Archive for Book Thoughts

Just finished…wizards and vagabonds

Just finished…

Two completely different books, but loved them both.  The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and Storm Front by Jim Butcher. 

The Glass Castle (thanks to Krystal for lending it to me!) is actually a memoir that focuses mostly on Jeannette’s crazy childhood.  It was unbelievable and amazing.  It had me completely captivated from start to finish and I found my jaw dropping several times as my brain tried to fathom the existence that this family had.  Not only were they constantly on the move but they lived in filth and squalor, the kids forcing their mother to get out of bed to go to work (when she was working) and fishing for scraps of food out of the school trash cans (when they went to school).  Their father worked odd jobs from time to time but spent most of his time drinking and gambling.  Both parents refused to work or accept any help from others, yet became outraged whenever the kids accused them of neglect or irresponsible behavior.  All I can say is that Jeannette and her siblings must be some tough people to have survived such an upbringing.  This isn’t the sort of book I would normally pick up and read but my friend practically shoved it in my face and swore up and down that it was fantastic.  She couldn’t have been more right.

Storm Front is the first of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, an urban fantasy series featuring Harry Dresden, the only practicing wizard for hire in the United States.  Dresden is a wonderful character and from the first few pages I was hooked.  He might be dangerous and powerful, with a streak of anger hidden just beneath the surface, but he’s got a sense of humor and really he’s just a nice guy.  Plus, he wears a duster.  That’s just awesome.  In the first book he gets caught up investigating a series of gruesome murders that could only have been the work of a sorcerer, while at the same time he’s hired by a nervous wife who wants him to find her missing husband.  The two cases turn out to be related and Harry faces a slew of dangers before finally getting down to the bottom of the mystery and facing off with the bad guy.  I’ll definitely continue this series and I’d like to check out his other fantasy series as well.

Vampires and Werewolves and Sidhe, Oh My!

This summer has been a busy one, with lots of travelling – which means a lot of time to read but not much time to talk about it.  I think I’ve let about four books go by without posting a thing about them.  So I thought I’d just mention them briefly because they were all great, though wildly different, and merit a mention.

The first was an Emma Campion galley I won called The King’s Mistress, about Alice Perrers, who became entangled in a web of court intrigue after becoming the mistress of Edward III.  I love this type of historical fiction and I’m not all that familiar with this time period so it was interesting to get a chance to learn more about the Plantagenets and Lancasters while seeing through the eyes of a woman who was vilified for her affair with the king.  The story was engaging and I really enjoyed it, but when the tension began to mount I didn’t experience the delicious fear and constant anxiety that books like The Other Boleyn Girl evoked.  Alice made it plain the many dangers she faced throughout her life but I was more curious about what was going to happen than anxious.  The writing itself was beautiful and Alice was a strong and admirable protagonist.

For a change of pace I turned to an urban fantasy that was featured on the Nook’s weekly Free Fridays promotion – the first in Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series, Darkfever.  It’s about MacKayla Lane, a woman in her early 20s who travels to Dublin, Ireland after the brutal and unsolved murder of her sister.   In the hopes that the local law enforcement will renew their efforts to find the killer if a family member is there in the flesh, Mac settles into the city where her sister’s life was cut short and unwittingly stumbles into a dark and magical world where faeries roam the streets disguised as humans and entire blocks are swallowed from memory.  She finds an unlikely partner in Jericho Barrons, a rich and eccentric book store owner with a few mysteries of his own, who tells her that she is a Sidhe seer – someone who can see the fae.  Not only that, but she can sense magical artifacts and freeze all manner of fae creatures with one touch.  Mac discovers that her sister was also involved with the Sidhe somehow and as she learns more about her abilities and continues the search for her sister’s murderer she becomes all the more bound to Jericho and his quest for an all-important Sidhe artifact that, according to Mac’s sister, is the key to everything.  Darkfever was a fast-paced urban adventure with a fantastic array of exotic and dark faeries – and these are no Tinkerbells, mind you.  I loved the tension and banter between Mac and Jericho.  It was just a lot of fun and great storytelling.  I’ll definitely be continuing the series.

Also a Nook Free Friday title, Cry Sanctuary came next.  Also an urban fantasy – werewolves this time – and the first in the Red Rock Pass series by Moira Rogers, this book was another speedy, brain candy type of adventure.  Werewolf packs live in secret all over the country and most are run by greedy alphas who abuse their position and power and terrorize their subordinates to get what they want.  Red Rock is place that provides sanctuary to any wolf who seeks a different way of life.  Abigail Adler escapes an abusive alpha with the help of her close friend, who risks everything to get her out of harm’s way, and the two of them find shelter in Red Rock.  The story follows Abigail and Keith Winston, a Red Rock wolf newly returned from Europe, fighting in the war between werewolves and wizards, who rescues her and her friend while they’re on the run.  As a newly turned werewolf Abby has a lot to learn about her new life and Keith, who is instantly and almost irrationally attracted to her, hopes he will be the one to act as her guide – but it has to be her choice.  Keith was my favorite character in the story, I absolutely loved him.  Part knight, part cowboy, all badass.  And I didn’t hate the hot scenes where Abby gave in to his charms.  Can’t say I blame her really.  Another really fun urban fantasy and I look forward to the next Red Rock book.

After reading Lamb a few months ago I’ve been dying to read another Christopher Moore book.  And of course with my incurable vampire obsession I decided to go with You Suck: A Love Story, which chronicles the new un-life of Tommy Flood after being turned into a vampire by his undead girlfriend Jody.  Tommy’s not exactly thrilled with his new situation and as he struggles to come to terms with being a bloodsucking fiend the pair get themselves in all kinds of shenanigans.  The ancient vampire who sired Jody is after them (you would be too if you were covered in bronze by Tommy’s biker neighbors and turned into a statue) and Tommy’s former Safeway stockboy co-workers have been compelled by a blue hooker (long story) from Vegas to hunt them down.  They decide to accept the dark and brooding (but hopelessly perky) goth Abby Normal to be their minion and run errands for them during the day.  There are whole chapters of Abby’s diary that are absolutely hilarious, and luckily since I’m fluent in angsty-teenage-girl-diary-speak I could understand it all with ease and appreciate it from a former angsty teenage diary author myself.  The book is a laugh-out-loud witty, outrageous, and ridiculously funny window into the mind of a genius wordsmith.  It’s definitely not as emotionally driven as Lamb, although it’s hysterically funny as well, it’s more like a romping adventure.  Unfortunately after I finished it I found out that it’s actually a sequel (Love Bites is the first book).  I had a sneaking suspicion that it might be, based on all the references to events that felt more like I should already be familiar with rather than backstory.  But I’ll just go back and read that one before continuing on with the next book, Bloodsucking Fiends

What are you reading?

2010 LA Times Festival of Books

 

In April I attended the LA Times Festival of Books for the first time and it was such an amazing experience I thought I’d share the highlights with you.  My cousin (who is co-authoring the fantasy novel I’m currently working on) flew down from Northern California for the event and when we arrived on Saturday morning my first impression was the sheer size of it!  As we made our way across the gorgeous UCLA campus we crossed a sea of booths and passed through throngs of fellow book lovers.  I’ve never seen so many people gathered to talk about reading and writing, and the buzzing atmosphere was contagious.

Over 400 authors were in attendance to do readings, speak at panels, and sign books.  The first panel we went to was called Science & Humanity: From the Past to the Future and it featured Brian Fagan, Michael Shermer, and Richard Wrangham, who discussed their books about human evolution, pre-history, and sociology.  Brian Fagan was my first archaeology professor at UC Santa Barbara and it was largely due to him that I decided to major in anthropology.  All three authors had fascinating things to say and after the panel I bought Fagan’s new book, Cro-Magnon, and we chatted about his days at the university as he signed it.

 

Then we hit the YA Stage to catch the tail end of Blood, Fangs, and Temptation: Everything Vampire with Heather Brewer, Rachel Caine, Melissa de la Cruz, and Richelle Mead.  I’ve read Vampire Academy and Glass Houses is in my TBR pile so it was interesting to see the authors in the flesh and hear them discuss their books and writing in general.  I’ve been obsessed with vampires since I was a kid so it’s delightful to see that they’ve made a comeback into popular culture. 

We couldn’t stick around to get any of their books signed because we had to book it to our next panel: History Through Fiction’s Lens, with Gabrielle Burton, Thaisa Frank, and Indu Sundaresan.  This was another riveting panel about historical fiction, one of my favorite genres.  The authors were so different, but each brought their own unique perspective to the discussion and it was obvious that they were all equally passionate about their research.  As someone who aspires to write in this genre someday it was assuring to hear Indu say that when writing historical fiction, mistakes are inevitable – you just have to focus on creating a realistic setting to bring your characters, and their stories, to life.  I bought copies of Gabrielle’s Impatient with Desire, about Tamsen Donner of the ill-fated Donner party, and Indu’s The Twentieth Wife, about the Moghul Empire in India.  It was a pleasure meeting them both.

The author I was most excited to meet was Christopher Rice and I almost missed my opportunity, but by a small twist of luck I managed to not only meet him and get a copy of his new book signed, but he was nice enough to take his picture with us.  We’d missed the panel he was on so we ran over to the area where he was signing only to find it empty.  I was extremely disappointed but I talked to a volunteer and she confirmed that we’d missed the signing, but then someone else asked which author I was looking for and he happened to walk by the tent just then.  The volunteer called him over and he happily offered to sign my program.  When I said that I’d meant to buy his new book for the signing he said he and the other authors on the panel were just about to go buy each other’s books and suggested that we come with them.  I was so grateful and thrilled to meet him because I’ve been a fan since his debut novel A Density of Souls.  He was such a sweetheart!

With Christopher Rice

The rest of the day we wandered up and down the aisles of booths, meeting debut authors and picking up literature on writing associations.  We’d been too busy to eat lunch or drink any water so needless to say, we were exhausted as the day wrapped up and we headed home.

We got there earlier on Sunday to attend our first scheduled panel of the day – Publishing: The Editors Speak Out, with Sarah Crichton, Eli Horowitz, and Jack Shoemaker.  It was wonderful to hear about the publishing industry from these insiders’ perspectives and they each gave great advice and provided some insight into the ups and downs of the business.  The next panel we went to was also about publishing and we picked up some more tips that will surely come in handy when we start shopping our manuscript. 

Dionne loaded down with bookish goodies.

We hit some more booths next and remembered to eat lunch this time, copping a squat on the grass next to the Cooking Stage to watch Anne Byrn, the Cake Mix Doctor, whip up some tasty looking desserts. 

 Then it was back to the YA Stage to see Michael Reisman, Margaret Stohl, Tracy Trivas, and Heather Tomlinson at Making the Magic Happen: Writing Young Adult Fantasy.  This was a particularly interesting panel since it was all about our genre, although our novel is decidedly NOT for young adults.  Each author read a short passage from one of their books and answered questions from the audience.   

After reading Empress Orchid last year I was excited to see Anchee Min’s name on the list of authors attending the festival.  I bought a copy of her new release, Pearl of China, and waited in line for a chance to meet her.  Unfortunately the experience was quite a let down.  Unlike all the other authors we’d met so far, who greeted us with smiles and chatted personably, she didn’t say a word and barely cracked a smile.  Also unlike the other authors who personalized their autographs by including our names and a short message, Min just signed her name.  All this is fine, you never know if she was just having a bad day or if she gets nervous at events like that or who knows what, but it was kind of a turn off.  Hopefully the book will make up for it. 

Soaking up the glorious atmosphere.

Overall, the festival was absolutely thrilling and inspirational and we vowed to make it an annual tradition.  I can’t believe I’ve lived in Los Angeles for the better part of a decade and had never even heard of it before this year!  It was wonderful to see so many fantastic authors up close and personal and get to meet some of them.  I hope to be able to attend the festival as an author as well as a reader sometime in the future.

What bookish events have you been to?

Finding Deeper Meaning: The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs

Last week’s episode of South Park, entitled “The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs”, while outrageous and hysterical as usual, got me thinking about metaphors and finding deeper meaning in books. 

The boys were assigned to read The Catcher in the Rye in class and were told beforehand that it had offensive material that had gotten it banned from schools across the country.  Naturally that piques their interest and they race through the pages, waiting for the alleged offensive parts (aka the good stuff) which never come.  Incensed that they’d been tricked into reading an entire book and baffled as to why it was considered offensive, they decide to write their own book.  One that would be so outrageously offensive that it would be banned in a heartbeat. 

So they set out to write The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs – the most disgusting, revolting, twisted, and generally effed up piece of writing ever created.  Their parents get their hands on the manuscript and despite only being able to get through a few words at a time before projectile vomiting, they think it’s brilliant and the book is quickly published and sells millions of copies. 

The best part was how everyone interpreted the book and sought some deep meaning out of all the gratuitous vulgarity and obscenities.  It’s pro-life!  No, it’s clearly pro-choice!  It draws attention to the plight of the lower class (represented by Sarah Jessica Parker)!  Meanwhile, the boys are shocked and appalled that not only was their trashy book not banned like they’d intended, it’s being lauded as a masterpiece and the work of a genius (and since they were quick to blame Butters for writing the book to avoid getting into trouble, they’re getting none of the credit).  They go on a campaign against the book, trying – and failing miserably – to make people realize that there is no deep meaning behind the disgusting words. 

People will see what they want to see I guess. 

The episode was hilarious and it made me think about my reading habits.  I realized that I don’t tend to look for hidden themes or messages when I read.  Unless the entire book is a glaringly obvious metaphor, like Animal Farm, I generally don’t think about what certain characters represent or whether different events address any political ideologies or global themes like war and poverty.  I tend to call a spade a spade.  When I read it’s more about connecting to the characters and their stories emotionally.

Am I missing out by overlooking big-picture themes and sweeping metaphors?  Maybe.  But I’m also willing to bet that nine times out of ten the messages and themes a reader picks up were totally unintended by the author. 

What kind of reader are you?  Do you look for deeper meaning in the pages?  

Did you catch the episode of South Park?  If not, watch it here (warning: uncensored)!

Blog Award!

This is long overdue but many thanks to Jody and Rae at With a Good Book for passing along the Blog Monster Award to me!

The Blog Monster award was created by Eleni at La Femme Reader:

It signifies all the bloggers out there who constantly work hard to keep an updated and insightful website. They aren’t afraid to take a bite with their honest reviews and enjoyable content. You amaze me, you inspire me so I call you a blog monster.

I’m so thrilled and it’s my pleasure to pass the award on to these fantastic bloggers:

Alayne at The Crowded Leaf

Nick at Lions and Men

Greg at The New Dork Review of Books

Lori at Escape Between the Pages

Angela at Reading Angel

Happy reading and writing!

Series Amnesia and Other Thoughts

I don’t have any reviews to post so far this week so I thought I’d share some thoughts on the three books I’m currently reading.

An Echo in the Bone, by Diana Gabaldon

This is the 7th book in the Outlander saga and I’ve finally gotten around to reading it after it waited patiently in my TBR pile since Christmas.  I’m almost halfway through it and so far so good.  The beginning was a bit frustrating because I couldn’t remember what happened at the end of the last book and I was struggling to recall who a few characters were (yes, even major characters like Fergus!).  It was quite distracting, to say the least.  In my defense it’s been a couple years since I read A Breath of Snow and Ashes so I was wracking my brain trying to remember why Roger and Brianna weren’t with Claire and Jamie anymore and why they’d left the plantation (or that Roger and Bree now had a daughter).  It kind of makes me wish I’d re-read the last one to refresh my memory, but again I would have encountered the same problem.  Eventually I want to read the whole series because the first two books are by far my favorite so maybe I’ll do that before the next one comes out (because undoubtedly it will take another couple of years to be released and I will have forgotten everything that happens in this book by then).

Once I got over my initial irritation at my lack of memory, I was able to ease into the story and get back in the swing of things on Fraser Ridge.  I found it to be a bit on the slow side in the beginning, although there was some action (involving a certain character that of course had temporarily slipped my mind) that happened right off the bat.  Jamie still somehow manages to be the most charming, witty, badass, sweet, and stubborn man all at the same time.  Claire is..still Claire, quoting 20th century song lyrics and crying out “Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!”  But you have to love the pair of them.  The story is told from various points of view and the only character I just can’t seem to connect with is William, Jamie’s bastard son (no really, he’s illegitimate) who’s serving in the British army.  I really want to like him, and it’s not that I don’t, I just find myself skimming rather quickly through his chapters waiting for something to happen.  I’m surprised by how much I’m getting into the parts with Roger and Bree and the bairns, adjusting to life in the 1980’s in Scotland and finding out letter by letter the fate of Claire and Jamie and the rest of the loved ones they left behind when they went through the stones.

I read a review on Amazon today about this book and learned that there isn’t really an ending so I’m sure I’ll be thoroughly annoyed when I finish the last page, but it’s still Outlander and I adore this series.

Lamb, by Christopher Moore

I’m only about 100 pages in so far but from the very first page (truthfully, from the author’s bio prior to the first page) I became a fan.  This is my first Moore experience and I know it’s early but I have a feeling I’m going to become a devout follower of the man’s work after this.  Just the extended title alone was enough to leave me guffawing like an idiot (The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal.  Seriously?  How can you not crack up at that?).  Not only is the narrative and dialogue witty and hilarious, but the subject matter really intrigues me.  I’m sure a lot of people would be offended by it, but it really is fascinating.  Think about childhood for a second, and how hard it can be.  Now imagine you’re the son of God.  Yikes, right?  Luckily Josh (from Joshua from Yeshua) has his good pal Levi (aka Biff) to watch his back (not to mention do all his sinning for him) while he tries to figure out his destiny and how to fulfill it.  And then there’s Raziel, the dim-witted angel who resurrected Biff 2,000 years after his death to force him to write his own Gospel by orders of the big man himself, who spends all hours of the day watching day-time dramas and believing they’re real (despite Biff’s best efforts to assure him that they’re the equivalent of a Greek drama) and that Soap Opera Digest must have been written by a prophet. 

I’m going to have some serious fun with this one.

Brighid’s Quest, by P.C. Cast 

I requested this one from NetGalley after the gorgeous cover caught my eye and I recognized the author’s name, having just read Marked (the first House of Night novel).  I hadn’t gotten very far when I noticed that there was an awful lot of back-story summing up and I thought to myself she probably should have written a book about these events if she was planning on mentioning them so often.  Then I found out that, in fact, she did.  It’s called Elphame’s Choice and it came out in September of last year.  Oops. 

The good news is, because of all the reminders of what happened in that book (and I’m not usually a fan of re-capping previous books in a series but it was just fine in this case, and I wish Diana Gabaldon would make use of it a little more) I’m up to speed with who all the characters are and the basic premise of the world and story.  I haven’t gotten very far yet but so far I’m getting reeled in and can’t wait to find out what happens next.  This is my first experience with a centaur as the main character, and I love the winged race of New Fomorians – a hybrid of humans and demons.  Hopefully I’ll make some good progress on this on over the weekend and have a review for you sometime next week.

Have you read any of these?  What’s your strategy on reading a new book in a series?  Re-read the previous book or just go for it and hope you don’t develop series amnesia?

50th Post Giveaway at the New Dork Review of Books

Congratulations to Greg at the New Dork Review of Books for his 50th post!  To celebrate he’s hosting a giveaway of A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore.  Here’s a synopsis of the book from B&N.com:

As the United States begins gearing up for war in the Middle East, twenty-year-old Tassie Keltjin, the Midwestern daughter of a gentleman hill farmer—his “Keltjin potatoes” are justifiably famous—has come to a university town as a college student, her brain on fire with Chaucer, Sylvia Plath, Simone de Beauvoir.

Between semesters, she takes a job as a part-time nanny.

The family she works for seems both mysterious and glamorous to her, and although Tassie had once found children boring, she comes to care for, and to protect, their newly adopted little girl as her own.

As the year unfolds and she is drawn deeper into each of these lives, her own life back home becomes ever more alien to her: her parents are frailer; her brother, aimless and lost in high school, contemplates joining the military. Tassie finds herself becoming more and more the stranger she felt herself to be, and as life and love unravel dramatically, even shockingly, she is foreverchanged.

This long-awaited new novel by one of the most heralded writers of the past two decades is lyrical, funny, moving, and devastating; Lorrie Moore’s most ambitious book to date—textured, beguiling, and wise.

So head on over to enter for your chance to win!

The Book Blogger Hop!

This is a great new, weekly event hosted by Jennifer at Crazy For Books.  I just found out about it today from Dominique at Coffee Stained Pages.  Here’s what it’s all about:

This is a weekly event, hosted here, where book bloggers and readers can connect to find new blogs to read.  It’s a great way to network with other bloggers and make new friends!  The rules are simple – Add your link to MckLinky below (using the new format posted above), POST ABOUT THE HOP ON YOUR BLOG, and start hopping around and visiting other links that are posted!  If you start following someone through the Hop, leave a comment on their blog to let them know!  Stop back during the week to see other blogs that are added!  And, most importantly, the idea is to HAVE FUN!!

I’m really excited to join in the fun!  I’m always looking for people to chat about books with and new blogs to follow, not only for new book and author recommendations, but for ideas and inspiration for my blog as well. 

So head over to Crazy For Books to sign up and join the hop!

LA Times Festival of Books Update

The author list is up! 

http://events.latimes.com/festivalofbooks/authors/

Over 400 authors are scheduled to attend the largest book event in the country this year to do readings, panels and book signings.  I was most excited when I saw Anchee Min and Christopher Rice on the list.  Other notables include Lisa See, Mary Higgins Clark, James Ellroy, Sarah Silverman, Buzz Aldrin, Thomas Steinbeck, and Stuart Woods. 

So I was curious how many of you regularly attend book signings and other events?  I’ve only been to one and it was several years ago. 

It was an Anne Rice book signing right after Blood Canticle was released.  I was so thrilled to be able to meet my then favorite writer face to face and even get a picture with her.  But there were so many people in line (naturally) that I felt so rushed when it was finally my turn that I just sputtered out something moronic like, “I love your books!” while she signed my copies and my husband snapped a quick photo. 

Then it was all over after hours of waiting outside in the cold in downtown San Diego.  I’m not complaining, it was an honor just to have that small time of interaction with her, but it would have been nice to be able to ask a couple questions before getting brushed along.  I felt like I was on an assembly line!  

Is that how book signings typically go?  

Tidbits

Jacqueline Carey’s new book Naamah’s Curse is scheduled to be released this June.  It’s the second in her Moirin trilogy and I’m so excited to get my hands on it (and check out the gorgeous cover)!  If you’re interested, head over to The Signed Page to pre-order a signed copy.

 

 

 

 

 

Patrick Rothfuss, author of Name of the Wind, just announced some upcoming appearances (sadly, none of them in my neck of the woods) on his website along with some recent blog updates on the progress of his eagerly awaited follow-up to his debut novel.  The bad news is that there’s still no sign of a publication date and the manuscript is not quite ready to hit the press.  The good news (and I’ll take what I can get!) is that it is one step closer and rest assured he’s working on it and would like us all to get off his back about the subject.  Check out the pics of the latest, and quite sizable, draft of The Wise Man’s Fear which feature his uber adorable baby. 

 

Maria V. Snyder’s new YA book, Inside Out, comes out next month and you can read the first chapter at her website.  Also, be sure to stop by at the end of the month for an Author Q&A post where Maria answers questions about her multiple award-winning fantasy series and passes on advice to aspiring writers.

 

 

The 2010 LA Times Festival of Books will be held at the UCLA campus on the weekend of April 24-25.  I’ve never attended but I’m hoping I can make it and meet some fellow SoCal bloggers!  Free tickets are needed for the indoor panels and sessions and they’ll be available starting April 19th.  More info should be out this month so I’ll be sure to post any updates I can find.  Is anyone planning on going?

 

That’s it for now, hope everyone has a great week!

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