought the concept and setting were fairly fantastic. The idea of color, something almost everyone takes for granted, being the driving force behind the world's economy and lifestyle, was ingenious. It reminded me a little bit of "The Giver," by Lois Lowry, a book I really enjoyed when I read it in school (and multiple times after). Just like "The Giver," "Shades of Grey" is the kind of book that when you reread it, you catch things you missed before. I sincerely look forward to the sequel-I'm a little disappointed that I have to wait until 2013, but it's worth it!

I hope all is well with you, and you continue to enjoy creating such wonderfully creative books. Thank you again for sharing your books with the world."

I am currently reading "Of Ducks and Universes" by Neve Maslakovic. I expect to finish it tonight or tomorrow, so expect another post then!

An Introduction

Recently I noticed that my reading habits have become rather stale. Often I reach for a book by an author I'm familiar with, or even a book I've already read, as opposed to branching out. I've decided to change that. This summer (and hopefully after) I will read books by authors I've never heard of before.

I also had another thought. "Big name" authors, the J.K. Rowlings, Stephen Kings, and Neil Gaimans of the literary world must receive endless amounts of feedback from their loyal fans. But what about those who are lesser known? Surely they must receive some mail or feedback. But why not add a bit more? So I decided that along with reading their novels or short story collections or whatever else, I will send them an email or write them a letter, telling them what I thought of their work.

This blog will chronicle my little literary adventure. I'll be posting the letters I write, along with any other thoughts on the books that I didn't feel necessary to include in the letters. Feel free to leave your thoughts and suggestions in the comments. And now, off to write my first letter!