Monday, April 27, 2009

Short Story Reviews













Today I have two short stories to share, both of which are from the Spring 2009 Paris Review, my newest obsession.

The Hollows, James Lasdu (#7, 11 pages)

The Hollows is the story of Rick Parker told through the point of view of his long-term neighbor. The neighbor is a passive observer, although he has interactions with Rick, which serve characterization, he is not active part of Rick's overall story. Rick is a hard working rural laborer. He meets Faye, a somewhat disinterested mother of two, and eventually has children with her and marries her. Not long after, Faye runs off with the father of her first children. Rick's job performance and personality take a deep nose dive, and others are left with the consequences.

The overall tone of this story was subdued and reflective, but tense with meaning. Here's an example:
And by the same token I go back to the look on Faye's face at their wedding and find in it, beyond the general sadness, the specific expression of a person observing that nothing after all, not even the charm of one's own wedding day, is powerful enough to purge the past or stop its taint from spreading into the future.
I definitely recommend this story. It is available online here.

At the Zoo, Caitlin Horrocks (#8, 10 pages)

I really really enjoyed this story. It is centered around a family trip to the zoo. The mother is a busy patent lawyer taking time off to accompany her son and her father to the zoo. The story fades in and out of the present trip, her past with her father, and a bizarre patent client who believes he has created a time machine. The story focuses on the relationship between the mother and the boy's grandfather: the grandfather has a callous outward manner, but is acting with good intentions; the mother tries to deal with the father she perceives to be harsh and to protect her son from him; the son is simply exploring the world around him and is learning from his grandfather and mothers actions. The time machine story line brings the present to light through the family's history and underscores the ingrained misunderstandings.

I highly recommend this story. It is available online here.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Challenges

2009 Challenge Statuses:
  • 1st in a Series (9 of 12)
  • 9 in 2009 (1 of 9)
  • 999 (44 of 81)
  • A to Z (35 of 52)
  • ARC (8 of 12 committed)
  • Audiobook (3 of 12)
  • Casual Classics (3 of 4)
  • Countdown (43 of 45)
  • Decades (2 of 9)
  • Diversity Rocks! (2 of 6)
  • Dream King (5 of 7)
  • Graphic Novels (5 of 24)
  • Jewish Lit (2 of 4)
  • Latin American (3 of 4)
  • Pub (1 of 9)
  • Reading Dangerously (1 of 12)
  • Scott Westerfeld (0 of 2)
  • Series (9 of 12 committed)
  • Spring Thing (4 of 11 committed) (25 of 30 total)
  • Unshelved (1 of 3)
  • What's in a Name (4 of 6)
  • World Citizen (0 of 3)
Finished Challenges:
  • Once Upon a Time Challenge (5/6/2009)
  1. (Fantasy) Grip of the Shadow Plague (3/26)
  2. (Folklore) Enna Burning (4/19)
  3. (Fairy Tale) Tithe (4/18)
  4. (Mythology) The Last Olympian (5/6)
  1. The Hunger Games (1/5)
  2. Speak (1/5)
  3. Jenny Green's Killer Junior Year (1/18)
  4. The Goose Girl (3/6)
  5. Wake (3/15)
  6. Paper Towns (3/22)
  7. Fever 1793 (3/30)
  8. The City of Ember (4/4)
  9. Book of a Thousand Days (4/8)
  10. Tithe (4/18)
  11. Fade (4/19)
  12. Enna Burning (4/19)
  • Well-Seasoned Reader (3/31/2009)
  1. Ethnicity: DeNiro's Game, Rawi Hage (2/8)
  2. Place: A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway (2/17)
  3. Culture: The Lonely Londoners, Samuel Selvon (3/3)
  • Books About Food (3/29/2009)
  1. Twinkie, Deconstructed (11/5/2008)
  2. The Omnivore's Dilemma (3/17/2009)
  3. The Fruit Hunters (3/21/2009)
  4. Julie and Julia (3/29.2009)
  5. Oranges (3/29/2009)
  1. Inkheart (1/4)
  2. Inkspell (1/29)
  3. Inkdeath (3/1)

Review: Wicked Lovely

Wicked Lovely
by Melissa Marr

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Pub. Date: April 2008
ISBN-13: 9780061214677
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Faery
Pages: 352pp

Synopsis from bn.com:

Rule #3: Don't stare at invisible faeries.

Aislinn has always seen faeries. Powerful and dangerous, they walk hidden in mortal world. Aislinn fears their cruelty—especially if they learn of her Sight—and wishes she were as blind to their presence as other teens.

Rule #2: Don't speak to invisible faeries.

Now faeries are stalking her. One of them, Keenan, who is equal parts terrifying and alluring, is trying to talk to her, asking questions Aislinn is afraid to answer.

Rule #1: Don't ever attract their attention.

But it's too late. Keenan is the Summer King who has sought his queen for nine centuries. Without her, summer itself will perish. He is determined that Aislinn will become the Summer Queen at any cost—regardless of her plans or desires.

Suddenly none of the rules that have kept Aislinn safe are working anymore, and everything is on the line: her freedom; her best friend, Seth; her life; everything.

Faerie intrigue, mortal love, and the clash of ancient rules and modern expectations swirl together in Melissa Marr's stunning 21st century faery tale.


My thoughts:

Yes! This is everything I want from a teenage romance. Aislinn is a strong female protagonist, but stills shows weakness at the appropriate moments. There is a good balance between relying on herself and relying on others. She has the right reasons for falling in love; love is not treated flippantly in this book. I really appreciate the more adult and realistic take on love and falling in love. The Twilight version of love is fun, but this time-tested version is so much more realistic.

This was a relativley quick read, mainly because I couldn't put it down and not because the writing was simplistic or at a lower reading level. There were actually several times I had to double check the meanings of words. I really liked that about this book, it is very "genrey" book, but it doesn't sacrifice its writing style (or intelligence level).

Here's a passage from the beginning of the book, one of the first descriptions of the faerys only Aislinn can see:
A doe-eyed faery eased across the room; bone-thin with too many joints, she was vulgar and gorgeous all at once. Her eyes were far too large for her face, giving her a startled look. Combined with an emaciated body, those eyes made her seem vulnerable, innocent. She wasn't.
None of them are.
I love this description because it is specific enough to give the reader a clear picture of the faery's face and body shape, but leaves room for the reader's imagination to fill in the rest. Marr's descriptions of the main characters are much more fleshed-out, but this is a good example of how she begins to create the invisible faery world that only Aislinn can see.

Side note: I love that the faery men discussed the "modern" ways of mortal women and how best to woo them. That cracked me up.

The ending was definitely satisfying, but of course, left enough open for the next book Ink Exchange, which is waiting impatiently by my beside for me to pick it up and read it.

Recommendation: This book is a must read for fans of teen romance, teen fantasy, or those interested in faery mythology. (The epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter had me wondering if it was possible to check out the books on faerys from the 1800s from my local library.) 5 out of 5

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Fill in the Gaps 100 Project and "Middlemay" Book Club

The Fill in the Gaps 100 Books Project is a 5-year reading project that challenges you to name 100 books you feel you should and must read and then complete at least 75 of them in 5 years.

Also, Moonrat from Editorial Ass is spearheading Middlemay, a book club reading of Middlemarch in May (cute name, right!). I don't think you have to be a member of the blog to join in, as you can just leave comments, but I recommend joining because it's a great project.

I actually signed up for this a while back and forgot to post. I've already read three! Here's my list:

Last Name First Name Title
1 Anderson Laurie Halse Wintergirls
2 Anderson Laurie Halse Twisted
3 Anderson Laurie Halse Catalyst
4 Anderson Laurie Halse Chains
5 Armstrong Karen A Short History of Myth
6 Asher Jay Thirteen Reasons Why
7 Atwood Margaret Oryx and Crake
8 Austen Jane Persuasion
9 Austen Jane Mansfield Park
10 Austen Jane Northanger Abbey
11 Austen Jane Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
12 Auster Paul The New York Trilogy
13 Barbery Muriel The Elegance of the Hedgehog
14 Brock Pope Charlatan
15 Buck Pearl S. The Good Earth
16 Camus Albert The Plague
17 Camus Albert The Stranger
18 Carman Patrick Skeleton Creek
19 Collins Susanne Catching Fire
20 Davidson Andrew The Gargoyle
21 Dickens Charles Great Expectations
22 Dickens Charles Bleak House
23 Dostoevsky Fyodor Crime and Punishment
24 Duey Kathleen Sacred Scars
25 Dumas Alexander The Count of Monte Cristo
26 Dumas Alexander The Three Musketeers
27 DuMaurier Daphne Rebecca
28 Eagleman David Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives
29 Eliot George Middlemarch
30 Eliot George Adam Bede
31 Enright Anne The Gathering
32 Eugenides Jeffrey Middlesex
33 Faber Michel The Fire Gospel
34 Faber Michel The Courage Consort
35 Faber Michel Under the Skin
36 Faber Michel Some Rain Must Fall
37 Faber Michel Vanilla Bright Like Eminem
38 Faber Michel The Apple
39 French Tana The Likeness
40 Gaiman Neil Stardust
41 Gaiman Neil Interworld
42 Gaiman Neil Eternals
43 Gaiman Neil M is for Magic
44 Garcia Marquez Gabriel One Hundred Years of Solitude
45 Garcia Marquez Gabriel The General in His Labyrinth
46 Guevara Che Motorcycle Diaries
47 Hale Shannon Enna Burning
48 Hale Shannon River Secrets
49 Hale Shannon Forest Born
50 Hanif Mohammed A Case of Exploding Mangoes
51 Harrison Kathryn While They Slept
52 Horwitz Tony Baghdad without a Map
53 Humes Edward The Monkey Girl
54 Humes Edward Mississippi Mud
55 Ishiguro Kazuo When We Were Orphans
56 Ishiguro Kazuo The Unconsoled
57 Ishiguro Kazuo Nocturnes
58 Jackson Shirley The Haunting of Hill House
59 Jackson Shirley We Have Always Lived in the Castle
60 Jackson Shirley Witchcraft of Salem Village
61 Jackson Shirley The Lottery and other stories
62 Larson Erik The Devil in the White City
63 Larsson Stieg The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
64 Marr Melissa Wicked Lovely
65 Martel Yann Life of Pi
66 McCarthy Cormac All the Pretty Horses
67 McCarthy Cormac The Crossing
68 McCarthy Cormac Cities of the Plain
69 McCarthy Cormac Blood Meridian
70 McCarthy Cormac Outer Dark
71 McCarthy Cormac Sutree
72 McCarthy Mary The Group
73 McPhee John The Pine Barrens
74 Moore Christopher The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove
75 Moore Christopher The Stupidest Angel
76 Moore Christopher Coyote Blue
77 Moore Christopher Fool
78 Palliser Charles The Quincunx
79 Phillips Caryl The Atlantic Sound
80 Pollan Michael In Defense of Food
81 Preston Douglas The Monster of Florence
82 Prose Francine Goldengrove
83 Roth Phillip American Pastoral
84 Roth Phillip The Human Stain
85 Roth Phillip I Married a Communist
86 Russo Richard Empire Falls
87 Schlink Bernhard The Reader
88 Scott Michael The Sorceress
89 Susann Jacqueline Valley of the Dolls
90 Thackeray William M Vanity Fair
91 Thompson Hunter S. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
92 Tinti Hannah The Good Thief
93 Vargas Llosa Mario The Feast of the Goat
94 Vonnegut Kurt Slaughterhouse-Five
95 Warren Robert Penn All the Kings Men
96 Waugh Evelyn Brideshead Revisited
97 Welsh Irvine Trainspotting
98 Wolfe Tom The Right Stuff
99 Woolf Virginia Mrs. Dalloway
100 Yates Richard Revolutionary Road

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Review: The Sword Thief

The Sword Thief (Book 3 of The 39 Clues)
by Peter Lerangis

Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Pub. Date: April 2009
ISBN-13: 9780545090599
Pages: 160pp

In the third installment of The 39 Clues, the Cahill siblings, Amy and Dan, team up with Alistair Oh and travel to Japan and Korea to track down the third clue. Amy and Dan have to put trust in untrustworthy relatives and, although they come through in the end, they don't make it through this adventure unscathed.

It's difficult to write a synopsis of these books because they are so short and action packed. I don't want to give anything away! But if you've started this series, you don't really need a synopsis because you already know they are searching for the next clue. That's the basic plot arc of the entire series.

This is the first book I read for the Read-a-Thon. This would be a great series to read together in the next one, if you haven't started them yet. By then the next one will be out, and possibly even the one after that. They seem to come out every few months.

What is interesting about this series is that each book is written by a different author. This book was written by Peter Lerangis, who has written tons of kids books including the series Spy X and the series Drama Club. The other two were written by Rick Riordan and Gordan Korman. Despite being written by different authors, the characters are seamless from one book to the next. The characters stay true to themselves, but also grow and develop in complexity as the adventure continues.

The next book is Beyond the Grave, by Jude Watson, who has written a bunch of Star Wars books, and it is due out in June.

I definitely recommend this series to younger kids and anyone interested in Middle Grade series. It's a great learning tool because each book is focused around a central historical character or culture. I give this a 4 out of 5.

Wordless Wednesday


Do I have an obsession with tulips? I can't help it that there are so many blooming right now.

For more, click here.

Wondrous Words Wednesday

Wondrous Words is hosted by Bermudaonion, see others here.

Today's words all come from A House for Mr. Biswas, by V. S. Naipaul, a book which is testing the boundaries of my vocabulary. Some of these I understood through context, but still went and looked them up. Can't hurt, right?

pleasance (noun) a pleasant rest or recreation place usually attached to a mansion.
The buffaloes pleasance was a muddy, cloyingly sweet pool not far from the factory... (pg 22)
passespartout (noun) (1) a method of framing in which a picture, a mat, a glass, and a back (as of cardboard) are held together by strips of paper or cloth pasted over the edges (2) a strong paper gummed on one side and used especially for mounting pictures.
Mr. Biswas never owned a copy of the photograph and he did not see it until 1937, when it made its appearance, framed in passespartout, on the wall of the drawing room of Tara's fine new house... (pg 33)
ferrule (noun) a ring or cap usually of metal put around a slender shaft (as a coin or a tool handle) to strengthen it or prevent slipping.
...they examined Raghu's walking-sticks, taking out the ferrules, Raghu's only extravagance... (pg 35)
foolscap (noun) a size of paper formerly standard in Great Britain, broadly, a piece of writing paper.
He took out a sheet of foolscap, tore it in half... (pg 42)
disputation (noun) an academic exercise in oral defense of a thesis by formal logic.
...he took [the coins] to Pundit Jairam, who might then be engaged in some philosophical disputation. (pg 50)
querulous (adjective) fretful, whining
Bhandat's voice, even when low, was a whine with a querulous edge. (pg 58)
prognathous (adjective) being or having the lower jaw projecting beyond the upper part of the face.
The news of the girl at Arawacas spread and Mr. Biswas enjoyed some glory at Pagotes until Bhandat's younger son, a prognathous, contemptuous boy, said "I feel you lying like hell, you know." (pg 79)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays

See more Teasers here.




Around the back is a yard, mostly dirt, and a greasy bunch of boards that used to be a garage. But what you remember most is this tree, huge with fat arms and mighty families of squirrels in the higher branches.
--pg 22, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Monday, April 20, 2009

Book Blogs Galore

I'm currently in the process of adding new book blogs to my reader. All those wonderful bloggers that participated in the Read-a-Thon MUST now be on my reader. Which of course means that my google reader will become completely unmanageable.

I seriously love this blogging thing and I love this community. The Read-a-Thon was totally awesome (yes I am 25 and I still say things like "totally awesome") and it is so amazing to see all these people who love books as much as, and more than, I do.

I just want to thank everyone that stopped by and left comments during the Thon. It definitely helps to know that people are at least scanning my updates and taking the time to comment.

I also want to thank my family, friends, and coworkers who sponsored my reading. Because of them, I'll be donating almost $350 to Action Against Hunger. Pretty amazing, huh?

Musing Mondays

See other musings at Just One More Page.

Coming towards the end of April, we’re a third of the way through the way through the year. What’s the favorite book you’ve read so far in 2009? What about your least favorite?

I'd have to say my #1 favorite so far is The Hunger Games. I also really enjoyed The Fruit Hunters, The Woman in White, The House of the Spirits, and The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher.

My least favorite is probably Blonde Roots, and, similarly, Heart of Darkness. When I finally write my review of Blonde Roots, you'll see why.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Final Read-a-Thon Update

Final Read-a-Thon Update

Books Finished:
  1. The Sword Thief (156 pages, 1 hour 41 mins, 1.5 pg/min) (4 out of 5)
  2. Tithe (331 pages, 4 hours, 31 mins, 1.3 pg/min) (3 out of 5)
  3. We Have Always Lived in the Castle (146 pages, 3 hours 16 mins, .74 pg/min) (5 out of 5)
  4. The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam (156 pages, 1 hour 45 mins, 1.6 pg/min) (4 out of 5)
  5. Fade (248 pages, 2 hours 40 mins, 1.6 pg/min) (3 out of 5)
  6. The 13 Clocks (124 pages, 1 hour 5 mins, 2 pg/min) (5 out of 5)
Books Partially Read:
  1. Interworld (52 pages, 5o mins, 1 pg/min)
Total Pages: 1222
Total Time Spent Reading: 15 hours 40 mins

Genres:
  • 4 Young Adult
  • 1 Novella
  • 1 Middle Grade
  • 1 Graphic Novel
Author Gender:
  • 4 women
  • 3 men
Total Donation to Action Against Hunger: $335

End of Event Survey:
1. Which hour was most daunting for you?

The last hour I was awake (5-6 am eastern) because I knew I couldn't make the next 3 hours. And when I was reading The 13 Clocks. I was absolutely dying then.

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?

Short young adult or middle grade books. Fade was probably my quickest read

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

Not really, it was awesome.

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?

The dedicated blog with updates every hour was great. I also the cheerleaders did an AWESOME job.

5. How many books did you read?

6 finished, 1 started

6. What were the names of the books you read?

see above

7. Which book did you enjoy most?

We Have Lived in the Castle. So creepy and wonderful/

8. Which did you enjoy least?

Tithe. It wasn't awful but it felt like it took forever.

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?

N/A Thought they did great.

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?

ABSOLUTELY will participate again.

Read-a-Thon Update

Read-a-Thon Update

Currently reading: haven't decided
Just finished: The 13 Clocks
Up next: ?

Total books finished: 6
Total pages read: 1170

Total time spent reading: 14 hours and 50 mins

I think I'm starting to get a little delirious. I had to take a quick nap in the middle of this one because my eyes have been crossing. And my allergies/cold is getting crazy bad. Almost there. Then I'm sleeping for a week.

Read-a-Thon Update

Read-a-Thon Update

Currently reading: The 13 Clocks
Just finished: Fade
Up next: not sure

Total books finished: 5
Total pages read: 1046

Total time spent reading: 13 hours and 45 mins

Mini challenges completed: 6

Fade was good. I have some of the same issues I had with Wake, mainly with the choppy sentence style. But you get used it after a while so it doesn't affect the plot too much. Cabel kind of annoys me a little. But maybe I'm just cranky because its late. :)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Read-a-Thon Update and Stop the Reading Madness Challenge

Read-a-Thon Update

Currently reading: Fade
Just finished: The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam
Up next: maybe The 13 Clocks

Total books finished: 4
Total pages read: 798

Total time spent reading: 10 hours 52 mins

Mini challenges completed: 6

Stop the Reading Madness Mini Challenge:

Option 1: Peeps War
Put your leftover Peeps to war! Place two or more Peeps facing each other on a microwavable plate (paper, if you want easy post-battle clean up). Stick a toothpick sword in each Peep, getting them poised and ready for battle. Turn on the microwave, and see which Peep evades the sword! Write a post about the battle and include a photo if possible.

The warriors face each other for the duel:

The duel, held behind a closed door for propriety's sake, ends in a draw.

Apparently, I pick the Peep warriors that have a pacifist side. They have even joined *hands* in protest of the forced duel.

Sigh.

Read-a-Thon Update

Read-a-Thon Update

Currently reading: The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam
Just finished: We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Up next: ? hmm, maybe Fade? I think I'm going to pick up the living room first, I've made a huge mess of it.

Total books finished: 3
Total pages read: 633

Total time spent reading since last update:
Total time spent reading: 9 hours 7 mins

Mini challenges completed: 5

Nod to Nonfiction Mini-Challenge:

What is you favorite non-fiction book and why? What genre(s) do you enjoy and are there particular writers that you would recommend to others? If you don't read non-fiction, why not?

I'd have to say The Liar's Club by Mary Karr. It is a definitive work of literary memoir and lyrically written. I like memoirs in that vein, and long form journalism such as Jon Krakauer. Although I have strong feelings against Alex McCandless, I LOVE Into the Wild. I would recommend either of these authors or any of the nonfiction authors I've reviewed in the past.

Read-a-Thon Update and Mid-Event Survey

Read-a-Thon Update

Currently reading: We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Just finished: Tithe
Up next: The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam

Total books finished: 2
Total pages read: 582

Total time spent reading: 8 hours 23 mins (I think I might have messed up calculation somewhere. Where did like 4 whole hours go? Have I been slacking that much? I might have to double check this.)

Mini challenges completed: 4



Mid-Event Survey:

1. What are you reading right now?

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

2. How many books have you read so far?

2, almost done with the 3rd

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?

Fade and Wintergirls

4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day?

Not really, just told people not to call.

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

Just of my own doing. I've been slightly drugged with decongestant which made it difficult to concentrate earlier. But, I'm getting a second wind now. I'm really not a morning person either.

6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?

I'm surprised that I haven't read more. Also, by how many book bloggers are out there that I've been missing out on.

7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

I think everything is great. Our coordinators have been AWESOME. I even won a prize. I really have no complaints.

8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year?

I would have a better way of keeping track of the time I was reading vs. taking breaks. I've confused myself somehow and I'm not sure I've got it right.

9. Are you getting tired yet?

I was much more tired this morning. I'm really a night person. I think I'm about to hit a stride.

10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered?

I definitely think that reading shorter books helps with a sense of accomplishment. Tithe took me much longer than I thought it would and it was frustrating to not be completing books.

Read-a-Thon Hour 12

Read-a-Thon Update

12 hours down!

Currently reading: We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Just finished: Tithe
Up next: The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam

Total books finished: 2
Total pages read: 539

Total time spent reading: 7 hours 30 mins

Mini challenges completed: 3
Prizes: 1

I am loving We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I'm definitely going to have to read more of Shirley Jackson's books.

Read-a-Thon Update

Read-a-Thon Update

Just finished: Tithe
Up next: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Total books finished: 2
Total pages read: 487

Total time spent reading since last update: ugh I don't know, it's starting to get confusing. too much math. I'm just going to record total time spent reading (total time - breaks)
Total time spent reading: 6 hours 4 mins

Mini challenges completed: 3
Participants visited: 3 (but about to visit more)
Prizes: 1

I'd say Tithe is probably about 3 out of 5. It was good, but not overly compelling. And the "bad teen" stuff was a little over done.

Read-a-Thon Update: Walking Challenge

Read-a-Thon Update

Still working on Tithe. I'm a little past halfway.

I went for a short walk outside. It is absolutely gorgeous. There weren't many people out back of my apartment, but I did get to see some kids playing. Always cute.

Here's the view from the bench I sat on:

Read-a-Thon Update

Read-a-Thon Update

Currently reading: Tithe pg
Just finished: 125 pgs of Tithe
Up next: Maybe Shirley Jackson

Total books finished: 1
Total pages read: 281

Total time spent reading since last update: 1 hour 38 mins
Total time spent reading: 3 hours 19 mins

Mini challenges completed: 2
Participants visited: 3 (but reading more on my google reader)

Prizes!!!!!: 1, I won the hour 4 challenge. Woo hoo!

Read-a-Thon Update

Read-a-Thon Update

Currently reading: (just starting) Tithe
Just finished: The Sword Thief
Up next: maybe Shirley Jackson

Total books finished: 1
Total pages read: 156

Total time spent reading since last update: 1 hour 20 mins
Total time spent reading: 2 hours 41 mins (first post wasn't quite right)

Mini challenges completed: 1
Participants visited: 3

Feeling much better now. The Sword Thief was a nice, quick start. On to the next!

Read-a-Thon Update and Introduction Meme

Read-a-Thon Update

Currently reading: A Sword Thief
Just finished: n/a
Up next: Tithe

Total books finished: 0
Total pages read: 65

Total time spent reading: 1 hour

I've gotten off to a slow start. I had to take some decongestant this morning and it made me very drowsy. I had to sleep it off for a bit. But I'm feeling much better now, and ready to kick butt.

Introduction meme:

Where are you reading from today?

Currently in my recliner in my living room. Or did you mean geographically? Arlington, VA

3 facts about me

  • I've never stayed up for 24 hours straight, and I've already screwed it up this time. :)
  • I can't drink a lot of caffeine because I'm very sensitive to it. It sometimes even makes me sleepy.
  • I bought my recliner in college for 60 bucks at the Salvation Army and its the best purchase I've EVER made.
How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?

The narrowed down list is around 11, but really anything is up for grabs depending on my mood.

Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?

At least 1000 pages.

If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, Any advice for people doing this for the first time?

It's my first time!!!!

Read-a-Thon!!!

I'm ready to go!


Friday, April 17, 2009

About Me and My Blog

Hello, my name is Laza. I am a book addict. I'm addicted to buying books, reading books, borrowing books, writing about books, thinking about books, obsessively databasing my books, and reading book blogs.

A bit about me:

I'm in my mid-twenties and I work a full-time job in the Senate where I proofread and edit legislation and a part-time job writing minutes. I'm also a grad student at George Mason University. I've been a voracious reader all my life, despite a slow down during high school and undergrad. I started picking back up my near the end of my sophomore year of college. But it has really been the last couple of years that I have begun to hit a stride.

Why blog?

I started this blog to become part of the community. When I started I had NO idea what I was getting myself into! There are so many book bloggers out there and so many different things to participate in. When I started, I didn't really give much thought about the purpose of this blog. (Much in the way I do most things in life). I created it because I wanted to. I don't have many friends that read like I do, so I wanted to meet and communicate with people like me.

I realize now, that just by being a book blogger, I've become part of this larger question of purpose and legitimacy. This larger discussion (and because of this post) has made me think about why I'm doing this. And I believe my answer is still the same. Because I love it. Because I love books and talking about books. And that has become a love of blogging about books. And because I love the people.

Amy from My Friend Amy, made a great point about the demands of blogging. She says:
I've read that the average time a person blogs is 6 months. Then they get bored, start neglecting it, see it as a chore to continue, and give up. I remember an excellent blog I subscribed to...after six months, they said it was starting to feel like work and they just wanted it to be fun. So they quit.

Blogging is not just my hobby, it's my serious hobby. I consider blogging to be a serious hobby. Yes, sometimes it feels like work. Sometimes I don't feel like doing it. But I keep it up, because I know I can only get better if I keep working at it.
Even in the short life of my blog (I'm in and around that six-month mark), I've sometimes felt like it was work. But I really strive to keep it simple and fun. I post when and about what I want and nothing more. I work has hard as I want to at it. Some people will read, and some won't. Trish, from Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'?, compared it to a high school popularity contest. In many ways I definitely think she is right. Everyone has those moments of "Am I good enough?" But I approach this much the way I did in high school, and definitely the way I approach life now: You will like me or you won't. You will read me or you won't. Does that mean that some publishers or authors won't want to send me ARCs? Probably. Oh well. I'll probably read it at some point anyway.

So, I hope you'll read me. If you think I've missed you, and I need to add you to my reader, shoot me an email. I'll gladly add you.

Had to Share This Friday

Today I'm going to try and start something new. It is mostly for me, but I want to invite anyone to participate, book blogger or not.

Did you come across something you just have to share? If so, leave a comment or leave a link to your post. I can't wait to see what you've got.

I've got two quotes from Slaughterhouse-Five that I thought were totally awesome and shareworthy:

pg. 213:
Trout, incidentally, had written a book about a money tree. It had twenty-dollar bills for leaves. Its flowers were government bonds. Its fruit was diamonds. It attracted human beings who killed each other around the roots and made very good fertilizer. So it goes.
pg. 218
She was a dull person, but a sensational invitation to make babies. Men looked at her and wanted to fill her up with babies right away. She hadn't had even one baby yet. She used birth control.
And lastly,

I've been messing around with the look of my blog, thanks to inspiration and direction from Melissa from Melissa's Bookshelf. Check out her instructional posts here and here. Also, in the drama that was changing my background, I got significant help from Issac Yassar. He responded to my question immediately and knew exactly what the problem was. So visit his site. It's basically beyond description.

Blog Construction

Hello everyone, I'm in the middle of fooling around with my blog, so if you notice that things aren't right, well it's probably because I don't know what I'm doing. So give me some time to figure it out. Thanks!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wondrous Words Wednesday

...or the "I swear I'm not reading the 'A' section in the dictionary Wednesday".

This weekly even is graciously hosted by BermudaOnion.


This happens to be my first Wondrous Words post, and for some strange reason all my words are "A" words.

avoirdupois (noun) weight, heaviness

"...screaming, straining and cleaning-and-jerking, as they raised the avoirdupois above their heads, their bodies shaking from side to side, in uncertainty, until they can stand motionless for three seconds, before they hear the sound of victory, and see the flag of legitimacy."
--p 132 The Polished Hoe, Austin Clarke

apocryphal (adjective) of doubtful authenticity

"The anecdote is apocryphal. I never wrote baseball for the Star."
--p 58 The Paris Review Interviews I

avuncular (adjective) suggestive of an uncle especially in kindness or geniality

"But the officer's contempt is not, as in other armies, avuncular theatricality."
--p 166 Slaughterhouse-five, Kurt Vonnegut

Monday, April 13, 2009

Hemingway is a God

I had to share Hemingway's answer to this question from The Paris Review Interviews Vol. 1 (pg 42):

Interviewer:

What would you consider the best intellectual training for the would-be writer?

Hemingway:

Let's say that he should go out and hang himself because he finds that writing well is impossibly difficult. Then he should be cut down without mercy and forced by his own self to write as well as he can for the rest of his life. At least he will have the story of the hanging to commence with.


What? He is my hero. I'm still trying to wrap my head around this, but I'm pretty sure it means that Hemingway is genius.

One Story: Meteorology

While I was reading this story today, I was interrupted by an evacuation drill, so that's why I'm so late posting today. At least it was nice outside and I got to take pictures of some absolutely gorgeous tulips.

The story I read today comes again from One Story, the publication I mentioned in my last short story post. Their goal is to publish one really amazing short story every three weeks, and damn if they aren't holding to their word.

Meteorology, by Adin Bookbinder (an amazing last name), is the story of Sunny, a 21-year-old college dropout working at her former college's library. She is dealing (and not dealing well) with her former weatherman father who has a penchant for climbing on the roof of their home and has been diagnosed as a schizophrenic. The meat of this story is Sunny's struggle to gain independence from her all-consuming father without feeling as though she has abandoned him.

This story is all about characterization. It always amazing me how writers can fully develop characters in so few words. But in this story, I felt Sunny's love for and frustration over her father and his condition. I also felt her desire to escape and live a life. I felt her guilt over betraying her father to a home and her denial of the extremity of his condition. Absolutely stellar characterization.

I think I'm cutting the ratings from my short stories. It doesn't seem to make sense, at least for me. I'll just say, I recommend this story.

Check out the One Story website to see an excerpt and an interview with the author.

And since tulips are a sign of spring and therefore weather, here's a picture I took today.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Read-a-Thon Details

This coming Saturday, April 18, 2009 is Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon!!!

As I've said before, this is my first Read-a-Thon. I'm so excited to participate. I have no idea how much I'll be able to read or how long I'll actually stay awake. But I'm prepared to go all out.

I absolutely loved the idea of reading for a cause, so I decided to get my friends and family to sponsor me. I'll be donating proceeds to Action Against Hunger, which is an organization committed "to saving the lives of malnourished children and their families while ensuring access to safe water and sustainable solutions to hunger". Action Against Hunger operates in over 40 countries across the globe and has been assessed top marks from several independent organizations, including the Better Business Bureau and the American Institute of Philanthropy.

I've got a few pledges already, and I'll do a more comprehensive post closer to the actual event. If you are reading this, and are interesting in sponsoring me, shoot me an email or leave me a comment.

I'm following the lead of several other bloggers and creating a list of "possibles". I'm planning on reading mostly shorter YA books. I don't want to get bogged down or sleepy, which happens sometimes with longer or more difficult titles. Anything is really up for grabs that day, but I'm going to have a "ready-to-read" stack next to me.

Here's the list:
  • Blood and Chocolate
  • The Hunter's Moon
  • The 13 Clocks
  • Tithe
  • The Sword Thief
  • Graceling
  • Wintergirls
  • Gods Behaving Badly
  • Shakespeare's Christmas
  • The Pine Barrens
  • A Wizard of Earthsea
  • Fade
  • The Arctic Incident
  • Murder in the Latin Quarter
  • Uglies
  • M is for Magic
I've also ordered some books from the Library of Congress, so if they get delievered to me on time, I'll be adding those to the list too. I think I ordered the Luxe series and some Shannon Hale books, along with Shirley Jackson and a couple of short story collections.

I AM SO EXCITED!!!!

¡Escándalo! or My Take on Quirk's PR Snafu (TSS)

¡Escándalo! There is scandal afoot in the book blogging world. Quirk books, who I've never worked with before, sent out this form letter (click on the picture to see the original post with the letter) with SOME of its review copies of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. If you haven't seen the ensuing posts (and their extensive comments?) here's a breakdown:
A number of complaints have been made about this letter. Some are:
  • The tone is condescending, which is mainly perceived as a slap in the face to a blogger's credibility.
  • The publicist assumes bloggers don't know publishing terminology (i.e. embargo), which, again, questions bloggers' credibility.
  • The not-so-nicely worded demand for embargoes on reviews and excerpts, which disregards fair-use laws and offers no reasonable explanation.
  • The insinuation that the blogger won't give proper credit to the publisher.
  • The threat to cut off the relationship if the publicist's demands aren't met.
My first reaction to this letter was pretty much general shock and disgust. I believe that in the comment I made on Flavorwire I wondered if this publicist had ever heard of "being polite". Because this letter is certainly far from using even the most basic manners. For someone that has worked in customer service and now with attorneys, any communication from a company to a client should be as polite as possible. Even set that aside. Any communication between people (especially those who have never met) should be polite.

This was Quirk's reply to the general outrage:
I just wanted to say that I’m sorry to have offended so many of you with my letter. I realize now that it came off as condescending, but it was actually meant to be tongue-in-cheek. Clearly, that tone was lost. There are good explanations for the other complaints, such as why we had the embargo, and I also understand your concerns with fair use. The way I discussed the embargo and excerpt practices in the letter came off all wrong. I sincerely respect and value what bloggers have done for the book publishing world in general and in particular — with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Without independent blogs and bloggers, our book would not have been such a success. I hope you can all accept my apology. It won’t happen again. And please, know that in no way was Seth involved in any of this.
I just really can't understand this publicist's thought process (or apparently lack thereof) when writing this letter. I could understand a letter written in a conversational tone. If this publicist really meant to be tongue-and-cheek (which, for the record, I do think is a plausible explanation, but not a good excuse), this is really just a piss-poor attempt at it. Agent00Soul, commenting on the Flavorwire post, says: "it's such a transparent attempt to write in "blog lingo," or whatever it's called, that makes it worse". I have to agree. No offense, but leave the creative writing to the creative writers.

Even taking into consideration the cut-off part of letter ("Okay, enough of the serious stuff. If you have any questions, my contact information is below. Thanks again, and thanks for your support!"), there is really no indication within the letter that the tone is meant to be humorous. And it doesn't seem at all appropriate to take a humorous tone in a form letter, especially one that has a number of important requests.

Good intentions gone wildly wrong. So, strike one Quirk. Tighten up your business writing skills and get back to us.

But here's the real ISSUE, quoted from Still Life with Book Maven:
A true and full discussion of book blogging as a professional activity with professional boundaries has yet to be made. I do not say that lightly. A few weeks ago, I attended the annual National Book Critics Circle Annual Meeting and Awards, and I was astonished how little many print-based critics knew about blogs and social media and how hostile many of them were to the idea that book coverage, book reviews, and publishing news could be covered properly in any medium other than a newspaper column or a magazine page. It is my sincere hope that this kerfuffle over one PR's flippant approach to book bloggers will be the catalyst for a debate about how the entire publishing industry -- publicists, editors, marketing managers, salespeople -- treat book bloggers and literary web sites.
Book bloggers, especially those really driving for a wide audience, are generally sensitive about this credibility issue. And rightly so. Bloggers work really hard to write thoughtful reviews, maintain good working relationships with publishers and publicists, and gain a faithful audience. Even those like me, who do this for fun, want to be taken seriously at a certain level.

Ok, so I don't really try all that hard at this blogging thing, but that doesn't mean that I don't have some valid ideas and thoughts about books. Not to mention the fact that I'm a voracious reader--so not only do I read these blogs, and then buy ungodly amounts of books based on their recommendations and promote the good ones to everyone I know, without any incentive from publishers. And as a reader, I really prefer book blog reviews because they aren't 3,000 words long, weighed down by pompous literary references, or boring. (Ok, maybe that's not a fair assessment. Maybe I'm exaggerating. Book blog reviews are different, and their differences are part of what makes them so good, but that doesn't negate traditional reviews.)

I don't read many traditional publishing outlets. Especially from newspapers. I've never read a newspaper in my life. It's called the INTERNET, ever heard of it? There is way way way more information available on the Internet, and guess what I'm actually semi-intelligent and I can tell the difference between a good source and a bad source. (Wait, was that too flippant?)

Really, the point is that something will need to happen in the future to dictate the boundaries in which publishers and publicists (etc.) work with book bloggers. This interaction needs, what Paula points out, mutual respect. "Mutual respect, in which book bloggers are not seen as lackeys who take orders from PR people but book lovers who put a lot of time and effort into reviewing books and creating a dynamic online community that showcases books in a variety of ways."

We ARE book lovers after all. We ARE your audience.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Booking Through Thursday

See other answers here.

Some people read one book at a time. Some people have a number of them on the go at any given time, perhaps a reading in bed book, a breakfast table book, a bathroom book, and so on, which leads me to…

Are you currently reading more than one book?

Pretty much always. I have a bad habit of juggling way too many books at once. Then I get behind on one of them and forget stuff. Then I finish a bunch at once and can't keep up with the reviews. It's vicious cycle I tell you!

If so, how many books are you currently reading?

4 books: The Russian Debutante's Handbook, Ghandi, The Moonstone, and the Polished Hoe. I'm also listening to The Crimson Petal and the White on CD in the car and Gathering Blue on my mp3 player at the gym.

Is this normal for you?

Sigh. Yes. It's probably less than normal considering I just finished a book.

Where do you keep your current reads?

They spend a lot of time commuting in my work bag. Other than that they are on my desk at work or in bed with me. :)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Review Policy

I've seen a bunch of these go up lately, and after reading this post referred by Farm Lane Books, I figure I need to jump on the bandwagon as well.

Contact me at: gimmemorebooks10 at gmail dot com

Policies:
  • Pitches: By all means, pitch me your book. I love reading new things and I love getting free things. So try me. See below for a list of my favorite genres/subgenres. I typically don't read "chick" lit, romance, or self-help books. But maybe your book is amazing, if so, I'd hate to miss it.
  • Reviews: I'm into completing these challenges I've started, and one is to review every book I read. So, I'm going to review it whether I like it or not. But, I won't be disrespectful toward an author. I'll criticize the book, not the author. And, most books usually have redeeming qualities, I won't leave those out.
  • Timeframe: This one is tough. If you absolutely have to have it by a certain time, let me know. If I'm honest, I have to say that it is possible I might not get it done on time. I work two jobs and I go to grad school, so I fall behind. (Not to mention, I'm a procrastinator.) I write this blog for fun and to be a part of a community. I won't kill myself over these things.
  • Compensation: I don't get monetary compensation of any kind for writing on this blog. Review copies are the only thing I receive. I don't want compensation either. Then it would be a job.
  • Review copies/ARCs: I'm stingy, I keep them. Unless you beg me to give them away. I'm a book hoarder by nature.
  • Site traffic: I have no idea. I'm a part of the community, that's all that has mattered to me.
  • Review posts: When I'm being a good blogger, I post links to my reviews on Goodreads, LibraryThing, and Twitter. I've had one post picked up by Basil and Spice for republishing.
Genres I'll definitely read (but I'm not limited to):
  • Young Adult or Middle Grade Fantasy and Science Fiction. I LOVE YA/MG fantasy series. (fantasy, fable, folklore, magic, fairies, please please puhleeeeese gimme me.)
  • Young Adult Literature. (Preferably not gossip girl type books)
  • Contemporary Literature. (Western or world lit)
  • Dystopian Literature.
  • Graphic novels.
  • Long-form journalism and literary nonfiction. (I'm not an expert in any field. I typically review these on their literary merits.)
  • Literary memoirs.
  • Books adapted into films.
  • Short story anthologies or collections. (I'm really trying to up my intake of short stories. I'm even taking a grad class in Fall 2009)
I love being introduced to new things, so even if I didn't list it, give me a try. You can check out my goodreads profile to see what I've read over the last few years. If you're giving away review copies of Kathleen Duey's next book in the Resurrection of Magic series, or the next in the Hunger Games series, I'm absolutely DYING to read those.

One Story: A Splendid Life


A while back I subscribed to this really cool publication called One Story. They publish one story (get it) every three weeks. Their goal is to publish a new author in each issue (no repeats!) and to find the best stories for their readers. Check out their "about" page; this publication really sells itself.

Like all other things to do with this blog, I'm behind on reading this publication and on reviewing it. So up for today is Issue number 116, January 30: A Splendid Life by Carrie Brown.

As the title suggests, A Splendid Life is a story that looks back over a life, or in this case three lives: Peter Duvall, the main character, his sister Neely, and a childhood neighbor Mary Danger. Peter has just retired from his psychiatric position at the Balm of Gilead, a home for the mentally retarded and goes to visit his childhood home and his sister Neely who now lives there.

As Peter reflects upon his retirement he finds out that Mary Danger, a neighbor girl who had a crush on him when they were younger and who was teased cruelly and unrelentingly in school, has returned to her home across the lake. This causes Peter to remember his embarrassment over the girl's attentions and his feelings of pity for her social standing and appearance.

There were a few things I really liked about this story:
  • The language. Sometimes writers just get it right. I'm not much better at explaining it than that. The scenes flow well, the dialogue is great, and the descriptions are vivid and well done.
  • The ending. It's not a cliffhanger-type story, but I won't give away the ending. I'll just say that the ending was right.
  • The combination of introspective thinking and in-the-moment action was well balanced. Sometimes a writer can make a character be a little too selfish in their thoughts and there isn't enough story "right now".
  • The use of the lake throughout the story. I like how we saw Peter's different views or ideas of the lake throughout his life.
  • I also love the dinner-time scene with the young boys. Very funny, and very telling.
5 out of 5. Check out an interview with the author on One Story's website.
(100 shots of short #4)

Subscriptions

So, I've been in a online frenzy lately and I recently purchased a few new literary subscriptions. Does anyone subscribe to these? Are there any publications out there that you consider must haves?

Virginia Quarterly Review:
From the website:
Each issue has contained work both moving and memorable; each has sought to provide the best that contemporary literature can offer...And VQR has not only published the most celebrated names of contemporary writing; equally it has welcomed writers whose names were unknown until they appeared in its pages. VQR hews to one simple standard in its selection of writers: excellence. VQR has thus made good its purpose of becoming a national publication of popularity and prestige, of independence and integrity. Readable and responsible, it is also entertaining. Though fresh as tomorrow's newspaper, each issue—read cover to cover upon publication—will still have value a decade later.


World Literature Today:
From the website:
Six times a year, World Literature Today brings you the whole world in every issue. It features interviews and original poetry and fiction, lively essays on writers representing dozens of major and minor languages, special coverage of transnational issues and trends, book reviews that span the globe, authors on books that changed their lives, travel writing, a column on children’s literature, author profiles, and coverage of the other arts, culture, and politics as it intersects with literature.
Other publications:

New York Review of Books (I got a professional discount for some reason)
One Story
Bookmarks