Friday, October 29, 2010

Short Fiction Friday, Oct 29

Weirdly enough, this week's post is less about specific stories I liked and more about story sources!

Unfinished 'Piper' story by Maggie Stiefvater.  One, in the least creepy way, I want all three of the Merry Sisters of Fate to be my BFF. Honestly, they're so adorable and funny.  Two, Maggie Stiefvater turned this thirty year old-ish lesbian into a werewolf fangirl who now slightly crushes on teenaged boys in YA novels.  I know, even my teenaged brother-in-law can't stop rolling his eyes.  Three, this story rocks, and I would say that even if I didn't think Ms Stiefvater was all that and a bucket of ice cream.

Library of America (who publishes those very solid looking editions by a single author, all black, with a red ribbon bookmark, if I'm recalling correctly) now posts a new piece of short fiction a week at their Story of the Week blog.  In honor of Halloween, I'm ignoring this week's story and directing everyone to 'The Devil and Tom Walker' instead!

And finally, I have to recommend a podcast this week!  Podcastle has fabulous fiction of the supernatural vein (but nothing too genre for those who aren't hardcore into zombies or vampires).  The website links to the text of each story, so if you're really not interested in listening, you can read the stories -- but I have to say, there's something so lovely about a new 20-minute story being read to me every week or so!  Last week's story -- which was so good -- was Caitlin R Kiernan's 'The Belated Burial'.  Creepy and chilling.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Kiss Me Deadly - Trisha Telep

Title: Kiss Me Deadly: 13 Tales of Paranormal Love
Author: Trisha Telep, editor

Genre: Fiction (Paramornal Romance - Short Stories )

Love/Hate?: Love. (Dare I say, deadly love?)
Rating: 4/5
Did I finish?: Oh yes.
One-sentence summary: Thirteen paranormal short stories with a fringe of romance.

Why did I get this book?: Paranormal romance is kind of my guilty pleasure these days.
Source: Won it from Good Choice Reading

Do you like the cover?: Sure, it's very pretty but it doesn't seem particularly dark, romantic, or deadly to me.

Did... I find a whole new host of supernatural creatures to crush on?: YES. Djinn anyone? Angels? Unicorn hunters?

Did... I decide to add every single author to my TBR?: YES. I'm already a dyed-in-the-wool Stiefvater fan, but now my list of authors I'm slavishly reading has grown!

Did... I find I was even excited to read about vampires?: YES. I'm still not 100% in the vampires-are-awesome camp, but this collection made me pretty happy to have one as my hero or heroine.

Review: This solid collection of paranormal short stories is engaging and perfect for the approaching autumn season (for those in the Northern Hemisphere). Many of the authors are recognizable from their novels -- Becca Fitzpatrick, Carrie Ryan, Rachel Vincent, Maggie Stiefvater, Diana Peterfreund -- and even a few offer stories within the universes they write about. In fact, one of the stand out stories in the collection, Becca Fitzpatrick's "Dungeons of Langeais", grabs the reader from the first line, regardless of their familiarity with the Hush, Hush series (says one who hasn't read any of them!).

I enjoyed every story, which is pretty rare. Of course, I liked some less than others. One even had me completely flummoxed (emotionally)! Sarah Rees Brennan's "The Spy Who Never Grew Up" is super twisted and kind of awesome and kind of sketchy, and I can't say if I loved it or hated it. And it challenged the idea of 'love', which is the uniting theme of this collection. As editor Trisha Telep explains, love can be light and fluffy and sweet, but it can also be dark and twisted and wrong, and every story in this collections hits solidly on that spectrum.

Other highlights included Diana Peterfreund's "Errant", which might be set in her killer unicorn universe; Karen Mahoney's "The Spirit Jar", which includes a vampire (yawn) and a djinn (yum!); Maggie Stiefvater's "The Hounds of Ulster", which is all about teenage musicians and dreams of getting big (and also, faeries); and Daniel Marks' "Vermillion", which sort of felt like being plunked midstream in a story but was so good, I eventually didn't care.

In terms of heat, this is a solid PG rating, if that; I actually found few of the stories openly romantic and some really twisted and played with the idea of love and being in love. I wasn't wild about Trisha Telep's introduction to this collection, but I like her taste, so I might even pick up her vampire collection of stories, The Eternal Kiss.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Teaser Tuesday, Oct 26

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

- Grab your current read
- Open to a random page
- Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
- Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Ohemgee, for serious, this week's book so far is amazing.  I'm reading Thaisa Frank's Heidegger's Glasses, a historical novel set during the Holocaust.  This scene comes right from the opening: Elie Schacten is a Polish Catholic plucked to work for the Nazis because of her perfect Aryan looks.  She has just smuggled three Jewish children into Switzerland and is trying to collect some goods to use for bartering in the future.

As always, my teaser is a little long.

Stay the night, said the officer, patting a confiscated couch.  I'll keep my hands off you.  I promise.

You have more than hands, said Elie.

My feet are safe, too, said the officer.  He pointed to a hole in his boots, and they laughed.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mailbox Monday, Oct 25

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia at The Printed Page but is currently on tour. For the month of October it will be hosted by Avis at She Reads and Reads.

Ohmygoodness, I've had an amazing mail week -- seriously, some absolutely drool-worthy goodies, and so many!  It's a bit like Christmas here -- I literally spread out the books around me on the bed so I could lay there and savor them.

Penelope's Daughter, won from The Burton ReviewLaurel Corona, the author, has been doing the circuit through many of the blogs I read, and I've just loved her humor and attitude in all her interviews.  I'm so excited to read this one! 

From Passages to the Past, I was so very lucky to win every book by Susan Holloway Scott.  Every one.  Last year, I read Royal Harlot and adored it-- it was the kind of historical novel that made me remember why I love the genre.  Through Ms Scott's writing, I knew Barbara Palmer, and I felt familiar with a historical era that was previously entirely unknown to me.  Needless to say, I am over the moon about this prize pack -- I didn't own Royal Harlot; and to have it and the rest of Ms Scott's books, well, I die.  As if all those books weren't an awesome enough prize, Ms Holloway signed each book and sent along bookmarks! 

And on Saturday, we stumbled across a rummage sale with a fabulous selection of barely read books, and I picked up a copy of Blindspot by Jane Kamensky & Jill Lepore.  I've never heard of it, but when I saw that it's set in Boston, I couldn't resist.  I also got Devil Water by Anya Seton, because I'm trying to own every single one of her novels!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sneak Peek Review - Kiss Me Deadly

I've reviewed Kiss Me Deadly over at Read All Over Reviews -- my first guest blogging stint!  Check it out and Teresa's other fabulous 31 Days of Halloween posts: reviews, recipes, and of course, giveaways! 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wandering Wednesday, Oct 20

This week has been breezing by!  I'm in a bit of a reading funk; finishing up Kiss Me Deadly which is great so far, but I find after each short story I keep pausing to savor/digest, and I'm getting through it very slowly!

This week's wanderings include...

A New York Times piece on touring writers' houses.  Interesting -- but I was shocked by the author's suggestion that there are only 73 writers' houses open to the public.  That's it?  But then I thought back to the few literary pilgrimages I've made in the last few years -- Dashiell Hammett, H.D. -- and I remembered their houses weren't available for tour, so...maybe 73 is all there is!

The Guardian reports on Google Translate's foray into translating poetry!  To make things easy, the example used is Lewis Carroll's 'Jabberwocky'.

Beacon Press, one of my favorite publishers, has a fabulous blog; one of their employees blogs about arranged marriages and 'liberated' Indian women.  Thought-provoking, and now, of course, I'm on the search for Love in a Headscarf!

A music album inspired by Anaïs Nin!  (She made the list as one of my top ten favorite authors.)

A brief piece on the auction of the original art for the cover of Charlotte's Web.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mailbox Monday, October 18

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia at The Printed Page but is currently on tour. For the month of October it will be hosted by Avis at She Reads and Reads.

So many delicious books!  The top two are from the Hard Case Crime series of books (not related books but just pulp reprints) and were book swaps.  Hooray!

Heidegger's Glasses is one I'm so sososososo very excited about; not only does the premise sound amazing, but I'm doing it in conjunction with my very first book blog tour!  (Or is it blog book tour?)  I can tell you now, I'll be doing an interview and giveaway in November so stay tuned!

And finally, Valley of the Dead (sadly cut off in the picture), is from vvb32's awesome September Zombies giveaway.  Inscribed by the author!

Tell me about your haul!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Best American Noir of the Century

Title: The Best American Noir of the Century
Author: Otto Penzler, editor

Genre: Fiction (Noir - Short Stories )

Love/Hate?: Nearly love.
Rating: 4/5
Did I finish?: Ish.  I read about half the stories, skimmed the others.
One-sentence summary: Forty American noir stories from the last century.

Why did I get this book?: One giant collection of noir?!  Sign me up!
Source: NetGalley

Do you like the cover?: Eh.  The image doesn't exactly make sense to me; it looks like an ad image for secretary school, not a volume of noir.

Did... I feel "repulsed and titillated" while reading this, as James Ellroy claimed I would?: YES.  Forget horror, noir is the best way to get a chill up one's spine!

Did... I find myself crushing on all the wrong people?: YES.  There's something so deadly sexy about a good femme fatale!

Did... I feel very grateful that I had this as an e-book edition?: YES, mostly.  At 731 pages, I wouldn't have been able to carry a hard copy around on my commute, but this is the kind of book that begs to be held and thumbed through.

Review: A solid collection of noir short stories, picked by Otto Penzler, introduced by James Ellroy.  In his 'Foreward', Penzler defines 'noir'; by his definition, private eyes such as Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe do not belong in the noir genre, and as such, both Hammett and Chandler aren't included in this collection.  (I disagree with Penzler's definition but I guess he knows more than me!)  Still, for anyone interested in noir, this is a perfect place to start.

The stories are ordered chronologically by publication date, beginning in 1923 and ending in 2007.  It's a nice way to read through the collection and see how the genre has developed and changed.  Each story is prefaced with a bio about the author; I was amazed at how many of these authors or stories have a Hollywood connection.

Some of the highlights include the opening story, 'Spurs', which was the basis for the film Freaks; 'The Homecoming' by Dorothy B. Hughes, one of the first female writers of noir; 'Faithless', a piece by Joyce Carol Oates that manages to be creepy and literary and really, really good; and 'What She Offered' by Thomas H. Cook.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Blameless by Gail Carriger

Title: Blameless
Author: Gail Carriger

Genre: Fiction (Steampunk / Urban Fantasy / Paranormal Romance)

Love/Hate?: A great deal of relieved affection.
Rating: 4.5ish/5
Did I finish?: Yes!
One-sentence summary: Alexia Maccon battles Templars and ladybugs.

Why did I get this book?: The sequel to Changeless
Source: My public library!
Challenges: Support Your Local Library

Do you like the cover?: Yes.  I'm pleased the publisher has kept the same model/style to each cover.  Very sharp.

First line from book: How much longer, Mama, must we tolerate this gross humilation?

Did... I find this one more enjoyable than Changeless?: YES, blessedly. Very little Ivy and no Angelique, although still too much Madame Lefoux and not nearly enough Akeldama.

Did... I discover I have a burgeoning crush on Professor Lyall?: YES.  Why is he so adorable?  I don't have words.

Did... I find the entire side plot with Biffy and Akeldama to be deliciously poignant?: YES.  I'm getting teary just remembering.

Review: I was pretty unhappy with Changeless as I just adored -- literally, top ten of 2010 -- Soulless;  needless to say, I was apprehensive about Blameless.  Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised and muchly relieved to find this book felt more like the first than the second: funny, breezy, quick moving, with fewer new side characters jostling for the lead.  Like Alexia herself, I found my attitude toward Changeless' cliffhanger warming as the book went on; however, I thought Conall got off too easy for his really unbelievable response to the cliffhanger.  (Pet peeve: when seemingly reasonable characters become completely idiotic for the sake of plot.)

In terms of plot, this story advances a great deal of science about the preternaturals, which sort of went over my head.  Now that the series has been extended into two more books, I suppose Carriger has to explain Alexia's powers and, of course, the implication of the Changeless cliffhanger, but to be honest the how has bored me so far.  Perhaps if I didn't hate the scientists -- like Madame Lefoux -- I would care a little more, but such is life. 

I should add, despite my intense loathing for Madame Lefoux, I'm actually pleased by the number of queer characters that Carriger offers.  Of course, the actual sex so far has been limited to Alexia and Conall, but there are romantic and sexual implications of all stripes for a variety of the side characters, and I appreciate that.  Speaking of queer, I'm pretty sure Professor Lyall is family, and that he has a raging crush on Biffy.

In the end, my hopes for the rest of this series are lifted.  I'm especially eager for the next two books to follow the formula from the first book, namely, the sexy back-and-forth between Alexia and Conall.  Alexia is lovely on her own, but so far, no one has been an interesting enough foil for her wit and that's what hooked me from the start.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Teaser Tuesday, Oct 12

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

- Grab your current read
- Open to a random page
- Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
- Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Moved, finally, and I even found some time to read (my earlier plan of reading all day Mon didn't come to fruition, sadly).  This week's teaser is from Gail Carriger's Blameless, which I'm enjoying more than Changeless (thankfully).

"Really, Genevieve, must you go for the eye?  It's so unsightly."  Monsieur Trouvé appeared to agree with Alexia's disgust.

"Only if you promise not to use a pun like that again."

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wandering Wednesday, October 6

Some very interesting articles this week; I've two days until my big move.  Soon I'll stop mentioning it in every post I make.
  • For anyone eager to be on the cutting edge of the newest, up-and-coming novelists, the Guardian posts Granta's list of the best young Spanish-language novelists.  Probably a list worth watching; Granta previously held up a young Salman Rushdie as an author to watch in the '80s!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tyger Tyger by Kersten Hamilton

Title: Tyger Tyger (Goblin Wars #1)
Author: Kersten Hamilton

Genre: Fiction (Young Adult - Paranormal/Supernatural)

Love/Hate?: Something very close to love.
Rating: 4.5ish/5
Did I finish?: Yes!
One-sentence summary: Teenage Teagan fights local jerks, evil goblins, crush on cute boy.

Why did I get this book?: The Blake reference. I couldn't resist!
Source: NetGalley

Do you like the cover?: Yes. It actually quite relates to the book and resembles, I imagine, the art of Aileen Wylltson (the heroine's mother).

First line from book: Please, Teagan Wylltson's fingers curled in American Sign Language as she spoke.

Did... I find everyone but the hero to be appealing and engaging?: YES.  Finn was sadly one-dimensional; a recurrent tertiary character had more heft than he did.

Did... I like, admire, and cheer for Teagan, our heroine?: YES.  Much like Aislinn from Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely, Teagan problem solved and kicked butt, cried and felt fear, fell in love and kept her spunk.  

Did... the end of the book wrap up in a totally satisfying and yet awesomely cliff-hanger-y way?: YES.  I put it down with a laugh and a shriek!

Review: The subtitle of this book -- Goblin Wars -- almost made me pass on reading it, but I really couldn't resist the Blake reference.  I'm so glad I gave it try, because this was an unexpectedly engrossing paranormal adventure.  Paranormal novels with a mythological basis are hardly new, but Hamilton's focus on the truly dark aspects of Celtic mythology is what made this story so interesting.  That, and her really interesting characters! 

I had gotten myself into a snit near the start of the novel, when it was revealed that heroine Tegan's mother was an artist.  I wasn't sure I could sit through another book with a throwaway parent so I was deeply pleased to discover mama Aileen's career choice was quite deliberate and plot relevant.  Whew!  In fact, I found the characters -- even the most slight -- to be vibrant and thoughtfully fleshed out.  Our heroine Teagan, is smart and funny, tough and emotional, empathetic and interesting.  Despite the chemistry she feels for Finn, she remains true to her character and behaves admirably through the book.  She didn't turn into a wilting wallflower the moment Finn arrived; she fought goblins and college-aged jerks with guts.  Some of the funniest lines in the book came from her!  The half star I took off comes solely because our hero, Finn, is the flattest of the bunch.  To be fair, he had tough competition, but as the romantic lead and demigod of the bunch, he really should have been more than a Brad Pitt lookalike with an Irish accent. 

That tiny quibble aside, I can honestly say I'm hooked!

Top Ten Tuesday, Oct 5

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's Top Ten Tuesday is our favorite authors.

How to limit myself to ten?! This is worse than the top ten couples! Can I include Anonymous?! In seriousness, though, my top ten is literally my top ten of today, and I guarantee I'll feel differently later!

Diana Abu-Jaber: Start with her autobiography Language of Baklava because it's poignant and hilarious and includes very, very delicious recipes. Her novels are marvelous, too -- Crescent has some of the sexiest food descriptions I've ever read.

L.M. Alcott: What can I say about Alcott that's original?  Nothing.  I love her 'blood-and-thunder' tales the best, like A Long Fatal Love Chase, but I do have a sentimental soft spot for Eight Cousins

Djuna Barnes: First, she has a fabulous name (the 'd' is silent), and secondly, she lived a horrifically sad life and wrote painfully repulsively scathing novels and plays.  I highly recommend the Phillip Herring biography about her. 

H.D. (Hilda Doolittle): A novelist and poet, H.D. is sadly quite forgotten, although her work is being reintroduced by a variety of small presses.  She combines mythology and religion with the real sexiness of life early 20th century Paris.

Louise DeSalvo: A Virginia Woolf scholar, I first stumbled upon Ms DeSalvo through her book Writing as a Way to Healing, which not only introduced me to a myriad of fabulous authors but also taught me a great deal about writing.  After that, Conceived With Malice showed me that writing as revenge could also be therapeutic!

Isak Dinesen/Karen Blixen: Most everyone knows of Baroness Blixen from the Meryl Streep/Robert Redford film Out of Africa, which is very pretty and rather romantic.  All of her writing is infused with that sort of bittersweet sense of potential and loss, I think, but the best intro to her is still Out of Africa.

Dashiell Hammett: The only guy on my list!  He's a long standing literary crush of mine (I even have the Time Life picture of him being questioned by McCarthy on my bedroom wall!) and the author of some of my all-time favorite desert island picks.  Pick up The Maltese Falcon (then see the movie!) and see how sexy he is!

Doris Lessing: I hesitate to call her a favorite author because her books literally make me ill.  The Children of Violence series featuring Martha Quest are so vivid and well-articulated that I feel sick from the repressive atmosphere that Martha struggles through.  But that's what makes them so awesome, and why I keep reading and reading over again.
Penelope Lively: I haven't come across a Lively novel I didn't adore; the plots by now are all a bit similar, but for me, that's often the appeal.  Married couples moving on, survivors of World War II, British ex-pats, archaeology, sense of place -- these are the topics she returns to, and I think she's brilliant at it.

Anaïs Nin: My feelings about Nin have changed as I've grown up; as a teenager and college student, I was so very enamored of her but more and more, I see how selfish and damaging she was.  Still, her writing is lyrical and poetic, elusive and exciting, and I always dip into her when I need a verbal perk-me-up.

Sigrid Nunez: I know absolutely nothing about Ms Nunez but I've gobbled up every novel of hers.  From what I've seen, her books are about those who survived the '60s and '70s, how they've dealt with the decisions made in those tumultuous times.  The Last of Her Kind might be another top ten desert island pick.

Teaser Tuesday, October 5

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

- Grab your current read
- Open to a random page
- Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
- Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This week's teaser is from Tyger Tyger (Goblin Wars #1) by Kersten Hamilton, a paranormal YA that's growing on me. While I'm sort of 'eh' on the hero (Finn; other than being of mythical blood, he's rather unimpressive), I like the heroine (Teagan) and her very-adorable-and-preternaturally-clever younger brother (Aiden). He's such a charming character, in fact, I can forgive the precocious genius thing. Anyway, today's tease (which is more than two sentences, as usual!):

The man looked at the inner tube in Teagan's hand, then dropped Aiden beside the wagon and climbed up into the dumpster and started rooting through the contents. Aiden grabbed the wagon's handle and ran toward them as fast as he could over the bumpy alley ground.

"That freegan almost recycled me," he said, and started to cry.

Tegan picked him up and hugged him. She was still shaking inside and out.

not a baby," Aiden sobbed.

"I was wrong to say it," Finn said. "I might cry, too, if that freegan had caught me. He was scary."

Monday, October 4, 2010

It's Monday, what are you reading?, October 4

A new meme from Book Journey: It's Monday, What Are You Reading?.

Last week I finished Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick, and unfortunately, I've been pretty unmotivated to read the last few days -- packing still for my move this coming weekend!

Still, I've got a few things in progress: Tyger Tyger by Kersten Hamilton, Kiss Me Deadly: 13 Tales of Paranormal Love edited by Trisha Tele, and The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay by Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi. I suspect my reading will be slow this week but I swear, come Monday, I'm spending the day in bed with my books!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Short Fiction Friday, October 1

Only one selection this week, and it's really not short fiction so much as a bunch of short fiction...

From Cabinet des Fées, a new edition of Scheherezade’s Bequest. Poetry, short fiction, essays, all relating to fairy tales. I've enjoyed every issue; this one is sure to be wonderful. I'll do a review later this week when the pressing drama of moving prep (boxes, boxes, and more boxes!) is over.