Showing posts from September, 2011

Winter's Tales by Isak Dinesen

Title:Winter's Tales
Author: Isak Dinesen

Genre: Fiction (Short Stories / Danish / 19th century / Fairy Tales / Historical Figure Fictionalized)
Publisher/Publication Date: Vintage (6/1/1993)
Source: My public library

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: I did, over a week, about a story or two a night.
One-sentence summary: Twelve short stories on love, faith, courage, family, obligation, wonder, and death.

Do I like the cover?: I don't -- I know it matches the cover for Seven Gothic Tales, but I don't think it reflects the flavor or tone of the stories.

I'm reminded of...: A.S. Byatt, O. Henry,

First line: In the first half of the last century there lived in Sealand, in Denmark, a family of cottagers and fishermen, who were called Plejelt after their native place, and who did not seem able to do well for themselves in any way. From "The Dreaming Child"

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy: there's some lovely, poetic language in these stories for those who are in love…

Call Me Princess by Sara Blædel

Title:Call Me Princess
Author: Sara Blædel

Genre: Fiction (Crime / Mystery / Denmark / Police Procedural )
Publisher/Publication Date: Pegasus Book (8/16/2011)

Rating: Okay
Did I finish?: Yes, but I skimmed a good deal.
One-sentence summary: Danish police detective races to find a rapist before he strikes again, all while juggling stresses in her personal life.
Reading Challenges:E-Book

Do I like the cover?: Eh -- the book is about internet dating, not the dangers of walking alone at night, so the cover doesn't feel quite right to me.

First line: The pain cut into her wrists, and she couldn't react because her hands were tied so tightly behind her back.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow if you're a Scandinavian crime fic addict and you're in need of a new fix.

Why did I get this book?: I like some crime and mystery series, and I love things set in Denmark.

Review: This is Blædel's American (or English-language) debut, which is unfortunate, because this novel is …

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

Title:Salvage the Bones: A Novel
Author: Jesmyn Ward

Genre: Fiction (Hurricane Katrina / Southern Fiction / Dog Fighting / Teen Pregnancy)
Publisher/Publication Date: Bloomsbury USA (8/30/2011)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Loved/hated in that this book totally effed me up.
Did I finish?: Yes.
One-sentence summary: Fourteen year old Esch is pregnant, caring for her absent, violent alcoholic father and three brothers, each needy in their own way, against the backdrop of Hurricane Katrina.

Do I like the cover?: Yes, as much of the story centers around a pit bull named China.

First line: China's turned on herself.

Did... I cringe from the first page?: YES. The writing is stellar and so the violence packs a punch. I was winded, and it was good/painful/awful/amazing.

Did... I inhale this book in a single night?: YES. Really, I couldn't shake this book, even when I was horrified and uncomfortable. I had to read on.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy: this is a hard book but one that …

A Man of Parts by David Lodge

Title:A Man of Parts: A Novel of H. G. Wells
Author: David Lodge

Genre: Fiction (Historical / WWII / London / Historical Figure Fictionalized / early 20th century /
Publisher/Publication Date: Viking Adult (9/15/2011)
Source: The publisher

Rating: Liked to love -- I bet my estimation will grow as time goes on.
Did I finish?: Totally -- couldn't put it down.
One-sentence summary: At the end of his life, author and lover-of-many H.G. Wells reflects on his life.
Reading Challenges:British Books, Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I love it -- the vintage illustrations of women suggest Wells' lovers, or at least, his interest in women and there's something about the font that is ugly and yet, so appealing.

I'm reminded of...: A.S. Byatt

First line: In the spring of 1944 Hanover Terrace, a handsome row of Nash town houses on the western perimeter of Regent's Park, is looking distinctly war-worn.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Buy or borrow if you like literary historical fiction…


Three giveaways closed for this week. Here are the winners!

The winner of Ashes of the Earth is ... Nancye D!

The winner of Road From the West is ... Elysium!

The winner of Ivan and Misha is ... Serena of Savvy Verse & Wit!

Winners have been emailed -- congrats!  For those who didn't win, I have two open giveaways still and more coming this week!

Me Again by Keith Cronin

Title:Me Again
Author: Keith Cronin

Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / Stroke / Family Secrets)
Publisher/Publication Date: Five Star (9/7/2011)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Okay.
Did I finish?: I did, very quickly.
One-sentence summary: A thirty-four year old man wakes up from a six-year coma to discover his life, literally, will never be the same.

Do I like the cover?: I do -- I'm not wild about the design (the gigantic Gruen quote draws my eye more than the title and image, perhaps intentionally) but the image is directly related to the story.

I'm reminded of...: Alice Sebold, Elizabeth Berg

First line: I was born on a Tuesday morning.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Buy, if you do, as 25% of the book earnings are being donated to the American Stroke Association -- perhaps gift this to someone if you or someone in your family has been affected by stroke.

Why did I get this book?: The setup -- humorous, a little bittersweet, a bit sad -- intrigued me.

Review: This is the second novel I've rea…

Interview with Katherine Webb

Earlier this month I read and enjoyed Katherine Webb's novel The Legacy, a historical novel-contemporary mystery melange set in Oklahoma and the UK. It's a perfect beach-y read for the last days of summer.  I'm excited to share my interview with Ms. Webb, so read on to learn about her writing, her novel, and what she's been reading!

What was the plot of your very first piece of fiction?

The very first I have no idea - my mother tells me I started writing stories when I was six or seven years old, often featuring a character called Crow, apparently; but I have no memory of them. I did start to write a novel in my teens - it was a fantasy story, deeply unoriginal, in which two characters falling in love brought warring races together. Thankfully, it's not saved anywhere!

Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

No real rituals, but I have to have everything tidy and organised. I'm a real neat freak, so if the house is a mess or there's a pile of unanswere…

Interview with Michael Alenyikov

I was completely taken by Ivan and Misha when I read it earlier this month; the interconnected short stories were moving, emotional, and intense without being overwrought. It's a collection that will stick with me, and so I was delighted when Michael Alenyikov agreed to answer my usual questions. Please read on to learn more about him, his writing, and his book.

What was the plot of your very first piece of fiction?

When I think of my "first story" there are really two that were written concurrently. One is a short piece about two boyfriends in NYC who argue about what to do on a day off, a late fall day that's unusually warm. One is an outdoor, sportsy kind of guy, the other is a stay at home and watch a foreign movie on TV. It's also their first anniversary as a couple. They compromise on going to Fire Island to fly a kite. There are several elements that in retrospect were examples of what I try for in my fiction: one was using a rather cliched setting -- g…

L.A. Noire edited by Jonathan Santlofer

Title:L.A. Noire
Author: Jonathan Santlofer, editor

Genre: Fiction (Short Stories / Noir /
Publisher/Publication Date: Mulholland Books (6/2011)
Source: Purchased

Rating: Liked a great deal.
Did I finish?: Yes.
One-sentence summary: Eight short stories set in or around 1940s Los Angeles, inspired by the video game L.A. Noire.
Reading Challenges:Criminal Plots, E-books, Femme Fatale, Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: Oh, I love it -- it has the glossy feel of the video game and the pulp-y sensibility of other novels from the era. Each story has it's own title art, as well, which was striking.

First line: Deep in the alley, lit by the beam of the patrolman's flashlight, she looked like a naked angel in midflight, sky-swimming toward a dark heaven. From "Naked Angel" by Joe R. Lansdale

Did... I actually read this on my phone?: YES. I'm not sure how it happened, but the three or four days I read this I left my reader at home, but had my Sony Reader app on my phone. T…

Mailbox Monday, Sept 19

Seen both at Mailbox Monday (hosted in September at Amused By Books) and The Story Siren, my Mailbox Monday/In My Mailbox on a stuck-in-bed-with-a-cold Sunday.   Read any of these?  What did you get?

For Review

The Imaginary Emperor: A Tale of Old San Francisco by Steve Bartholomew
Maman's Homesick Pie by Donia Bijan
Irrepressible: The Life and Times of Jessica Mitford by Leslie Brody
India Black and the Widow of Windsor (Madam of Espionage Mysteries #2) by Carol K. Carr
English Lessons by Jack Ewing
Dakota, Or What's a Heaven For by Brenda K. Marshall
Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original Stories Inspired by Literature's Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart edited by Laurel Ann Nattress
The Luminist: A Novel by David Rocklin


Revival: A Folk Music Novel by Scott Alarik, thanks to The Bowed Bookshelf
Russian Roulette by Mike Faricy, thanks to vvb32 reads
Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff, thanks to Little, Brown and Co Twitter giveaway


Breakfast at Tiffany's b…


Apologies for the lateness -- am wilting in bed with a horrible head cold!  No fun -- I'm too headache-y to read, even.  Now that's sad!

This week's giveaway winners are...

The winner of Just My Type is ... Rachel D.!

The winner of The Legacy is ... Marie B.!

Both winners have been notified by email.  If you didn't win, I've got more open giveaways, so check them out!

Friday Reads and other requests

Today ends a rather hectic week, which followed another hectic week, so I have to apologize to everyone for being behind on commenting. I also owe Ari of Reading in Color a huge double apology for completely flaking on my interview with her. She sent amazing questions which are half answered in my draft email folder and the fault lies totally with me.  Ari, I'm sorry!

I'm sort of between books and swimming in a few current reads, all interesting enough but not keep-me-up-all-night compelling. So, my FridayReads for this week are: Call Me Princess by Sara Blaedel (Scandinavian crime novel), A Man of Parts: A Novel of H. G. Wells by David Lodge (historical novel about, surprise!, H.G. Wells), and Poison Penmanship: The Gentle Art of Muckraking by Jessica Mitford (non-fiction essays on 1950s America).  What are you reading this weekend?

And finally, a request. I have a custom URL for this blog! Hooray! Only I don't know how to get it to direct to here. I'd be wi…

Interview with Lynn Cullen

Earlier this summer and I read and adored Lynn Cullen's historical novel Reign of Madness. Please read on to learn more about Ms. Cullen's writing process, Reign of Madness, and her next project. (I'm already dying to read it!).

What was the plot of your very first piece of fiction?

The first story that I remember writing was about a bear that ate so much honey that he had to roll home in a barrel. I was around six and hadn’t heard of Winnie the Pooh. I thought I was very clever and original, and didn’t worry too much about explaining how this barrel conveniently happened to be on top of the hill where the honey was.

Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

I like to get started after a “run” (if I can call my slogging along that) or walk by reading the work I’d done the previous day. I usually can’t resist rewriting that, and so an hour or two later, I begin on the new passage to be done. I write at the pace at which I “run”—slowly. I don’t work from an out…

Does a Bear Sh*t in the Woods? by Caroline Taggart

Title:Does a Bear Sh*t in the Woods?: Answers to Rhetorical Questions
Author: Caroline Taggart

Genre: Non-Fiction (Humor / Pop Culture / Philosophy / Literature / General Trivia)
Publisher/Publication Date: Plume (7/26/2011)
Source: The publisher

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: Yes, in a breezy two hours.
One-sentence summary: Snappy and humorous responses to a variety of rhetorical questions.
Reading Challenges:British Books

Do I like the cover?: I do -- the lettering in particular, as it conveys the feel of the book.

I'm reminded of...: Ben Schott and other books that are good for leaving in a bathroom

First line: It depends on where you are: in the average supermarket, there is a clearly labeled "Meat" section offering beef of various cuts and kinds; in a vegetarian restaurant you may search in vain and have to settle for the spinach and ricotta quiche. -- from "Where's the beef?"

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow if you're the trivia type; gift if you need somethin…

Interview with Rosanne E. Lortz

Last week I read Rosanne E. Lortz's hefty and promising Road from the West, the first in a trilogy set in the 11th century. I'm excited to share my interview with Ms. Lortz (she loves one of my all-time favorite historicals!) so read on to learn more about her, her writing, and what she's been reading.

What was the plot of your very first piece of fiction?

I have to go way, way back for the first piece of fiction I remember writing. I think I was ten or eleven years old, and I took the fable of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” and changed the characters into insects. There was a young ant in charge of taking the aphids out to pasture every day, and to cause a little excitement, he kept pretending that he had sighted the horrible ladybird beetle coming to devour the flock. Just like in the original story, when the ladybird beetle finally did arrive, no one would believe him and the aphids met a rather tragic end.

Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

With ten-month-old twins …

BBAW Interview: Ari from Reading In Color

I'm very excited to be a part of Book Blogger Appreciation Week's blogger interview exchange. Please read on for my interview Ari of Reading in Color. Ari's blog focuses primarily on YA fiction about people of color (POC).

Ari's blog is new-to-me but I was immediately taken with her smart reviews and wide range of tastes in fiction.  One of the issues Ari blogs about is the 'whitewashing' of books by the publishing industry (using white models on book covers that feature characters of color, for example), an issue I first learned about when Justine Larbalestier's novel Liar was released in the U.S. (Justine has a great post on why this is so problematic.).  Ari's mix of commentary on publishing and reviews makes her blog fascinating and enjoyable and I hope you stop by to check it out.  

If you could put a book in everyone's hand, what book would it be?

Oooo tough question! I mostly review Young Adult so I'm going to say Whale Talk by Chris Cr…


Three giveaways ended this week, so here are the winners!

The winner of Becoming Marie Antoinette is ... Kathleen.B!

The winner of Q is ... Meg of Write Meg!

The winner of What Language Is is ... Jill of Rhapsody in Books!

I have five open giveaways including a last minute addition: after posting my review of Ashes of the Earth, I learned I could give away a copy of it! So if you read the review and was intrigued, check out the giveaway form at the end.

Ashes of the Earth by Eliot Pattison

Title:Ashes of the Earth: A Mystery of Post-Apocalyptic America
Author: Eliot Pattison

Genre: Fiction (Mystery / Post-Apocalypse / Dystopia / Future)
Publisher/Publication Date: Counterpoint (4/1/2011)
Source: The publisher.

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: I did, pretty quickly.
One-sentence summary: Twenty-five years after an apocalypse wiped out most of the Earth, a series of murders threatens the stability of a community of survivors.

Do I like the cover?: I'm not wild about it, but it features key elements from the book so that makes me happy!

I'm reminded of...: Octavia Butler, Robert Heinlein

First line: The faces of the many child suicides Hadrian Boone had cut from nooses or retrieved below cliffs never left him, filled his restless sleep, and encroached in so many waking nightmares that now, as the blond girl with the hanging rope skipped along the ridge above, he hesitated, uncertain whether she was another of the phantoms that haunted him.

Did... I love the first line?: Y…

Road from the West by Rosanne E. Lortz

Title:Road from the West
Author: Rosanne E. Lortz

Genre: Fiction (Historical / Crusades )
Publisher/Publication Date: Madison Street Publishing (9/2/2011)
Source:Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Rating: Okay.
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: The early months of the First Crusade (1096) are seen through the eyes of Tancred, a young nobleman eager to save his soul by 'freeing' Jerusalem.
Reading Challenges:Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I do -- the image certainly evokes the Crusades in my mind.

First line: The stars changed their courses the day that Tancred the marquis tossed aside his sword and strode off the field of battle.

Did... I love the map and four-page list of characters?: YES. It made things much easier!

Did... I find myself wiki-ing things non-stop, because I learned so many interesting bits of Crusade-y trivia?: YES. Books like this are wonderful because they make real historical eras that were far-off and fuzzy to me.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow…

Ivan and Misha by Michael Alenyikov

Title:Ivan and Misha
Author: Michael Alenyikov

Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / Fathers & Sons / New York City / Gay / Immigrants / Russian-American)
Publisher/Publication Date: Triquarterly/Northwestern University Press (10/30/2010)
Source:TLC Book Tours

Rating: Greatly liked to love!
Did I finish?: Yes, quite greedily!
One-sentence summary: Interconnected stories centering around a family of Ukrainian immigrants in New York City and their friends and lovers.

Do I like the cover?: I do -- New York City is ever present in the stories, and the punch cut vaguely looks like men staring at each other -- the twins, perhaps?

I'm reminded of...: Anne Carson, Jeanette Winterson

First line: Misha's papa had disappointed before.

Did... I read this in a day?: YES. About four hours, a little longer, another book I picked up to thumb through and found myself unable to put down.

Am... I half daydreaming of a sequel to see where the twins are now?: YES. The stories are set before 9/11 and the twins…

The Taker by Alma Katsu

Title:The Taker
Author: Alma Katsu

Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / Maine / Historical / 19th century / Paranormal)
Publisher/Publication Date: Gallery (9/2011)
Source: The publisher.

Rating: Okay.
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: One woman, two hundred sordid years, and one unending love.
Reading Challenges:Historical Fiction, R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril

Do I like the cover?: Yes, although I vastly prefer the UK cover. While neither exactly capture the novel's feel (to me), the UK version is sort of reminiscent of the tattoos some of the 'chosen' have.

I'm reminded of...: Karen Essex, Anne Rice, Cate Tiernan

First line: Goddamned freezing cold.

Do... I love the freebies the author offers on her website?: YES. Signed bookplates and bookmarks, plus a chance to Skype with her if you read this for a book club.

Did... I love reading about historical Maine and Boston?: YES. I'm a sucker for New England historicals!

Am... I going to get the second book in this series?: YES, …