Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Martin Millar: "Fairy vomit is no doubt sweet-smelling to humans."

I discovered The Good Fairies of New York (Amazon) while aimlessly wandering around an airport bookstore. Honestly, the first thing that caught my eye was Neil Gaiman's name on the cover. A book endorsed by Neil Gaiman? How could I resist? (Actually, I think the first thing that caught my eye may have been the really nice cover art. Then Neil Gaiman's name.)

This book was actually a delightful surprise. I was expecting something similar to Neil Gaiman's usual work-but instead I got something much closer to Terry Pratchett. The Good Fairies of New York is irreverent, light hearted, and refreshingly original. Definitely a great read.

I wrote Martin Millar a quick email:

"I just read The Good Fairies of New York, and I wanted to send you a quick note to let you know that I absolutely adored it. It was really unlike anything I've ever read before. I'll definitely have to check out some of your other books!"

I actually have another book to write about, and am in the process of reading a couple of more, so in theory, there should be more posts soon.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Jasper Fforde: "Sorcerers are easily distracted, and letting them drive is about as safe as as waving around a chainsaw at full throttle in a crowded disco."

Well! It's been awhile. I was on a bit of a reading drought, but I'm back! The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde (Amazon) was the perfect book to pull me out of my slump. Now, this isn't the first time I've written about Jasper Fforde's work. Check out my very first post, about his book Shades of Grey. He also replied to me, and you can read that here.

Anyway, onto discussion of The Last Dragonslayer! This book is, in true Jasper Fforde style, hilarious and original. It combines traditional fantasy-dragons, magic-with modern living. The main character, Jennifer Strange, runs an employment agency for Sorcerers and drives a Volkswagon. Magic is struggling to find a place in the modern world, where modern conveniences have taken over.

If you are a fan of satire, fantasy, Jasper Fforde or dragons, you should definitely check this book out. There is also a sequel, The Song of the Quarkbeast, which I will probably check out soon.

Because I've already written to Jasper Fforde and gotten a reply, I decided not to this time. However, he will be on tour in the US soon, so if you're interested in perhaps meeting the man yourself, check out his tour dates here.

Have a great day!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Author Reply: Alethea Kontis

It's always nice when authors take the time to respond to what I send them. Alethea Kontis somehow managed to find this blog and comment on it! I thought that was pretty cool. So, if you're interested, just check out this post.

Next book: Nothing Daunted by Dorothy Wickenden.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Alethea Kontis: "Then quit dwelling on other people's stories and make up some of your own."

I described this book to one of my friends as "The Frog Prince on steroids." Interestingly, it could also be described as "Cinderella on steroids" or "Jack & the Beanstalk on steroids" or many other fairy tales on steroids. You see, Enchanted by Alethea Kontis (Amazon) is one of those books that is the result of taking a bunch of fairy tales and mashing them together until a brand new story comes out. I tend to like those sorts of books. If you don't, then stay away!

The story is about Sunday Woodcutter, youngest of seven sisters (yes, they're all named after days of the week), daughter to the youngest of seven sisters and youngest of seven sons. Such a huge amount of sevens can only mean one thing: Sunday is magical and fated to greatness. However, all she knows is that she's fated to be "blithe and bonny and good and gay," for all of her sisters have followed the Monday's Child nursery rhyme predictions (Wikipedia, for if you're unaware of the rhyme). One day, Sunday meets a frog in the woods, and from then on her life is never quite the same.

Definitely a fun little tale, though not especially complex. There were a few parts I found confusing-it seemed like characters found out the same information twice, needlessly. However, overall I completely enjoyed myself. Plus, it's a another book with a pretty dress on the cover (my second in two posts!). Who could resist?

Alethea Kontis has a small form available on her website, so I wrote her a quick note:

"I just finished reading "Enchanted" and I wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed it! I have a soft spot for reinvented fairy tales, making your book a really fun read for me.

Good luck with your future writing!"

I have lots more books to read, so hopefully there will be another post soon!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Kiera Cass: "But I guessed she would never stop wanting more for me, more from me. Maybe that's what mothers did."

I am infatuated with The Selection by Kiera Cass (Amazon). I'm not even joking. I stayed up super late to read it, and then I immediately got online to check when the sequel is coming out. Unfortunately, it won't be coming out until Spring of 2013 BUT there is also a TV show in the works. So, needless to say, I'm pretty excited.

So, what is The Selection? Think America's Next Top Model meets The Hunger Games. The book is set in a dystopian future, where a caste system and royalty exist. Each time a prince needs to find a princess, a contest is set up. 35 girls are chosen to live in the palace and compete for the Prince's affections. I suppose it's actually more like The Bachelor, but I've never seen that show, so I'm going to stick with my America's Next Top Model analogy. EDIT: After my initial post, I found an article referring to the proposed TV series as "The Hunger Games Meets The Bachelor." So, I guess my analogy isn't as original as I had hoped. Oh well!

The main character is America Singer, a member of the 5th caste (the artist caste, and rather low on the totem pole). She happens to be one of the only girls in the country who doesn't want to be a princess. You see, she's already in love with somebody else-and to make matters worse, he's in a lower caste than her. However, at the urging of everyone around her, she still enters the competition.

It's hard to explain why I loved The Selection so much. To me, it really did feel like an original idea, and that is always wonderful to experience. I think it's also because the book dances on the edge of cliche, but usually manages to avoid it. Kiera Cass did a great job at characterizing the girls being selected, and America Singer's telling of her experience is believable and endearing.

To my pleasant surprise, Kiera Cass has both a regular mailing address and a web form available. I decided to send her something in the web form. Here it is:

"I just finished reading The Selection. I stayed up all night reading it (and was pleased to find my reading-style referenced in your Acknowledgments). Honestly, I completely fell in love with it. Confession: I immediately got on my computer to find out when the sequel is coming out. Imagine my disappointment when I found I had to wait another year! But, seeing the news about the TV show definitely helped to ease the blow. 

Good luck with your writing & with your pregnancy."

If you want to see more information about The Selection series, definitely check out Kiera Cass' website, kieracass.com.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Extra Reading

Sometimes I stumble across interesting book-related articles or blogs, and so I figured it might be cool to highlight some of them here. Here we go!

Have you noticed a trend among book covers lately? This article discusses some book cover trends and the reasoning behind them.

Searching for the perfect beach book, but not interested in the stereotypical "trashy" beach novel? Check out the suggestions in this article.

Glee lover? Make sure you pick of Chris Colfer's new novel. Check out a short article about it here.

Read any good articles (or books) lately? Feel free to post below.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Holly McQueen: "This is the Look that will catapult me out of the realms of assistanthood and into the top echelons of celebrity wedding planning."

Sometimes you just want to read some chick lit. Confetti Confidential by Holly McQueen (Amazon) certainly fits that bill. It tells the story of Isabel Bookbinder as she tries to become a Top Wedding Planner. This is not the first Isabel Bookbinder book, but you don't need to read the others to understand or enjoy this one.

Isabel is an optimistic woman who does her best to not let mistakes get her down. However, if you're the kind of person who hates reading about embarrassing moments, this book probably isn't for you. But if you want to read about a likable woman doing her best to become a Top Wedding Planner, then this book is exactly what you're looking for!

No contact information for Holly McQueen, unfortunately.

Have a great day!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Christopher S. Wren: "The cat arrived with a bottle of Scotch."

If you are a cat lover, you need to read The Cat Who Covered the World by Chrisptoher S. Wren (Amazon). It tells the story of Henrietta, a "plucky, indispensable companion" to foreign correspondent Christopher S. Wren and his family. Henrietta traveled with the Wren family for years, from the USSR to South Africa, and she had plenty of adventures of the way.

Honestly, this book was completely delightful. It was vaguely reminiscent of the kind of books where cats help solve crimes, but it's written about a real cat, one who was much more concerned with making friends around the world than solving grisly murders. Sometimes it's nice to just read real stories about real animals.

I'm fairly disappointed that there isn't any contact information available for the author. I would love to write to him and tell him how much I enjoyed this book. Oh well!

I'm not sure which book I'll read next, but I'll hopefully post again soon!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Book List

Hello everyone! I'm really excited to be back in the swing of blogging-though I'm probably not going to get back up to my book-a-day rate of the past. However, I've been buying books like crazy and I figured I'd give you a peek at some of the books on my "To be Read" list.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente (Amazon)

This book has been on my list for a really long time. I was planning on getting it out of the library a few months ago, but I ended up not being able to find it.

From the review on Amazon: "But Valente's fairytale broods and seethes, and it is not always such a nice place. For every velocipede herd thundering across the plain, ridden by a marvelous fairy in aviator's leathers and jodhpurs, there's a whipped blue water-djinn who bears the emotional scars of slavery. For every autumn kingdom filled with fiery sylvan alchemists, there is a political exile in the winter country, banished and sorrowing. For every brave sacrifice from September's companions, there's an abandoned soap golem that wishes the good queen would restore Fairyland to its glory."

Really, it sounds like quite the book, and I'm really looking forward to finally reading it.

Confetti Confidential by Holly McQueen (Amazon)

Sometimes you just need some light, summer reading. Confetti Confidential, about a fashion designer turned wedding planner, seems to fit that bill. I like alternating between "guilty pleasure" reading and heavier, more serious novels.

The Violinist's Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code by Sam Kean (Amazon)

This is actually an educational book. However, Sam Kean has been described as "one of America's smartest and most charming science writers." (National Public Radio Michael Schaub). To me, it seems reminiscent of Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything (Amazon), a book that I read a long time ago and enjoyed.

So there you have it! A taste of the books I'll be reading over the next few weeks. These aren't all of the books I have in store, but I thought these might interest you.

Also, I updated the 'Books I've Read" page, so be sure to check it out. And remember: If you click on any of the Amazon links and then make a purchase-any purchase-through Amazon, I'll get a small portion of it. So... if you're planning on making a purchase on Amazon, click one of my Amazon links before navigating to whatever it is you want to buy!

If you have any books you think I should read, make sure to comment and let me know!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Gillian Flynn: "Extra space is always good."

The back of Sharp Objects (Amazon) by Gillian Flynn has a quote from Stephen King. It is rather long, but one part particularly stood out to me. "...after the lights went out, the story just stayed there in my head, coiled and hissing, like a snake in a cave."

I haven't gone to bed yet, but I imagine I'll face a similar experience. Sharp Objects surprised me. I wasn't sure what I was expecting, but what I got was something dark and addictive and entrancing. If you've read my blog before, you may have noticed I have a soft spot for books about small towns and their inhabitants. However, I usually tend to go for "fluffier" book. Chick lit, if you will. Sharp Objects was the exact opposite of that. It's about a reporter, Camille Preaker, who returns to her small town to cover the murders of two young girls. While that might seem dark enough, that's only the beginning. Camille is haunted by a dark past-a bad relationship with her mother, a dead sister. And before long, she begins to wonder if returning to her hometown was really the best idea.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit. I even thought I had guessed the answer to some of the mysteries throughout it, but it turns out I was never completely right. If you love murder mysteries or crime dramas, this book is definitely for you. However, it is not for the faint of heart. It also may be triggering for those who struggle with self harm.

Gillian Flynn has contact info available on her website, gillian-flynn.com, so I decided to send her an email. Here it is:
"I just finished reading Sharp Objects, and I wanted to write to you to tell you that it's one of those scary-good books. It was definitely disturbing, but... elegantly disturbing, if you know what I mean. I was definitely impressed with the way you handled such dark subject matter. I really couldn't put the book down. I'll have to check out some of your other novels soon too."

Anyway, that's all I have for tonight. I have a few more books that I bought over the past few days, so expect another post soon.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Tyra Banks: "What in the hell was that?"

 Hello everybody! I'm back! And with a hell of a book. Modelland by Tyra Banks (Amazon). That's right, Tyra Banks wrote a book. It's about an alternate reality, with thinly veiled references to the real world (Capucchina = Italy, for instance). In this world, models (known as Intoxibellas) have super powers. For instance, the power of Thirty Never means when a girl reaches thirty, she will begin to look eighteen again, and the cycle will continue until she perishes. In this world, girls are chosen to attend Modelland, where they learn how to become supermodels. Not everyone who attends Modelland becomes an Intoxibella, making it strikingly similar to a certain television show...

I feel like I'm doing a poor job of describing this book. There is really a lot to it. I think that the best description is probably Harry Potter meets modeling, with an overuse of adjectives. Now, this book is fluff, pure and simple. To me, at least. However, I could certainly see how Tookie De La Creme, self dubbed Forgetta-Girl, could be an inspiring heroine to younger girls. But there are also a few weird aspects-for instance, there is a vague anti-male tone. I think it's just supposed to teach young girls to be independent, but there are times it borders on strange.

Really, if any of this sounds intriguing to you, Modelland is actually worth a read. Though it's a bit ridiculous, the fanciful nature is addictive in the same way chick lit or trashy TV can be. 

I briefly tried to find contact information for Tyra Banks, but it was fruitless. Oh well! 

I'm going to try to start writing more frequently again. See you soon!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

April 23rd: World Book Day

Hi everyone! I apologize for the lack of updates lately. I've been pretty busy. However, I wanted to make a quick post. Yesterday I was at Barnes & Noble and noticed that they were asking for donations of new or gently used books. You see, April 23rd is apparently World Book Day (or World Book Night). Though the Barnes & Noble referred to World Book Day, it appears that the US celebration is actually titled World Book Night. Or something like that-I'm honestly not sure.

Anyway, there are a few different things you can do to get involved in World Book Day/Night/Whatever. However, a great thing to do is donate some used books. The places you can donate are specific to your area, but schools, libraries, hospitals and nursing homes are great places to start. As I mentioned earlier, the Barnes & Noble near me was accepting book donations, so if you have one near you, definitely go check it out.

That's all for now, I just wanted to let people know about World Book Day/Night. Hopefully I'll have a review up soon!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Victoria Ferrante: "Love held Christina steady and kept her grounded while autism tried to smash her against the rocks."

Hope by Victoria Ferrante (Amazon) is not a pleasant book. It is not an uplifting book and it is not a lighthearted book. It is, however, a book very strongly rooted in reality. It follows the journey of a young mother struggling to raise her autistic daughter. Everywhere she turns for help she finds only roadblocks and a lack of compassion. I do not want to spoil the ending, but I do want to warn you: just like in life, there is no happily ever after or miracle cure for autism.

I think that this book will be very controversial among people who have autistic family members or work with autistic individuals. Some people may say that it ignores some of the joys that can come from raising an autistic child. I think that it is important to remember that the author is the parent of an autistic child and that she wrote the book to raise awareness of some of the more extreme circumstances caretakers of autistic children may find themselves in. 

I actually don't think I would necessarily recommend this book to someone who is struggling with  raising an autistic child. I would instead recommend it to anyone who dares to pass judgement on people who are doing their best, or who are unable to understand the challenges faced when raising an autistic (or otherwise disabled) child. Victoria Ferrante's writing does an excellent job of capturing the inner turmoil and anxiety that parents of autistic children face.

I found contact information on Victoria Ferrante's website and I wrote her a note:

"I read Hope as part of the April 9th Book Blast. I just wanted to let you know that I thought it was amazingly done. Your writing evoked strong emotions in me, and I hope that those who do not understand autism or the challenges faced by those who care for individuals with autism read your book. I am sure it will help them understand, and perhaps reach out to help those in need."

I am giving away an ebook version of this novel. This giveaway is open until April 16th and is international.

Friday, April 6, 2012

C.R. Corwin: "The obituaries are the best part of my day."

Exactly one week ago, I wrote about A Little Trouble With The Facts by Nina Siegal (original post here). Much to my surprise I seem to have found myself reading another book with a similar theme. You see, when I saw "A Morgue Mama Mystery" on the cover (not visible in the cover shown to the right), I assumed that the book would be about someone who works in a morgue. Oh how wrong I was!

Dig: A Morgue Mama Mystery by C.R. Corwin (Amazon) is about a woman named Maddy Sprowls who works at a newspaper. She is in charge of the newspaper's archives, which can also be called the morgue, hence the nickname Morgue Mama. She has a habit of always reading the obituaries first when she reads the newspaper, which serves her well until one day she sees that an old college friend has been murdered. Being a self proclaimed nosy old lady, she decides to try to solve the crime. It should be noted that she has a track record of solving crimes, despite the people around her trying to discourage her snooping. Dig appears to be the second in a series, though it serves perfectly fine as a stand alone novel.

I enjoyed this book. It was a nice, plain mystery. Not too many plot twists, but enough to keep you on your toes. The language used in this books was also plain, which was appealing. The voice of Maddy Sprowls really shown through. Anyone who is a fan of "nosy old lady" detective novels (you know exactly what I'm talking about) should check it out.

C.R. Corwin is a pseudonym. The actual author is Robert Levandoski, and he unfortunately passed away in 2008, so no letter this time.

The giveaway ended and the winner had been notified. There will be another giveaway on my blog beginning on April 9th, so stay tuned for that. This one will be a digital copy so anyone may enter.

Also, just a clarification: if you click my Amazon links and then make any purchase through Amazon (not necessarily the product linked) I will most likely get referral credit (some products are exempt). So, if you're thinking about making any Amazon purchase, and want to help support this site, then please click on one of my links before purchasing. 

I hope you have a great weekend!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Goodnight Dune

Okay, so I have a confession: I've never read Dune (Amazon) by Frank Herbert. I tried to read Children of Dune (Amazon) a very long time ago. It didn't go so well and I've never gone back. However, Goodnight Dune (available in full online) by Julia Yu, is adorable. Honestly, it almost makes me want to pick up Dune again. Seriously, go check it out right now.

I decided to write her a quick note as well:

"I just stumbled across Good Night Dune and wanted to let you know that I think it's absolutely adorable! Thanks so much for making this project and putting it up on the web to share!"

A few announcements:

I am now an Amazon Affiliate. This means that if you click on my Amazon links (only the more recent ones-I was too lazy to go back and change the older ones) and then purchase anything on Amazon I get a small percentage.

My giveaway of Baking Cakes In Kigali ends soon! Check it out here!

Monday, April 2, 2012

"How Many Of Those Nine Lives Do You Have Left? Two?": Catwoman: When In Rome

Everybody knows Catwoman. She's probably one of the most iconic villains from Batman, right after the Joker. However,  very few people know her back story. Catwoman: When In Rome (Amazon) by Jeph Loeb and illustrated by Tim Sale explores a bit more of the history of Gotham's most alluring criminal.

I really enjoyed this book. Partially because it was nice to read a book set in the Batman universe without having Batman as the main character. Don't get me wrong, I love Batman as much as anybody else who has over 35 trade paper backs sitting on their bookshelf. However, sometimes I want to explore even more aspects of his world. Books like Catwoman: When In Rome allow me to do so, and with Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale at the helm (they also did Batman: The Long Halloween), you know it's going to be good.

I couldn't find contact information for Jeph Loeb, but Tim Sale has a contact form on his website, so I left him a note.

"I read Catwoman: When In Rome, and I just wanted to let you know that I loved it! I really enjoy books in the Batman universe that don't focus primarily on Batman, and this book was very well done. Your illustrations worked perfectly with the story!"

Also, I just realized that I somehow forgot to write to Christopher Moore yesterday. I'll make another post soon remedying that situation. Also, don't forget to check out my giveaway, ending on Thursday!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Christopher Moore: "There's always a bloody raven."

I must confess, Christopher Moore is not an author I've never heard of, nor did I just read this book. However, I haven't read anything new lately and I wanted to make a post. Then I remembered that today is April Fool's Day and I realized that Fool (Amazon) by Christopher Moore was an excellent choice for today.

Fool is a book about, well, a fool. It's a parody of King Lear. Yes, that King Lear, by Shakespeare. It's a hilarious, raunchy parody, definitely not something that I would give to a child or anyone easily offended. However, anyone who wants an irreverent rewrite of Shakespeare should definitely check it out.

For those who are unfamiliar with the original Shakespeare play, it is about a king who begins to go mad. He decides to divide his estate among his daughters in accordance with who loves him best. One daughter refuses to play a game of flattery and King Lear becomes outraged and makes some hasty decisions. As anyone who knows the play can tell you, there is a lot more to it than my summary can capture, so it might be best to just check out the Wikipedia article if you're interested.

Anyway, that's all for today. Remember to check out my giveaway, it's ending in a few days!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Nina Siegal: "This paper writes the first draft of history."

A Little Trouble With the Facts (Amazon) by Nina Siegal is a surprising story about a former up and coming reporter named Valerie Vane who has been banished to the obituary section. As anyone who's read books about a newspaper knows, the obituary section is exactly where a reporter doesn't want to be. However, after an embarrassing scandal, Valerie is mostly content to cool her heels there, just grateful that she hasn't been fired. That is, until she writes an obituary without completely checking all the facts. It's not long until she finds herself investigating a murder.

I mostly liked this book. There were a few slow moments where I found myself not caring and a couple of scenes where I didn't quite understand what was going on. However, the overall plot, while not the most original (newspaper-person turns PI) definitely had a unique twist on it. Valerie's history (hint: she's not a city girl, as much as she wants her peers to believe she is) definitely gives the story a unique perspective.

I couldn't find any contact information for Nina Siegal, unfortunately. Oh well! I'm not sure what I'm going to read next. I still have School for Brides, but I'm not entirely sure I really want to read it... ever. I'm going to the library tomorrow though, so I'll probably find some new books then. As always, any recommendations are welcome!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Giveaway: Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin

So, in the spirit of many book blogs that I follow, I have decided to do a giveaway of a book I have reviewed, Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin. Check out my original review of it here for a bit more information. Only entrants in the US/Canada please. This giveaway ends April 5, 2012. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Shelfari: "A community powered encyclopedia for book lovers."

Shelfari, by Amazon, is a tool for readers to organize their bookshelves. There are dozens of these tools around the internet, and some are better than others. I've decided to write a quick review about it today, in lieu of a book review (truth: still not done with a book, though A Little Trouble With the Facts looks promising).

I want to start by saying that there is a lot to Shelfari. It provides ways to organize your books as well as detailed, user submitted information about each book. Some of the books do not have complete information, but it's easy to edit any book's page and editors are even ranked, so that you have a sense of accomplishment when you contribute. You can choose what cover displays on your bookself, include when you finished a book, rate the book, and other things.

Shelfari also contains a few other features. One of them is groups-pretty self explanatory, ways to connect with other users. Another feature is recommendations. Recommendations are a great idea in theory, but unfortunately they don't seem to have much of an algorithm going on. They make simple recommendations at best. Still, better than nothing. Shelfari also has the ability to ask and answer questions about a book. This has the potential to be useful, though most of the questions I saw were just of the "Should I read this book" variety. If you've ever tried to answer such a question before, you know it's not an easy task.

The last feature I want to discuss is reading stats. This has to be my favorite thing, simply because I love numbers. If you visit your personal reading stats page you can see all sorts of fun information, such as how you usually rate books, the subjects you read, and the page count of the books you've read.

Shelfari is definitely complex, and it can be a little hard to figure out at first. However, if you're looking for a way to organize all the books you've read, then it is definitely worth checking out.

Do you use an online tool to organize what you've read? What is it? Have you used Shelfari? Let me know!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Author Reply: Thomas Kaufman

Thomas Kaufman, author of Drink the Tea (original post) wrote back to me to tell me that Steal the Show, his second book, is even better. He's also working on a third Willis Gidney book called Face the Music, which is due in 2013.

Have I mentioned how much I love it when authors reply? Also, sorry-I still haven't finished School for Brides. It's a pretty heavy romance novel, and I just haven't been in the mood for that lately. I have another book that I might pick up instead though. It's called A Little Trouble with the Facts and it's by Nina Siegal. It's more of a mystery novel, so I'll probably be able to get through that better.

Hope you all are having a great weekend!

On My Wishlist (111)

On My Wishlist is a weekly event hosted by Book Chick City (click banner above or here to visit their website!)

My wishlist is never ending. However, I figured I'd post a few books that I've been eyeing lately. My usual method for finding books these days has been going to the library and pulling random books off the shelves. However, for my next library visit I think I'm going to try to be a little more organized and maybe look for some of these!

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

I admit, mostly I want this book for the title. I mean, come on-it's adorable. However, the story sounds delightful as well. It's about a girl named September who gets invited on an adventure by a Green Wind (who looks like a man in a green jacket). I've been eyeing this book for quite some time, but just never got around to purchasing it. I'll definitely have to see if my local library has it! (Amazon)

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Futuristic fairy tales? What's not to love? This book stars Cinder, a cyborg & gifted mechanic who lives with her stepmother and is blamed for her stepsister's illness. Suddenly, her life becomes intertwined with a prince named Kai and she finds herself trapped in an intergalactic struggle and victim to a forbidden attraction. I have to admit, when I first saw the cover I was a little skeptical-redone fairy tales are very hit or miss. But reading the description makes me think this is definitely one worth picking up! (Amazon)

Summer Morning, Summer Night by Ray Bradbury

I really enjoyed The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, as well as Fahrenheit 451 and a few other assorted short stories. When I saw this cover I was immediately attracted to the book-finding out it's a Ray Bradbury book is just a bonus! This book is a set of short stories set in Green Town, Illinois, a common locale for Bradbury's tales. Hopefully I can find this at my library! (Amazon)

Have you read any of these? What's on your wishlist? Let me know! I'm always looking for new books!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Lara Tupper: "It started on a cruise ship, where nothing was exactly real."

A Thousand and One Nights (Amazon) by Lara Tucker is a book I read a few years ago, way before I began this project. However, I didn't finish the book I was going to review today, and so I decided to write about this instead.

A Thousand and One Nights is the story of a woman named Kate who dreamed of being a professional entertainer. So when she gets hired aboard the MS Sound of Music, it seems like her dreams are coming true. Before long, she meets Jack, a charming British man. They sing together and eventually fall in love. Then four years pass and all of a sudden Kate is a lounge singer, traveling the world with Jack. Unfortunately, this is nowhere near the life Kate wanted-it turns out being a lounge singer isn't as glamorous as it looks. Eventually Kate has to decide: Will she keep this life or find another?

This book is definitely a guilty pleasure sort of novel, no question about it. I would say it's the perfect beach read. However, it definitely goes deeper than the average guilty pleasure novel-Kate deals with some very real issues, and not all of them are about getting a guy to notice her or anything like that. Pick up this book if you're looking for something substantial but not too heavy.

Lara Tupper has a contact box on her website and this is what I wrote:
I read A Thousand and One Nights some time ago, and I just decided to write to you to tell you how much I enjoyed it. You combine the elements of a guilty pleasure novel with the journey of a young woman growing up very well. I hope to read more from you!

Maybe tomorrow I'll have School For Brides done! Who knows?!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Joe Meno: "Everything is good when your dad bothers to be around."

Hairstyles of the Damned (Amazon) by Joe Meno is a story about wanting to belong. It's narrated by Brian, a teenager at Catholic school who doesn't fit in and never has. His best friend is Gretchen, a girl known for her pink hair and tendency to get into fist fights with other girls. The story is told over the course of a year (October 1990-October 1991), and chronicles everything that Brian has to deal with during that year, including fighting parents, a crush on his best friend, and deciding how he feels about racism. It's pretty much just the story of how one boy grows up.

I really enjoyed this story. It's actually very similar to How I Paid For College (original post), but targeting a different set of people-punk rock kids instead of theater kids. I think that this book was a pretty accurate depiction of what kids go through in order to fit in, and what teenagers deal with in general. Anybody who feels like they don't fit in, or who felt that way in high school should check this book out.

There's no contact information for the author on his website, so no email today. I think next I'm going to read School For Brides by Cheryl Ann Smith, which will be a huge departure from the theme I seem to have lately. I'm kind of looking forward to it!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Author Updates

Hey everyone, I just thought I'd make a quick post with some news about various authors we've featured in the past.

Ally Condie, author of Matched (original post) released the sequel to Matched, called Crossed in November of last year. Check it out on Amazon. This is part of a trilogy. The third book will be called Reached and will be available in November of this year. Check out her blog post about it here.

John Green, author of Looking For Alaska (original post) just released a book called The Fault In Our Stars. It's about a young girl with cancer who falls in love with a boy she meets at a support group. I've heard it is incredibly sad, but very good. Apparently film rights have already been bought for this book! Check it out on Amazon.

Ransom Riggs, author of Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children (original post) will soon release a book called Talking Pictures: Images and Messages Rescued from the Past, which is a non fiction book about found postcards. It's due to be released in April. Check it out on Amazon.

I'll try to do posts like this about once a week, maybe more, maybe less depending on the news. Don't be afraid to tell me what you think or tip me off on some new release!

Marc Acito: "This is how I paid for college. This is how I misspent my youth."

How I Paid For College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship & Musical Theater (Amazon) by Marc Acito is a unique coming of age story, set in the eighties, about a boy named Edward Zanni. His dream is to go to Juilliard and become a famous actor. As if typical of a high school theater student, he's fairly eccentric and runs with a very eccentric pack-Paula, a girl with strong morals and shoes that never match, Kelly, his surprisingly preppy girlfriend, Doug, a jock turned theater nerd, Natie, an annoying tag along computer geek, and Ziba, a snobbish girl unfazed by anything. What better group of friends could a person have?

So, overall life is good for Edward Zanni. That is, until his father decides to marry Dagmar, a gold digging, outright evil woman. Then his father suddenly decides that he doesn't want to pay for Juilliard, leaving Edward-about to start his senior year of high school-in quite the lurch. Lucky for him, he has friends willing to do anything to help.

I really enjoyed this book. I think it captured the essence of being a teenager very well. Besides the main plot line, there is also a lot of discussion of sexuality, which is definitely something on the forefront of a lot of teenagers minds. I think that this book is worth a read by almost anybody, parents included. Perhaps especially parents, because the various parent-child relationships throughout the book are something that parents might be able to appreciate from the other side of the fence, so to speak.

The author does not have an email posted on his website, just a twitter account-which looks like it doesn't exist anymore-and a facebook page. However, his website is definitely worth checking out-the About Marc Acito page is fairly humorous-so check it out here!

Tomorrow or the day after, expect a review of Hairstyles of the Damned! If a review isn't posted, an author reply will be.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Interview: Haywood Smith

As promised, here is the interview with Haywood Smith, author of Wedding Belles among other things. This is a lovely interview, and she was very thorough in answering my questions. Check out her website here if you're interested to hear more about her.

Your newer books-what your website deems "Hell Hath No Fury" books-are about very realistic women. Do you draw inspiration from the people around you? Are there any notable scenes or plots that are based on true stories?

First, let me stress that there are no new stories, despite what people think. Even though we consider ourselves unique, there are always others who have shared our experiences, plus or minus the technology. That's why archetypal characters exist and are so successful in fiction. We all fall into one of a few basic personality types and life situations. Writing teachers have told me that there are only seventy-nine basic plots, or some such number, and every story is either a version or a derivative of one of those classic plots.

The same goes for characters. Every writer is influenced--consciously and unconsciously--by everything he or she has experienced, read, or seen. So when we create characters, we draw from that reservoir of experience, whether consciously or unconsciously. But the characters I create are always fictional in my mind, whether they're archetypes or stereotypes. Though some people have told me I can use their stories, I learned the hard way that I must get written permission to do so. Someone once said I could use some stories from her divorce, than conveniently "forgot" giving me permission and sued me and won some money. (Fortunately, it was covered by E&O insurance.) So now I am very careful to get written permission if I use anyone's anecdotes. Even when I do, though, the character is always someone I have made up in my mind to satisfy certain needs for the story. My purpose in writing is to entertain and uplift. I never wrote anything with the intention of hurting or depriving anyone, and I never will.

Is there a large difference between writing historical fiction and your newer books? Which do you find more difficult?

Writing an historical novel is a completely different experience from writing humorous contemporary Southern women's fiction, though I use the same production process, the objectives for each are distinct and very different. With the historicals, I focus more on the relationship between hero and heroine and the actual historical characters and events, using more action and adventure. With comedy, I focus on creating a memorable main character, then taking the reader along for the ride while the heroine endures exaggerated trials and tribulations, then ends up better in the end, despite everything. The situations in comedy are often exaggerated for dramatic effect. As far as difficulty, I find each genre has its own demands, and I always end up having to work very hard to produce each book. It's a real challenge writing complex stories that are easy to read.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

The best advice I can give any aspiring writer is to find a writers' group that allows you access to professional, published authors and learn everything you can. If you want to be published, you must be able to learn and grow, detaching from what you write and considering it product. As for the craft of writing, writing is rewriting. And rewriting. And rewriting. I had to rewrite my first novel six times before it finally sold, and another time for my editor. All writers are in a constant state of becoming. We learn and grow and hone our craft with every revision and every book. I never would have succeeded without what I learned from Georgia Romance Writers.

What are your favorite books?

My favorite books are the ones in the Bible, and anything by Thomas Hardy, Pearl Buck, Aristophanes, Philippa Gregory, Taylor Caldwell, Hemingway, Shakespeare... I could go on and on. I like writers from every genre but erotica. But I no longer read "downer" books, because the challenges of my own life have been significant enough; I don't need anything that drags my spirits down, no matter how wonderfully written it is. (Cold Mountain comes to mind.) My imagination is so vivid, I live what I read and write. That's why I write books that offer hope, humor, and encouragement to my readers, even though I deal with deadly serious woman's issues.

Is there anything you can tell us about your new or recently released projects?

I have just finished rewrites for my next book, out January 2013, titled OUT OF WARRANTY. It's a send-up of the heath insurance industry, the medical profession in America, and falling apart physically ten years before Medicare. When my widowed heroine is diagnosed with a rare form of arthritis (same as mine), she spends all her money and then some trying to get well, then decides she needs to remarry for better healtlh insurance. Needless to say, her efforts at fix-ups and e-dates don't pan out, so she ends up marrying a one-legged curmudgeon with the same condition, and they live platonically ever after in her mold-remediated house.

I am currently working on a sequel to my first women's fiction best seller, QUEEN BEE OF MIMOSA BRANCH, titled QUEEN BEE GOES TO COLLEGE.

I'm also working on two non-fiction books, one of my grandmother's wise and funny sayings, and one that's a wheat-oat-milk solids-gluten-rice-soy-free cookbook of recipes I've developed for my strict medical diet.

That's all! I hope you enjoyed the interview-I certainly did! I have another author who has agreed to do an interview, so stay tuned for more information!

Author Reply: Pamela Klaffke

I'm actually pleasantly surprised at the recent promptness of author replies. I have another one to share as well, though I'll probably leave that for tomorrow. For today, I'll just post this reply and the interview with Haywood Smith later. Tomorrow I'll probably post a review of How I Paid For College and the other author reply.

Anyway, Pamela Klaffke sent me a very interesting reply. She said that she agrees that Mason is difficult to deal with, but that she is more interested in writing interesting characters, not characters that are necessarily always likable. She said she's most interested in inner dialogue and that she doesn't think there's a woman out there whose thoughts aren't occasionally nasty. She also said that her relationship with her own mother is very good, and that she thinks her mother was a bit horrified when she read Every Little Thing, because Britt is very different than her mother.

What a wonderfully thorough reply! I definitely think you should write to her if you've read something by her. I'm sure she'd love to hear from you! If you want to learn more about her, check out her website.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Author Reply: Haywood Smith

I got a lovely reply from Haywood Smith, author of Wedding Belles (among other things). She informed me that Wedding Belles is part of a trilogy, called the Red Hat Club trilogy. She also told me that so far all of her other books are standalone, and that soon she'll be releasing revised versions of her historical novels as e-books for younger readers. She said that these offer "accurate history, adventure, romance, strong heroines, and upbeat endings."

For anyone who's curious, her website can be found here. As I mentioned earlier, she agreed to be interviewed, and the interview will be posted either tomorrow or later in the week, depending on what I get done.

Other notes: The next book up for review is How I Paid For College by Marc Acito, and I updated my What I've Read So Far page. If anyone has any suggestions for books, please let me know in a comment. Thanks!

Pamela Klaffke: "They think they invented irony."

When I first picked up Every Little Thing (Amazon) by Pamela Klaffke, I was expecting a Gossip Girl-esque novel. I'm pretty sure this is because I didn't read the back cover carefully enough. Every Little Thing is the story of a woman named Mason, who has serious mommy issues. Her mother, Britt, was a columnist in San Francisco who loved to write painfully detail accounts of embarrassing moments in Mason's life. The story opens after Britt's death, and is the tale of Mason dealing with her strange new situation.

I have very mixed feelings about this novel. It has some shining moments, such as when Mason realizes that her mother truly cared for her. Unfortunately, Mason seems to suffer some sort of short term amnesia, as only a few scenes later, she is once again whining about how awful her mother was. That's really what killed the book for me. There's no way around it-Mason is a whiny woman. She does exhibit some character growth throughout the novel, eventually participating in various public-spotlight activities to empower herself, similar to her mother. However, Mason stubbornly insists the whole time that she is not anything like her mother, and even gets into huge fights with her friends when they dare to compare the two.

Overall, I thought that the concept was good, and there were definitely moments when I was on Mason's side. However, by the end of the book, she did start to get on my nerves. However, other readers may find the character more relatable and sympathetic, so my description should not dissuade any interested readers. If you've read the book, please feel free to comment and let me know what you think!

I wasn't entirely sure if I should write to this author or not, but in the end I decided to.
"I just finished reading Every Little Thing. I found this book to be a very interesting dissection of a mother-daughter relationship. Unfortunately, I was unable to sympathize very much with Mason, but that could perhaps be because I have a very different, and healthier, relationship with my mother. However, the book definitely kept me reading, wondering what would happen in Mason's life next."

Later today, I'll post the author reply from Haywood Smith, who also graciously agreed to do an interview. Tomorrow either the interview or another book will be posted. Have a great day!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Thomas Kaufman: "Why would I ask you to find a daughter I don't have?"

Drink The Tea (Amazon) is the tale of private investigator Willis Gidney, a man who spent most of his childhood in the foster care system. This has given him a set of unique skills and a keen sense of street smarts. One day, a friend of his asks him to find a daughter. A daughter whose existence is only a rumor. Little does Gidney know, his search for her will lead him into troubles he could never have predicted.

Drink The Tea won the PWA Best First Private Eye Novel Competition, and I can see why. This is a fascinating tale with numerous twists and turns. I would almost say too many twists and turns-2occasionally it was hard to keep up. However, the characters were believable and interesting, and there was never a dull moment to be found. This is definitely a must read for anyone who is a fan of the genre.

In searching for the author's contact information, I discovered that there is a sequel called Steal the Show. I'll have to pick that up too! Anyway, here is the note I wrote to the author:
"i just read Drink the Tea, and I must say, it was excellent. I didn't have any strong expectations going into it, but as I read, I found myself not wanting to put the book down. I plan to pick up Steal the Show, and I hope that there are more WIllis Gidney books to come!"

I actually received a reply from Haywood Smith, so I'll probably post that tomorrow, because I don't think I'll have my next book (Every Little Thing by Pamela Klaffke) finished by then. Until then, have a great day!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Haywood Smith: "Other people's secrets, I could keep, but not my own."

I have to admit, I am a complete sucker for books about groups of women getting together and talking, a la Divine Secrets of The Ya Ya Sisterhood and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Wedding Belles (Amazon), by Haywood Smith is another delightful addition to this genre.

The basic plot is this: Georgia, Linda, Diane, Teeny and Pru are southern women in their fifties who have been friends since high school. They meet once a month at a local restaurant wearing red and purple to discuss their lives and provide one another support. This time, Georgia, the narrator, is the one with a problem. Her 27 year old daughter, Callie, is engaged to Georgia's husband's best friend, a man that the group went to high school with. He was known as Wild Man Wade, and has a history of alcoholism, among other things. Together the group sticks together and helps Georgia through this unforeseen situation.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. It is definitely a comfort food/guilty pleasure sort of novel, which is exactly what I needed when I read it. Occasionally, the religious references got a bit heavy handed-but hey, it's the South, right? Religious references seem to come with any book set there. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a comforting story about mothers, daughters, or weddings.

I wrote a quick note to the author:
"I recently read Wedding Belles, and I just have to say, I found it absolutely delightful. I absolutely love books about mother-daughter relationships and the friendships of women. I was having a rather bad day when I picked up your novel, and it was just what I needed to perk me up. Thank you so much for writing it!"

That's all for today. I'm hoping to start posting to this blog much more regularly again. I have a lot more time to read right now. Hope to see you soon!

Friday, February 24, 2012

"Some Cities Are Born Under a Dark Cloud": Gates Of Gotham

Okay! Here we go, finally, another post. As I mentioned before, I've been reading a lot of graphic novels lately. I decided to write about the recently released trade paperback Gates of Gotham (Amazon). This book was written by Scott Snyder and Kyle Higgins and illustrated by Trevor McCarthy.

Gates of Gotham is the tale of how Gotham became the city it is today. This book is mostly set in the time period where Dick Grayson is Batman, and heavily features other members of The Bat Family, such as Damian and Cassandra. However, most of the story is told in flashbacks to the time when Gotham was developing. It is really wonderfully done-an intriguing mystery combined with stunning visuals. I definitely recommend Gates Of Gotham to anyone who is interested in the entire Batman/DC Universe as opposed to just Batman & co.

Speaking of visuals, the only contact information I could find was for Trevor McCarthy, the illustrator, so I decided to drop him a quick note. This is what I said:

"I recently read Batman: Gates of Gotham and I just wanted to let you know that I thought the art was gorgeous. It really helped me get immersed in the story. I've never before read anything that you illustrated, but I will certainly keep an eye out for your future work."

Well, that's it for today! Hopefully I'll have another post soon!

Monday, February 20, 2012

In Which I Explain My Absense

Yes, I've been missing for quite awhile. And the reason is this: I don't have a lot of time for novels. Actually, that's not entirely true. I just don't currently have the attention span for them. I've been reading graphic novels, mostly. They fit a lot better into my currently-hectic life. I really would like to get back into reading novels & blogging about them. Hopefully I will soon!