Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween! (Part two: Gallery of costumes past)

By popular demand, here are a few pictures of past halloween costumes:
With my brothers. The Raggedy Ann look.

With Margui. The hippie chick look.

With Rachelle. I think I am going for the modest Greek belly dancer look.

Which look is your favorite?

Happy Halloween!

May you get more treats than tricks :)

My "love letters to books" series will return next week.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Book Review: Company of Liars by Karen Maitland

In 1348, a group of travelers thrown together by fate, each with their own dark secret, is trying to outrun the plague as it sweeps across England.

The novel is narrated by a scarred old Camelot who has been on the road for years pedaling fake holy relics. The Camelot is soon joined by a diverse cast of characters including a pregnant woman and her husband, a musician and his apprentice, a magician, a healer, a storyteller, and a young girl who reads the runes. As the title suggests, each in the company is lying about something, though most of the lies are quite easy to figure out long before the truth is revealed.

Author Karen Maitland excels at setting the scene of the story – the historical details are grinded into the plot rather than left in lumps of exposition which makes for a vivid and compelling reading experience. There was also a tinge of the mystical and the occult in the narrative, which makes sense considering the superstitions of the time. Oh and it has one of the most chilling endings I’ve ever read (especially after going back to read the prologue again).

In a story set in this turbulent time, it’s no spoiler to say that death awaits some of the characters. But strangely enough, I was not emotionally attached to any of the characters (save Camelot) to be more than mildly concerned for them and certainly no one’s fate touched me so much that I had to shed any tears. I don’t know if this was because most of the characters were vaguely unlikable and spent a lot of the time bickering or if was something more intangible.

Thanks to LibraryThing for the Early Review copy. Company of Liars is out in hardcover now.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Waiting On Wednesday (6) The Fetch by Laura Whitcomb

Host Jill of Breaking the Spine asks us every week to talk about one book we are really looking forward to. My pick this week is Laura Whitcomb's The Fetch, coming February 2009. Check out this book description and just try not to get excited:

Calder is a Fetch, a death escort, the first of his kind to step from Heaven back to Earth. The first to fall in love with a mortal girl. But when he climbs backwards out of that Death Scene, into the chaos of the Russian Revolution, he tears a wound in the ghost realm, where the spirits begin a revolution of their own.

And I found this little tidbit on Laura's website:

Calder, like every Fetch, had only one name, but he had two ages: his Earth Years numbered nineteen and his Death Years numbered three hundred and thirty. Though it was no excuse for what he would do, for a Fetch, Calder was young. The Order of the Fetch, on the other hand, was old--it began when the ruins of the first garden could still be found hiding in the desert beside a river, a blanket of green having grown over her like a shroud, and, in this moist cave that was once Eden, at the heart of her darkness, the Tree of Knowledge bowed to the earth.

Sounds a bit like a mix between Meet Joe Black and The Book Thief and the Russian Revolution/Garden of Eden elements make it even more appealing to me. I've heard awesome things about Laura's previous book A Certain Slant of Light and I even managed to track down a signed copy on amazon. So that's actually TWO books I'm eager to read. Are you also excited about this one? What other forthcoming books are on your radar?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Book Review: The Whisky Rebels by David Liss

It’s difficult to distill everything that’s going on in this novel into a short summary, but I’ll try. Basically, it follows two plotlines which merge in the later part of the novel. One is narrated by the disgraced (and drunk) former Revolutionary War spy Ethan Saunders as he seeks to aid a former sweetheart and gets involved in trying to stop a plot against the US Treasury. The other is narrated by Joan Maycott who together with her husband, also a war veteran, try to improve their lot on the frontier by coming up with a new whisky recipe (which proves so popular that the government decides to tax it to raise funds).

I’ll admit that I was a bit reluctant to start this book even though I was intrigued enough to request it from the LT ER program (especially when I have such amazing reading material coming out of my ears at the moment), but once I did, I was completely charmed by the devil-may-care attitude of Ethan and the raw determination and clever machinations of Joan. I found their fictional stories, intertwined with real historical events and personalities, compelling reading. Author David Liss has an impressive talent for making history, even something as potentially boring as 18th century finance, really come alive. Joan sets out to write a novel, but she ends up living one – and a very good one at that.

Library Thing Tuesday (25) + Pic of Emmy

This week's question: Legacy libraries. With which legacy libraries do you share books? Tell us a little about a couple of them and what you share.

I'd never checked out this feature before today, and it took me a couple of minutes to find them (they are under the Groups tab). With most legacy libraries, I share at least a couple of the classics which is no surprise. I share 23 books with Carl Sandburg including The phantom tollbooth by Norton Juster. I share 12 with Karen Blixen including The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers.

This is definitely an interesting project!


Last week, Kathy of Oklahoma Booklady commented that they'd need 4 hands to hold up their cat which directly led to the following picture in which we demonstrate that we only need one hand to hold Emmy up (and she LIKES it):

Monday, October 27, 2008

In Loving Memory of My Mother

Who loved to read to me (and my brother)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

November is a HUGE giveaway month!

November is just around the corner and it's going to be a huge book giveaway month at presenting lenore!

Not only am I going to be participating in The Book Giveaway Carnival from November 3-8 at with over 70 other book bloggers, I'm also going to be giving away books all month long. Here are just some of the books I'll be giving away:

(2) signed copies of Cecelia Ahern's Thanks for the Memories (April 2009) - Congrats to Janie and WordLily

(1) copy of Aurelia by Anne Osterlund (April 2008) - Congrats to Carol (unconfirmed)

(1) copy of Death by Bikini by Linda Gerber (May 2008) - Congrats to Cynthia

(1) copy of You are so undead to me by Stacey Jay (March 2009) Congrats to Shalonda

(2) copies of Beautiful Americans by Lucy Silag (January 2009) - Congrats to Kelsey & Amber

(1) copy of Schooled by Anisha Lakhani (August 2008) - Congrats to Mari

(1) signed set of Libby Bray's Gemma Doyle trilogy!! Congrats to Keri (unconfirmed)

and more!


(5) copies of Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway - Congrats to Yan, Carolina, Kimberly Derting, Simply Megan and Book Lover Lisa

(5) copies of Chalice by Robin McKinley - Congrats to Jana, S. Krishna, Jeane and AC and Cuileann

(1) box of at least 6 YA books from Penguin in a "Publicist's Choice" prize pack - Congrats to Allison (unconfirmed)

There will be a separate entry post for each contest, and some will be instant win (meaning that the first person to "claim" the book will get it), so it pays to become a follower of my blog (see sidebar) or to subscribe to my blog. Some giveaways will even be open worldwide. NOTE: Regardless of when winners are announced, I will be sending all books the week of December 15th.

If you are an author that would like to donate bookmarks or promotional items to send along to the winners, please let me know at lenoreva AT hotmail DOT com.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Book Review: Chalice by Robin McKinley

After a disaster which kills the master and chalice of the Willowlands, beekeeper Mirasol is appointed new chalice and the master’s brother is recalled from the priests of fire and asked to assume master duties in a world he has mostly forgotten. With no training, Mirasol struggles to find her way as chalice and to bind the land and people to a strange new master, one whose very touch can burn human flesh to the bone.

Although Chalice takes place in a fantasy world, the political maneuverings of those in power are very much reminiscent of our own world. Every action, or inaction, on Mirasol and the new master’s part is scrutinized and judged by the ruling circle and the common people alike. And Mirasol’s own inexperience in her role leads to a showdown which could tear the Willowlands apart. It’s a quiet and contemplative sort of novel (in addition to all the politics there is a lot of talk about honey), but the patient reader will be charmed by this story of the power of love to heal.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A love letter to books that scared me silly

Since Halloween is a week away, let’s talk scary books - books so unsettling that they give you nightmares. I don’t read a lot of horror, so most of these books I came upon by accident.

It by Stephen King

You can’t make a list of scary books and not include Stephen King. My favorite books by King are actually the less scary ones, like The Green Mile, On Writing, Carrie and The Stand. But It was the first King book I read and I read it WAY too young – at 13. It completely freaked me out and I’ve never looked at a clown - or a sewer drain - the same way again.

Under the Skin by Michel Faber

This novel starts out normally enough. Isserley, a tiny female driver with big coke bottle glasses drives around picking up hitchhikers with big muscles. But to what end? For me to tell you anymore about this amazingly strange and utterly terrifying novel would be a shame. So I won’t, except to say it’s one of my favorite all time books and I recommend it to anyone with an appreciation for darker novels.

Executive Orders by Tom Clancy

At first glance, a Tom Clancy novel might seem like a weird choice for a scary book list. But this over 1300 page book, which predates 9/11, is scary not only because the entire government is taken out by terrorists flying a 747, but also because the terrorists are disseminating the Ebola virus. Death by Ebola seems to be one of the worst ways to go, so yeah, this novel had my poor heart beating wildly.

1984 by George Orwell

Orwell’s dystopian classic is frightening enough with big brother controlling society. But the icing on the terror cake is room 101 where your worst fear materializes. My room 101 might hold killer demonic clowns, crazed Ebola infected monkeys, or old potatoes wiggling their copious potato eyes. I really don’t want to find out.

Entombed by Linda Fairstein

Oh yeah, have I mentioned I’m extremely claustrophobic? Being buried alive might even be worse than the whole Ebola thing. In fact, it scares me so much, I can’t even bear to read about it. Entombed has been sitting on my shelf for years, unread, but giving me nightmares. Now that’s a scary book!

What books made you sleep with the light on?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Book Review: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Todd lives in Prentisstown, a dystopian nightmare where all women are dead and everyone can hear each other’s thoughts (known as noise). As the only “boy”, the youngest in the restless and violent town, Todd’s only real companion is his (talking) dog, Manchee. When he discovers a girl in the swamp one day, his caretakers tell him he’s in danger and he has to make a run for it.

And thus begins book one of the Chaos Walking trilogy. It’s best to go into the book knowing only as much as Todd knows (which is surprisingly little considering no one’s thoughts are private), so I won’t go into spoilers here. Suffice to say that leaving Prentisstown considerably expands Todd’s worldview and understanding. Todd is an intriguing character, a real innocent, with a voice that matches his lack of education.

The ideas here are very creative, especially in regards to the noise. It’s interesting to see what animals have to say (not much of interest actually) and how differently the various settlements Todd encounters on his journey have dealt with the problem of broadcasting their every thought.

I cruised through this thinking the whole time that it’s an A-/B+ book – until I hit the ending. The narrative is dark, but the ending is even darker and though it works on an intellectual level, it’s an emotional sucker punch – a cliffhanger that makes you think the book must be missing some pages.

Book Review: To the Power of Three by Laura Lippman

Best friends Josie, Perri and Kat go into the bathroom at their high school. Shots are fired. One emerges with a minor injury, one with a life-threatening one, and one is dead. What happened is the mystery at the heart of this riveting thriller.

After What the Dead Know, I was excited to read another thriller by Laura Lippman. This one had wonderful character development – I really got to know the three girls as well as a great many secondary characters (such as the huffy, hypochondriac school secretary, rendered so well in just two short scenes). It was well paced and very readable. BUT – and this is a giant but – the reveal is just lame, which is a big letdown after getting so into the story. It’s hard to recommend any book that has an unsatisfactory ending, but for a thriller, it’s especially problematic. If a subpar ending to an otherwise well written and exciting story doesn’t bother you, go for it, but if it does, you might want to steer clear.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Waiting On Wednesday (5) The Angel Maker by Stefan Brijs

One of my Frankfurt Book Fair finds that I was not able to get a copy of is The Angel Maker, described as a literary page-turner about one man’s macabre ambition to create life—and secure immortality. It is already a sensation in the author's native Belgium and it's now been translated into English and will be released December 30 in North America.

From the Penguin Winter 2009 catalog:

The village of Wolfheim is a quiet little place until the geneticist Dr. Victor Hoppe returns after an absence of nearly twenty years. The doctor brings with him his infant children—three identical boys all sharing a disturbing disfigurement. He keeps them hidden away until Charlotte, the woman who is hired to care for them, begins to suspect that the triplets—and the good doctor— aren’t quite what they seem. As the villagers become increasingly suspicious, the story of Dr. Hoppe’s past begins to unfold, and the shocking secrets that he has been keeping are revealed.

A chilling story that explores the ethical limits of science and religion, The Angel Maker is a haunting tale in the tradition of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Frankenstein. Brought to life by internationally bestselling author Stefan Brijs, this eerie tale promises to get under readers’ skin.

For fans of Shirley Jackson and Kazuo Ishiguro

Very good reviews of this so far on LibraryThing from those who read it in Flemish. Can't wait!
See what other books bloggers are excited about by visiting Waiting On Wednesday's host Jill's post this week.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Library Thing Tuesday (24) + Pic of Emmy

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

I used the series feature to find out if there were any new books in the Mode series by Piers Anthony (I had read the first 3) and I saw that there is a fourth, so maybe I'll go back and read that someday.

Generally I am reluctant to start series. I just don't want to be tied down. That said, I do own the entire Series of Unfortunate Events (Lemony Snicket), the three Violet books from Melissa Walker and all of Jasper Fforde's Tuesday Next books though I still have to read the latest. I bought all three in Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle series with plans to read them all. I also recently acquired Extras to complete Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series and I'm anxiously awaiting the 5th book in Shannon Greenland's Specialists series. And I will pick up Death by Denim (by Linda Gerber) since I enjoyed Death by Bikini and Death by Latte. And I think that's it for series I own.

I have checked out series from the library, such as a couple of VC Andrews (way back when), Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer and I read up to book 9 of the Left Behind series.

I've read quite a few first books of new series lately and am trying to decide if I want to continue. Hunger Games sequel? YES! YES! YES! Triple Shot Bettys in Love (sequel to Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty). Very excited! The second in the Joy of Spooking series? Most definitely. The Resistance (sequel to The Declaration)? Considering. Sequel to Far World? Maybe, but probably not.
I'm sure I'm forgetting some. It's amazing how many series books there are!


And now... on to this week's kitty pic!

Emmy likes us to carry her around in weird positions - the weirder, the better. Here's one of her favorites:

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Frankfurt Book Fair 2008

Another Frankfurt Book Fair has come to a close. Like last year, I went every day. Here’s a short (ok, it is rather long) retrospective inlcuding a list of the books I brought home each day (and I was VERY picky about what I took with me because books are heavy and I had to carry them around).

Wednesday October 15
I always head straight for Hall 8 (English language books) on day 1. I walked around and picked up catalogs and the couple of first day galleys (this year only MacMillan and Hachette had them out for the taking). Most of the sales reps were very busy on Wednesday, but I did get the chance to talk to two at Algonquin and Bill at Llewellyn (Flux) who promised me review copies if I came back on Saturday morning. I did have some interesting conversations with reps in general about blog reviewers and they were all really excited about the development and said they pass around the links we send them to our reviews. A couple even said they’d heard of my blog! How cool is that?

Books brought home:
Bliss by O.Z. Livaneli (Sept 2007)
The Coroner by M.R. Hall (Aug 2009)

Thursday October 16
Daniel had some portfolio reviews in the morning and I took the cat to the vet to get her stitches out. Before I went to meet him in Hall 3.0 in the afternoon, I stopped by Hall 6 to see Mikhail Gorbachev for 5 minutes (his bodyguards were massive!). Daniel and I walked around some and looked at German picture books and saw Bruce Darnell talking about his new book (he was the catwalk trainer on the first two seasons of Germany’s Next Top Model). Then we met Alice who works at Dtv and went together to an author reading: Anya Ulinich read from her novel Petropolis (Feb 2007). Sounds like a great book! In the evening, we met our friends Wes and Craig from PowerHouse books for dinner and I had the hugest schnitzel I have ever seen (they stayed the week at our apartment too).

Books brought home:
None, but I did get a free issue of Der Spiegel for Daniel

Friday October 17
Our first stop was Hall 4.2 to see our friend Hans Martin Trautner’s new book: Children’s understanding and production of pictures, drawing and art.

We walked around 4.1 and looked at design and art books for a while as well as the Type Directors Club exhibition of the best type projects of the year. Then, we went to the comics center to see Lewis Trondheim talk about his creative process. Right afterwards, there was a signing, and this is where things went wrong. The comics center staff told me they hand out numbers to people in the interview audience so they can get their books signed first. Daniel was right out in front, so I thought no problem. Well, instead of a peaceful handing out of numbers, a bunch of people stormed the stage, elbowing Daniel out of the way and knocking over drinks and destroying equipment. Daniel ended up with a number that put him 20th in line behind all these barbarians, meaning we had to wait for one and half hours. I was not pleased. Finally, it was Daniel's turn and I got this picture (sans flash because Lewis threatened to bash in anyone's head who used flash):

Books brought home:
Die Welle (graphic novel) by Stephani Kampmann (signed)
Savoy by Celia Rees (German translation)
Ausser Dienst by Lewis Trondheim (signed)

Saturday October 18
I headed straight to Flux to pick up my cherished copy of A.S. King’s Dust of 100 Dogs (see my post about it here). YAY! On Saturday, most of the reps are less occupied so they finally have time to talk. So I went around and introduced myself as a book reviewer and talked to some really nice reps, including one from Faber who gave me 7 books he thought I might like.
I met my friend Tracy at the entrance in the afternoon and we went to Libba Bray’s appearance. She read a scene from each of the books in her Gemma Doyle trilogy and then Julia Nachtman read a scene in German. Libba is hilarious. Apparently her dream job is Queen of England, and since she’s too old to marry the princes, she says she has to gain the throne by more nefarious means. She’s looking for people to help her plot. Any takers? I got her to sign a whole gaggle of books (do I sense a contest coming up?!) and got this picture with her.

Books brought home:
Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King (Feb 2009)
Fairy Lust by Cyn Balog (June 2009)
Pure by Terra Elan McVoy (April 2009)
Savvy by Ingrid Law (May 2008)
Black Rabbit Summer by Kevin Brooks (July 2008)
The Music Teacher by Barbara Hall (Feb 2009)
The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry (June 2008)
The Collector of Worlds by Iliya Troyanov (March 2009)

Far North by Marcel Theroux (March 2009 UK)
Suffer the Children by Adam Creed (May 2009 UK)
The Hidden by Tobias Hill (Jan 2009 UK)
The Black Monastery by Stav Sherez (April 2009 UK)
The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews (Feb 2009 UK)

Sunday October 19
Not much actual business goes on here on Sunday, so Germans bring their biggest wheelie suitcases and go on a book rampage. Some stands sell books at a discount (hard to come by in Germany) and some outright give them away, especially as the closing bell nears. Tracy and I met at 9 am and went to Hall 8.0 to look for picture book dummies (these are free for the taking). I must have gotten about 20. Then I also got a ton more galleys and even bought a few at HarperCollins for 1/3 the regular price.

Books brought home:
A Secret Alchemy: A Novel by Emma Darwin (June 2009)
The World in Half by Cristina Henriquez (April 2009)
No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay (August 2008)
Daemon by Daniel Suarez (Jan 2009)
The Dracula Dossier by James Reese (Oct 2008)
Do Cats Hear with their Feet? by Jake Page (Dec 2008)
Bogus to Bubbly by Scott Westerfeld (Oct 2008)
Tell Me Who by Jessica Wollman (Jan 2009)
You are so Undead to Me by Stacey Jay (March 2009)
Skinned by Robin Wasserman (Sept 2008)
The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong (July 2008)
Evernight by Claudia Gray (May 2008)
Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott (May 2008)

Friday, October 17, 2008

A love letter to books that made me laugh out loud

As I was racking my brain and browsing my shelves for five books to put on this list, I realized that some of my picks are actually quite specific to my experience. What makes me laugh may not make others laugh. I tend to like a lot of snark, sarcasm, and black humor.

Are you experienced? by William Suttcliffe
This is a must read for anyone who has ever gone backpacking, hung out with backpackers or wants to see the realities of backpacking viciously made fun of. In the book, British teen David Greenfield follows his current crush Liz on a 3 month backpacking tour to India, not so much because he cares about expanding his horizons, but more because he wants a relationship with Liz. Along the way, David meets an “enlightened” backpacker who calls himself J, two “selfless” (and hopelessly misguided) girls who volunteer at a leper colony, a wealthy Indian Ranj who is running away from his prominent family, and an extremely hostile journalist. Good times!

The Gashlycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey
This is a macabre rhyming alphabet book that features illustrations of 26 children either dead, dying, or about to die in a variety of ways. “A is for Amy who fell down the stairs, B is for Basil assaulted by bears.” I think my favorite is “Neville who died of ennui” but they are all so delightful absurd, that I come back to this book again and again.

Thank You For Smoking by Christopher Buckley
I am a militant anti-smoker, but I’m also annoyed by much of the whole PC movement. I picked this book up while I was working on a project for Philip Morris (advertising for a potential reduced exposure product or PREP that is billed as “the polite way to smoke” because it reduces secondhand smoke so dramatically – unfortunately, it also looks like a medical device) and the way it skewered the cigarette industry really fit my own experience. In the book, the main character, Nick Naylor, is a reviled tobacco lobbyist who hangs out with his fellow “merchants of death” – a firearm lobbyist and an alcohol lobbyist. When someone tries to kill Nick with an overdose of nicotine patches, it’s up to the MOD squad to get to the bottom of it. It’s very over the top and very funny.

Bitter with Baggage Seeks Same: The Life and Times of Some Chickens
Visual artist Sloane Tanen painstakingly arranged plastic chicks in elaborate dioramas and then wrote hilarious captions to accompany them. It’s kind of hard to explain how funny this is to someone who hasn’t seen it, but it is very funny. One of my favorites is a diorama with the chicks packed into a toy station wagon with suitcases on top and there is a sign for a fried chicken restaurant. The caption says “An eerie silence quickly enveloped the Cohen family wagon. That last turn had been a grave mistake. They were no longer en route to California but heading south, deep into the heart of Kentucky.”

The Complete Far Side by Gary Larson
Ok, this is cheating a bit, but I love the Far Side. This massive volume purports to contain every published Far Side cartoon and a few unpublished ones as well. LOVE!

Honorable mentions: Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events, David Sedaris, Jasper Fforde’s Tuesday Next series, Tom Robbins.

What books made you laugh so hard you fell out of your chair or snorted milk out your nose?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Waiting On Wednesday (4) If I Stay by Gayle Forman

This week I'm lusting after Gayle Forman's new one which has been compared to The Lovely Bones and Elsewhere but BETTER! That's enough to hook me! (That and the beautiful cover!)

But wait, there is also the product description from

In a single moment, everything changes. Seventeen year- old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall riding along the snow-wet Oregon road with her family. Then, in a blink, she finds herself watching as her own damaged body is taken from the wreck...

A sophisticated, layered, and heartachingly beautiful story about the power of family and friends, the choices we all make—and the ultimate choice Mia commands.

And the teaser from Gayle Forman's website:

Choices. Seventeen-year-old Mia is faced with some tough ones: Stay true to her first love— music—even if it means losing her boyfriend and leaving her family and friends behind? Then one February morning Mia goes for a drive with her family, and in an instant, everything changes. Suddenly, all the choices are gone, except one. And it’s the only one that matters.

Ooh! Sounds so awesome. This one comes out April 2, 2009.

What about you? Are you as excited about this one as I am? What other future releases do you want right NOW? Find out what other bloggers are looking forward to on Waiting On Wednesday's host Jill's post this week.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Library Thing Tuesday (23) + Pic of Emmy

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

Of course I participate in ER - it was my initial attraction to LT. I have been VERY lucky and have gotten a book (not always my first choice) every time I've requested:

The Wednesday Sisters
The Whisky Rebels
Company of Liars
Lost Episodes of Beatie Scareli

My favorite of the bunch was Tomato Girl but all that I've read so far have been worth reading. Have to read and review Whisky Rebels and Company of Liars before the month is over. I check the discussion boards quite frequently and post when I have something to say.


On to this week's kitty pictures! Emmy is an inside cat, but she loves to go out on our balconies and look at the birds. We have to put her in a harness and go out with her though because neither is secured (and we are on the 4th floor). The weather is currently pretty decent here for October. Overcast yes, but not too chilly.

Emmy on the back balcony:

Emmy on the front balcony:

Monday, October 13, 2008

Book Review: Paper Towns by John Green

Quentin has always had a thing for his next door neighbor Margo Roth Spiegelman, an adventurous free-spirit who exists on a higher social plain. So when she invites him out for a semi-law breaking all-nighter of getting even with those who have wronged her, Quentin joins in and has high hopes for a future together. But when Margo doesn’t show up for school the next day, Quentin finds out that she’s run away and only a series of clues, left just for him, might lead to her whereabouts. Will Quentin find Margo in time, or is she lost to him forever?

On the surface, this novel in three parts is a lot of fun. Part 1 (the frenzied night of pranks) and Part 3 (a frenzied road trip from Florida to New York) bookend a more mundane Part 2 (search for Margo and the day to day living of a teen approaching high school graduation). There is a cast of characters defined by their quirks – Quentin’s friend Radar is embarrassed by his parents’ large collection of black Santas, prom obsessed Ben tries to live down his “bloody Ben” nickname, and of course there is the magnificent Margo, the queen of quirk, who likes urban exploring and wants to live off the map a la “Alexander Supertramp” (see Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer).

Among all this quirk, Quentin is white bread. He’s well adjusted, has perfect attendance, and lives a normal teen life. In fact, his most defining characteristic is his fascination with Margo. And while this works well on a conceptual level, on a practical level it meant that I although I could connect with his ongoing search for identity, I had a harder time connecting with him as a character.

This was my first foray into John Green territory and I like his combination of humor and deep exploration of what it means to be human. I’ll be back. (Thanks JL!)
Paper Towns comes out on October 16th.

P.S. This counts as my first completed book in the LT Author Challenge.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Book Reviews: Middle Grade Marathon Part 2: For the Boys

It’s often lamented that it’s hard to get boys interested in reading. Here are three books that are squarely aimed at middle school boys which I hope will find success.

Alec Flint Super Sleuth: The Nina, The Pinta and the Vanishing Treasure by Jill Santopolo
Orchard Books (Hachette) Hardcover 192 pages

Alec Flint is a 4th grade super sleuth in training who hopes he doesn’t have to resort to doing a “sneaker stakeout” for lack of better cases. Fortunately, a big case does come along – the Columbus exhibit is missing from the museum – and Alec enlists classmate Gina to be his sleuthing partner.

So begins the case of The Nina, The Pinta, and the Vanishing Treasure (or as I like to call it, “The case of the incredibly inept law enforcement officers and even dumber criminals”). Despite the unrealistically bumbling nature of the cops and robbers, early elementary age kids will enjoy solving the riddles and encoded notes that Alec and Gina write to each other and the fact that kids are the heroes here. They’ll also learn a lot about Christopher Columbus as a pure side effect to this clever mystery story. GSZMPH QROO! (Translation: Thanks Jill!)

Ignatius MacFarland: Freqenaut by Paul Feig
Little, Brown Young Readers 368 pages

Iggy MacFarland is tired of being teased and imagines that escaping to outer space would solve all his problems. So he builds a rocket that “launches” him to another frequency, one which is run by former English teacher turned dictator Mr. Arthur. Can he save this world and return to his own (which no longer looks too bad)?

This novel started out with a lot of promise. Iggy is written with such an appealing voice and the beginning chapters had me in stitches laughing. The way he describes Mr. Arthur’s unhappiness on earth for example is priceless: “But nobody ever published his books or bought any of his plays…because, well, I guess the stuff he did wasn’t very good. I even heard that he made the drama club put on a musical he wrote that was so bad everybody left at intermission. But since he was such a nice guy, everybody told him the play was good and excused their having to leave by saying the cookies at intermission gave them food poisoning, which didn’t make him feel any better since he was also the person who baked the cookies.”

But once Iggy arrives in the new frequency, things started to sag for me. I did like the exploration of what makes a normal guy become a dictator and Iggy’s continuing unintentionally snarky observations. But the inhabitants of the new frequency were standard issue yawn inducing weird aliens and an extremely annoying teen girl Karen who also “exploded” into the frequency and turns mega radical.

I won’t give away the end, but it is left wide open for a series a la “Sliders” (the TV show). And since most of my quibbles had to do with the world creation (which may well be interesting for kids but doesn’t seem to me to have a lot of crossover appeal), I would definitely check out a sequel to see if the author improves in this regard.

RuneWarriors by James Jennewein and Tom S. Parker
Laura Geringer Books (HarperCollins) Hardcover 320 pages

On the eve of the Norse Festival of Greatness, Dane the Defiant earns his nickname by standing up to evil tyrant Thidrek. But when Thidrak kidnaps Dane’s beloved and goes after Thor’s hammer, Dane’s going to need wind, wisdom and thunder if he wants to ever be admitted in Valhalla and become a renowned RuneWarrior.

The authors spend the entire first third of the novel introducing us to Dane, his group of Norse boys (who have names like Jarl the Fair, Drott the Dim, Fulnir the Stinking) and Astrid, a knife wielding, headstrong beauty. And then around page 100 the “inciting incident” finally occurs and I nearly threw the book across the room: the plot is set into motion due to an incredibly stupid action, something which I do not forgive easily. I would have stopped reading immediately if the authors had not so effectively invested me in the characters. Good thing I kept reading as the book redeems itself with an enthralling quest and by making Norse mythology really come alive.

I very much enjoyed the writing style and humorous tone of the book, and didn't even mind the frequent use of anachronism. Jarl is teased for bringing his “prized collection of grooming combs and brushes” to use on his long “flaxen locks” during the sea journey. Ulf the Whale is often underestimated because “many made the mistake of believing if you were fat, you were oafishly stupid as well. As if the two things just naturally went together, like peas and carrots or hugs and kisses or weasels and weasel bites.”

And thus ends this installment of middle grade marathon. I may do it again soon, as I still have quite a pile of MG books to be reviewed...

Friday, October 10, 2008

A love letter to books that made me weep

I mentioned not too long ago that Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games was the first book in a while that made me all out weep. And we were talking about sad books in the comments on Wednesday's post about Beth Kephart's Nothing but Ghosts. There are lots of books that try (unsuccessfully) to tug at my heartstrings (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer is one that comes to mind) but only a few that engage me so much and involve me so much emotionally that the tears just flow. Here are a few of them (all five star picks AND award winners).

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
This is the story of Kivrin, a history student in 2048 who is transported to an English village in the 14th century on the eve of the Black Death. Meanwhile, there is an epidemic going on in the 21st century which may leave Kivrin stranded in time. Kivrin is taken in by a “contemp” family and learns firsthand more than she ever wanted to know about the plague. I’ve read this at least 5 times, and it never fails to make me cry. (Hugo and Nebula Awards)

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
The less you know about this book going in, the better. All I knew when I started reading was that it took place at Hailsham, an elite school in the English countryside, where the pupils are told they are special. How special is something both they and the reader discover during the course of this heartbreaking dystopia. (Booker Prize Shortlist)

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
This is “Stockholm Syndrome” at its’ best. When a birthday party to honor a visiting Japanese industrialist is stormed by a ragtag band of terrorists in an unnamed South American country, a group of over 50 people, including a world-renowned soprano is taken hostage. But as the days, weeks, months go by, captors and hostages (and the reader) begin to form unlikely bonds. (PEN/Faulkner Award)

The Tiger Rising by Kate Dicamillo
In this middle grade novella (and National Book Award finalist), 12-year-old Rob Horton finds a caged tiger in behind the run down motel he lives in with his father since his mother’s death. It’s a story about coming to terms with grief and being honest with yourself. It touched me deeply.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
Narrated by death, this touching, original, and powerful novel is set in Nazi Germany, but with a focus on the hardships of ordinary Germans. It’s the story of Liesel who learns to read as a teen and discovers the power that books have to feed the soul. (Printz Honor Book)

So tell me, what books made you weep? I need some good suggestions!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Book Reviews: Middle Grade Marathon Part 1: Halloween Reads

I decided to set this week aside for a mini middle grade marathon, and the first books I read could all be great Halloween reading selections – perfect since that hallowed date is only 3 weeks away!

The Robe of Skulls by Vivian French
Candlewick Press Hardcover 200 pages

Lady Lamorna orders a new dress made out of black velvet with layers of blood red petticoats and rows and rows of little skulls sewn along the hem. But then she discovers she has no gold left, and non-payment will anger the ancient crones, so she has no choice but to go into the world and WORK. But what can a washed-up, reclusive old witch do? Cast nasty spells of course! And thus begins this playful romp through the fairytale world of the five kingdoms.

If you are familiar with fairytales and fantasy, there’s nothing here that will terribly surprise you, but it’s a perfect addition to the “humor-tinged gothic” category that’s emerged since Lemony Snicket. (Also see my reviews of PJ Bracegirdle’s Joy of Spooking Fiendish Deeds and Lois Lowry’s The Willoughbys). I had so much fun reading this and hanging out with the characters (my favorite was Marlon the bat), and was very satisfied with the way the story wrapped up. A definite keeper!

Storm: The Ghost Machine by E.L. Young
Dial Press Hardcover 320 pages

In this second action spy thriller novel of the Storm series, genius teens Will, Andrew and Gaia head to Venice to investigate a ghost cult and its’ criminal leader” Il Fantastma” in a purportedly haunted island castle. When their contact, the beautiful computer genius Cristina goes missing and they stumble onto a plot to blow up an important meeting of world leaders, it is going to take all their brains and cutting edge gadgets to prevent the world from plunging into chaos.

There seem to be quite a few series out now with genius kids saving the world (see my reviews for Shannon Greenland’s Specialist books one, two, three, and four) but I can totally see the appeal. Since I haven’t read the first book in this series, Storm: The Infinity Code, I didn’t have the benefit of complete character introductions, and only know bits and pieces of these three British teens’ backgrounds and motivations. Andrew’s a computer genius and rich kid, Will likes to build gadgets, has recently lost his father and owns a tricked out rat, and Gaia is all about chemistry and explosives and has an alcoholic father. But the setting and plot are spectacular and I loved learning the science behind “ghosts” and other experimental technology. Find out more about this fun series at Thanks to JL for the book!

Creepers by Joanne Dahme
Running Press Kids Hardcover 232 pages

13 year old Courtney and her family have just moved to an old house covered in ivy next to a graveyard. Courtney quickly becomes friends with Margaret, a girl her age and the daughter of a historian who gives tours of the graveyard. Margaret and her father seem obsessed with the story of as ancestor of theirs, Prudence, who died at 13, and her father, Christian who didn’t want to go on living without her. As Courtney gets to know them better, things start to get really creepy.

Preteens looking for a good ghost story might like to pick up this atmospheric novel that gives you chills but isn’t scary enough to give you nightmares (unless you have an acute phobia of creeping Ivy that is). The mystery surrounding Courtney’s new friends and their ancestors keeps you turning the pages though the resolution is rather vague and not wholly satisfying. Still, a good choice for those who like a spooky ghost story in the vein of “The Others” (movie with Nicole Kidman).
All three of these books are out now. Stay tuned for more reviews from my middle grade marathon (still going on).

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Waiting On Wednesday (3) Nothing but Ghosts by Beth Kephart

Beth Kephart revealed this awesome cover for her next YA novel Nothing but Ghosts, which is due out June 2009, a couple of weeks ago on her blog. I couldn't find a summary anywhere, but it apparently involves the decoding of a mystery on the site of a reclusive gardener’s. Also, the main character, a high school senior, is grappling with the death of her mother. I'm actually a little afraid to read it because my mother died when I was a freshman in college, and if you've lived through that, you know it's something you never completely get over. But what Beth says about it in her blog post makes me think it's a MUST read:

"Nothing but Ghosts began life as a relentless finch and in the aftermath of my mother's passing. It went through countless iterations. It has emerged, it is emerging, as a book of which (forgive me) I am proud. A book that I hope says something."

UPDATE: From Megan's recent interview with Beth, I have learned that the main character's name is Katie. And that there's a bit of romance. The plot thickens!!
UPDATE 2: Thanks to my gentle urging, Beth has posted HarperTeen's official catalog description at her blog. YAY - Now I'm even more interested - check it out here.

What about you? Is this a book you'd like to read? What other forthcoming books are on your radar? Find out what other bloggers are looking forward to on Waiting On Wednesday's host Jill's post this week.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Library Thing Tuesday (22) + Pic of Emmy

This week's question: -LibraryThing's Recently Added feature: do you look at it? Do you use it for ideas? Is there something listed there now that looks interesting to you? What have you added to your LT library recently?

I love that I can see the covers of the last 17 books I added on my personal homepage on LT, but I usually don't notice what other members are adding unless they are my LT friends and I see them on the connection news. I like to check the early reviewers library around this time of the month to see if Abby has added the current month books on offer (not yet!). I add books as I read them, so if you can get an idea of what I'm going to review next by looking at my just added books. I will also add signed books without having read them. I am in the middle of a reading marathon to make a dent in my TBR pile because I thought my work week would be light. Sadly, I've been derailed by a couple of urgent projects today and poor Emmy getting spayed yesterday. Hopefully I can get back on track!

Since Emmy is not feeling like her normal self, I bring you a picture from my vast archives in which she looks very much like one of those bear rugs you see in hunting lodges. This is actually how she positions herself to get brushed (we do this twice daily).

Monday, October 6, 2008

October Book Contests

First up, Brooke Taylor, author of Undone (which I really, really want to read), is having A Monster Month of Giveaways at her blog. EVERY Thursday during October she will be holding a contest for awesome Halloween gift baskets loaded with cool YA books and themed gifts! How cool is that? You have time to enter the first themed contest (Vampires - which includes the House of Night books and tons of other goodies) until this Thursday October 9th.
AND also not to be missed: Kelly Parra and a bunch of YA authors are sharing secrets and giving away books to celebrate the launch of her book Invisible Touch. Just go here to join in the fun!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Book Review: The Emerald Tablet by PJ Hoover

Benjamin Holt is not a normal preteen and his summer will be anything but normal. He’s a telegen with powers mere humans don’t have and he has to go to summer school to hone his special abilities on the sunken continent of Lemuria, a sort of sister continent to Atlantis. And while there, a talking Emerald Tablet tells him only he can save the world as we know it.

Eleanor did a guest review of this book for me back in July (read it here) and she loved it. Now that I’ve read it I can see why. Although the dialogue (especially in the beginning chapters) is decidedly juvenile, the clever ideas are not. In addition to all the skills the characters have (telepathy, telekinesis, telegnosis, and regeneration, among others), PJ introduces some cool items like Geodines (a globe that can show you the entire history of the earth) and the Universal travel agent teleporter (wish I had one!). The school lecture scenes are fun, especially the one where a professor reveals a few historical figures as secret agents from Lemuria.

I may not have gotten to know the characters as much as I would have liked to, but the plot zips along so nicely, I hardly noticed. And besides, I’ll get to hang out with them some more in at least two more books in the series.

The Emerald Tablet comes out on October 21st.

Friday, October 3, 2008

My contribution to the Sorted Books Project

Jena at Muse Book Reviews posted about the sorted books project and I immediately began looking through my books so I could "write" some stories of my own.

Here's my favorite from the project:

And here is my horror story 1 (featuring books by Martha Peace, Linda Fairstein, Laura Moriarty, and Janice Galloway):

And horror story 2 (featuring books from Katherine Neville, Gregory Maguire, Matt Ruff, Augusten Burroughs, Lois Duncan and Doris Lessing):

Anyone else want to join in the fun?

I'll keep a link list here of those that do:

A sad story from Kristin of We Be Reading

A romantic story from Alea at Pop Culture Junkie

A few good ones from Jeane at Dog Ear Diary

Two from Rol at Sunset over Slawit

A thriller from Inchy at Punch It Chewie!