Thursday, July 31, 2008

Book Review: Aberrations by Penelope Przekop

Aberrations is an extraordinary debut novel for Penelope Przekop. This is not just a coming of age story, it is truly an awakening.

Angel Duet is a 21-year-old narcoleptic living in Louisiana during the 1980’s. Her mother died when she was born, and all that Angel has of her mother are stories told to her by her father, and a series of cloud photographs taken by her mother.

When her father’s new girlfriend moves in, the pictures come off the wall and Angel finds her familiar life turned upside down. She feels the loss of the pictures as another person would feel a parent’s death. Throughout the story we see her searching for the one thing she’s never felt, but needs so acutely – a mother’s love. This search will lead her down a dark path of drugs and sexual experimentation, before ultimately leading her to demand real answers from her father.

Aberrations is an intriguing look into the secrets people keep and their motivations for keeping them. Every character has something that they want to hide from others: a medical condition, their sexuality, an extra-marital affair. As the story progresses, we glimpse each character’s secret. Some secrets, once revealed, are liberating for the characters. Others are absolutely devastating. The secrets that Angel’s father has kept from her concerning her mother will irrevocably change her life.

Przekop has crafted some truly fascinating characters in this novel. I found myself drawn to each character, but I was most drawn to Angel. As a person living with a chronic illness, I easily identified with Angel’s struggle with narcolepsy and her desire to not allow the illness to define her.

Powerful and stirring, Aberrations is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. Don’t miss this one!

Rating: 9/10

Buy Aberrations:
Indiebound | Powell's | Amazon

Visit Penelope Przekop's official site to read a sample chapter from the book.

Bikeman by Thomas F. Flynn On Sale Tomorrow

Bikeman: An Epic Poem by Thomas F. Flynn, which I reviewed earlier this month, goes on sale tomorrow. I found this book to be very moving, and I highly recommend it. It's a unique and haunting first-hand look at the events of September 11, 2001. Click on the book cover to purchase Bikeman from Amazon.

Amazon to release Collector's Edition of The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

From Amazon:
In December 2007, J.K. Rowling unveiled The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a very special book of five fairy tales illustrated by the bard herself, embellished with silver ornaments and mounted moonstones. Amazon was fortunate to come into possession of one of the original copies, and it was our privilege to share images and reviews of this incredible artifact. Now J.K. Rowling is giving millions of Harry Potter fans worldwide cause for celebration with a new edition of The Tales of Beedle the Bard (available December 4, 2008) and Amazon is thrilled to exclusively offer a luxuriously packaged Collector’s Edition designed to evoke the spirit of the handcrafted original.

Tucked in its own case disguised as a wizarding textbook found in the Hogwarts library, the Collector's Edition includes an exclusive reproduction of J.K. Rowling's handwritten introduction, as well as 10 additional illustrations not found in the Standard Edition or the original. Opening the case reveals a velvet bag embroidered with J.K. Rowling’s signature, in which sits the piece de resistance: your very own copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, complete with metal skull, corners, and clasp; replica gemstones; and emerald ribbon.

The Collector's Edition will retail for $100 (£50) while a standard hardcover edition is also available for a list price of $12.99. All net proceeds from the sale of both volumes will go to The Children's Voice Campaign.

I've already pre-ordered my copy of the collector's edition. I think this may be the most I've ever spent on a single book. What's the priciest volume in your library?

First Daughter Giveaway: Winners!

Thank you so much to everyone who participated in my first ever giveaway at Bookish Ruth. Two lucky winners were chosen at random by my mother. (Thanks, Mom!)

The winners are:

Ann and Park-Avenue Princess!

Please e-mail me at BookishRuth at gmail dot com so I can send you your books!

Also, big thanks to everyone who replied with their favorite book of the year. My wish list is quite a bit longer than it was before the contest. (I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing...)

If you missed out on First Daughter, I'm holding another giveaway for Kaimira: The Sky Village.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Book Giveaway: Kaimira The Sky Village by Monk and Nigel Ashland

Last week I reviewed Kaimira: The Sky Village by Monk and Nigel Ashland. This week, I'm giving my readers a chance to win an advanced reading copy of The Sky Village, the first of five books in this new young adult series. I'll be choosing a winner for this book on August 6th at 9 PM EST.

In a futuristic world, humans, animals and intelligent machines battle for supremacy.

Mei and Rom are extraordinary teens who have inherited the mythical power known as Kaimira, giving them a rare and dangerous ability to balance the elements of these three clashing species.

Read the first chapter here at

The Rules:
Leave a comment on this entry to enter.
Leave a comment on my review of the book for one extra entry.
Mention this contest on your blog for three extra entries.
Do all three and you'll have five chances to win!
Winner will be chosen at random on August 6th at 9 PM EST.

Good luck everyone!

Contests: More Free Books!

The KoolAidMom's great first giveaway, for several gift cards totaling $50 ends tomorrow. She's also hosting a giveaway for a signed copy of Mishka: An Adoption Tale by Adrienne Ehlert Bashista, a wonderful children's book. Enter by August 9, 2008.

StudentofSaga is hosting a giveaway for The Questory of Root Karbunkulus by Kamilla Reid. Leave a question for her interview with the author by for your chance to win! The winner will be announced on August 4th.

Kathleen's Book Reviews is also hosting a contest for The Questory of Root Karbunkulus by Kamilla Reid. Enter by August 15th for an autographed copy of the book, a bookmark and dog-tags.

Michele is giving away a copy of The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry. Leave a comment by August 5th for your chance to win.

Marie at The Boston Bibliophile is hosting a contest for Bobbie Faye's (kinda, sorta, not-exactly) Family Jewels by Toni McGee Causey. Enter by August 6th.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Review: The Ruby in the Smoke by Phillip Pullman

"Her name was Sally Lockhart; and within fifteen minutes, she was going to kill a man."
-- The Ruby in the Smoke, p. 1

In The Ruby in the Smoke, Phillip Pullman combines three of my favorite things: young adult fiction, a good mystery and a Victorian era setting.

Sixteen-year-old Sally Lockhart has recently lost her father in a shipwreck. After receiving a mysterious note warning her to “beware of the Seven Blessings”, she visits her late father’s shipping firm in the hope that someone there can make sense of the note. When she asks one of her father’s employees about the Seven Blessings, the man is so terrified that he dies of a heart attack right in front of Sally. And so begins a chain of events that will have Sally questioning the circumstances of her father’s death as well as her connection to a priceless Indian ruby. All the while Sally is pursued by a series of villains who are determined to kill her before she can learn the truth.

The Ruby in the Smoke is filled with colorful, vivid characters that seem ready to leap off the page. Sally is a strong female character, but she’s not perfect by any means. Pullman avoided the pitfall of turning her into an unrealistic super heroine, while still highlighting her cleverness and charm. Even some of the villains are likeable while still being villainous; I was very amused by one soft-hearted thug who gives a temperance tract to a drunken man he’s just beaten up.

With witty dialogue and twists and turns on nearly every page, The Ruby in the Smoke is a delightful and exciting read. I highly recommended it to any reader who loves a good mystery.

Rating: 8/10

Buy The Ruby in the Smoke:
Indiebound | Powell's | Amazon

Karen Dionne, Author of Freezing Point, Preventer of Chapped Lips

Earlier in the week I requested an ARC of Freezing Point by Karen Dionne. Today I was quite surprised to receive a handwritten note from Ms. Dionne herself. She said that her publisher had run out of ARCs but that she wanted me to have something for my trouble, so I now have an adorable tube of Freezing Point Chapstick. I found this to be a very thoughtful gesture. Be sure to check out Karen Dionne's web site for more about the book. She's been billed as the next Michael Crichton, so I'm very eager to read Freezing Point.

Tuesday Thingers: Cataloging (Or, Montgomery Ward Meets LibraryThing!)

This week's question: Cataloging sources. What cataloging sources do you use most? Any particular reason? Any idiosyncratic choices, or foreign sources, or sources you like better than others? Are you able to find most things through LT's almost 700 sources?

I use Amazon the most -- 385 of my currently 424 books were cataloged from Amazon. comes in second with 19 (I think these are mostly my Doctor Who tie-in novels) followed by the Library of Congress with 12. I've never been unable to find something with LT's cataloging sources, so hats off to Tim and Abby.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Sunday Salon: Raining on Sunday

The Sunday
I intended to have a nice, lazy Sunday with plenty of time for reading, but Mother Nature had other ideas. I woke up to a violent thunderstorm, a very scared cat, and a flooded windowsill in the bathroom that had overflowed onto the bathroom floor.

Yesterday turned out to be my time for serene reading. I spent the better part of the day curled up on my bed with Girl with the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. A friend recommended the book to me three years ago, but I was on a classics kick at the time and just filed away the information for a later date. I finally got a copy of it for my birthday early this month, and I swear there's been a big, blinking neon sign flashing "READ ME" next to this book for the last two weeks. After reading a couple of "meh" books recently, it was just what I needed this week.

On tap for the rest of the week:

I'm about halfway through both The Wednesday Sisters and First Daughter. I won a signed copy of The Joy of Spooking: Fiendish Deeds by P.J. Bracegirdle from Presenting Lenore and I'm really looking forward to diving into it. At the pace I read, these three books will probably only last me until Wednesday at the latest, but I'm not going to plan beyond that. I'll let the next few books choose me. Maybe that neon sign will park itself next to something else.

The Week in Reviews:

The White Mary by Kira Salak
Kaimira: The Sky Village by Monk and Nigel Ashland

Don't forget to enter my First Daughter giveaway if you haven't already. I'll be announcing two winners on July 30th!

Friday, July 25, 2008

First Daughter Giveaway Update

I won a signed copy of First Daughter by Eric Van Lustbader from Shelf Awareness, so I now have three copies of the book. (By the way, the book is excellent. A real page turner.) So, I'm sharing the wealth: two lucky folks who have commented on the giveaway post will be receiving copies of the book. The contest doesn't end until July 30th, so there's still plenty of time to comment if you haven't already.

My signed copy joins a small but much-treasured group of signed books in my library. So, signed books: Do you have any in your collection? Were they obtained in person at a book signing or by other means? If you could have one book that you own signed by a deceased author, which one would you pick? I was thinking about this earlier in the week when my mother surprised me with a very nice first edition of Tim Russert's Big Russ and Me. My first thought was, "I'd love to get this signed! ... Oh." It still hasn't sunk in that Mr. Russert is no longer with us.

Book Review: The White Mary by Kira Salak

Marika Vecera is a fearless war journalist, traveling to war zones that many male reporters have avoided. When her idol, the famous journalist Robert Lewis, commits suicide, Marika feels driven to write his biography. In the course of researching her book, Marika receives a letter from a missionary who claims to have seen Lewis in Papua New Guinea. Marika drops everything to follow up the lead, embarking on a grueling journey that may cost the journalist her life. As the story progresses, we see that Marika’s quest is as much a journey to find herself as it is to find Robert Lewis.

The White Mary is one story told in two parts. The main part of the book covers Marika’s search for Lewis in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, while the events that drove her to that search are told in a series of flashbacks. These flashbacks, though insightful looks into Marika’s character, are the weakest points in the story. I found Marika’s interaction with her boyfriend Seb to be unrealistic. The dialogue between the two of them just felt stilted and forced. Marika is an interesting, multi-faceted character, but with each flashblack, I found her less likable. Her journey ultimately changes her for the better, but that change came too late for me.

There were elements of this book that I loved. Salak’s descriptions of the jungle are absolutely breathtaking. Tobo, Marika’s guide through the jungle, is a fascinating character. Clever, resourceful and wise, he saves Marika’s life on more than one occasion. Kira Salak, like Marika, is an accomplished war journalist, and her experience is evident in the descriptions of Marika’s time spent in various war zones.

The White Mary is gritty, intense and, at times, disturbing. There are graphic depictions of torture and rape, and one scene towards the end of the novel is so disturbingly vivid that it may turn even the strongest of stomachs.

I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did. As I stated earlier, there were many things that I loved about this book, but in the end, the things I didn’t like stood out more. While I can’t give it an enthusiastic endorsement, I am glad that I took the time to read The White Mary.

Rating: 5/10

Buy The White Mary:
Indiebound | Powell's | Amazon

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: First Impressions

This week's question: What are your favourite first sentences from books? Is there a book that you liked specially because of its first sentence? Or a book, perhaps that you didn’t like but still remember simply because of the first line?

I will admit to being a bit of a snob when it comes to first sentences. If a writer can capture me with the first sentence or the first paragraph of a book, I am much more inclined to read on. That's not to say that I won't read a book that doesn't capture me in this way, but it has to work a bit harder to earn my good opinion.

What I look for in a first sentence is something that causes me to react -- raise an eyebrow, ask a question, or immediately identify with a character. All of the lines I will quote hereafter have caused one or more of those kinds of reactions:

"I was fifteen when I first met Sherlock Holmes, fifteen years old with my nose in a book as I walked the Sussex Downs, and I nearly stepped on him."
-- The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."
-- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen."
-- 1984 by George Orwell

"There was no possibility of taking a walk that day."
-- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

"No one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water."
-- The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

"Prince Raoden of Arelon awoke early that morning, completely unaware that he had been damned for all eternity."
-- Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

Agatha Christie wrote many of my favorite first lines, so it was hard to narrow them down to just two. One of these even addresses the effect of the first line upon the reader:

"I believe that a well-known anecdote exists to the effect that a young writer, determined to make the commencement of his story forcible and original enough to catch and rivet the attention of the most blasé of editors, penned the following sentence: "'Hell!' said the Duchess."
-- Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie

"In every club there is a club bore. The Coronation Club was no exception; and the fact that an Air Raid was in progress made no difference to normal procedure."
-- Taken at the Flood by Agatha Christie

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Contests: Because Who Doesn't Love Free Books?

Jenn over at Jenn's Bookshelf is giving away a copy of So Long at the Fair by Christina Schwartz. The contest ends on July 26, 2008.

The Boston Bibliophile is hosting a giveaway for The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry. The contest is open until July 29, 2008.

Kathleen's Book Reviews is hosting a giveaway for Surviving Ben's Suicide by C. Comfort Shields. Leave a comment on her excellent author interview by July 31, 2008 to enter.

Lori's Reading Corner is giving away a copy of Stephenie Meyer's The Host. Enter by July 31, 2008 for your chance to win.

Bookshipper is holding a fantastic giveaway for 14 books from Hachette Books. The contest ends on July 31, 2008.

Kelly from MonkeyBrained Bookfool is hosting her first giveaway for a copy of The Dangerous Joy of Dr. Sex. Enter by August 1, 2008.

Alea from Pop Culture Junkie is holding a contest for Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison. Enter by August 2, 2008.

Literary Feline is also hosting the Hachette Giveaway at Musings of a Bookish Kitty. Her contest runs until August 2, 2008.

Devourer of Books is giving away a copy of Queen of the Road. Leave a comment by August 8, 2008 to enter.

Book Room Reviews is also hosting the Hachette 14 book giveaway. The deadline for entering is August 9, 2008.

Also, don't forget the giveaway being hosted right here at Bookish Ruth! I'm giving away a copy of First Daughter by Eric Van Lustbader on July 30, 2008.

Review: Kaimira The Sky Village by Monk and Nigel Ashland

The Sky Village is the soaring debut to Monk and Nigel Ashland’s new young adult series, Kaimira. The Ashlands take the reader to a futuristic world where humans, animals and intelligent machines called meks have been fighting for decades.

In China, twelve-year-old Mei Long’s mother has been kidnapped by meks. Her father sends her to live in the Sky Village, an intricate web of hot air balloons that flies high above the earth, while he remains on land to search for his wife. He entrusts Mei with the care of the Tree Book. Mei’s mother would read to her from the Tree Book each evening, telling her fantastic tales of children with names like Breaker and Lizard Girl. Her father warns her not to open the book, but Mei, desperate for a way to find her mother, disobeys him. She soon discovers that the Tree Book is no ordinary book. The children from the stories are real, and Mei’s book allows her to communicate with Breaker, a teenage boy whose real name is Rom. Rom knows Mei as Dragonfly from his own parents’ stories.

Rom lives in the ruins of Las Vegas, where the beasts roam freely and humans have been forced into hiding. Rom’s younger sister, Riley, has been kidnapped by beast-mek hybrids known as demons. Rom enters the seedy Las Vegas underground where he is forced to learn the art of demonsmithing to save his sister. Rom’s father was a master demonsmith, and Rom shares his father’s natural abilities. The demonsmiths conjure beast-mek hybrids for elaborate fights to entertain gamblers in the underground.

Mei and Rom discover that they share the mysterious kaimira gene – a gene that mixes beast and mek elements with their human DNA. The gene gives both of them power that they don’t fully understand and must struggle to control. Will this power enable them to save their loved ones? What might it cost them in the process?

I loved the imagery of the Sky Village. The colorful hot air balloons seemed so full of life that they made the contrast with the barren Las Vegas even more apparent. At first I was much more drawn to Mei’s story, but over the course of the book I really connected with Rom. His devotion to his sister and his determination to do anything to save her was very touching.

I did feel that the book lagged in some parts, while it seemed rushed in others. There is a lot going on in this book, and some elements aren’t explained as fully as they could be, which may be confusing to younger readers.

The Sky Village is a solid introduction to the series, and I am definitely going to pick up the next installment. I hope that we’ll get to meet some of the other characters mentioned in the Tree Book (particularly Lizard Girl) during the next four books in the series.

Rating: 7/10.

Buy The Sky Village:
Indiebound | Powell's | Amazon

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tuesday Thingers: Recommendations (Or, LibraryThing Users are My Favorite Kind of Enablers)

Today's topic: Recommendations. Do you use LT's recommendations feature? Have you found any good books by using it? Do you use the anti-recommendations, or the "special sauce" recommendations? How do you find out about books you want to read?

This is one of the ways that LibraryThing has really changed my reading. Prior to joining LibraryThing, I would occasionally get a recommendation from a friend or a helpful person at my favorite bookstore. Now I can just log onto LibraryThing and I get recommendations for virtually any subject, whenever the mood strikes me.

I do use the recommendations feature, but more often I get my recommendations from the discussion groups I participate in. Recently I asked about books set during the London Blitz, and was overwhelmed by all the helpful responses. I'm reading (and enjoying) many books that I never would have known about without the folks at LibraryThing. It's definitely broadened my horizons as a reader.

Now that I'm blogging regularly, I also get a lot of recommendations from fellow bloggers. A significant portion of the recent additions to my Amazon wish list are books that I discovered from reading other bloggers' reviews. On my giveaway post, I asked people to name their favorite book so far this year. I did that for a reason -- I'm an inherently curious person. If you've read a great book, I want to know about it. If you've read a lousy book, I want to know about that, too. (Sometimes this is out of self-preservation, but if the book is bad enough, I'm not above reading it just to give it the MST3K treatment.)

Where do you get most of your book recommendations from?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sunday Salon: Busy Ruth, not Bookish Ruth this week.

The Sunday
I've had a wonderful (but busy) week, which was capped off on Friday by a fantastic visit from family. I didn't have much time to read during the week, but I'm making up for that today.

I'm finishing up with Kaimira: The Sky Village and starting on The Wednesday Sisters. I'm also hoping to finish Mythology by Edith Hamilton, which I've been reading in gulps for the past few months.

Kaimira is my June book for Early Reviewers, and I've enjoyed it quite a bit. I'm eager to see where the rest of the series will take me.

I picked up The Wednesday Sisters after hearing the buzz from other bloggers. I'm only about 50 pages in, but it's great so far. I feel a real kinship to the characters; the fact that they're all bookworms is incredibly endearing.

Mythology is a book I picked up for my own edification. I never studied Greek mythology in school, and have always wanted to study it on my own. I have a good amount of knowledge of Egyptian mythology (I was considering a career in Egyptology for awhile) but previous to picking up this book, I knew only the basics of the more popular Greek and Roman myths. This book has been an excellent guide and I've enjoyed it immensely.

I really need to get caught up on my reviews. I posted one for Tan Lines (If you're looking for a fun summer read, be sure to check it out!) earlier this week, but I have several more that need to be written. Hopefully that will make for a steady stream of new content throughout the coming week.

I'm hosting a giveaway for a copy of First Daughter by Eric Van Lustbader. If you haven't had a chance to enter, please leave me a comment on this post.

Friday, July 18, 2008

First Giveaway: First Daughter by Eric Van Lustbader

I received two advance reading copies of First Daughter by Eric Van Lustbader this morning, so First Daughter has appropriately become the First Bookish Ruth Giveaway.

Sometimes the weakness we fear most can become our greatest strength...

Jack McClure has had a troubled life. His dyslexia always made him feel like an outsider. He escaped from an abusive home as a teenager and lived by his wits on the streets of Washington D.C. It wasn’t until he realized that dyslexia gave him the ability to see the world in unique ways that he found success, using this newfound strength to become a top ATF agent.

When a terrible accident takes the life of his only daughter, Emma, and his marriage falls apart, Jack blames himself, numbing the pain by submerging himself in work. Then he receives a call from his old friend Edward Carson. Carson is just weeks from taking the reins as President of the United States when his daughter, Alli, is kidnapped. Because Emma McClure was once Alli’s best friend, Carson turns to Jack, the one man he can trust to go to any lengths to find his daughter and bring her home safely.

The search for Alli leads Jack on a road toward reconciliation . . . and into the path of a dangerous and calculating man. Someone whose actions are as cold as they are brilliant. Whose power and reach are seemingly infinite.

Faith, redemption, and political intrigue play off one another as McClure uses his unique abilities to journey into the twisted mind of a stone cold genius who is constantly one step ahead of him. Jack will soon discover that this man has affected his life and his country in more ways than he could ever imagine.

The rules are simple:

Leave a comment here telling me the title of the best book you've read in 2008.
Mention this contest on your own blog to receive three additional entries.
I'll choose a winner at random on July 30, 2008.

Good luck!

Edited 7/25 to add:
Since I won a signed copy of this book from Shelf Awareness, I now have a second copy that will be included in this contest. On July 30th I'll be picking two winners for this book!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Vacation Spots

Do you buy books while on vacation/holiday?
Do you have favorite bookstores that you only get to visit while away on a trip?
What/Where are they?

I always try to buy books while on vacation; they serve as great reminders of the trip. I tend to leave home with two or three books in my suitcase and return with five or six more! (This usually results in me playing a bit of real life Tetris as a I try to make everything fit into my bag.)

I don't have a specific bookstore that I always visit on vacation, since I don't have a regular vacation spot. It was always a treat to travel someplace that had a Borders store, because up until a few years ago, we didn't have a local Borders.

I really want to get out to Portland someday, to make a visit to Powell's. That many books in one place just might kill me, but at least I'll die happy.

If you missed my last post, please check out my review of Tan Lines by J.J. Salem!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tuesday Thingers: Book-swapping

This week's question:
Book-swapping. Do you do it? What site(s) do you use? How did you find out about them? What do you think of them? Do you use LT's book-swapping column feature for information on what to swap? Do you participate in any of the LT communities that discuss bookswapping, like the Bookmooch group for example?

Yes. I heard about BookMooch via LibraryThing early last year, but didn't set up an account there until about a month ago. I'm hooked and wish I had joined sooner! (My username there is the same as my former LibraryThing alias -- MidnightRain.) I generally keep most of my own books, but I often buy extra copies of books that I really enjoyed to give to friends (I think everyone who knows me has at least one copy of Pride and Prejudice). Now I can spread the love via BookMooch as well. I do participate in LT's BookMooch group, but I'm more of an observer than an active participant. It's been a great resource for me as a new Moocher.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sunday Salon: New Bookshelf, New Horizons

The Sunday
This Sunday I'm thinking about a quotation by Anna Quindlen, from a 1991 New York Times article entitled "Enough Bookshelves". I've never had the opportunity to read the whole article, but this quotation has always resonated with me:

"I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves."

I don't know if that was a particular desire that my mother had for me, but she certainly sought to foster a lifelong love of reading in me at an early age. Why is this on my mind? Well, a much-needed new bookcase came into the house this afternoon. Tonight will most likely be spent watching Foyle's War while I rearrange my shelves, and I honestly can't think of a more enjoyable way to spend an evening. My classics were beginning to encroach on my science fiction, mysteries were interspersed with general fiction, and young adult fiction and fantasy has just been shelved wherever there was room. And there's also the pile of 50+ books on my desk that don't yet have a home on a shelf. It's going to be nice to have my books properly organized again, and to be able to give everything a bit of breathing room. I hope that this shelf will get me through the rest of the year.

Last week I checked my statistics on LibraryThing and realized that my library has more than doubled in the past year. One of my New Year's Resolutions for 2008 was to work harder towards building my "ultimate library" -- classics I never got to read during school, books that I enjoyed in my childhood but no longer have copies of, and books that I read during the days the I frequented the local library three times a week. I realized last year that many of my favorite books were ones that I'd never owned, and I wanted to rectify that. I also wanted to broaden my reading horizons. I'm reading more general fiction than I ever have before. It's an exciting time in my reading; I'm branching out from the my more familiar genres (mysteries and classics) to embrace new stories and experience new authors. Is there anything better for a lover of books? (Except, perhaps, a new bookshelf?)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Book Blowout Challenge: Progress


Since we're now about a third of the way through July, I thought I would post my progress for this challenge.

1. Doctor Who: Wetworld
2. Tan Lines
3. What the Dormouse Said
4. Aberrations

I'm pretty happy with my progress so far. I'll be reviewing all four of these books, and will hopefully have one or more reviews up before the end of the weekend. (I wish I could write as fast as I read!)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Doomsday

This week's question:
One of my favorite bookstores burned down last weekend, and while I only got to visit there while I was on vacation, it made me stop and think.

What would you do if, all of a sudden, your favorite source of books was unavailable?

Whether it’s a local book shop, your town library, or an internet shop … what would you do if, suddenly, they were out of business? Devastatingly, and with no warning? Where would you go for books instead? What would you do? If it was a local business you would try to help out the owners? Would you just calmly start buying from some other store? Visit the library in the next town instead? Would it be devastating? Or just a blip in your reading habit?

I buy most of my books from Amazon. I love the advantages of free shipping and tax-free purchases. There's also something rather special about finding one of those smiling boxes sitting on my doorstop in the morning. If Amazon were no longer available, I'd switch to Barnes & Noble, Borders or Powell's -- all sites that I buy books from occasionally, but don't use as my primary source. So, sadly, Amazon would be easily replaced.

If something happened to my favorite brick and mortar bookstore, I would be utterly devastated. I don't shop there as much as I used to, but before the age of the Internet, it was a frequent destination. I still stop in whenever I'm in the area and/or if I have a coupon. This particular store opened around the time I entered the second grade, which is right at the time when my interest in reading was becoming the ardent love affair it is today. This store had an incredible influence on the person I am today, simply because it was there at the moment I became a lifetime reader. I can't count how many hours I spent roaming the children's and young adult sections. (Incidentally, I still visit the young adult section every time I visit. The shelves that used to tower over me now only come to my shoulders, but the feeling of awe I felt standing there as a child is still very much there.) If that store were no longer there, I don't know what I would do. It would be like losing part of myself. Unlike Amazon, I don't think this store could ever be replaced by another. There are just too many memories.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Book Review: Bikeman by Thomas F. Flynn

On September 11, 2001, journalist Thomas Flynn jumped onto his bicycle and rode to Ground Zero to cover the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. He would soon find himself caught up in the events of that “forever September morning”, his life – like that of countless others – changed forever.

Flynn’s words paint a vivid picture of the low flying jet, an ominous and incongruous sight as it skimmed the tree tops above him and roared towards its target. His words are equally eidetic as he describes his arrival at Ground Zero, where he sees people jumping from the burning buildings, tumbling like rag dolls to the ground below. The reader, like Thomas, is there for the most intimate moment in the life of a stranger:

“I am witness to this and embarrassed.
I am an intruder on the most private moment
of her life: her death.”

Flynn also records the surreal visage of the towers engulfed in flames:

“The flaming tower mocks a colossal lighthouse
built to protect unsuspecting passengers
No, this is not the lady of the harbor
who carries a torch of dreams
It is a barbarian beacon, with no intention
to warn those who see her beams.”

Throughout the poem, the reader bears witness to Flynn’s struggle to survive, and later, his struggle to come to grips with being a survivor:

“We did not live through it,
we just did not die.”

Bikeman is billed as an epic poem in the style of Dante’s Inferno. This may sound intimidating to someone who is not a regular poetry reader. However, Flynn’s style is very approachable and easy to read. It will be enjoyed by both serious poetry students and those who may be unfamiliar (or perhaps a bit uncomfortable) with the genre.

At just over seventy pages, Bikeman is a quick read, but a lasting experience. Within the first few minutes of my reading, I found that I was so engrossed in the experience that I was holding my breath. Flynn’s words and the images that they evoke stayed with me long after the last page had been turned.

Visceral and hauntingly beautiful, Flynn’s poetry is an intense and unique insight into one of the darkest days in American history. Bikeman has found a place of honor on my bookshelf, and it is a book that I cannot recommend highly enough.

Rating: 9/10.

Buy Bikeman:
Indiebound | Powell's | Amazon

Tueday Thingers: Summer Plans

This week's question:

Since we're past the Fourth of July and the summer season has officially started, what are your plans for the summer? Vacations, trips? Trips that involve reading? Reading plans? If you're going somewhere, do you do any reading to prepare? Do you read local literature as part of your trip? Have you thought about using the LT Local feature to help plan your book-buying?

I traveled extensively over the summers of 2005 and 2006, but since becoming ill with chronic fatigue syndrome, it's more difficult for me to travel long distances. I miss traveling dearly and hope that as I continue to get stronger, I'll be able to take more trips.

One of my favorite parts of traveling, of course, is checking out the local bookstores. When visiting Boston in 2005, I found the most charming bookstore not far from Boston Common -- sadly I cannot remember the name -- and passed nearly an entire afternoon there.

This summer, I'm hoping to make a trip to Valley Forge National Park, which is not far from my home. I've always been fascinated by the Revolutionary War, an interest that was fostered early in life with my very first visit to Valley Forge. (I was five and brought my Sesame Street Ernie puppet along with me. I was fascinated by all the swords on display in the visitor's center and made a point of showing them to Ernie. As my mother and I were heading downstairs to go to a different area, I met a little boy about my age who had the matching Bert puppet. Talk about kismet! I often wonder if he remembers me.) A trip to the gift shop to bring home a book (or two, or three...) about Valley Forge will be inevitable. Despite my keen interest in early American history, my library is sadly lacking in that department.

As far as reading plans go, I want to read and review as much as I possibly can this summer. Although I'm still new to review blogging, I love having this outlet to share my passion for books with other readers.