Sunday, August 31, 2008

Book Review: The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton

What do you get when you combine five women, a shared love of reading and a park picnic table? The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton, of course.

In the late 1960’s five very different women meet as their children play in a Palo Alto park. United by their love of books and a shared passion for the Miss America Pageant, the five women – Frankie, Linda, Kath, Brett and Ally – become friends. Eventually their love of books leads to the creation of a writing circle. The characters grow as women and as friends through their writing, and that growth is a fascinating process to watch.

We meet these remarkable women at a crucial point in American history. The Vietnam War is dividing the nation and the Summer of Love is at its peak. The first meeting of the Wednesday Sisters takes place the day after Robert F. Kennedy is shot, and the women find themselves drawn to the park; each one looking for comfort and normalcy on that dark day. As their friendships blossom, they watch in awe as Neil Armstrong walks on the moon and re-evaluate their roles as wives and mothers in light of the Women’s Liberation Movement. All the while, they continue to write and encourage each other to pursue their dreams.

Meg Waite Clayton did an excellent job in creating vivid, interesting characters and showing how their lives changed as a result of their friendships and the turbulent times in which they lived. This is a fun, easy read, but there’s also a lot of meat to the story. It’s sure to be a popular choice for book clubs. I wouldn’t be surprised to see The Wednesday Sisters on the silver screen at some point. This inspirational story of the power of friendship has a wide appeal.

Rating: 7/10.

Buy The Wednesday Sisters:
Indiebound | Powell's | Amazon

You can find out more about The Wednesday Sisters at Meg Waite Clayton's official site. I'd also invite you to visit Meg's very interesting blog, 1st Books.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Don't You Just Love Surprises?

I won't be around much for the next few days. A surprise guest showed up yesterday (A dramatic and fun plot twist in the story of my life) and I'm going to take a few days off. I'll still be reading, though, and will be back on Sunday to announce the winner of my Aberrations giveaway.

In the meantime, happy reading everyone. See you all on Sunday!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sunday Salon: Almost (But Not Quite) Monday Salon

The Sunday
I've been feeling overtired for the past few days (I blame the late night Olympic coverage. It's so addictive!) so today I just flopped on the couch and read for most of the day.

I read One Bad Apple by Sheila Watson (review to come) today, and I loved it. There are several apple-centric recipes in the back of the book; one for apple muffins looks particularly good. I'm definitely going to try that out, even though my baking skills are a bit suspect. Cookies I can do, no problem, but I've never been brave enough to try to make muffins, pies or cakes from scratch. Apparently I made some killer apple crisp in preschool but I have very little memory of this. I think the teacher did most of the work and had the class "help", and then sent the recipe and some of the apple crisp home with all of us. My mom insists it was the best apple crisp she's ever had. I'll have to see if she still has that recipe somewhere. I love apples and should really stop relying on McDonald's apple pies for my apple cravings...

Time to start getting ready for bed. Hopefully the coverage of the political conventions won't run as late as the Olympics, or I'm going to be seriously sleep-deprived over the next couple weeks! Four years ago I could easily stay up till 3 AM and not bat an eye; now 11 PM rolls around and I'm ready to call it a night.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Death by Literature (Or, The UPS Man Must Be Getting Tired of Me)

There has been no shortage of packages to open here in the last couple weeks. Mostly BookMooch books, but a few other things as well.

Last week I nearly fell over a gigantic box left by our doorstep, only to discover my winnings from the Hachette Giveaway at Bookshipper's blog. Fourteen beautiful, brand new books:

In addition to the Hachette giveaway, I also received Surviving Ben's Suicide by C. Comfort Shields (courtesy of Kathleen at Kathleen's Book Reviews) The Dangerous Joy of Dr. Sex and Other True Stories by Pagan Kennedy (courtesy of Kelly at The Optimistic Book Fool) and a signed copy of The Questory of Root Karbunkulus by Kamilla Reid (courtesy of StudentofSaga's blog).

That's a lot of books! These will keep me occupied well into the fall. And now, the burning question, which one do I read first?!

Have you read any of these?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

IndieBound Community Beta is Live

indiebound has launched the beta test of their Community feature. If you're not familiar with IndieBound, they seek to raise awareness of independent bookstores and the vital role they play in local communities.

My IndieBound profile is here, feel free to send me a message there or add me to your friends list.

Booking Through Thursday: "You mean we can take them home?!"

This week's question: What is your earliest memory of a library? Who took you? Do you have you any funny/odd memories of the library?

I was four or five years old the first time I stepped into a library. I don't have a lot memories from that age, but I remember how I was in complete awe of the library. Bookshelf after bookshelf towered over me. I can still remember the smell, that glorious aroma of thousands of books all in one place. I was afraid to touch anything, so I just looked at the books with my hands folded while my mother filled out a form for a library card. The form was red. I remember thinking that was nice because red was my favorite color that week. (For most of kindergarten I couldn't decide whether my favorite color was red or blue. It changed weekly. I still have a tough time deciding between the two.)

After she filled out the form, my mom told me to pick some books to take home with us. "You mean we can take them home?!" It hadn't occurred to me that we'd be able to take any books home with us. I thought that you were only allowed to read them there. My mother explained that I could pick books that I wanted to read, take them home and read them, then return them and pick out more books next time. By that point, I had decided that the library was the best place ever.

Read It Forward: An Exciting New Program from Random House

Random House has launched Read It Forward, an exciting new program to offer advance copies of upcoming releases.

Right now they're giving away copies of Nefertiti by Michelle Moran, Tethered by Amy MacKinnon and How Far is the Ocean from Here by Amy Shearn to the first 200 people who request them via e-mail.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Wednesday Sisters Giveaway Winner

Many thanks to everyone who entered my giveaway for The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton. The winner, chosen by is The Kool-Aid Mom of In the Shadow of Mt. TBR!

Please e-mail me at bookishruth (at) gmail (dot) com with your address so I can send your book.

I'm going to compile all the responses to my question about the literary character you relate to most and feature them in a special post later in the week. (After I figure out which literary character I relate to most. I'm having a hard time narrowing my choices down.)

Monday, August 18, 2008

First Daughter Review & Interview with Author Eric Van Lustbader

First Daughter is a thrilling tale of political intrigue, a shocking crime, and one man’s love and loss that will keep you guessing until the very last page.

Alli Carson, the daughter of President-Elect Edward Carson, has been kidnapped just weeks before the Presidential inauguration. Carson personally calls in ATF agent Jack McClure to aid in the search for Alli.

Brilliant and perceptive, Jack is different; an Outsider. Jack is dyslexic and, while he struggles with simple tasks such as reading, his condition gives him an advantage over the other investigators. Because of the unique way his mind works, he is able to pick out details that would be lost to other people. He also has a personal connection to the case: his daughter Emma was Alli’s best friend and college roommate. Emma was killed in a car accident months earlier, and Jack still harbors a tremendous amount of guilt and sorrow because of her death.

During the course of the investigation, it becomes clear to Jack that whoever is behind Alli’s kidnapping is also connected to a crime that touched his life twenty five years earlier, and, surprisingly, the last conversation he ever had with Emma.

The novel starts with a jaw-dropping twist just prior to President Carson’s inauguration. First Daughter then takes the reader back to the search for Alli as well as points in Jack’s adolescence. All of these events build towards the threat we know is waiting at the inauguration. Flashbacks can be tricky things, and generally I’m not a fan of them as a literary device. If used unwisely, flashbacks can ruin the narrative flow and make the story seem choppy and disjointed. Eric Van Lustbader, however, uses these glimpses of the past very effectively. He masterfully weaves the flashbacks into the main narrative so that rather than disrupting the main story, they enhance it.

I enjoyed the political elements of First Daughter, but the real highlight for me was the variety and quality of the characters. There’s the ultimate corrupt politician in the outgoing President, the disenchanted teenager in Alli, the anguished mother in Lyn Carson, the gangster with a heart of gold in Jack’s surrogate father Gus, all culminating with the broken, grieving father and brilliant investigator in Jack McClure.

First Daughter is a timely political thriller that is sure to excite and surprise readers. Clear some time on your calendar during this election year to enjoy Eric Van Lustbader’s latest offering.

Rating: 8/10

Buy First Daughter:
Indiebound | Powell's | Amazon

I'm very pleased to welcome Eric Van Lustbader to discuss his new book, First Daughter. Thanks, Eric, for sharing your time with me and the readers of Bookish Ruth. Could you tell us a little bit about First Daughter?

First Daughter is a special novel for me because it's very personal in so many ways. Jack McClure, especially, is someone I identify with in a very intimate way.

President-Elect Carson and the current President are two very different politicians. Did real-life politicians inspire or influence these characters at all?

I think the inspiration for the outgoing president is obvious. As for Carson, I took as inspiration my ideal candidate, which would be someone in the Rockefeller Republican mold, that is, a liberal, forward-thinking man.

The outgoing President is never mentioned by name in the book. Why is this?

I didn't want to date the book.

One of the things that most interested me about First Daughter is the fact that Jack is dyslexic. My mother is dyslexic and I'm often amazed at how her mind works. I recognized a lot of her in Jack. Do you have any personal experience with dyslexia? What prompted you to create a dyslexic character?

I wanted Jack to be a damaged person, but I wanted him to more than that -- an Outsider. It seemed to me that someone who saw the world -- and learned about it -- in a different way than most people would make the most impact on readers. I think I was right. Along the way, however, I discovered how wrong my assumptions about dyslexia were. It's far more complex and fascinating than I knew -- and terribly misunderstood, even by people whose children are dyslexic. I myself exhibit a number of traits of dyslexia in the way I learn, process information and think.

Early in the story another character tells Jack, "We all have a secret life, not just you." Jack discovers the truth of that statement in a lot of ways, doesn't he?

His wife says that to him and, yes, it's a loaded statement, one which will guide Jack on his journey of discovery throughout the course of the novel. It is, of course, his daughter who has a secret life he slowly comes to understand.

I really enjoyed the parts of the book that delved into Jack's adolescence. Gus is a great character and becomes a father figure to Jack. Could you tell us a bit about your creative process with Gus?

I honestly don't know how to answer that question. Gus was created wholly from my unconscious. Believe it or not, I never sat down and sketched out his character. He was literally created as I wrote him which, I think, is why he's a most compelling character.

There's a very touching scene where Gus takes Jack to the zoo after hours to show him a marmoset. Why did you pick that animal in particular?

I love marmosets. To me, they're fantastic, mysterious. Looking into their faces I see a wisdom and intelligence that's entirely unknown to human beings. Of course, that may simply be a figment of my imagination!

Although Jack's daughter Emma died months before, she's a very big part of the story. Both Jack and Alli draw a lot of strength from her. Was it difficult to write a character that the reader only meets through the eyes of other characters?

In fact, when I began the novel I never envisioned Emma being such a huge part of the story. Like Gus, she was another character who wrote herself into the novel. This turned out to be extremely personal. My wife and I lost a child before it was born. This was a long time go, but some incidents affect you forever. This was one. I suppose creating Emma as a real character, even though she's dead, was a way for me to work out my long-held grief, to believe that our child exists on some plane unknown to us.

Music plays a large role in First Daughter. How much of your personal taste in music is reflected in the book?

I have very eclectic tastes in music and I'm a restless listener, I'm always searching for new music. So I would say that the music in the novel reflects my deep love of it, my belief that music plays a powerful part in how we grow up. As for the actual artists and songs, I tried to get into my characters heads in order to intuit what they would like, so that the music is an outward reflection of their differing personalities.

If First Daughter were made into a film, who could you see playing Jack?

Ha, that's a good one! Matthew Fox from Lost is someone who immediately comes to mind.

Alli, Emma and Jack were all profoundly affected by writers such as Hunter S. Thompson and William Blake. What writers influenced you as a teenager and young man?

I had many: Besides Thompson and Blake, Adam Hall, John Fowles, Robertson Davies, William Golding, Len Deighton, Ian Fleming, Jack D. Hunter. But the writer who had the most powerful and lasting influence on me is Colin Wilson, especially his seminal work, The Outsider, in which I first began to recognize myself.

You've created a fascinating character in Jack McClure. Will we be seeing more of him in future books? What's your next project?

Oh, yes. I have plans for Jack, Emma and Alli, too. Right now, I'm working on the next Jason Bourne novel, The Bourne Deception. After that, I hope to get to Jack's next adventure.

First Daughter by Eric Van Lustbader goes on sale tomorrow. Click here to watch a video trailer for the book.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Sunday Salon: Penelope Przekop Book Signing

Today I'm doing something a bit different from my previous Sunday Salon posts. Instead of writing about what I read this weekend, I'm writing about what I did this weekend.

Yesterday my mother and I headed off to Borders in Warrington, PA for Penelope Przekop's book signing. Warrington is about an hour away, and I'd only been there once before.

My mother and I are navigationally challenged. It runs in the family; I'm convinced of it. But we had some trusty MapQuest directions and were fine until we got to Warrington. Then the directions became a bit more vague and didn't seem to match up with what we were seeing. We drove around Warrington for awhile, then decided that we were hopelessly lost and needed directions. Many thanks to the helpful folks at the Warrington Borders, who were able to give me correct instructions on how to get to their store. (Warrington Borders: 1 Mapquest: 0.)

We dashed into Borders and started looking for Penelope. She spotted me first and recognized me from the photo on my blog, despite the fact that I showed up in my Clark Kent disguise (my eyeglasses). Clearly, Penelope Przekop is more observant than Lois Lane.

We had a great time chatting as Penelope signed my copy of Aberrations as well as a copy for the giveaway mentioned in my previous post. My mom asked how to properly pronounce Penelope's last name (something I'd been wondering about since I got my copy of Aberrations, but had forgotten to ask) and Penelope explained that although it's spelled Przekop, it's pronounced as though the 'z' and 'e' are reversed: Prezkop. Penelope is very friendly and easy to talk to, and meeting her was a wonderful experience. If you're in Pennsylvania, she's scheduled to do another book signing at The Doylestown Bookshop on September 7th. You can get more information about that event as well as future signings at Penelope's Book Tour Site.

After meeting Penelope, we sat down at the in-store Seattle's Best Coffee for a bit so I could rest. (I have chronic fatigue syndrome, and although yesterday was a pretty good day for me energy-wise, the drive to Warrington had made me a little tired.) After a cool drink, I was ready to explore the bookstore. We took a few pictures near some of the wall displays; this one of me beside the Mark Twain quote rivals the lilac picture as one of my favorites.

My mom had never been in a Borders store before, so I was eager to show her around a bit. I naturally gravitate toward the young adult section in any bookstore, and the Warrington Borders was no exception. I must have been giving off a "kid in a candy store" vibe, because my mother said, "Oh no. I'd forgotten how dangerous it is to take you to a bookstore." Famous last words. The picture above is only half of what I bought; the rest are Christmas gifts for folks who have access to this blog. (And yes, there are more bookmarks than books in that picture. You can never have too many.) I was absolutely delighted to find the Doctor Who Magazine in Borders. It was the first time I'd seen the magazine in a store! Normally I have to order it online.

All in all, a lovely experience. Even the drive home was fun. Although, the next time we head into unfamiliar territory, I need to remember to print the reverse directions. We eventually found Route 113 and knew that would get us home, so we just enjoyed the scenery and sang along to the songs on the oldies station. (I still have "Sweet Caroline" stuck in my head this afternoon.)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Author Interview with Penelope Przekop & Signed Aberrations Giveaway

Penelope Przekop signs a copy of Aberrations at Borders in Warrington, PA on August 16, 2008.  Photo © Ruth R. King.
Today I'm honored to be interviewing Penelope Przekop, the author of Abberations. I reviewed Abberations last month, and it's one of my favorite books of the year.

On your website, you mention that there are a lot of similarities between you and your main character in Aberrations. This must have been a very emotional book to write. Did you discover anything about yourself while writing Aberrations?

Yes, all of my writing tends to center around themes and topics that I’m questioning or struggling with internally. I’m a deep thinker so I’ll likely never run out of material. I’ve yet to decide if that’s a curse or a blessing. I began writing Aberrations as I was settling into adulthood, and questioning many of the choices I’d made both as a teenager and a young adult, and why. Writing Aberrations helped me sort out many of those issues, and to understand the motivation behind much of my own self-inflicted pain during the growing-up process we all go through. Writing Aberrations was quite emotional for me. Once I finished, I suspected that I’d hit on something meaningful because although I’m the author and had read it a thousand times, I still found myself in tears when reading certain passages. I think the more you understand yourself and why certain things happened, you have an easier time of forgiving yourself, as well as others, and moving forward.

Angel has narcolepsy and her condition plays a key part in the book. How much research did you need to do to portray a narcoleptic character?

I spent a significant amount of time trying to fully understand the symptoms and emotional issues related to narcolepsy prior to writing Aberrations. At the time, (nearly ten years ago) there wasn’t a lot of information available in terms of medical text. I read what I could find. Many textbooks contained the same basic information, which focused on the underlying science of the condition. To truly understand it from a personal perspective, I turned to the Internet, which was just blossoming in terms of information sharing. I found a few great forums for people with narcolepsy and spent hours reading their thoughts, feelings, issues, etc. I corresponded with several college students who had narcolepsy. One girl was particularly helpful. I wish I could find her now; her name was Paisley. She read passages from the book and gave me feedback. But it’s important to note that I pulled from what I feel are universal emotions related to feeling different, loneliness, and wanting to be something more than what we are to create Angel’s emotional make-up. These were emotions that I felt as a young adult due to my own aberrations.

One of my favorite parts of Aberrations is a passage where Angel explains that she tries to hide her condition from most people: "I never considered being open about it. I hadn't once stopped to think that other people might have afflictions or issues to hide that equaled mine." I thought this was a very astute observation about human nature. Why do you think so many people feel compelled to keep their own "aberrations" hidden from others?

While there are many truly compassionate people in the world, many people have a difficult time fully putting themselves in another’s shoes. Our own emotions and wounds are so intertwined into who we are that sometimes it’s difficult to believe that our neighbor’s issues could be just as important to them. We all have different perspectives and perceptions regarding what hurts and what’s important. We sometimes get so wrapped up in our own emotions that we can’t see other people struggling. And even when we do, it’s still difficult to accept, in some respects; we also have the desire to be unique. It’s one of the dichotomies of life, I think. On top of that, I think it’s also human nature to want to see the grass greener on the other side. If other people have perfect lives, does that means mine can one day be perfect, too ... and isn’t that what I really want? It gives us hope. Another dichotomy because while I absolutely believe we should all strive to be and have the best, we’ll never reach perfection.

As someone who has done a bit of freelance photography, I was very intrigued by the cloud photo series that Angel's mother produced. How did the idea for that come about?

I’ve always loved clouds. I think they are one of the most beautiful aspects of nature. When in college, I spent a lot of time lying out on the flat Louisiana land, studying and watching clouds. When I relocated to the Northeast in 1991, I missed the perspective of the sky that I had in Louisiana. My love and interest in clouds were one of the many seemingly unrelated topics I threw together to create Aberrations. My creative idea around the clouds seemed to take on a life of its own as I developed the storyline. In the end, they played a much larger role than I imagined they would at the onset. They essentially symbolize mother to Angel. Mother found everywhere, if you think about it, because each cloud was shaped like something ordinary or familiar. And they were soft, beautiful, and overshadowing. Lastly, they were always there.

Carla is one of my favorite characters in the book. In the first few chapters she and Angel have a very rocky relationship, but by the end of the book, their relationship has softened quite a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how you developed Carla's character?

Carla was actually modeled after my husband, who is incredibly strong, wise, and solid. Carla brilliantly sees above the emotional aspects of the situation and understands the facts that need to be addressed. The facts dominate her thinking at the beginning but over time, she softens because love seeps in and tempers her approach. Sometimes we desperately need someone to help us see the facts, even when it’s tough to take. My intent was also to show who Carla was from Angel’s perspective because by showing Carla change through Angel’s eyes, I could illuminate the changes in Angel herself.

Aberrations is set in your hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana. Were any of the places in the novel inspired by places from your youth?

Yes, each place in the novel was inspired by the places of my youth. I actually worked at the LSU Agricultural Center one summer. It was just about the only time in my life that I had a killer tan. The three clubs were modeled after real places. Of all the clubs, I made up the most details, including the name, for The Blue Flower. Although it’s totally unrelated, the idea for the name popped into my head when I was reading a novel by Penelope Fitzgerald called, The Blue Flower. It was so perfect!

The cover of Aberrations is visually striking. Not only is it beautiful, it's also very symbolic of an important scene of the book. How much involvement did you have in the cover design?

Everyone loves the cover; I’ve been asked this question a few times now. I was able to brainstorm with the cover designer about initial ideas, images, and concepts. We were both focused on creating a unique and eye catching cover that would reflect the themes and tone of the novel. We both liked the idea of using some type of blue flower. It seemed unique and would reflect a specific scene in the novel as well as the aberrations of life we all must deal with in some form. As for the hair, we started out thinking about somehow incorporating a braid, which evolved into the hair on the cover. The designer suggested that a braid may influence folks to think of the book as a young adult novel, which was not the intent. The cover designer created numerous designs, which were circulated internally. I was able to see the top five covers, and provide my input. I was lucky because the cover I liked best was also their top choice. It was a fun process and I’m extremely pleased with the outcome. The designer loved Aberrations; she was dedicated to creating a beautiful cover that would inspire people to take a look.

Your book has been out for a little over a month now. What has your post-publication experience been like?

It’s been equally scary and thrilling to finally share the creative vision I labored over for so long. I’m so honored by all the positive reviews and hope they continue. We just kicked off a national print campaign based on the success of the Internet campaign and radio tour. I just signed with an excellent literary agent, Christi Cardenas. Initial sales are good, considering I’m an unknown with a debut novel. Word of mouth is critical in this situation. Everything is pointing in a positive direction so we’ll see what happens.

Do you have any quirky writing habits? A specific time of day that you like to write, a favorite place to write, etc.?

Over the years, I’ve had what I would call “write when the heck you can” writing habits. I’ve written late at night, early in the morning, over my lunch breaks, in waiting rooms, etc. Believe it or not, my husband was the only person who knew I was writing my first novel, which I started nearly seventeen years ago. I didn’t tell anyone about the novel for five years! It was so personal and important to me that I didn’t want anyone to think or say, “Oh sure, everybody thinks they can write a novel.” It still took me quite a few years to gain the confidence to tell people I was a writer, even though it was the most important long-term goal I had. Now, I’m blessed to have more time to write. I hope to develop a great schedule once I delve into my third novel this fall.

What's your next project? Do you have another novel in the works?

I’m hoping that my other completed novel, Boundaries, will be the next on the shelves. As we work to make that happen, I plan to start on a third novel. I’ve completed my research and planning, and am ready to dive in as soon as my 9-year-old goes back to school in September. Hopefully, I’ve got a decent pipeline and there will be more to come!

Many thanks to Penelope to sharing her time with me and providing such thoughtful answers. I had the opportunity to meet Penelope this afternoon at Borders in Warrington, PA. (I'll be posting more about that tomorrow.) Penelope was kind enough to give me a signed copy of Aberrations to give away here at Bookish Ruth.

The rules for this one are going to be a bit different as far as extra entries are concerned. I'm offering more of them than in any of my previous contests:
  1. Enter by leaving a comment on this post.
  2. If you blog about this contest, you'll receive four extra entries.
  3. If you post a comment on my review of Aberrations, you'll receive one extra entry.
  4. Sign up for Penelope's newsletter for two extra entries.
  5. Add Penelope's blog, Aberration Nation, to your blog roll for two extra entries.
You guys are on the honor system for those last two. If you do all five things, you'll receive ten entries for the book. I'll draw a winner at random on August 31, 2008 at 9 PM EST.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Look at What's Coming Soon at Bookish Ruth

Many thanks to J. Kaye's Book Blog for featuring me in her Blog Spotlight segment. She has a wonderful blog, so definitely check her out if you're not already one of her readers. If you're visiting from J. Kaye's blog, welcome! Thank you for taking the time to visit me here.

I'm a bit pressed for time this week, but I have some exciting things coming up here at Bookish Ruth in the near future. Here are just a few of them:
Also, I'm currently giving away a copy of The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton. I loved this book and will be posting my review soon. The giveaway ends on August 20th, so you still have plenty of time to enter!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Olympic Fever

This week's questions: Do you or have you ever read books about the Olympics? About sports in general? Fictional ones? Or non-fiction? Or both?

Do you consider yourself a sports fan?

I was ten years old before I really understood about the Olympics, but once I learned more about them, I was a rabid fan. I even feigned illness so I could stay home to watch the afternoon coverage of 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville. (Sorry, Mom. I didn't really have a fever that day. Our lamp, however, had a temperature of 101.4 before I pulled the thermometer away from it.) I read everything about the Olympics that I could get my hands on: all of the books in my school and public library, Sports Illustrated for Kids, Weekly Reader, and my first-ever issue of Newsweek. I read mostly non-fiction, but later started reading fiction about my two favorite sports, gymnastics and figure skating.

I don't do much sports-related reading now, though. I'm not exactly sure why. I'm not as rabid a fan of the Olympics anymore, although I've been glued to the TV for the gymnastics and swimming.

As for sports in general, I'm a huge fan of Major League Baseball and the NFL. I'm very supportive of both of my hometown teams, the Phillies and the Eagles. I also follow figure skating pretty closely. I don't follow gymnastics as much as I did when I was younger. It's hasn't been the same for me since my two favorite gymnasts, Kim Zmeskal and Shannon Miller, retired. Shawn Johnson reminds me a lot of Zmeskal, though.

So, what about you? Is Olympic Fever running high in your household?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sunday Salon: She's Only Happy When It Rains

The Sunday
Another stormy Sunday for me. We had severe thunderstorms for most of the day, but thankfully no major damage or long power outages. (We lost power for four days two years ago, and last month we were without power for a good nine hours.) I read for most of the day, and wrote my review of The Wednesday Sisters out by hand since I couldn't use the computer.

I managed to read a little over 100 pages in The Heretic's Daughter today, and I finished both First Daughter and The Joy of Spooking earlier in the week. I loved all three. It was so nice to be migraine-free and actually make some forward progress in my To Be Read pile.

The Week in Reviews:
The Silent Gondoliers by William Goldman
What the Dormouse Said by Amy Gash

Don't forget about my giveaway for The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton, which runs until August 20th.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Book Review: What the Dormouse Said: Lessons for Grown-Ups from Children's Books by Amy Gash

What the Dormouse Said by Amy Gash
Children’s books are often dismissed as a lesser form of literature when compared to books aimed at adult audiences. However, children’s literature often contains universal truths that can benefit readers of all ages.

What the Dormouse Said: Lessons for Grown-ups from Children’s Books, is a charming collection of literary quotations. Amy Gash first became interested in children’s books after the birth of her son. She began to seek out good children’s books after her son was old enough to request the same story over and over again. This was an act of self-preservation, one to which many parents can relate. Ms. Gash soon found that not only was she reading children’s books to her son; she was also reading them for her own enjoyment. Along the way, she was able to glean wisdom for adult living from these tales intended for children.

The book covers subjects such as love and friendship, imagination, wisdom, courage, acceptance, nature, character and individuality, growing old and hidden truths. The quotations are from a wide variety of sources: Charlotte’s Web, Mary Poppins, The Water-Babies, Ella Enchanted, The Little Prince, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Goodnight Moon, The Velveteen Rabbit, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Sarah, Plain and Tall; just to name a few. There are wonderful illustrations by Pierre Le-Tan interspersed throughout the book.

I read many of the books quoted in What the Dormouse Said as a child, more of them as an adult, and have discovered many titles that were new to me that I will seek out in the future. It’s a delightful book for anyone who enjoys children’s literature.

I’d like to close my review by sharing some of my favorite quotations from What the Dormouse Said with you:

“Each thing she learned became part of herself, to be used over and over in new adventures.” –Gypsy, Kate Seredy

“Grownups sure do a lot of pretending and call it politeness.” –Miss Charity Comes to Stay, Alberta Wilson Constant

“You saved me once, and what is given is always returned. We are in this world to help one another.” –The Adventures of Pinocchio, C. Collodi

“The Dormouse sulkily remarked, ‘If you can’t be civil, you’d better finish the story for yourself.’” –Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

Rating: 8/10

Buy What the Dormouse Said:
Indiebound | Powell's | Amazon

Friday, August 8, 2008

Contests for the Week of 8-8-08

Booking Mama has an excellent interview with Laurie Viera Rigler and is giving away two signed copies of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict. Enter by August 8th.

Elizabeth is giving away a copy of Far World by J. Scott Savage. Check out her great author interview while you're there! Enter by August 14.

Jen at DevourerofBooks is also giving away an autographed copy of Far World. Enter by August 21st.

Head over to Random Wonder for a chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card. Enter by August 10th.

April at Cafe of Dreams is giving away a signed copy of The Questory of Root Karbunkulus by Kamilla Reid. Enter by August 15th.

The Novel World is hosting her first giveaway for Immortal by Traci L. Slatton. Enter by August 15th.

Blood of the Muse is giving away a signed copy of White Night by Jim Butcher. Enter by August 31.

Mama Bear Reads is giving away a copy of The Questory of Root Karbunkulus by Kamilla Reid. The deadline for entering is August 27th.

The Fashionista Piranha is hosting a huge Neil Gaiman giveaway: a copy of The Graveyard Book, a copy of Coraline, bubble bath, and $25 to the charity of your choice. Enter by August 20th.

Also, don't forget about my giveaway for The Wednesday Sisters!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Gargoyle Giveaway Winner

Congratulations to Karen of Planet Books, the winner of an advance copy of The Gargoyle! Karen, please e-mail your address to ruth at bookishruth dot com so I can send your book. Thanks to everyone who participated. If you missed out on The Gargoyle, you may want to take a look at my next contest. I'm giving away a hardcover copy of The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton.

Book Giveaway: The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton

There are still a couple of hours left to enter my giveaway for The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson, but I'm going to go ahead and unveil the next giveaway now: The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton!

I have a brand new, hardcover copy of The Wednesday Sisters that I'll be giving away on Wednesday, August 20th at 9 PM EST. I really enjoyed this book and will be posting a review in the coming week. One of the things that I really liked about this book was the fact that all five of the main characters were bookworms. I had an instant connection with all of them.

The Rules:
  1. To enter, leave a comment here telling me the name of a character (from any book, any genre) that you've personally identified with. Brownie points if you tell me why you identified with them. I'll feature your answers in a special post after the contest ends.
  2. Blog about this contest to receive three extra entries.
  3. Comment on my review, once it's posted, to receive one extra entry.
Do all three and you'll have 5 chances to win!

A winner will be chosen at random on Wednesday, August 20th at 9 PM EST.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Kaimira: The Sky Village Giveaway Winner Redux

Since I mixed up the dates of the original drawing and wanted to make sure the giveaway was fair to everyone, I drew a winner for a second copy of Kaimira: The Sky Village tonight. Congratulations to Shana of Literarily! Please send me an e-mail at bookishruth @ gmail dot com with your address so I can send your book. Thanks to everyone who participated!

Kaimira: The Sky Village Giveaway...Opps!

Big thank you to legendaryneo, who corrected pointed out that my original post for the Kaimira giveaway had the deadline as August 6th, not August 5th.

In order to be fair to everyone who entered, I'm going to draw a second winner tonight at the originally scheduled time for a hardcover copy of the book. This actually works out rather well because I'll be able to award two copies of this great book; one to Tasses, our winner from last night, and one to a person to be determined later this evening.

I'll draw the second winner tonight at 9 PM EST, so you can still enter if you haven't already. Thanks and sorry for any confusion -- it's been a long week! :)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Kaimira: The Sky Village Giveaway Winner

The winner for my advance reading copy of Kaimira: The Sky Village by Monk and Nigel Ashland is Tasses of Random Wonder! Please e-mail me at ruth (at) bookishruth dot com with your address so I can send out your book. Congratulations, and thanks to all who entered! I'll be drawing a winner for The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson on Thursday night at the same time.

New Releases: The Gargoyle and The White Mary

Both The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson (one of my current reads) and The White Mary by Kira Salak (which I reviewed here) have been released today. Click on either book cover to visit

Tuesday Thingers: Weekly Memes

This week's question: What other weekly memes or round robins do you participate in? Is this the only one? Why Tuesday Thingers and not some other weekly Tuesday meme? Or do you do more than one?

I participate in Tuesday Thingers, Booking Through Thursday and The Sunday Salon. I've thought about participating in others, but the every-other-day schedule really works for me. I don't participate in multiple memes per day because ultimately I want my blog to stay mostly review-centric. I look forward to Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, though; I love getting so many different perspectives on the same subject from other readers.

What memes, if any, do you participate in?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Book Review: The Silent Gondoliers by William Goldman

The gondoliers of Venice were once regarded as the finest singers in the world, but for years they have been mysteriously silent. At the heart of this mystery is a young gondolier named Luigi. Luigi is an incredibly gifted gondolier, able to navigate what other gondoliers refer to as SPLAT Corner with the greatest of ease. However, when it comes to his vocal abilities, Luigi is severely lacking. In fact, his singing is so appalling that the citizens of Venice throw fish at him from their windows. His customers, wary of being pelted by flying seafood during their leisurely gondola rides, soon disappear. His fellow gondoliers, fearing for their own livelihoods, demand that Luigi never work as a gondolier again.

The disgraced Luigi then goes to work in the Gondolier’s Tavern, washing dishes to earn his living. But still he dreams of the day when he can sing his heart out on the Grand Canal. After ten years he saves up enough money to take vocal lessons, but the only instructor who will take him on is a deaf man. Luigi’s dream looks as though it will never be attainable, but an act of great bravery and skill will eventually change how his fellow gondoliers look at Luigi.

This is a fast and enjoyable read with a fair amount of charm, but The Silent Gondoliers doesn’t quite live up the genius of Goldman’s better known work, The Princess Bride. Luigi’s story is not a must-read, but it is a pleasant tale that can be read in under an hour.

Rating: 6/10

Buy The Silent Gondoliers:
Indiebound | Powell's | Amazon

Book Blowout Challenge & July Reading Wrap-Up


I set a goal of 12 books in July, and I ended up with a baker's dozen. I finished my thirteenth book shortly before midnight on July 31st. This puts me at 55 books for the year, so I'm well on my way to my conservative goal of 75 books for the year.

  1. Doctor Who: Wetworld by Mark Michalowski
  2. The White Mary by Kira Salak
  3. Tan Lines by J.J. Salem
  4. What the Dormouse Said by Amy Gash
  5. Aberrations by Penelope Przekop
  6. Kaimira: The Sky Village by Monk and Nigel Ashland
  7. The Ruby in the Smoke by Phillip Pullman
  8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  9. Tales of the Supernatural: Volume 1 by M.R. James (audiobook)
  10. Girl with the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
  11. The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton
  12. A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie
  13. The Silent Gondoliers by William Goldman
Questions from the Book Blowout Challenge:

1. Did you discover a new author?

Several. Only two of the books that I read this month (A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie and The Silent Gondoliers by William Goldman) were by authors that I'd read before.

2. Where was the most unusual place you found yourself reading?

I didn't read anywhere particularly unusual, but I did read in spots that were unusual for me. Normally I do most of my reading in bed before I go to sleep, but I found myself reading downstairs in the living room quite a bit more than I usually would.

3. Did you read more than usual?

A little bit. I read 8 books in May and 9 in June, so 13 in July was a bit more than average. My previous best for a month this year was 12 in January.

4. Did you give up anything in order to read more?

I watched less television, but I can't say that I mourned the loss.

5. If you won the Amazon voucher what would you spend it on?

More books, of course. I want to pick up a copy of The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer since I've been hearing such great things about them on various blogs.

6. Would you like to see a 2009 Book Blowout?

Sure! I had a lot of fun with this challenge and would definitely participate in it again next year.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Sunday Salon: Sickness and Surprises

The Sunday
Between being under the weather for most of this week and trying to catch up on all the things that didn't get done while I was feeling poorly, I haven't had much time for reading this week. (Usually I read voraciously when I'm sick, but since I had a migraine as well, reading was out.) I hope that the new week will offer more opportunities for reading. I'm looking forward to curling up with First Daughter and The Joy of Spooking after dinner.

There were some nice surprises for me this week. I was one of the winners for Bookshipper's Hachette Book Giveaway, so I have 14 brand new books coming my way from the publisher. (I didn't shriek excitedly and scare several cats when I found this out. No, that was clearly another bookish person named Ruth...) I won a copy of The Dangerous Joy of Dr. Sex and Other True Stories from Kelly at The Optimistic Book Fool. From her review, it sounds like a great read. I also won a copy of Surviving Ben's Suicide by C. Comfort Shields, which I'm really eager to read after reading her review and interview with the author.

My blog has undergone a redesign this week. Please take a look and let me know what you think!

I'm running two contests this week, one for Kaimira: The Sky Village and one for The Gargoyle. There's still plenty of time to enter both if you haven't already.

The Week in Reviews:
The Ruby in the Smoke by Phillip Pullman
Aberrations by Penelope Przekop

Happy reading, everyone!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Book Giveaway: The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

For my first giveaway in August (and second this week!), I'm offering an ARC of what promises to be one of the hottest books of the year, The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson. Here's the description from Amazon:

An extraordinary debut novel of love that survives the fires of hell and transcends the boundaries of time.

The narrator of The Gargoyle is a very contemporary cynic, physically beautiful and sexually adept, who dwells in the moral vacuum that is modern life. As the book opens, he is driving along a dark road when he is distracted by what seems to be a flight of arrows. He crashes into a ravine and suffers horrible burns over much of his body. As he recovers in a burn ward, undergoing the tortures of the damned, he awaits the day when he can leave the hospital and commit carefully planned suicide—for he is now a monster in appearance as well as in soul.

A beautiful and compelling, but clearly unhinged, sculptress of gargoyles by the name of Marianne Engel appears at the foot of his bed and insists that they were once lovers in medieval Germany. In her telling, he was a badly injured mercenary and she was a nun and scribe in the famed monastery of Engelthal who nursed him back to health. As she spins their tale in Scheherazade fashion and relates equally mesmerizing stories of deathless love in Japan, Iceland, Italy, and England, he finds himself drawn back to life—and, finally, in love. He is released into Marianne's care and takes up residence in her huge stone house. But all is not well. For one thing, the pull of his past sins becomes ever more powerful as the morphine he is prescribed becomes ever more addictive. For another, Marianne receives word from God that she has only twenty-seven sculptures left to complete—and her time on earth will be finished.

Already an international literary sensation, The Gargoyle is an Inferno for our time. It will have you believing in the impossible.

I have one paperback ARC that I'll be giving away at 9 PM EST on August 7th.

The Rules:
Comment on this entry to enter.
Blog about this contest and receive three additional entries.
The winner will be chosen at random at 9 PM EST on August 7, 2008.

This is the second of two giveaways I'm hosting this week. The first is for Kaimira: The Sky Village and runs until August 5th.

Bookish Ruth has a new address and a new look.

I decided to purchase a domain name for my blog, so now instead of, the address is simply All existing links to the Blogspot address will automatically re-direct to the new address, but if you read my site through an RSS feed, you may want to change to the new address for your RSS reader.

Also, I finally got around to creating a header for my blog, so the site has a bit of a new look. Take a look and let me know what you think!

Missed my last post? I reviewed Aberrations by Penelope Przekop.