Nov 30, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Third Grave Dead Ahead by Darynda Jones

Waiting on Wednesday (WoW) is a weekly meme hosted by

My posts about adult literary fiction are here:
Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

My posts about my guilty pleasure reading (romantic, often paranormal, novels) can be found here:

My posts about YA/teen titles are here:

My posts about middle grade titles are here:
And now for today's:
Third Grave Dead Ahead (Charley Davidson, Book 3)
by Darynda Jones
9781250001542, $23.99, St. Martin's (Macmillan), Pub. Date: January 31, 2012

I have to admit I was at first skeptical about a series featuring rhinestone-studded sandals on the first cover. Thank goodness I got over that and picked this up because I'm absolutely on the edge of my seat waiting for this third one to come out. Female Grim Reaper, funny BFF side-kick, sexy-as-hell potential lover/nemesis - it's all hot action, all the time. To read my reviews of book 1: First Grave on the Right and book 2: Second Grave on the Left, click here.

And now for the description of book three:

Third in the award-winning paranormal series that’s “hilarious and heartfelt, sexy and surprising” (J.R. Ward). Paranormal private eye. Grim reaper extraordinaire. Whatever. Charley Davidson is back in Darynda Jones' Third Grave Dead Ahead! And she’s drinking copious amounts of caffeine to stay awake because, every time she closes her eyes, she sees him: Reyes Farrow, the parthuman, part-supermodel son of Satan. Yes, she did imprison him for all eternity, but come on. How is she supposed to solve a missing persons case, deal with an ego-driven doctor, calm her curmudgeonly dad, and take on a motorcycle gang hellbent on murder when the devil’s son just won’t give up?

Nov 29, 2011

Top Ten Winter TBRs

The Broke and the Bookish, a brilliant book blog, 
hosts a weekly top ten list meme.

I like this meme because I like lists. I like this meme because it reminds me of the Top 5 lists from High Fidelity (by Nick Hornby as a book, starring John Cusak as a movie). And I like this meme because it causes me to think long and hard about book-related topics. So here goes:

Top Ten Winter TBRs (to be read books)

It's the new ultimate Christmas comedy written by a grumpy Jew. What's not to love? AND, I have him reading it on audio. I love listening to comedians read their own work. It's like 200+ pages of stand-up. Or so I'm assuming. You can watch a little preview below.

2. Bossypants by Tina Fey

Also on audio, also read by the author. This has been recommended to me several times by several people, and again fits the category of comedienne reading her own work. It's been a while since I've read something laugh-out-loud funny, and I love to listen to audio books while I travel. This Chanukah/Christmas season, I'll be flying from Boston to New Jersey, driving to Boston, driving to Syracuse, driving to NYC, driving to New Jersey, flying from Philly to Boston. So you can see, I've got a lot of listening time on my hands.

3. Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

A re-read for me, but a seasonal must. You're probably getting tired of this, but another example of author reading his own jokes. I love to listen to David Sedaris read. That's a man who makes proper use of tone and inflection.

Now, I just spent a bit of time trawling through my Goodreads TBR list, and these are the books I would like to get my hands on this winter:

4. Saints Astray (Santa Olivia #2) by Jacqueline Carey

Carey's created a pretty neat alternate, not-quite-dystopian universe that's populated by some super-beings that are the result of a government project to breed werewolf-like strength and agility and other physical abilities into humans. In book 1, we meet Santa Olivia who not only avenges her brother's death but manages to escape the compound where she's being held. In book 2, she's on her way to the U.S. from the borderlands between the States & Mexico. Having never been away from the city/compound before, this will truly be a whole new world for her, and one that I'm looking forward to exploring, too.

5. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

With all the buzz about this book, I really don't think I need to put a description or a why here. Suffice it to say, I am counting the days until I receive a package in the mail, as a friend has kindly taken pity on me and sent me her copy (I'm currently #147 in the library queue for it!). Thank you, Cyd!

6. The Outcasts (Brotherband Chronicles #1) by John Flanagan

As a huge supporter of the Ranger's Apprentice series of novels by this author, I can hardly wait to get a copy of the first book in his new series. Not sure yet how, the BPL doesn't have it yet, but keep your fingers crossed they buy it soon.

7. When She Woke by Hilary Jordan

I know, I know, I have a signed hardcover first edition of this. In my room. RIGHT NOW. I just have to finish reading those overdue library books first. But this is next, I swear!

8. Beauvallet by Georgette Hayer

A departure from my usual taste, this is a historical romance involving pirates. And yet it's not a bodice-ripper! It's a true Regency Romance. Set in the Elizabethan Era, this is supposed to be a well-written novel with character development, a driven plot, and touching historical accuracies. That, and I promised a friend I'd tell her what I thought once I read it, so I kinda have to read it now.

9. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland #1) by Catherynne M. Valente, illustrated by Ana Juan

Does a title like that really need an explanation? This not only sounds completely enthralling, but I'm told the illustrations are equally engaging.

10. Every You, Every Me by David Levithan

He makes my top 10 favorite authors list, so obviously I have to read his new book. I will most likely buy this from a local independent and savor the moment when I have an entire afternoon to devote to its reading. Can hardly wait.

Nov 28, 2011

Book Review: I am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley

I am Half-Sick of Shadows
by Alan Bradley
9780385344012, $23.00, Delacorte Press (Random House)

Another almost-indescribable Flavia de Luce adventure! Seriously, I'm not even worried about gushing too much, because every single novel in this series delivers. It's the best mash-up of a child protagonist's inquisitive nature, Sherlock Holmes's logic, historical literary fiction, murder mystery, and general good fun.

Continuing to explore the lives of land-rich, cash-poor, post-World War II, British countryside gentry, the Flavia de Luce novels each feature a murder mystery solved by 11-year-old Flavia herself. In this, the fourth novel in the series, Colonel de Luce has finally succumbed to mounting debts by allowing a film studio to take over Buckshaw, the de Luce estate. Movie star, Phyllis Wyvern, with complete cast and crew descend, all in the week before Christmas. In between concocting a sticky tar substance to catch St. Nicholas (just to make sure he IS real), Flavia is busy NOT getting in the way of the film company and making friends with Ms. Wyvern, much to her sister Feely's consternation.

Soon most of the village has also descended as Ms. Wyvern has agreed to give a special one-act performance of Romeo & Juliet to help raise funds for a new church roof. When a blizzard traps the town at Buckshaw, there are plenty of suspects when Flavia discovers Ms. Wyvern dead in her room during the night after her performance. Inspector Hewitt turns up, of course, and though he tries to avoid Flavia's assistance, she is, as usual, several steps ahead of him. All the favorite (and those favorite-to-hate) characters are present during this trying time, including Aunt Felicity who has more to do with this mystery than Flavia can imagine. Old war secrets, unexpected family connections, Dogger's bottomless wealth of information, and some good old-fashioned sleuthing all combine to help save the day in a truly shocking display of chemistry.

A great seasonal read for those who don't want anything too naughty OR nice.

Nov 26, 2011

Books I Discovered This Week: 11/20/11-11/26/11

Adult Fiction
Adult Non-Fiction

Nov 25, 2011

Friday Round-Up

Each week I round-up all the (mostly book-related) articles/blog posts/book reviews/websites/videos that entertained me during the week. Enjoy!


Peter Sis talks to NPR about his new, beautifully-illustrated, adult book The Conference of the Birds. Read or listen here.

"Dear Book Lover" at the Wall Street Journal has a great article about fiction books that read like non-fiction, and vice versa.

Publishing Perspectives dives into a discussion of Roaxnne Coady's new website, "Just the Right Book!"

Can't figure out how to organize that new bookshelf? BookRiot has the answer.


The Dewey Decimal Rap. No, really, that's all there is to say about that.


I absolutely ADORE lists like this. "The Top 10 Relationship Words That Aren't Translatable Into English" 


Looking for a book recommendation? Each month? Check out Just the Right Book!, a website you can belong to that will send you hand-picked selections by the staff at R.J. Julia, a fantastic independent bookstore. That says it all really, doesn't it?

Nov 23, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Kiss of Frost by Jennifer Estep

Waiting on Wednesday (WoW) is a weekly meme hosted by

My posts about adult literary fiction are here:
Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

My posts about my guilty pleasure reading (romantic, often paranormal, novels) can be found here:

My posts about YA/teen titles are here:

My posts about middle grade titles are here:
And now for today's:
Kiss of Frost, Book 2, Mythos Academy series
by Jennifer Estep
9780758266941, $9.95, Kensington Publishing Corporation

Read my review of Book 1, Touch of Frost, to catch up. Here is the publisher's marketing copy for book 2, out in December 2011 - almost here!

I’m Gwen Frost, a second-year warrior-in-training at Mythos Academy, and I have no idea how I’m going to survive the rest of the semester. One day, I’m getting schooled in swordplay by the guy who broke my heart—the drop-dead gorgeous Logan who slays me every time. Then, an invisible archer in the Library of Antiquities decides to use me for target practice. And now, I find out that someone at the academy is really a Reaper bad guy who wants me dead. I’m afraid if I don’t learn how to live by the sword—with Logan’s help—I just might die by the sword…

Book Review: Touch of Frost by Jennifer Estep

Touch of Frost
by Jennifer Estep
9780758266927, $9.95, Kensington Publishing Corporation

Gwen Frost's mother died 6 months ago, on the same day Gwen fully realized her Gypsy Gift. Both her mother and her grandmother have Gypsy magic; Gwen's Gift is psychometry magic - the ability to see people's thoughts, memories, and actions by touching an object. She can see every person who has ever touched that object, feel their emotions, almost read their minds. After an incident in Gwen's public high school involving a hairbrush and a child molester indirectly leads to Gwen's mother's death, Gwen is sent to Mythos Academy, the special private school where boys and girls with powers go to learn how to use them.

Not just any kids go to Mythos Academy. These are the descendents of mythological figures: Amazons, Spartans, Titans, Greek Gods & Goddesses, and Gwen - the Gypsy. Gwen feels like even more of an outsider at this new school, where she's not good at fighting, doesn't care about learning history/mythology, and only wants to read her comic books and sneak off-campus back to her grandmother's house. When a murder in the library leaves one student dead and Gwen unconscious, Gwen finally wakes up to the fact that all this mythology might be as real as the teachers and other students say it is. Disturbed by the fact that none of the other students seem fazed by the death of the most popular girl in school, Gwen decides to investigate the murder herself.

Throughout the course of her investigation, Gwen will engage in some breaking-and-entering, reluctantly make or make a reluctant new friend, and keep running into (literally) Logan Quinn, the best Spartan fighter with a killer ladies' man reputation in the school. By the end of book one in this new YA series, Gwen will have solved the mystery of the murder, learned more about her Gypsy gift, inherited an ancient weapon, been honored by the gods, and will almost have started dating Logan Quinn.

This was a promising beginning to a new series, though honestly, I believe it could have used some tighter editing. Readers of Estep's adult Elemental Assassin series will recognize the same snarky sense of humor and addiction to describing food that Gin Blanco exhibits, but unfortunately I don't think it works as well on Gwen Frost. The descriptions of food are, frankly, pedestrian and add nothing to the story. Gwen isn't like Gin; she doesn't own a restaurant or cook to relieve stress. So why the emphasis on the creamy cream cheese frosting? In addition, Gwen is so disturbingly like Bella Swan (sorry for this obvious comparison) with her "I'm so average and a loner but actually want friends" persona, that her snarky attitude actually seems at odds with her self-description and loner behavior. The "poor me, why do the teachers think I'm special, I just have this one power that isn't very helpful" attitude is not only grating but doesn't seem to reflect her confident speaking voice or her initiative-taking actions in certain scenes.

Luckily, the "poor me, why me" phase seems to get beaten out of her by the end of book one, where she manages to avoid getting killed long enough for Logan to save the day and for neither one of them to get any credit for it. She's supposed to be receiving fighting lessons from Logan, her assigned personal trainer, and as long as he pulls the stick out of his butt and starts explaining why he's running so hot and cold about his feelings for Gwen, I'm sure all will be well there. I'm looking forward to following this saga in book 2, because despite the loose writing, the story is compelling.

Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day: December 3

The title of this post should be self-explanatory, but there's a larger story around this lovely event.

Jenny Milchman, a mother herself, used to taking her children for weekly storytimes at a local bookstore, began to wonder how many children actually experienced the delights of their local bookstore. Over time, the idea of creating a Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day developed, and last summer, Jenny and her family hopped in the car and drove cross-country, from New Jersey to Oregon, visiting independent bookstores along the way and encouraging them to promote this event. Book bloggers, listservs, and other people in the industry picked it up, so that now on the second annual Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day on December 3, 2011, around 150 stores across the country will be participating. Click this link to find a participating bookstore near you.

For more information, visit

You can also read a great write-up in Shelf Awareness about this event.

Nov 22, 2011

Book Event: Infinite Vision by Pavithra K. Mehta and Suchitra Shenoy

Infinite Vision: How Aravind Became the World's Greatest Business Case for Compassion
by Pavithra K. Mehta and Suchitra Shenoy
9781605099798, $19.95, Berrett-Koehler Publishers

This weekend I had the privilege to attend a book event at a friend's home in Boston. About 15 of us gathered to hear Pavi and Suchi speak about the work of Dr. V, a great Indian visionary whose dream it was to eradicate blindness in the world, particularly needless blindness due to treatable conditions such as cataracts, and his unparalleled success despite an inverse business plan.

After a meditation session, we began by hearing Pavi discuss Dr. V's life and work - how both his spiritual practice to see the world as a whole directly influenced his actions to begin a small 11-bed hospital in his home, and continued to influence his business model for Aravind, what has become the leading eye care facility in the world. Suchi shared with us details large-and-small about the successes of their business model, why it is a success even when giving away the best eye care in the world for free, and how it is influencing other businesses' practices even today - in fact, the Aravind business model is a required case study in MBA programs. Such numbers as the fact that Aravind has less complications from surgery than the leading UK hospitals, and the fact that blindness is for the first time holding steady across world populations (as in not increasing), were given for those in need of quantifying Aravind's success. Pavi then spoke about Dr. V's spiritual journey, the questions he constantly asked himself, and the way seeing the entire world as interconnected, seeing the inherent value in each and every person, made him able to offer free services to those in need while also utilizing the resources in the people and places around him.

After the initial discussion of the book and Dr. V's vision, we took turns identifying ourselves and sharing a thought or asking a question we had. During a generous Q&A, Pavi spoke about what it was like to grow up as Dr. V's family, the Sunday family gatherings where all the children would present on a different topic assigned by Dr. V, discovering Dr. V's journals spanning from the 1960s to the 2000s, and recognizing there was a story to tell in her own back yard.

At the end of the discussion, we were each gifted with a copy of the book - an incredibly generous act on behalf of the authors, and all shared a meal together. All the proceeds from the book are going directly to Aravind, proving that the authors are just as invested in this vision as Dr. V was.

As someone trying to open my own business in the next 5 years, a business based on selling a product yet one that intends to also be an inclusive community space, I was particularly interested in a business model that was a success while also serving the needs of the community. No matter what your particular vision, dream, or spiritual path might be, Infinite Vision is truly an inspirational story.

Thank you to the authors, to Arathi as the host, and to everyone who came on Sunday to share in that beautiful experience.

To learn more about the book, Dr. V's vision, and to host your own book event:
Here is the publisher's marketing copy about the book:

When a crippling disease shattered his lifelong ambition, Dr. V (Venkataswamy) chose an impossible new dream: to cure the world of blindness. The tiny clinic he founded in India defied conventional business logic and is now the largest provider of eye care on the planet.

At Aravind, patients choose whether to pay or not. Millions are treated for free, yet the organization remains stunningly self-reliant. Serving everyone from penniless farmers to the president, it delivers world-class outcomes at less than a hundredth of what similar services cost in advanced nations. Its model is emulated by organizations everywhere from Rwanda to San Francisco.

Infinite Vision uncovers the radical principles behind Aravind’s baffling success. Charged with profound insights and stories, it draws readers to the heart of Dr. V’s selfless vision, proving how choices that seem quixotic can, when executed with compassion and integrity, yield incredible results—results that can light the eyes of millions.

Nov 19, 2011

Books I Discovered This Week: 11/13/11-11/19/11

Adult Fiction
Adult Non-Fiction
Graphic Novel
Middle Grade
Paranormal Romantic Fiction

Nov 18, 2011

Blog Button Survey

I'm making a button for my blog (finally), and could use your opinion.

Which blog button should I use?




TGIF at GReads!

Friday's all about being a follower.

First up: TGIF at GReads!

This week's question:

In honor of Thanksgiving: Which books are you most thankful for receiving from other bloggers, friends, family members, or publishers? 

Several books come to mind, as I've been a voracious reader all my life, so I've received many, MANY books in my (relatively short) lifetime.

The first book I received that's stayed with me through they years is Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. My mother used to live in Mexico, and while there, had an American friend named Babs, who is from Maine, and lives there now. When I was a little girl, Babs gave my mother a copy of Miss Rumphius, as Barbara Cooney is from Maine. We used to read the book together at bedtime, and when I grew up and studied children's literature, it makes sense to me now that this was one of my childhood favorite picture books. The message - that you must find something to do to make the world a better place - continues to resonate with me.

The second book absolutely has to be A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter. I was living in Indiana at the time and had won the Junior Bookworm Award at my after-school program at Girls Incorporated. A lovely woman named Elaine, who was a bit of a mother-figure/mentor to me, hand-picked this book for me. It was 1997, I believe, and I was in 5th grade. It was exactly the perfect time to hand me a book about a young woman who works hard to overcome many obstacles and make something of herself. Gene Stratton Porter was a very early feminist, writing in the early 1900s. She was a famous nature photographer, and wrote several non-fiction books on flora and fauna. Later in life, she moved to California to become a filmmaker. Not only was the character of Elnora Comstock one that would stay with me my whole life, but I have since then begun to collect GSP novels, and even did a semester-long project on her in graduate school.

My BFF, the lovely Shane Prosser, gave me Letters from an Age of Reason by Nora Hague, when I was visiting her in Maine one year. Being a huge fan of both historical fiction and epistolary novels (novels written in letters), this was the perfect combination. Switching between the journal of a high-yellow former slave from New Orleans and a white American society girl living in Britain, this novel is a beautiful love story sweeping across continents, heroes, heroines, the Civil War, the medium/seance craze of the UK, and commenting on society's expectations for both men and women.

An ex of mine gifted me with both The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. This was during our relationship, so I believed the books to be particularly meaningful, but even now that the relationship is over, those are still two of my favorite books, and I follow the careers of those two authors closely, hoping to recapture that special moment when I crack the cover and get pulled into the world they've created.

The most recent book I was almost giddy to receive was a signed first edition of the UK version of Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness, the third and final book in the Chaos Walking trilogy that I have been SUCH an advocate for. I gave Candlewick Press an early quote for this series, handsold the heck out of it, and was rewarded by a kind saleswoman at Candlewick with this early copy. The coolest part? I received it when it was still embargoed in the States, so I wasn't allowed to even show it to anybody for a couple of weeks!

Re-Readathon Hosted By The Perpetual Page-turner

This is my first time participating in a read-a-thon of any kind, other than those summer reading contests held by local libraries I used to treat as readathons when I was a kid. I chose to participate in this one because I love rereading on principle, and reread my favorite book of all time - Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley - at least once a year. Somehow 2011 has almost gone by and I haven't reread it yet! So though I'm still going to work today, I'm also going to try to participate in this re-readathon.

Friday Round-Up

Each week I round-up all the (mostly book-related) articles/blog posts/book reviews/websites/videos that entertained me during the week. Enjoy!


Favorite post of the week: Life Cycle of a Book with videos by Publishing Trendsetter

GalleyCat offers a list of "10 Charities That Promote Literacy"

The Chronicle Books blog has an interview with Sanjay Patel, whose designs I adore.

"The End of Borders and the Future of Books," a.k.a. Why I'm working on a business plan for a children's book and toy store - Bloomberg Businessweek

Flavorwire article of the week: "A Collection of Rejected Titles for Classic Books"

Publishing Perspectives discusses publishing houses and a new trend toward movie production: "From Publisher to Producer"

Book Trailer

I have to agree with Shelf Awareness: Book Trailer of the Day: Moby Dick  in Picture by Matt Kish


Bookstore & Bar

Williams & Graham is a bookstore-front-speakeasy-bar-back opening this week in Denver, CO. Might be worth a trip out there just for this.

Children's Books

Flavorwire's children's books article of the week: "Our Favorite Vintage Illustrations from Classic Children's Books" (Leonard Weisgard's illustrations for Alice in Wonderland is clearly my favorite.)

Thanks to the Flavorwire article, I followed the link to "Marice Sendak's Rare Velveteen Rabbit Illustrations Circa 1960"


World Book Night, USA-style. Website is here to find out details.

On Writing

NPR: "How To Name Your First Novel" - hysterical and so true.


Tim Burton to possibly direct film adaptation of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. Please, pretty please, let this be the case. To read my review of the book, go here.


These websites almost have something to do with books:
Bangable Dudes in History
Fuck Yeah History Crushes

Nov 16, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Timeless by Gail Carriger

Waiting on Wednesday (WoW) is a weekly meme hosted by

My posts about adult literary fiction are here:
Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

My posts about my guilty pleasure reading (romantic, often paranormal, novels) can be found here:

My posts about YA/teen titles are here:

My posts about middle grade titles are here:

And now for today's:
by Gail Carriger
9780316127189, $7.99, Orbit Books (Hachette)

If you have not been introduced to the Parasol Protectorate series yet, it is a delightful mix of Queen Victoria-era London and it's surrounding countryside, with occasional forays into other parts of Europe; the supernatural, paranormal, and preternatural worlds; steampunkery in terms of machinery and accessories, though the clothing is more typically Victorian; and lots and lots of tea drinking.

You can read my review of book 1: Soulless, my reviews of book 2: Changeless and book 3: Blameless, my review of book 4: Heartless, and watch a video about the making of cover art for Blameless here, in order to get caught up. If you read all of these reviews, you will notice that I've been a bit wishy-washy on whether I was fully in support of this series or not. There's always something that makes me feel vaguely irritated while reading them, and yet they suck me in with the quality of writing and the unexpected plot elements and the most ridiculous situations the characters get themselves into and the descriptions of Victorian life. Dammit.

Luckily, I loved book 4 as much as I loved book 1, so now I can't wait for book 5 to come out. Here's the publisher's description:

Alexia Tarabotti, Lady Maccon, has settled into domestic bliss. Of course, being Alexia, such bliss involves integrating werewolves into London High society, living in a vampire's second best closet, and coping with a precocious toddler who is prone to turning supernatural willy-nilly. Even Ivy Tunstell's acting troupe's latest play, disastrous to say the least, cannot put a damper on Alexia's enjoyment of her new London lifestyle.

Until, that is, she receives a summons from Alexandria that cannot be ignored. With husband, child, and Tunstells in tow, Alexia boards a steamer to cross the Mediterranean. But Egypt may hold more mysteries than even the indomitable Lady Maccon can handle. What does the vampire Queen of the Alexandria Hive really want from her? Why is the God-Breaker Plague suddenly expanding? And how has Ivy Tunstell suddenly become the most popular actress in all the British Empire?

Nov 15, 2011

Top Ten Books On My Shelf I've Never Read

The Broke and the Bookish, a brilliant book blog, 
hosts a weekly top ten list meme.

I like this meme because I like lists. I like this meme because it reminds me of the Top 5 lists from High Fidelity (by Nick Hornby as a book, starring John Cusak as a movie). And I like this meme because it causes me to think long and hard about book-related topics. So here goes:

Top Ten Books I've Had On My Shelf For the Longest Time but I've Never Read

1. Reckless Appetites: A Culinary Romance by Jacqueline Deval
This one is out-of-print, so I got it from Paperback Swap after it was recommended to me for liking A Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The quote on the back says, "If you like to read, eat, and make love all at the same time, the adventures of this picaresque heroine in her education sentimale et culinare are for you." (Betty Fussell) I have no idea why I haven't read it yet.

2. The Heroines by Eileen Favorite
When I moved to Boston a little over a year ago, I did a 2-week, half-cross-country roadtrip first. I moved to Boston with only the things we could fit in my sister's Subaru Forrester. That did not include books. On that cross-country trip, though, I managed to pick up something like 17 books in 14 days. This was one I never got a chance to read. I bought it mostly for this quote by Audrey Niffenegger: "Quirky: Adolescent angst meets metaphysics, screwball-comedy trysts with the underpinnings of reality. It's funny and tender; it's a chance to see Scarlett O'Hara and Emma Bovary off duty." Doesn't that sound enticing? And from Audrey, no less!

3. American Stories by Calvin Trillin
Calvin Trillin goes on my top ten writers list, but I OD'd on his writing a bit last summer, reading The Tummy Trilogy and About Alice in quick succession, so I never got into this one.

4. Three-in-one: A Daughter of the Land, The White Flag, and At the Foot of the Rainbow by Gene Stratton Porter

GSP is my favorite author of all time. She has written two books in my top ten books list - A Girl of the Limberlost and Her Father's Daughter. All of her books are out-of-print, as she was writing in the early 1900s, and so when I come across any of them in used bookstores, I buy them immediately. Unfortunately I haven't had the perfect day to sit down and immerse myself in these books yet. They're really a springtime read, so I'll wait until next March and do it then.

5. Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation by Kate Bornstein and S. Bear Bergman

My publishing company has signed up a new book by Kate Bornstein and I realized I'd never read all of this book in college so I got it out of the library and have yet to pick it up. I'm going to try really hard to read it soon though, because it's due back imminently.

6. The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon

Now we're dipping into my library pile, and as this book came out this year it hasn't really been all that long, but still, it's sitting there looking at me with its beautiful cover and I just haven't made the time yet. I picked it up because I read the first 3 chapters while standing there in the library and realized it was too good to walk away from. Then I closed it, checked it out, and haven't opened it back up again.

7. The Successful Business Plan by Rhonda Abrams

I'm in the middle of working on my business plan for a children's book-and-toy store. When I say "middle," I mean I've been working on it for at least 3 years now. I have 5 books on being a business owner, an entrepreneur, and on writing a business plan, but I really should get to this one soon.

8. Love Times Three: Our True Story of a Polygamous Marriage by Joe, Alina, Vicki, and Valerie Darger, with Brooke Adams
I was curious. I checked it out of the library. I have too many other books to read first. But I really want to get to it. I think they're brave for telling their story and I'm really interested to hear it.

9. Whatever Gets You Through the Night: A Story of Sheherezade and the Arabian Entertainments by Andrei Codrescu

I was seduced by the unconventional trim size and the painting of a half-naked Sheherezade on the front cover. Unfortunately, I have yet to crack the spine.

10. Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks by Ken Jennings

It's probably a testament to how much I love maps more than anything else that this book is sitting on my shelf. And by "on my shelf," I mean in that huge stack on the floor. It's just so pretty to look at and I am interested in the subject matter. Sadly most non-fiction takes last place in my reading life, despite my good intentions and equal-opportunity checking it out of the library habits. I'll get to you, Maphead. I promise.

Nov 14, 2011

Book Review: Heartless by Gail Carriger

Heartless: An Alexia Tarabotti Novel 
by Gail Carriger
9780316127196, $7.99, Orbit Books (Hachette)

Two things first: I hate this cover. Despite that, I really enjoyed the story.

I absolutely judge a book by its cover, and there's something about the woman on this cover that really turns me off. To the point where, despite having waited patiently for this book to become available on my library queue, when it came in, it took the book actually being due for me to stop ignoring it in the pile on my floor and actually read the damn thing, and once I did that, I read it in one day. So, there you go. Just one more example of why you should really never judge a book by it's (quite awful) cover.

If you have not been introduced to the Parasol Protectorate series yet, it is a delightful mix of Queen Victoria-era London and it's surrounding countryside, with occasional forays into other parts of Europe; the supernatural, paranormal, and preternatural worlds; steampunkery in terms of machinery and accessories, though the clothing is more typically Victorian; and lots and lots of tea drinking. You can read my review of book 1: Soulless, my reviews of book 2: Changeless and book 3: Blameless, and watch a video about the making of cover art for Blameless here, in order to get caught up. If you read all of these reviews, you will notice that I've been a bit wishy-washy on whether I was fully in support of this series or not. There's always something that I don't really like in these books, making me feel vaguely irritated while reading them, and yet they suck me in with the quality of writing and the unexpected plot elements and the most ridiculous situations the characters get themselves into and the descriptions of Victorian life. Dammit.

Luckily, book 4 was much better, in my estimation, than book 3 (I don't like marital tension, and there was a lot less of that in this book), though it was a close call because I almost stopped reading after the first 3 pages. That's how disappointing I found the first plot point. BUT, as the book went on, it was woven in, in such a delicate and thoughtful way, that soon I was on board and interested to see where things would go next.

Alexia Tarabotti, Lady Maccon, is eight months pregnant. Despite feeling the size of a fully-inflated dirigible, she tries not to let that slow her down as she investigates a new plot to kill the queen. Delving into the history of the last assassination attempt on the queen means diving into the history of how and why her husband Conall came to London from Scotland, a circumstance that no one is happy to remember as it involves betrayal and poison and a mad werewolf Alpha. After some sleuthing and deducing, Alexia realizes she's actually on the trail of two mysteries, just in time to alert the queen who's actually in danger (and it's not the queen you first think it is), save Genevieve's son, relocate a hive, relocate the werewolves, and give birth to the most beautiful and astonishing little creature ("creature" because I don't want to ruin the surprise). The whole cast of characters is present including a surprise visit from Alexia's sister, Felicity, who may or may not have joined the women's suffrage movement; Ivy and her hats who get sent off to Scotland for reconnaissance (there's a true friend!); Genevieve and her tinkering (octopuses come back into play); Lord Akeldama and his dandy drones; and of course, the Woolsey werewolves.

I enjoyed this book the most since the first novel, and am very much looking forward to book #5 in the Parasol Protectorate series, Timeless, out in March 2012. I warn you, though, I think I will continue not to like the covers.

Nov 13, 2011

Celebrate the Haul-idays with Chronicle Books (2nd annual)

Attention Book Bloggers and those who just love books:

Chronicle Books, publisher extraordinaire based in San Francisco, is helping us celebrate the holidays with a chance to win
$500 worth of Chronicle titles!

In addition, new this year, Chronicle Books will give
$500 of books to a charity of your choice.

Celebrate the Haul-idays with Chronicle Books

If you're a blogger, create your own list and add your own blog.
If you're not a blogger, comment in the comments field on my blog for your own chance to win a Chronicle haul.

The hardest part of entering this contest? Keeping my list to only $500! Chronicle is one of my favorite publishers: the innovative design of their books, the unique children's books they acquire, and the saucy adult books they publish all combine to make looking through the Chronicle catalogue similar to looking through a shoe catalogue (for me, anyway) - as in something to savor in my favorite chair with a glass of wine and an open checkbook.

If I win, I would like $500 worth of books to be given to ReadBoston.

As the rules request, here is my list of Chronicle titles I would love to haul in if my blog name is picked to win. My own rule: No choosing books I chose last year. For last year's list, go here.


Children's Titles

Black Cat Bone by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Gary Kelley (9781568461946, $24.95)
I'm not sure this is actually a children's book,
but I can't wait to see the rest of the illustrations.

The Conductor by Laetitia Devernay (9781452104911, $18.95)

Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal (9780811867849, $16.99)

The Story of Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman, illustrated by Christopher Bing (9781593541996, $18.95)
A classic reimagined by a Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator.

The Orphan of Awkward Falls by Keith Graves (9780811878142, $16.99)
This looks like a delightfully gothic tale for middle grade readers.
And the author's last name is "graves"!
Also, it's illustrated. Score.

A Zeal of Zebras: An Alphabet of Collective Nouns by Woop (9781452104928, $17.99)
I have a deep, DEEP love of alphabet books. 
It's a sickness really.

Young Adult

F in Exams: The Very Best Totally Wrong Test Answers by Richard Benson (9780811878319, $9.95)
I really need two copies of this - one for each parent,
both of whom are educators and need this book in their offices.

I got this for my BFF years ago.
Time to get my own copy.

Spinning Out by David Stahler, Jr. (9780811877800, $16.99)
This looks like one of those realistic fiction YA novels with SO much potential.
I hope it lives up to it.

Adult Titles 


Cooking at the Kasbah: Recipes from My Moroccan Kitchen by Kitty Morse, photographs by Laurie Smith (9780811815031, $22.95)
For my amazing Momma, who just came back from 2 weeks in Morocco.

Fast, Fresh, & Green by Susie Middleton, photographs by Ben Fink (9780811865661, $24.95)
I really do love veggies,
and am always looking for new ways to cook them.

Handheld Pies by Sarah Billingsley and Rachel Wharton, photographs by Ellen Silverman (9781452102146, $19.95)

Saveur: The New Comfort Food from the Editors of Saveur Magazine (9780811878012, $35)
The more comfort food, the better.


The Doorbells of Florence by Andrew Losowsky (9780811866491, $18.95)
Even if I don't win this, I'm buying it. 
It looks that good.

Windflower by Nick Bantock and Edoardo Ponti (9780811843522, $24.95)
Loved Nick Bantock's Griffin & Sabine books. 
Figured I'd give this one a try.


Ghostly Ruins: America's Forgotten Architecture by Harry Skrdla (9781568986159, $29.95)
Ghosts! Ruined architecture! What's not to love?

Little Book of Letterpress by Charlotte Rivers, foreward by Yee-Haw Industries (9780811875073, $24.95)
Nomad: A Global Approach to Interior Style by Sibella Court, photographs by Chris Court (9781452104966, $40)
Because this is what I want my home to be like.

To Each His Home by Bilyana Dimitrova (9781568987965, $45)
As a perpetual nester, this book could become my Bible.

 So my grandmother and I can have pretty cards to use to write to each other.

Lotta Jansdotter Notecard Book (9780811860109, $15.95)
For my Babci (grandmother in Polish).

Hammerpress Correspondence Cards (9780811859615, $13.95)
For me.

Nov 12, 2011

Book Review: The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross

The Girl in the Steel Corset (The Steampunk Chronicles, Book 1)
by Kady Cross
9780373210336, $17.99, Harlequin Teen

Obviously a steampunk novel, as it's book #1 in The Steampunk Chronicles, there's a great mix of adventure, romance, and gadgetry in this quick (despite its 450+ pages) read. I love the trim size of this novel, its gorgeous cover with the steel corset peeking out from the scarlet dress, and the black gears that decorate each new chapter page. Overall, a gorgeous package for a book that delivers from a first-time foray into the YA genre by best-selling author Kathryn Smith.

Finley Jayne has had to run. Again. Something about her draws men to her, and at age 16 and a servant in people's homes, she's easy prey for the fathers and sons of rich families. Or so they think. There's something inside Finley that awakes when she's in danger, something dark enough to protect Finley by allowing her to fight well and become strong enough to throw a grown man across the room. Though she didn't kill him, after this last fight with a member of the crew of Dandies, followers of the notorious Jack Dandy, Finley knows she must run again and despairs of where she'll find herself this time, out on the streets, in the middle of the night, in 1897 England.

Luckily, she is run down by a Duke on a motorcycle-type machine. Griffin King, possessing powers of his own, recognizes something within Finley and so brings her to his manor to join his own band of misfits. There's Emily - better at tinkering with mechanical things than any man; Sam - part-man, part-automaton; Griffin's aunt, Cordelia - she can read people's minds; and Jasper Renn - an American who can move like the wind. Suspected by some of being a spy, unwillingly drawn to both Griffin and Jack Dandy, all Finley really wants to learn is why she feels like there are literally two sides of her - the Finley of her conscious moments, and the Finley who can fight like the devil. Is she evil? How will she reconcile her two sides? And can she do so while also trying to help Griffin's gang figure out just what evil plot The Machinist is hatching that involves Queen Victoria and life-like automatons like the one that almost killed Sam?

Though most of the plot twists and turns were not a super-shocking reveal, this is a perfect introduction for the 12-and-up set into the world of steampunk and all the clothing and machinery that goes along with it. I'm looking forward to following the gang to America in book 2!