Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Library Thing Tuesday (21) + Pic of Emmy

For this week's Tuesday Thingers, Marie copied the list of the most-challenged books of the 1990s straight from the ALA website. We are supposed to bold what we've read, and italicize what we have in our LT libraries.

I've read 29 of them (8 of them for school) though not all of them are listed in my LT library since I have mostly catalogued books I've read in the past few years.

Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
Forever by Judy Blume
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Giver by Lois Lowry

It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Sex by Madonna
Earth's Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
The Witches by Roald Dahl
The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
The Goats by Brock Cole
Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
Blubber by Judy Blume
Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan

Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
Final Exit by Derek Humphry
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
What's Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Beloved by Toni Morrison
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
The Pigman by Paul Zindel
Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
Deenie by Judy Blume
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)

Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
Cujo by Stephen King
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
Ordinary People by Judith Guest
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
What's Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
Fade by Robert Cormier
Guess What? by Mem Fox
The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Native Son by Richard Wright
Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women's Fantasies by Nancy Friday
Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
Jack by A.M. Homes
Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
Carrie by Stephen King
Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume

On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
Family Secrets by Norma Klein
Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
The Dead Zone by Stephen King
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
Private Parts by Howard Stern
Where's Waldo? by Martin Hanford
Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
Sex Education by Jenny Davis
The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

I actually planned to read Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 by this week in honor of Banned Book Week since it's about a dystopia where books are banned and burned in fear that citizens will think for themselves. But I am way behind on my reading due to the fact that I've lots of visiters in the past weeks and more work than usual.

I finally got around to watching The Lives of Others, a German movie about the extreme censorship in the DDR (East Germany). I can't believe it took me so long, but it is so worth watching (yes, I even teared up at the end).

And now, the Emmy story and picture of the week:

We were in the kitchen eating lunch and tidying up when we realized we hadn't seen Emmy in a while. She normally hangs around in the same room we're in, especially when we are eating. So we were looking for her and calling her name... and guess where we found her bathing herself?

Zoom out a bit... and you see she wasn't thrilled about being disturbed!

Monday, September 29, 2008

WG #19: Favorite Books of 2008

The year is only three-fourths over, so this list will likely grow/change by the end of the year, but Dewey wants our lists now so here's mine (with links to my reviews):

Picture Book:
Little Hoot by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jen Corace

Middle Grade:
The Big Splash by Jack Ferraiolo
Joy of Spooking: Fiendish Deeds by PJ Bracegirdle

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks by E. Lockhart
Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty by Jody Gehrman

No One You Know by Michelle Richmond
Tomato Girl by Jayne Pupek

What are your favorites published this year?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Book Review: The Fire by Katherine Neville

I absolutely adored Katherine Neville’s The Eight when I read it some years ago. In fact, it’s one of the few “already read” books that made it over to Germany with me to sit on my keeper shelf. It was full of adventure, exotic locales, and mysterious characters and had one of the coolest endings ever. So you can imagine my excitement when I found out about the sequel, The Fire, and that I’d be getting it from the Library Thing Early Reviewer program.

The Fire, like The Eight, follows two timelines, one past (in this case 1822) and one present (2003). In the past, sultan’s daughter Haidee flees with a priceless treasure from her palace in Albania as it is being overrun by Turks. In the present, former chess prodigy Alexandra learns that she’s a player in “The Game” when she is invited to her mother’s birthday party only to discover that she has vanished.

If you’ve read The Eight, then you know what “The Game” is. If you haven’t read The Eight, then I highly suggest you read it first. Otherwise, you’ll get its magical story distilled in a few paragraphs of dry summary, and by only reading The Fire you’ll probably think “The Game” is pretty pointless as well. That’s because Neville never manages to demonstrate what’s actually at stake, or even introduce any real drama or urgency to Alexandra’s quest (Haidee’s story is woefully relegated to serious back burner status). There is a lot of talk about the white team and the black team but the one person who emerges as a “villain” cannot even be taken seriously.

Alexandra is a sympathetic character with a doozy of a back story, but she’s never proactive – she merely reacts to situations during the entire book. (NOTE: I think that conceptually, this had something to do with her favorite chess strategy – The King Indian Defense – but practically, it is highly frustrating).

Neville has certainly done her research, and if you like conspiracy theories, complex riddles, and the fictional integration of real historical personalities like Lord Byron and Thomas Jefferson, then this might be up your alley. For me though, it was too much talk, too little actual story, especially in comparison to the fun that I had reading The Eight.

The Fire will be released in hardcover on October 14th.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Graphic Novel Review: The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci

After a terrorist attack in Metro City, Jane’s family moves with her to a “safe” suburb. She starts a new school, makes friends with three girls who are also named Jane and inspires the kids at her school to celebrate art and creativity.

The Plain Janes is a short graphic novel that is quick to read but also explores some weighty themes such as healing after trauma and the importance of civil liberties and freedom of expression.

Jane is very atypical in that she rejects the cool crowd and chooses to hang out with “misfits” because she doesn’t want to be sucked into living a cookie cutter existence. The Main Jane had personality to spare (especially considering the format) but the other Janes (Science Nerd Jane, Mono-brow Jock Jane, and Pudgy Drama Geek Jane) were very stereotypical and kind of got on my nerves. Still, I have high hopes that they’ll come into their own in the sequel, Janes in Love. It came out this week, and I’m looking forward to picking it up.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Book Review: The Triumph of Deborah by Eva Etzioni-Halevy

The Old Testament is full of great stories that you don't necessarily need to be religious to enjoy. Deborah, whose story is found in the book of Judges, was the only woman in the Bible to serve as prophetess and judge. The Triumph of Deborah fleshes out the story told in Judges 4 and 5 – that of the war between Canaan and Israel and how 40 years of peace was achieved in the land - and “fleshes” is really the right word here because there is a lot of bare flesh in this fictional account.

You see, although the narrative is ostensibly about efforts to bring about lasting peace, the main thrust of the story is actually a love quadrangle between Deborah, her army leader (the very lusty Barak) and two Canaanite princesses he takes into his household, the icy yet beautiful Asherah and the humble (and half Israelite) Nogah. Barak’s steamy encounters with all three are described in lavish detail.

Despite all their bed hopping, the characters do find time to participate in other activities. Deborah plans war strategies, settles disputes and has visions. Nogah learns the art of scroll writing. Asherah plots and schemes. Barak wages war and oversees work in his fields. The pace is good, the plot entertains and historical detail enriches understanding of Israelite and Canaanite culture.

The language is very… ornate. I even had to laugh out loud at some of the phrasing in the early chapters (which I can’t repeat here since I sent the book home with my stepmother to read). But once you get used to it, it actually does work for this story and time period.

What I liked most about this novel was the characterization of the female characters. Deborah, Nogah and Asherah were all strong women in very different ways despite their apparent weakness for Barak. Jael, she of murdering the sleeping enemy leader with a tent pole fame, even shows up to steal a couple of scenes (would you believe she has a thing for Barak too?).

The Triumph of Deborah is now available in paperback.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Waiting On Wednesday (1) The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King

Jill at Breaking the Spine is hosting a cool new meme called Waiting On Wednesday where we talk about an upcoming book we are really excited about.

My pick this week is A.S. King's The Dust of 100 Dogs.

I first heard about this over at Reviewer X's blog (here's a post where she mentions it, but it was an earlier post and her countdown widget which caught my attention months ago) and I must say that the description is super cool:

In the late 17th century, famed pirate Emer Morrisey was on the cusp of sailing into early retirement with unfathomable wealth and her one true love when she was fatally cursed with the dust of 100 dogs. Three hundred years later, after 100 lives as a dog, she finally reincarnates into a human body again—with all her memories intact. Now she’s a contemporary American teenager, and all she needs is a shovel and a ride to Jamaica. (Young Adult - language, swashbuckling, and elusive pirate nookie.)

It even has an official website with an excerpt: http://www.thedustof100dogs.com/

HELP! I don't think I can wait until Feb. 1, 2009 to read this!!
What upcoming books are you really excited about?

Bloghopping Challenge

As I was reading through J.Kaye's latest blog posts, her spotlight on Alpha Heroes blog and her bloghopping challenge caught my eye.

So I decided to join the fun. The idea is to visit 10 blogs you never have before and leave comments on posts that interest you. Go here for full list of instructions.

Here's my trail:

Left a comment on Alpha Heroes bloghopping post. What a fun idea! It's a romance blog, a genre I haven't read for a long time.

Chose Allison's Attic of Books at random from the BBAW list. She's a Tuesday Thinger, so I may have been here before.

Chose 5 Minutes for Books from Allison's blogroll as it was the most recently updated. I see they host the What's On Your Bookshelf carnival. Maybe I'll join in for September.

Clicked over to Rebecca Reads through her comment on Carrie's Unique Children's Books post. She has a post about Sandra Boynton's books and I commented that I like Barnyard Dance. I buy it for many of my friends' kids.

Clicked on Naked Without Books on Rebecca's blogroll. Commented on the post about Dewey's Readathon October 18th which I won't be able to join because of the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Lizzy's Literary Life called to me from Bybee's blogroll. She has a great review of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a classic short story. Gotta read this one soon - thanks Lizzy!

Love German Books was on Lizzy's blogroll so I just had to click over. This is a neat discovery for me - someone writing about German books in English. Especially since I have pledged to read more books in German. She has posted an interview with Julia Franck, last year's German Book Prize winner for Mittagsfrau (a book I picked up at last year's Frankfurt Book Fair but haven't read yet), about her book being translated into other languages.

Went back to the BBAW list and picked I Smell Books because of the blog title. I commented on her review of Sarah Addison's The Sugar Queen. She also did a post mentioning her favorite blogs and from her list I picked...

Lit Chick. She apparently has free book friday and her latest giveaway is for The House at Riverton by Kate Morton which I really want to read. So I entered the contest.

I then end my exploration of 10 new blogs at One Minute Book Reviews where I read a couple of her reviews but discover I can't leave a comment because I don't have a WordPress account.

What new blogs have you discovered lately?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Library Thing Tuesday (20) + Pic of Emmy

Today's Question: Favorite Authors. Who do you have named in your LT account as favorite authors? Why did you choose them? How many people share your choices? Can you share a picture of one of them?

My Answer: The following are listed as my favorite authors on Library Thing:

If an author is on this list it means I have read at least 3 of their books, enjoyed them and would be interested in reading more books by this author. There are many other authors I like a lot but have only read two (or one) of their books so far and I sort of made 3 my rule.

I share at most 3 of the 10 with other members. I am the only one to have Melissa Walker as a favorite so here's her awesome picture.


We enjoyed our trip to Goerlitz (very beautiful old town on the border with Poland), Dresden and Erfurt (where we had a tour of the largest freestanding bell in the world - so big that all 8 people on our tour could fit under it).

Emmy quickly made herself at home at the catsitter. My friend Charlotte T. sent me a text picture message with the following picture, saying she'd have to bill me for the downtime caused by bad kitty:

Monday, September 22, 2008

Book Review: The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent

Puritan New England in the late 1600s was a hard place to live. People feared many things including Indian attacks, smallpox outbreaks, and acts of nature that could destroy livelihoods in the space of a few hours. Outsiders and people who spoke their minds were suspect. Martha Carrier was both, and the witch trials that began in nearby Salem would soon claim her as a victim as well.

The story is told through the eyes of 10 year old Sarah Carrier who has such a great character introduction: “I approached the world with suspicion, and because I was not pretty or pliable, I was not doted upon. I often challenged my betters and was therefore often chastised vigorously with a slotted spoon we children had named Iron Bessie.” Sarah, like many of the townspeople is at odds with her difficult, proud mother but comes to love and respect her during the course of the novel’s events.

More than half of the book explores the climate of the time, showing how a combination of small slights, neighborly disputes, spite and misguided religious furor could lead to something as monumentally wrong as the imprisonment and hanging of a great number of innocent people. The latter portion of the novel concerns the witch trials and the despicable conditions of 17th century prisons.

It’s well researched historical fiction with a compelling narrative and a sympathetic narrator. Plus the author has a special reason to tell the tale and do it justice – she’s a tenth generation descendant of Martha Carrier.

I read this as part of a Blog Stops Book Tour so head over there to read reviews from other bloggers.
The Heretic's Daughter is out now in hardcover.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Read My Lips winners

I have already alerted the lucky winners, gotten their addresses and sent the books off to their new homes.

Congrats Dominque of The Book Vault and Traci S. of Traci's Book Bag!

Everyone else, head over to Linda Gerber's launch party for Death by Latte (which I reviewed here) for a another chance to win Read My Lips and other great books. There are many chances to win, but only if you comment by Monday evening September 22nd (that's tomorrow!).

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Funny Stories about Work (contest)

Rebecca aka The Book Lady is having a contest to pick the funniest work story and I'm one of the 5 finalists. My story is #4 The Joys of Customer Service. Read it and the other 4 finalists here and then vote for your favorite. The winner gets a Barnes & Noble gift card and that's something you all know I could really use. Poll closes tonight just before midnight so go vote now.

EDITED TO ADD: I won - and with 51% of the vote. Thanks for reading. Now I have the agonizing decision of what books to buy with the gift card I won from Rebecca and the gift card I won last week from Shauna at Reading and Ruminations.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Book Review: Savvy Girl by Lynn Messina

Between my junior and senior years of high school I attended a journalism camp and won a position as a teen columnist for the Dayton Daily News. Every month during my senior year I was given an assignment and a deadline. Things went great at first, but towards the end of the school year, the pressures of school got to me, and I missed a deadline. Uh oh, and bye, bye job!

In Savvy Girl, Chrissy has won an internship at her favorite magazine – Savvy – and a chance to become their teen columnist for a year. All she has to do is turn her first column in on time (well, and beat out the other interns). But instead of working on her column, Chrissy gets caught up in the glamorous life of going to parties and hanging out with beauty editor and former model Jessica. Will she buckle down and set her priorities straight before it’s too late?

Savvy Girl is a quick read and gives an fascinating inside look at the magazine world (Author Lynn Messina used to work at In Style among other publications) and the life of a lowly intern (yep, a lot of time spent stuffing envelopes). The wisdom it imparts on the way the working world works is perfect for newbies and teens (but maybe not that relevant to older readers).

As a character study though, it didn’t quite work for me. Chrissy is an eager overachiever who finds herself in over her head in the Savvy world, but I didn’t feel like I really got inside her head. Supporting characters like a best friend whose parents are divorcing, a hot intern at another magazine, and a potential love interest for her best friend are even more elusive.

Savvy Girl is out now in paperback.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

BBAW Blogger Interview: Literary Escapism

Thanks to BBAW, I got to meet and interview Jackie from Literary Escapism. She has a very cool blog that features a lot of urban fantasy and paranormal romance - both genres I have yet to explore. She also interviewed me on her blog which you can check out here.

So Jackie, tell us a little about yourself. How did you get involved writing book reviews?
I am a 28 year old stay at home mom with an 18 month old son. I've been married for 5 years this October and my husband and I still enjoy spending our nights together sitting on the couch with our laptops. It's actually kind of amusing. We're in a chat room with a lot of our friends and even though we're sitting next to each other, we'll have conversations strictly online. My son is quite active and loves to be outside whenever he gets a chance, so I've been getting a lot of fresh air this summer and I'm starting to worry how he'll take to being indoors more this winter.I love to read and I could easily do it for a living if I knew how.

I also love to travel. I've been lucky enough to visit Costa Rica and Mexico during college and I would love to go back to Mexico. I was able to spend 6 months going to school in Guadalajara and it is an amazing city. I'm planning a trip to Argentina with my sister, at least I hope I am, and we're thinking of going in 2010. I have a degree in Spanish and International Relations, yet I have no idea how to use it now. My original plan was to go into the US State Department and work with their embassies, but my husband doesn't like to travel as much as I do, so I've had to re-evaluate my plans. Now I'm really interested in Bilingual Education and would love to go back for my Masters in Education.

I got involved writing book reviews the easiest way there is...I wanted to share my opinions. Originally, I was just posting my reviews on my everyday blog, but it got to a point where my blog had nothing but reviews on it and my husband made a comment how not everyone reads the same kind of novels as I do. So I decided to start up a new blog. At first, it was just someplace where I could do my reviews and hope people would see it and share their thoughts. Then I realized that people were actually reading it and it was giving me something more to do, kind of taking the place of a job I didn't have. I've been staying home with my son since he was born and I'm not the type of person who likes to be bored. My daily life started getting very monotonous and once I got involved in Literary Escapism, it gave me a chance to escape for a little bit.

Who are your favorite authors? What are your favorite novels?
I have a lot of favorite authors since it all depends on my mood at the time. One author that I will go out and buy the hardcover novels is Diana Gabaldon. I love her Outlander series. I'm also a huge fan of Jeaniene Frost (Nighthuntress), Karen Chance (Cassandra Palmer), Laurell K Hamilton (Anita Blake and Meredith Gentry), Patricia Briggs (Mercedes Thompson), and Jenna Black (Mogan Kingsly). I grew up reading a lot of romance novels, so I also enjoy Nora Roberts, Julia Quinn, Jane Feather, and Linda Lael Miller.

What genre do you prefer to read and why?
Right now I'm really into reading Urban Fantasy or anything in paranormal fiction. I love the idea that the monsters walk among us and our reality isn't always what it seems like. If vampires or magic were to actually exist, what would the world be like? Would it be chaotic or would people just shrug and go on with their lives. It's amusing to read each authors take on how the world would react to the presence of the supernatural. Not only that, but each author has their own twist to our reality that new two authors would have the same world. Regardless of which novel I pick up, as long as they are two different authors, I'll always be jumping into a new world where there are new possibilities and new characters to meet.

If you were only allowed to recommend one novel, what would it be and why?
This is kind of tricky for me since I rarely recommend only one novel. A lot of times, when I try and recommend something to someone, I'll ask what they prefer because something I love may not be what they like. For instance, if someone loves werewolves, they wouldn't be as interested in Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress series since it involves vampires and ghouls. However, if I had to recommend something without talking to someone first, it would definitely be Jeaniene Frost. I love her Night Huntress series. There's just something about them that make them stand out in my head. The writing is wonderful, her characters make you care about them, and all of the situations are fun yet they still have a dangerous quality to them. She only has the two novels out so far, but I continuously re-read them whenever I get a chance.Other than Frost, if anyone wants to know what else I would recommend, it would definitely be this - http://www.literaryescapism.com/2008/05/26/197/

What is a book reading experience that really stands out in your mind?
I think the one experience that stands out right now is when I found Jeaniene Frost's Halfway to the Grave. Whenever I go into the grocery store, I always browse the book section to see what they have. I kept seeing Frost's book and finally one day I picked it up. I was looking for something new and the cover kept catching my eye. Halfway to the Grave grabbed me so quickly that I think I had it finished within one night. Once I finished it, I started looking for more from her and was disappointed when I realized I was going to have to wait.

What are 5 books that are on your wishlist right now?
How about 5 series that are on my list, since I don't have any of them right now...
Katie Chandler series by Shanna Swendson - There are currently 4 novels, but her publisher is waiting to see what the sales are like before contracting for a fifth novel. I really want the fifth novel though.
The Black Jewels series by Anne Bishop - This actually starts out as a trilogy, but Bishop has been adding to the series.
Study series by Maria Snyder - These just captivated me from the moment I picked them up. This was another series I saw at the grocery store, but since they were in trade paperback format, I didn't buy them. There are currently three, but she's working on another one.
The Werecats series by Rachel Vincent - Another great series that I stumbled upon and have been kicking myself for not buying.
Mona Lisa series by Sunny - This series is actually a new twist to the whole shapeshifter idea and I like it. I'm still reading the novels that are out, but I'm really hoping to get them some day.

Name a couple of book blogs that you like to visit. What makes them so special? One blog I watch pretty closely in Amberkatze's Book Blog (http://amberkatze-amberkatze.blogspot.com/). The two of us seem to have pretty similar tastes in novels and it's really rare that I don't like a book she's recommended. Now there was a time that happened, but it was a book in a series we both liked (Undead and Unworthy by MJ Davidson), but Amber lives in Austria, while I'm in the US, and we both had different covers. I'm of the firm belief that the covers are the reason for our disagreement.
Another site is American Bibliophile (http://americanbibliophile.com/). I was friends with one of the brains behind this project and she asked me to join it a couple of years ago, where I ended up meeting her sister. They actually gave me my first taste at book reviewing and I had a lot of fun with it. We really don't have the same preference in novels, but I'm always curious what's being reviewed over there.
Here are a few others I enjoy: Vampire Wire (http://www.vampirewire.blogspot.com/), Urban Fantasy Land (http://urbanfantasyland.wordpress.com/), Bitten by Books (http://bittenbybooks.com/), Darque Reviews (http://darquereviews.blogspot.com/), and Sidhe Vicious Book Reviews (http://sidhevicious.wordpress.com/). All five of these sites have really good reviews and interviews going on all the time. There's always something fun to read.

Who is someone you really appreciate?
My husband. Cheesy and corny I know, but he puts up with my reading addiction so well. When it comes to books, I have no will power and I often buy books when I shouldn't. It gets on his nerves, but he knows this is something I enjoy doing and it's been helping me mentally while I stay at home with our son. He has also been totally supportive of Literary Escapism and has been trying to help me come up with ways to make it even better. He's even been helping me by writing a few reviews on books I normally wouldn't read. At the beginning, I was using Blogger has my review site, but once I determined that I wanted something a little more polished, and moved to Wordpress, he went out and bought my domain for me as a surprise. I love my husband dearly and I so wouldn't be able to do this without his support.
So sweet! Thanks, Jackie. I'll have to check out a few of your recommendations since I really know nothing about your preferred genre.

Library Thing Tuesday (19) + Pic of Emmy

Today's Question: Have you ever added a quote to the quotation field in common knowledge? What's a quote you particularly like from a book, one that you know by heart?

My answer: I have not added any quotes, though maybe I should start doing that. If a particular quote strikes me while I'm reading, I'll often add it to my review of the book, so it wouldn't take too much effort to add it there as well.

I used to have a notebook full of literary quotations that I loved (it's probably in storage now). I was inspired to start it by the movie "Dead Poet's Society". My favorite literary quote from that movie (one that I know by heart) is from Tennyson's poem Ulysses:

"...Come, my friends,

`Tis not too late to seek a newer world...

for my purpose holds

To sail beyond the sunset,...

and tho' We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven,

that which we are, we are;

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."


This week, looks like Emmy doesn't want to be left behind on our trip to Dresden (we leave tomorrow for 3 days and she'll have to go to our neighbor's place):

Monday, September 15, 2008

Book Review: Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott

I love to read fiction that allows me to really get inside a character’s head and gain a deeper understanding of some aspect of the human condition, even if it takes me to some disturbing places. In Living Dead Girl, Elizabeth Scott gives us an intimate portrait of Alice, a sexual abuse victim so terrorized by a kidnapper she’s been forced to live with from age 10 to 15 that she’s all but given up on life. When he sets his sights on a much younger girl, Alice sees her chance to escape her living nightmare of daily rape, beatings and starvation. But if she helps him as he demands, will she lose the last shred of human dignity she has left?

This is a heavy, heartbreaking novel, but one that reinforces my belief that the human spirit finds ways to triumph even in the face of great evil. Short and spare, yet powerful and moving, Alice’s story lingers long after the last page is turned.

Living Dead Girl is out now.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Book Review and Contest: Read My Lips by Teri Brown

Ah, the things we do to be popular. After all, isn’t it nicer to be liked than to be ignored or ridiculed? Serena is deaf, so she knows what it’s like to be an outsider. But her disability has also enabled her to develop a superpower of sorts – she can read lips, even at a distance, with 85% accuracy. And when she moves to a new school and girls from an exclusive sorority promise her popularity in exchange for some juicy gossip, Serena is very tempted. But she’s also made friends with fellow outsider (and hottie) Miller who doesn’t like the sorority’s catty ways. Is it possible to be popular, get the guy AND be true to herself?

Serena comes off as a surprisingly well adjusted teen, and she deals so well with her disability that it doesn’t seem to slow her down much. Ok, so she has to be extra careful crossing the street, she can’t enjoy loud music and she doesn’t like for people to touch her ears, but in many ways she lives the life of a typical high school student. And like most teens, she wants badly to fit in. Her struggle to find a way to do this without losing her integrity and individuality makes for compelling reading. And the gossip she uncovers is fun too – it’s amazing what people say when they think no one is listening (or reading lips).

Though many of the supporting characters feel very stock – the mean cheerleader, the overprotective mom, the dumb sidekicks to the queen bees, the brooding loner, etc., there were a couple originals who stole all the scenes they were in – the preppy yet independent Darcy who warns Serena against letting herself become a carbon copy of everyone else, and Aunt Shirley, a former sorority girl turned supermom and animal activist.

It’s a fun, light read with a great narrative hook. And in honor of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, I am giving away two copies to my readers. The contest is open until Friday September 19th at noon CST and the winners must get me their shipping information within 24 hrs or forfeit their prize.

For one entry, just leave a comment. If you are not in the US or Canada, you must indicate international shipping in your comment to be eligible.

For a second entry, e-mail me at lenoreva AT hotmail DOT com and tell me on what body part Author Teri Brown got a Read My Lips tattoo in honor of her book launch. Check her party posts from June on her blog (http://tjbrown.blogspot.com/) for the answer.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Weekly Geeks Book Interviews: Black Box by Julie Schumacher and The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway

For Weekly Geeks #16 (the first time I participated) we were paired up with an interview partner to ask each other questions about a book we've read recently. Ali from Worducopia asked me five questions about Julie Schmacher's Black Box and I asked her five about Nick Harkaway's The Gone-Away World (which is in my TBR pile).

Black Box is the story of a family with two sisters who have always been very close, Dora and Elena. When Dora is admitted to the hospital with clinical depression, Elena is set adrift in a world that doesn't make sense anymore, one in which her parents always fight and people stare at her in school. Will her life ever be "normal" again?

This slim novel is broken into 78 very short chapters, some no longer than 2 sentences. It's a very effective way of showing how mental illness can fracture lives. It's not a fun novel by any means, but it is very good.

Here are the questions Ali asked me and my answers:

Ali: Black Box focuses on depression. Is it a depressing book to read?

Lenore: It does seem like it would be, but it’s not. It’s actually manages to be highly enlightening and informative without straying into “afterschool special” territory.

Ali: The book is told from the perspective of Elena, whose sister Dora is suffering from depression. Which of these girls would you say was the main character of the story?

Lenore: Unquestionably Elena. Sure, Dora gets all the dramatic scenes but the novel spends more time on the effect Dora’s situation has on Elena and her parents. Elena also starts hanging out with a neighbor boy who claims his brother was treated for depression and warns her about the hospital treatment Dora is receiving and the "Black Box" (warning label) drugs she has been prescribed.

Ali: Would you recommend this book to young adults? How about to adults?

Lenore: Elena is in 9th grade and the book is being marketed as YA. But I think the very honest way the author depicts depression and its effect on family dynamics is something that would appeal to adults too, whether or not they know someone affected by the disease.

Ali: Author Julie Schumacher states, "I hope -- whether you have experienced depression or not -- that you will recognize some part of who you are and feel acknowledged; that you will feel steadied by the imaginative solace a good book can provide." In your opinion, did she succeed?

Lenore: I think she does. I have personally never known anyone with the kind of clinical depression Dora suffers but I can still relate to her in some way. When Elena asks Dora if depression is like sadness, Dora says no. She says, “I can’t describe [what it’s like]. I don’t know how.” I think we all have feelings sometimes that we either don’t how to describe or that we feel like we can’t share with anyone. And fiction is not only a great escape but also a reflection of the human condition.

Ali: Schumacher also states that someone she trusts told her to write the book if she needs to, but don't ever publish it. What do you think about this?

Lenore: Since her main motivation was not to sensationalize but to destigmatize depression, I think she was right to publish it. I like her “You are not alone” message: it is definitely an important one, especially to those still in their tumultuous teen years.


Now here are some questions I asked Ali about The Gone-Away World:

Lenore: The Gone-away World is a 500 pager - how long did it take you to read it?

Ali: I'm still reading it!

It's been a much slower read than I expected, actually. I've been reading it exclusively (meaning, no other books--I do stop to eat, sleep, and homeschool my children) for 10 days, which would normally be enough time for me to finish a book of that length ... and I'm on page 315. Why is it taking so long? Well, there's a pretty high ratio of exposition to dialogue, and the style is more dense than it first appears, partly because of the English style of humor. There's a lot that's funny if you read it right, but it might take a second look to get it. Also, it seems to be a pretty easy book to put down. I'm not staying up too late at night reading it, like I often do.

Lenore: Do you have any insight on why the author might have chosen the title?

Yes, it's a perfect title for the storyline, in which scientists invent a weapon that can make the enemy disappear completely. The bulk of the book takes place during and after an apocolyptic war, nicknamed "The Go Away War," during which this weapon is used and misused by many countries, with catastrophic consequences. Entire sections of the world disappear, and some living things become sort of half-real, before scientists invent the technology to stop the distruction. The main character and his team are striving to contain the stuff before the entire world disappears.

Lenore: The jacket copy touts the novel's "stunning futuristic vision a la A Clockwork Orange and 1984". Have you read these novels and if so, how does this novel compare?

Ali: There's definitely a similarity, in the sense that the theme is, "Where are we headed?" The authors of each of the three titles used fiction to extrapolate an undesirable future and thus asked the reader to evaluate the present. Actually, though, I would liken The Gone-Away World more to the movie Brazil.

Lenore: What is one scene that really stands out in your mind when thinking back on the whole?

In the middle of this horrendous war, the narrator is on the verge of falling in love with a nurse he's been unable to spend any time with outside the military hospital where he's been a patient. At her request, he asks her out on a date. But in the middle of a war zone, there's no place suitable for any kind of date.

His best friend, a young man of considerable influence, arranges a reconnaissance mission to an old abandoned castle-like building, and the team manages to turn one room into a "restaurant," with food ("a wild blend of Asia and Southern European), wine (made from mangos) and music to dance to (a paper-and-comb "harmonica," percussion, and jazz vocals). It's a fun scene and very indicative of the friendship between these two guys, and the fact that life and love must go on even in the face of war.

Lenore: This is Nick Harkaway's first novel - would you want to read more from him?

Ali: I would, but probably not another 500-pager. One reviewer raved about this book as "a sprawling epic." Sprawling: not an adjective that I, as a writer, would consider complimentary. A little tightening (say, 100 pages worth) would have made it a better novel. The first chapter takes place chronologically in the middle of the story. Then Harkaway devotes 270 pages to the background, starting when the narrator was a young boy. Much of it was crucial to the plot, much of it was funny or interesting. But plenty of it could have been cut to keep the momentum of the story moving back to the middle more quickly.
So there you have it: two very thought provoking novels to check out. Both Black Box and The Gone-Away World are out now in hardcover.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Book Review: Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky

A friend of mine started reading Judy Blume’s Forever on the bus on the way to a church youth camp. Some time passed, and then we were all startled by her sudden shouts of disgust followed by her hurling the book out of the bus window. Apparently, she thought it was too racy. She might very well have the same reaction to Anatomy of a Boyfriend, a frank look at teen sexuality.

Dominique, a high school senior and aspiring doctor whose favorite book is Grey’s Anatomy, has never had a serious boyfriend so she hasn’t really given much thought to her stance on sex. She vaguely disapproves of her friend Amy’s frequent fooling around with various boys (she does everything but, so she’s technically still a virgin), but it’s not like she’s signed a True Love Waits promise to stay pure until marriage. Then she meets Wesley and falls head over heels in love and learns the hard way that first loves aren’t always meant for the long term.

The “throw the book out the window” scenes don’t start until about 100 pages in. It takes months of e-mailing and awkward meetings before Wes and Dom can actually come out and declare their feelings for each other (this is the relationship stage I know all too well). But once they finally do, things move alarmingly fast and without serious discussions about the future. Dom, like many teenage girls, thinks that sex means staying together forever. Wes, like most teenage boys, just wants to have a little fun. And because neither makes their expectations clear (Dom because she’s afraid of coming off as “too clingy” and Wes because he’s a guy), they are setting themselves up for emotional turmoil.

This is a very honest look at the giddy highs and heart breaking lows of a first relationship. But it doesn’t need to be thrown out a window – it’s actually a great book for discussion about teen sexuality, how far is too far, respecting yourself, and making the right choices. I think it’s a topic that needs to be discussed openly and honestly instead of secretly and shamefully.

One thing that threw me out of the book a bit was a scene at New Orleans’ Tulane University where Dom’s roof caves in and her room sustains water damage. My first thought was Hurricane Katrina. But then, this book is either set in an alternate universe or pre 2005 as Katrina is ignored completely. A bit of a shame, but I can understand that it was probably a can of worms the author didn’t want to open, especially since the book has such a narrow focus.

Anatomy of a Boyfriend comes out in paperback on September 23rd.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Library Thing Tuesday (18) + Pic of Emmy

Question for today:
Awards. Do you follow any particular book awards? Do you ever choose books based on awards? What award-winning books do you have? (Off the top of your head only- no need to look this up- it would take all day!) What's your favorite award-winning book?

If a book wins an award, it might get me to look at it twice but it is not a main criteria. I have read some award winning books that I did not think were all that great.

I do follow the Man Booker Prize and was kind of upset when Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell was shoortlisted but did not win in 2004 and when Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro was shortlisted but did not win in 2005 as these are two of my favorite books. I did read the 2006 winner, Kiran Desai's The Inheritance of Loss but only found it average. Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones was on the 2007 shortlist and I bought it recently but have not started yet.

I also keep my eye on Newberry Medal winners and Louis Sachar's Holes is a favorite that won it recently (1999).

1964's Caldecott winner was Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak and 2008's was The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick.


Look what crazy kitty was up to this week:

It is a good advertisment for Special K!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Author Interview J Scott Savage and Farword Giveaway Winner

First up - it was extremely hard to pick a winner because all of your pleas were so impassioned. So I picked 3 finalists and then had Daniel pick a number to pick the winner: Em! Congrats - I hope you and the 13 year old boy you know enjoy it! Send me your address and I'll pass it on to J.

And now, here's my interview with Farword author J Scott Savage:

Let’s meet on your favorite airline and fly to your dream destination while munching on stale pretzels.

Oh, cool. Dream Airways, where there is always plenty of legroom, the air is fresh, and the food is good. Except for the stale pretzels.

How do you choose character names? Do you actually know anyone named Marcus, Chet or Kaja? And if so, do they have anything in common with your characters?

Nope. All made up. Part of it is playing with sound. The girl in my head sounds like a Kyja. The bully sounds like a Chet. I find that if I name a character after a real person, it makes it harder to let them become who they want to be. I still do it with minor characters for fun. But not major ones.

Shadow Mountain is a Mormon imprint. What would you say to parents who are wary of letting their kids read Farworld because of this?

Shadow Mountain is a national imprint of a Mormon printer. (Deseret Book.) But the whole reason for Shadow Mountain is for writing books that have no Mormon content. In fact they make a pretty big deal of keeping religious content out of any of their books. What they want are gripping stories that are family friendly. Not meaning they aren’t scary per se, because most good fantasy is at least a little scary at some point. But that the language is clean, there isn’t excessive gore, etc. If any SM authors were to have Mormon content in their books, it would ruin all the work they’ve done to make it a national imprint.

If the government forced you to train for the Olympics, which sport would you choose and why?
I love running. Especially long distance. Between writing and work, I can’t run near as much as I want (and my waistline shows it.) But if I become a fulltime writer, I will start running every day again. It gives me so much energy.

What is your favorite paragraph in a book? One that you wish you had written yourself?
I don’t have it with me right now to quote exactly, but I love the first paragraph of The Talisman. I also love the paragraph the Mark Twain closes Tom Sawyer with.

What is your favorite sentence from a review that you’ve gotten so far?
Before my book even went to press, I let the thirteen-year-old daughter of a fellow writer read the ms. She wrote on the front page, “This is the best book I will ever read.”

What is your favorite word in the English language?
Miasma. I just like the sound of it and what it is.

Least favorite?

Favorite in a foreign language?
Angelitos. Little angels.

Favorite in a made-up language?
Not sure, but it would have to be something Wharf said in Star Trek.

What is your favorite letter of the alphabet?
I’m going to have to go with S.

After so many interviews, is there a question you haven’t been asked?
Not that I’d want to answer in public!

Thanks J!

J also wanted me to tell you the following (in his own words):
I will be having a release party at the Spanish Fork, UT library on Saturday, September 13th from 12-3. We’ll be having free food, free posters, drawings, and all that good stuff. And 20% of the proceeds will go to the library (is there a better cause?)

Also drop by the new website www.readfarworld.com and take a look around. There are still a lot of goodies we are adding, but the forum is up and I’d love to have you drop by.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

I am a BBAW Award Nominee!

The Book Blogger Appreciation Week shortlists have been announced in all categories and Presenting Lenore is up for Best YA Lit Blog! Thank you to all who nominated me - I'm beyond thrilled that you check in to read my reviews, that you leave such great comments and that you deemed me worthy of such an honor. I'm up against some very tough and deserving competition - The Book Muncher, The Story Siren, The Page Flipper and Bookshelves of Doom - but if you'd like to vote for me at the official voting booth by September 12th, well that would be the icing on the cake. You get to vote in many categories so check out at least a few of the nominees before you make your final selections - there are a ton of great book blogs to be discovered. Here's the full list.

If you're visiting for the first time, welcome! My focus is on YA literature and literary fiction but I review just about anything I read so you'll also find the occasional thriller, sci-fi, non-fiction and chick-lit book featured. I do author interviews and book giveaways and have joined a couple of reading challenges. I've been a Tuesday Thinger since the beginning and a lot of my LT Tuesday posts include a picture of my Birman kitten Emmy doing something hilarious. I hope you'll find something here that interests you, that you'll leave comments so I can come visit your blog and that you'll check back to see what I've been reading.

Thanks again to Amy for organizing BBAW! It's so nice to feel appreciated :)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Book Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Warning: Only start this book on a day where you have no pressing responsibilities – you will not be able to put it down.

In a dystopian future, the nation of Panem (made up of a rich capitol and 12 poor districts) exists in what was once called North America. The capitol rules with an iron fist and discourages rebellion by cutting out the tongues of traitors and staging the annual Hunger Games – a fight to the death on live TV between tributes from the 12 districts (a boy and a girl from each for a total of 24) where only one can emerge victorious.

When 16 year old Katniss Everdeen is forced to volunteer in the place of her 12 year old sister, she doesn’t think she has much chance of winning. After all, the wealthier districts can send “career” tributes – volunteers who train for years for the games and who win more often than not. But a harsh life has made Katniss a survivor, her prep team prepares her well, and her fellow tribute from district 12, the charming and caring Peeta, has a plan that might just keep them both alive – at least for a while.

The Hunger Games grabbed me from page one and never let go. I only took one small break before I plunged back in to this gripping story. As you might suspect from the summary, the narrative is brutal at times, but the violence is never gratuitous or sensationalized. And it doesn’t overwhelm either, as we are given many scenes which are inspiring, humorous and even romantic.

Katniss is a strong female character, a bit surly (not that you can blame her considering the circumstances), but clever and loyal. It’s natural that we root for her as the tributes enter the arena. That we feel her pain when she’s attacked, burned, starving. That we cheer when “sponsors” send her something essential to staying in the game. And that we cry when the inevitable happens. I am rarely so emotionally involved in a story that I am moved to tears, but a certain scene in this book had me sobbing (fortunately not in public).

I’m not sure what to feel about the fact that this is the first book in a series. The main story of the 74th Hunger Games comes to a close, but I’m definitely curious about how the author will weave the loose threads together in the next book (s), perhaps filling out the bare bones back story of Panem. Problem is, I don’t want to wait – I would read all the rest of the books in the series now if I could.

My ARC says the release date is in October, but The Hunger Games appears to be on sale now at amazon. I say get it as soon as you can. It’s one of the best books I’ve read all year.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

LT Author Challenge

Dawn of She's Too Fond of Books is hosting the LT Author Challenge. Basically, you choose any number of books by authors who are LibraryThing members that you will read in the next 3 months (ends Nov 30th) and for each book you read and review you get one entry for drawing to win a $20 gift card to your bookseller of choice.

The following books are on my list to read:

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
Wake by Lisa McMann
Into the Wild by Sarah Beth Durst
Guernica by Dave Boling
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos

If you want to join to the challenge and are not sure which authors are on LT, you can go here or check my post here about the books I've already read by LT authors. Finally, when you are convinced you want to sign up (the odds of winning are good because so few are participating), go here to sign up!

Big Splash Winners!

Thank you everyone for sharing your middle school memories and entering the Big Splash contest. The winners of a signed hardcover, chosen at random using random.org, are:

Lauren from ShootingStarsMag (the top commenter)
Linda J from Linda's Sunflower
April from Cafe of Dreams

Congrats! Please get back to me within 48 hrs or so with your addresses so I can pass them on to Jack Ferraiolo. And if you didn't win, I hope you will still buy/borrow/steal (j/k) this awesome book and read it soon. If you've never even heard of it, read my review and author interview here.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Book Review: Woman of a Thousand Secrets by Barbara Wood

What drew me initially to this work is the fact that I have visited both Tikal and Copan, ruins of former great Mayan cities in Central America and the setting of this fascinating work of historical fiction. It explores an exciting time period, full of myth, danger and upheaval, as the Mayans lose their dominance and the Aztecs begin to flourish.

In the book, we follow the main character Tonina, a young woman who grew up on the islands but arrived as a baby with the dolphins from somewhere else, as she goes on a quest on the mainland not only to find a rare flower that is said to have healing powers but also to find her destiny. Along the way we meet a colorful cast of characters including a one eyed dwarf, a shape shifter, two famous ballplayers (one a spoiled Mayan prince, one a noble outsider), a 15 year old girl who looks like a grandmother, a woman trapped in an underground cave for over 20 years (thought to be the Earth Goddess) and many more.

The story is engaging and the historical detail, mixed with a bit of mythical fantasy, really gives you a sense of what it might have been like to live in this far off time and place. You might have known that in the Mayan culture, death on the ball court meant ascending to 13th heaven and consorting with gods in the afterlife. But did you know that dwarves were sought after companions because they were thought to bring luck?

Thanks to the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program for giving me yet another enjoyable reading experience.

Woman of a Thousand Secrets came out yesterday and is now available in hardcover.

BTW, here's a Mayan ball court at Copan (grainy from being scanned in!). I really enjoyed my visit there, although it was a bit underwhelming after visiting Tikal. Except for the opressive humidity and enormous mosquitoes, I loved everything about Tikal - the history, the ruins, the nature, the monkeys. A must visit!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

LibraryThing Tuesday (17) + pic of Emmy

Today's question: Members who have your books. Do you ever look at this feature? Do you use it to make LT friends, or compare notes? There are three tabs- weighted, raw, and recent. "Weighted," which means "weighted by book obscurity and library size" is probably the least self-explanatory of the three, whereas "raw" and "recent" are more so. Do you get any kind of use out of this feature?

Three of my LibraryThing friends are in my top ten weighted, but that is just a coincidence - I didn't add them because of that, but because of the forums. I do like to look at "members with my books" libraries because I figure if we have a lot of the same books, I might find some other books I'd like to read in their libraries. In the beginning, I also went through them looking for books I had read to so I could add them to my own library. I have my library set up so that it is mostly books I have read and since I don't own a lot of these anymore, I add them when I run across them in someone else's library or if they are mentioned in a forum.

Luckily for everyone, I was able to snap a hilarious picture of Emmy again this week. When Daniel is illustrating, she'll often join to "help" him on his desk. Here she is playing with one of his pens so it looks like she's illustrating too.


Tomorrow is the last day to enter my contest to win one of three signed copies of Jack Ferraiolo's The Big Splash. It is a TON of fun, so don't miss your chance - enter here.

I am also giving away a signed copy of Far World Water Keep by J. Scott Savage. All you have to do is tell me why you want it - the most impassioned plea here wins.

Jen is giving away a copy of Joshua Henkin's Matrimony here. Enter by September 5th.

Dawn is having 3 fun contests - go to her blog and look in the sidebar for details.

Know of any other contests or are you having one yourself? Let me know and I will add it to my list.