Friday, April 30, 2010

Book Review: An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken


An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken, read by the author

first, a personal aside: several years ago my best friend lost her son who was six days old. I heard about this book when it first came out two years ago and while I really wanted to read it, I needed still a little more time. Before this happened to my friend, I could read these kinds of books from a distance, but not anymore, by a longshot.

Novelist Elizabeth McCracken's first son was stillborn. She does tell you right off the bat that she does successfully have a second child, but of course he will never replace her first child. This book is visceral, not just heart-wrenching but like going into your chest with a dull knife, ripping out your heart, jumping up and down on it for a bit, and then pouring salt on it. Rarely has anyone so eloquent written about something so tremendously sad. From my point of view as a bystander to a similar situation, this rang extraordinarily true.

I was initially impressed that the author was narrating this audiobook herself. I had previously listened to The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, and she had a different narrator (although a brilliant one). I thought it could be too hard on her. Unlike Magical, where the narrator's voice occasionally trembled with so much emotion, in Replica, Ms. McCracken keeps a firm grip on her emotions, even as she reads about the most horrible days of her life. At first I felt it wasn't as personal, but in the end, it actually made the narration even more personal. You could feel her biting back her emotions and her ironclad steadiness broke my heart even more, as I could still feel her pain through her stoicism. Sometimes watching (hearing) a person maintain a stiff upper lip through tragedy can be the most heartbreaking thing of all.

I teared up a couple of times while listening to this book, and I am not a person who cries easily. I'd like to thank Ms. McCracken for allowing us to hear her story and share in her sorrow. And I once again am very thankful, as The Mighty Mighty Bosstones say, "Have you ever been close to tragedy or close to folks who have... I never had to knock on wood, but I know someone who has, which makes me wonder if I could, it makes me wonder if I ever had to knock on wood, and I'm glad I haven't yet, because I'm sure it isn't good, that's the impression that I get." That song was running through my mind when the audiobook was over.

This book is a part of the Audiosynced roundup of audio book reviews at Stacked. She'll have a post May 1 with the full list.

Book Beginnings on Friday


Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Becky at Page Turners. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

When I was little, my dad used to tell me, "Will, you can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can't pick your friend's nose." p.3

Gosh, does everyone's Dad say that? I know mine did. So far this YA book is a fun read.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Book Blogger Hop!

It's Friday! Time for another Book Blogger HOP!!
And, tomorrow is Crazy-for-Books's birthday, so let's party a little extra hard today, ok?!

This is for ALL BOOK BLOGGERS (NEW AND OLD) and READERS! Let's make some new friends and have fun! It's FRIDAY!!!
ABOUT THE HOP:
In the spirit of the Friday Follow, I thought it would be cool to do a Book Blogger Hop to give us all book bloggers and readers a chance to connect and find new blogs that we may be missing out on! So, I created this weekly BOOK PARTY where book bloggers and readers can connect to find new blogs to read, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books! It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs that they may not know existed! So, grab the logo, post about the Hop on your blog, and start PARTYING!!

Your blog should have content related to books, including, but not limited to book reviews.

If you start following someone through the Hop, leave a comment on their blog to let them know! Stop back during the week to see other blogs that are added! And, most importantly, the idea is to HAVE FUN!!

I haven't been able to hop the last couple of weeks due to overscheduling but now I am back from my trip to the marathon, etc. Hello new friends! I post reviews, a couple of memes, and on Thursdays I have advice about breaking into the publishing industry.


Enjoy! Glad to meet you!

My Favorite Reads: Bitter with Baggage Seeks Same by Sloane Tanen


My Favorite Reads
Each week I am featuring one of my favorite reads from the past.

April is National Humor Month!
Bitter with Baggage Seeks Same by Sloane Tanen
Summary (from the publisher):
Chickens show off their human side in Sloane Tanen's irresistible dioramas.

With more personality than most people have to spare, New York artist Sloane Tanen's tiny yellow chickens negotiate the tricky modern world, filled with three-headed blind dates, menacing KFCs, playground popularity battles, and annoyingly crowded yoga classes. They perch amid doll furniture, in scenes photographed in glorious color and brilliantly captioned- and their lives will strike you as strangely familiar...

Charming, spiky with off-kilter wit (or waxing jobs gone terribly wrong), and somehow larger than life, these chickens win the hearts of all who behold them.

Why I chose this book:
Not everyone enjoys this humor, but I find Sloane Tanen's chicken dioramas to be laugh-out-loud hilarious. Disturbed? Sure. Sick? Occasionally. Funny? You bet your bippy! Here are some examples:

Anastasia was through making out with Ian. He was never going to change.


Samantha looked around the playground in amazement. Her mother had been right. She really was the smartest and the prettiest.
Maude was peeved. Her 3:30 yoga class was full again. Didn't anybody work in this town?

This above postcard is just to the left of my computer in my cubicle. I find this book (and the sequels) just crazy-funny. To the point where other people in the same room start to worry for my mental health when I am reading them. Be careful if this happens to you. Back away softly, or I will buttonhole you and start reading them aloud to you.
Super random trivia: the author's father Ned Tanen used to be head of Paramount Studios. The girlfriend in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Sloane, is named for her.

A Publishing Reading and Watching List

For those of you who still want more information about what it is like to work in publishing, I thought I'd put together a reading list. This list occurred to me a few months ago when a co-worker begged me to read The Other Side of the Story by Marian Keyes. She wanted to know, as I am a former editor, if this story of a literary agent really rang true to someone who knows what that world is like. I thought it was actually pretty accurate as far as that was concerned. And it reminded me of a couple of others:

The Frog King by Adam Davies
As Long As She Needs Me by Nicholas Weinstock

Both of these books were interesting in that they did really show people being more of a "personal assistant" than an "editorial assistant" which was also my experience (titles don't matter it turns out). Also it was interesting that they were both written by and starring men, as of course the majority of editorial assistants (and Editors) are female. Regardless of the non-publishing plots, I thought they were both accurate enough about publishing, and I was as editorial assistant when I read these.

These kinds of books and TV shows can be really tricky. Just like how I imagine doctors are annoyed watching "E.R." and lawyers are annoyed by "Law & Order", I read (and watch) these with trepidation. I do not watch "Castle", although 10 years ago I did watch "Stark Raving Mad," the very brief TV show where Neil Patrick Harris played the editor of Tony Shaloub's quirky, reclusive, bestselling novelist (who annoyingly lived in the Flatiron Building, where I used to work. That show, like "Veronica's Closet" before it, never thought to make sets that weren't rectangles although purportedly both took place in a triangular building. Let me assure you, I worked there and precious few rooms in that building are rectangles.) I also haven't yet seen "The Proposal", but by far the best publishing movie is "The Last Days of Disco," set in 1979-1980, name-drops real-life publishers, and when there's an editorial problem, the solution is both brilliant, and very ahead of its time. (And apparently, this movie was later published as a novel which is now OP.) I will also admit I really liked the TV show "Stacked" starring Pamela Anderson although that was about a bookstore, not publishing, but as I have already said I think everyone who works in publishing shoud do a stint in a bookstore. But I am not a big fan of "You've Got Mail." Funny trivia: "Stacked" was on Fox, owned by Rupert Murdoch who also owns HarperCollins. So the set for the bookstore was 100% filled with Harper books and promotional pieces. They were almost entirely damaged and defective books. Which is why so many more of them were spine-out on the shelves than is normally done on a TV-show fake bookstore, but conveniently that made it more accurate for how a real bookstore is.

The Devil Wears Prada takes place in magazine publishing, not book publishing, but the two industries are first cousins. I haven't read it though as it hit a little close to home compared to my own job in New York (I have watched the movie version).

Youngblood Hawke by Herman Wouk and No Angel by Penny Vincenzi are fun historical novels about the industry. Not very useful, but entertaining nonetheless.

A colleague recommended Blind Submission: A Novel by Debra Ginsberg, which is about agenting.

What other novels/movies/TV shows about working in the world of publishing should I add to my list?

Stay tuned for info next Thursday on Literary Agents.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Book Review: My Stroke Of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor

My Stroke Of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor, read by the author

The author of this book, Dr. Taylor, is a neuroanatomist, and at the age of 37 (in 1996) she had a stroke. This book is the story of her stroke and recovery. While it was interesting, it was not for me.

She begins with two chapters of anatomy and physiology of the brain, which was starting to be a bit much for this English major (and she spoke too quickly through this section with a lot of medical jargon), but luckily she got into the story of the stroke just then. That part was fascinating. And then I was reconsidering my initial opinion that she should not have recorded her own book. When she had realized finally what was wrong with her and was struggling to get help, she managed to be both poignantly desperate, and also a little bit funny. It took her 45 minutes to remember a phone number and figure out how to work a phone (by matching the squiggles as numbers didn't mean anything to her at that point), only to discover that she couldn't speak! I really felt for her and was on the edge of my seat while she worked at getting help, as she struggled to remember to try to say, "This is Jill, I need help." Her recovery was also interesting, when her mother moved in and let her sleep and quizzed her incessantly in between. As opposed to what is commonly held to be true (anything you don't get back in the first six months is gone forever), Dr. Taylor took eight full years to recover all her knowledge, skills, and personality. Thanks to her background, she was basically a test subject as her and her mother frequently went against standard practices in her recovery. I do hope that her experiences have led to some changes both in the initial medical interventions as well as the subsequent therapy, but to my surprise she never addresses that question.

Finally, she spent a full third of the book discussing how this whole journey affected her emotionally. This section really turned me off. While I am thrilled for her that after the stroke she was no longer perpetually angry and found she could maintain that, which led to her belief that personality traits aren't ingrained in stone and can be changed, I didn't feel that merited the space or importance that it got. A single chapter would have been sufficient, not several. At this point the book changed from a memoir to more of self-help/New Age. She discussed how you can "attract" good feelings and even good events to you through the power of your mind, and how you can push away bad feelings and bad people, which is a theory I personally find highly suspect (a la The Secret) and not worthy of a physician. She's certainly welcome to believe that all she wants, but given that the first two third of this book are highly based in science, I was rather annoyed she'd give a New Age theory such prominence, as her background and the premise of this book will lend this theory more credence than I feel it deserves.

Mostly I was annoyed because I wanted to read a memoir, and it was only that for two thirds. I suppose if I had a better idea going into this book what it was going to be, I'd have liked it more. I should have done a little more homework, as I was interested in this book solely from the author's interviews on NPR, which focused on the beginning of the book. I think others who are fully aware of the mid-book transition in genre will like it more. The author's narration grew on me, and there were pluses and minuses to her reading it herself, but I think it did work well. But I was disappointed.

This book is a part of the Audiosynced roundup of audio book reviews at Stacked. She'll have a post May 1 with the full list.

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Dear Money

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted here, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

Dear Money by Martha McPhee

description (from the publisher):
India Palmer, living the cash-strapped existence of the writer, is visiting wealthy friends in Maine when a yellow biplane swoops down from the clear blue sky to bring a stranger into her life, one who will change everything. The stranger is Win Johns, a swaggering and intellectually bored trader of mortgage-backed securities. Charmed by India’s intelligence, humor, and inquisitive nature—and aware of her near-desperate financial situation—Win poses a proposition: “Give me eighteen months and I’ll make you a world-class bond trader.” Shedding her artist’s life with surprising ease, India embarks on a raucous ride to the top of the income chain, leveraging herself with crumbling real estate, never once looking back . . . Or does she?

With a light-handed irony that is by turns as measured as Claire Messud’s and as biting as Tom Wolfe’s, Martha McPhee tells the classic American story of people reinventing themselves, unaware of the price they must pay for their transformation.

Publishing 6/3/2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays


Teaser Tuesdays

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

"My left brain is doing the best job it can with the information it has to work with. I need to remember, however, that there are enormous gaps between what I know and what I think I know."
My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor

I have no idea what the page number is because I'm listening to it on audio.

Monday, April 26, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


This meme is now hosted by Sheila at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books.

I am in Nashville, as I participated in the Country Music (Half) Marathon on Saturday. As I don't know what kind of internet access I'll have at my parents' house, I am writing this early, so this week is going to be a little more guesswork than usual. I am bringing 4 audiobooks, and at least 1 print book. I am listing the audios under "currently reading" although 1-2 of them likely will be "read" by Monday, and I have no idea what my print book will be.

Books completed last week:
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, #1) by Stieg Larsson, Reg Keeland (Translator)
My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Grayson by Lynne Cox
An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination: A Memoir by Elizabeth McCracken

Books I Still Need to Write Reviews On:
My Stroke of Insight

Up Next:
still focusing on Penguin/Putnam books for April!
The Real Wizard of Oz: The Life and Times of L. Frank Baum by Rebecca Loncraine
The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes
Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler

I hope it doesn't bug anyone that I never seem to actually read my "Up Next" books. Since I rarely know what I will read next until seconds before, I don't try to predict, but I am only listing books on my TBR list that I do plan to get to eventually.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Book Review: Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson


I did not want to read this book. I heard all the hype. Oodles of ARCs were floating around my office before it was published. I must have had 3 at different points, gave them all away. I read the reviews. I heard the raves from friends. I didn't care. It just really, really didn't appeal to me. Plus, I was pretty sure my book club would eventually pick it. And I was right! I was also pretty sure this was excellent, because while I couldn't get over my initial unwant of the book, I also figured this was one of those books that I really find unappealing, I am forced to read for book club, and then I love (the list is long.)
As usual, I put it off until the last minute. My claim for this behavior is that I like to read the book immediately before the meeting due to my atrocious memory which is partly true, but it's also a rebellion against being forced to do things. Sometimes, like when a book is nearly 700 pages, that can backfire. So when I got an email Monday saying that book club was being postponed a week to accommodate a scheduling conflict, I was relieved as I had just started the book Sunday. I was close to halfway through but I wasn't sure I would finish it in 3 nights of reading before bed. Not to worry, because when I got home from work Monday and picked it up, I didn't put it down for 2 1/2 hours. And then I finished it before I went to sleep! Yep, read the whole thing in 2 days. (Yes, I do read fast, thank you.)
Brief synopsis for those living under a rock as everyone on earth seems to have already read it:
Translated from the Swedish, this is the first book in a trilogy originally titled Men Who Hate Women. Sadly, the author died before the books came out. Lisbeth Salander, maladjusted with a horrible childhood, has found a talent for doing research and investigative work and is working for a security/detecting firm in Stockholm. Mikael Blomkvist is a recently discredited journalist, struggling to figure out where it all went wrong and how he can hang onto his struggling magazine start-up. Blomkvist is contacted by an elderly, wealthy industrialist to write a history of his family, while simultaneously investigating the disappearance of his grand-niece, Harriet Vanger, forty years ago.
As promised the first 80 pages are slow going. I don't know if the information there is pertinent in later books (I believe the author originally wrote them all as I enormous book that was later split into three), but I didn't find them at all difficult or problematic as others have - just a tad dry. I would have advised they be shortened considerably, unless of course as I just said, they come to be important in a subsequent book. Once Blomkvist goes out to Hedeby and starts the Vanger investigation, even with long stretches of exposition, it still moves very quickly and the story is fascinating. Once you hit about page 250, it's very difficult to put down. Occasionally the Swedish bits that aren't translated (names of newspapers, news magazines, regions of Sweden) can be a little confusing, and sometimes it was very obvious to me that this was translated for a British, not an American audience. But those details seemed to not be important as I was able to blow past them without any detriment on my understanding.
Lisbeth is a pretty unique character. A lot of people have been describing her as having Asberger's or mild autism, but I think her defense mechanisms and lack of social skills are a direct result of the obviously great abuse she suffered as a child. It's impressive that she still managed to find her talents, and figure out how to translate that into skills. She was very lucky in her first guardian, who helped her get a job and she seems to be integrating into society well now, albeit with still a few issues. I think her meeting Mikael was a stroke of luck for her socializing and he's a good influence on her life. I respected his work ethic and his personal ethics. I wish he was a better parent. I wasn't thrilled with his daughter figuring out that vital clue as that felt very contrived, unlike all the rest of the way the mystery was uncovered. In fact, I think that if you fix that plotting flaw, you could delete the daughter entirely, and no one would notice (again, I don't know if she becomes more important in books 2-3). But these are very minor quibbles.
The book was riveting, absorbing, the kind of book where you sit down to read, then suddenly realize you're sitting in the dark because it's been hours though it felt like minutes. Fast-paced with a lot of action, intellectual but not snobbish, with a cool locked-door mystery, it's no surprise that this book has such wide readership. I'll bet I eventually succumb and read the later books. Book 3, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest comes out on 5/25 in the U.S. The Swedish movie is out in the U.S. and development is starting on an American version. Here is the Swedish trailer (with subtitles:


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Finished marathon!

Just finished my half-marathon. The weather was predicted to be dire: thunderstorms the whole time, ending with tornadoes and hail. So I went prepared! But instead it was great. Not a drop of rain until 3 miles from the end, and then pretty light at first. Not until the last mile was it raining steadily. And the real storm didn't start until after we'd found my parents and were in the car. My marathon partner is a bit skittish about storms so she was practically pulling me the last several miles (plus she's six feet tall so naturally is faster than me. Luckily, I am mouthy and say what I think and frequently was telling her to slow down, and no I didn't think we should start running, and no not now either.) It was fun! And I plan to sit the rest of the day!

Book Review: The Little Brute Family by Russell Hoban


This was one of my family's all-time favorite books when I was a kid. For a long, long time I was very shocked and depressed that it was out of print (but it's by the Hobans! The authors of the Francis books!) but in 2002 it came back to life, yay!

On the one hand, this is a heavy-handed message book: If you are polite and cheerful, as opposed to miserable and angry, you're likely to be happy. But this message is conveyed with such honesty and the Brutes are so charismatic that the message goes down with a spoonful of sugar. At first you don't really blame them for being so unhappy - after all their sand and gravel porridge was admittedly "not delicious" and their heavy kites don't fly and if my crooked sled crashed and flung me headfirst into a snowbank, I'd probably scream too. Thank goodness for Baby Brute! He spotted the little wandering lost good feeling and brought it home. It's amazing what a difference a little "thank you" can do. In Lillian Hoban's wonderful illustrations you can see the look of shock - nay, horror, on Mama Brute's face to hear those words come out of her baby's mouth! It seems like such a novel idea to try eating honey and berries and greens for dinner instead of sticks and stones, and to sing songs around the fire instead of sinking in the pond.

I'm not sure what kinds of critter the Brutes are, but they have such expressive faces. I especially like Papa's three teeth, and Sister does look a bit like Frances, especially in her shy, sweet smile. Their bird feet are absurd and their enormous black noses are hilarious. I love, love, love The Little Brute Family. No children's collection is complete without it.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Book Beginnings on Friday


Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Becky at Page Turners. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

"It happened every year, was almost a ritual. And this was his eighty-second birthday. When, as usual, the flower was delivered, he took off the wrapping paper and then picked up the telephone to call Detective Superintendent Morell who, when he retired, had moved to Lake Siljan in Dalarna."

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

I had to use 3 sentences to make it make sense. It's supposed to be suspenseful and mysterious, and I think it's successful.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Day in the Life of an editorial assitant, Part II

If you missed part one of this post, find it here. I am posting every Thursday about how to get a job in publishing, and since most people think they want to be an editor, here's the inside scoop!


So after months of the basics, while your colleagues and bosses find out your opinion on books and whether or not you’ve got your head screwed on straight, you’ll get your first crack at anything "editorial":
The Slush Pile

This is a sometimes well-managed, other times overgrown pile of unsolicited (unagented) manuscripts that have come through the mail unrequested. The vast majority of these books are never going to get published (sorry to authors out there but it’s true). They ought to be submitting to agents, not major publishers, plus it’s astonishing how many of them submit patently wrong books. A friend of mine worked at a house that only published children’s picture books and adult self-help. 80% of their slush pile was adult novels. If you have the time, you are probably welcome to look through the slush pile. But most of them are barely glanced at while their SASEs are stuffed with form letters (ours weren’t even signed. Other publishers have them signed with a made-up name.) Once in a blue moon something decent will come through the slush pile. Mostly though it’s just funny. Here was my personal favorite:
A proposed biography of JFK Jr., who the author knew personally from when JFK Jr. used to summer in Kentucky (!), and the author knew of JFK Jr.’s homosexuality personally (!) and knew where his illegitimate children are hidden (!). Oh, and the author was writing from prison (!!!). (This was after JFK Jr.’s death.)

You will be at the job 1-3 years before acquiring your own manuscripts. You will need meanwhile to be making agent contacts. Research which agents you want to meet. Start off with a list of books you wish you’d published and find out who agented those. Google is your friend. You will then need to cold-email agents and ask them out to lunch or drinks, then spend the hour talking about what kinds of books you hope to buy. Then you get to read those manuscripts when they start to come in, and reject them. In my experience, I rejected 95% of submissions, and 90% were unpublishable. That’s mostly what you read. Personally, that’s what did me in. I couldn’t keep reading all the bad books.

When you find a book you like, you’ll go tell your boss. They will ask a few other people to read it (maybe someone in Sales or Marketing). If those reports come back good, they will quiz you about a few things such as how to do think this will sell? How many would you print? You will have already told your boss if the author has a platform, an audience, a hook, media contacts. If you’re lucky then your boss will say, “Okay, you can buy this. Offer them $10,000.” You will then have the happiest and most nerve-wracking day of your life. In 2007 Jonathan Karp, Publisher of Twelve at Hachette said that publishing is a corporate form of legalized gambling. 7 out of 8 books fail in hardcover. You can’t be easily discouraged in this field.

Are you perhaps again wondering, where is all the editing? Mostly editors are busy doing other things at work, so all reading and editing is done at home, in your spare time. Being an editor means having a neverending pile of homework for the rest of your life. An editor isn’t looking for any issues with grammar or punctuation, that’s for the copyeditor. Editors should be looking for larger things: characterization, plot, tone, consistency, timing, pacing. It’s great to also be able to do a line-edit, where you do suggest alternate words or phrasings, but these days very few editors have the time to go to that level of editing.

An editor needs to be extremely diplomatic. As you gain experience, you boss will expect you to handle more situations on your own. That means that when your author calls to say their publicist isn’t returning their calls, you need to call the publicist and somehow convince them to do that. When the Art designer designs a jacket that (while beautiful) just isn’t right for the book, you need to explain that to them in a way that doesn’t cause them to go cry (they’re sensitive) and also doesn’t result in them purposefully designing a bad jacket to try to force you to accept the first jacket. Other times, everyone will love the jacket, from Marketing to Sales to your boss to his boss to his boss (publishing is still fairly sexist in the upper ranks and most of upper management is male). But your author will hate it. They will call you crying (they’re sensitive), swearing that this cover will ruin the book and they won’t be able to promote it in good conscience. You will have to convince them to do so, because that jacket isn’t getting redone. You will need to call Marketing and Sales and try to convince them to promote your books among the hundreds they are dealing with, although there’s no budget for it and no platform and no publicity. You will need to persuade your author (who got into this line of work because he/she isn’t a “people person” and likes to sit home alone) that they need to call local bookstores and set up events, call their alumni office, and will need to actually do readings (some might panic over this prospect.) And then of course you need to convince them to happily make the editorial changes you think are crucial. It’s better yet if you can convince them those changes are what they intended all along and are their ideas.

You must be very broadly read. While reading 1000 manuscript pages a week, you have to keep up reading published books from other houses. You need to know what’s going on in the marketplace (which sometimes means reading mega-bestsellers even though you know you won’t like them). Also, when you’ve read a bunch of horrible manuscripts, a mediocre one looks fantastic in comparison. So you need to keep up your outside reading in order to keep your standards up. You need a critical eye and the ability to trust your own judgment.

While all this is added to your plate, the previous duties from my first post are all still in effect. An editor spends most of his/her day on paperwork, meetings, and emails. After all reviews need to be sent out, books need to be submitted for appropriate awards, sales reports need to be run, print runs need to be ordered, books need to be scheduled, copyedits need to be reviewed. It's a tough, unglamorous job. Luckily for us readers, there are a lot of dedicated, talented editors out there. But being an Editor isn't for everyone. Most people who think they want to be an editor would be better off as an agent. More on that later...

My Favorite Reads:Pretty Good Jim's Journal Treasury by Jim

My Favorite Reads
Each week I am featuring one of my favorite reads from the past. April is National Humor month, so this week I have chosen a cartoon collection that was a favorite of mine when I was a young adult.

The Pretty Good Jim's Journal Treasury: The Definitive Collection of Every Published Cartoon by Jim (aka Scott Dikkers) which contains:
  • I Went to College and It Was Okay
  • I Got a Job and It Wasn't That Bad
  • I Made Some Brownies and They Were Pretty Good
  • I Got Married If You Can Believe That
  • I Feel Like a Grown-up Now
Summary (from Goodreads.com):
Five books after the popular comic strip Jim's Journal was first bound, we now present The Pretty Good Jim's Journal Treasury-and it's okay. Actually, this collection is much more than okay. Comprehensive, featuring Jim's life as it progressed (or not) through his first five books, this special edition contains previously unpublished material including Jim in living color. No longer in syndication, the complete works of Jim's Journal will be a definitive must-have collection. College students rave about Jim's Journal, making it one of the most popular Generation X-oriented strips in history. Readers have grown along with Jim, as he moved from copy-store to grocery-store clerk, feigned interest in stamp collecting, faced frequent harassment from phone companies wanting him to switch his long distance service, and finally got married. From the beginning, Jim's message has been "Aren't comics dumb-even this one?" Yet even though it pokes fun at itself, the strip extols the virtues of a slacker lifestyle: Jim has a menial job, a cat, and a few friends. He doesn't do much. In fact, Jim's Journal was slacker before slacker was cool. Postmodern and minimalist, the quirky Jim's Journal has been featured in the book collections I Went to College and it was okay; I Got a Job and it wasn't that bad; I Made Some Brownies and they were pretty good; I Got Married if you can believe that; and I Feel Like a Grown-up Now. In this jam-packed Pretty Good Jim's Journal Treasury, readers will find the same understated and unpredictable style.

Why I chose this book:
To be perfectly honest, I don't actually own this collection, I own the five individual books, but I didn't want to do five posts (plus, that would be a lot about a small, random series of cartoon books no one but me seems to have ever heard of.)

The first book was a gift to me from a co-worker at my first ever "real" job (as a temp receptionist at First Union) one summer in college. It's funny, I barely knew that woman but these cartoons are perfect for me. The best way to describe them is deadpan. There's a pretty small cast of characters: Jim, his roommate Tony, his co-workers at McDonald's: Ruth and Mark. Later he gets a cat named Mr. Peterson, and another roommate named Steve.

It was so amazingly accurate. It's all about the normal, everyday life of an Everyman. The minutiae and details without much (if any) drama or pizazz. For instance:

Panel 1: I sit behind someone in philosophy class who pretend to be taking notes
Panel 2: But she's actually writing a letter to her friend... I can see it.
Panel 3: Once she even raised her hand and asked a question.
Panel 4: But then she went right back to writing her letter.

I used to do that! All the time!

One of the shocking thing about growing up is discovering how boring and mundane adult life is. As a teen you think it's going to be all cocktail parties and dating and exotic vacations, not grocery shopping, bill paying, and watching Good Morning America. You also think that if you go to college, you'll get some high-flying important and challenging job making tons of money. But reality is more like Jim's life: an hourly job in a copy shop. (My first job out of college was bartending.)

I do get that this humor isn't for everyone. It's occasionally contemplative, always quiet, a little snarky, and a lot slacker. But in the '90's, Jim's Journals really spoke to me. I think they'd still be prefect for a college kid, but they're all out of print. I suppose, just like Jim, all of Generation X is growing up.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Beach Week


“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted here, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

Beach Week by Susan Coll

From the publisher:
Ah, “beach week”: a time-honored tradition in which the D.C. suburbs’ latest herd of high school grads flocks to Chelsea Beach for seven whole days of debauched celebration. In this dark comedy, ten teenage girls plan an unhinged blowout the likes of which their young lives have never seen. They smuggle vodka in water bottles and horde prescription drugs by the dozen. Meanwhile, their misguided, affluent parents are too busy worrying about legal liabilities to fret over some missing pills or random hookups.

For Jordan McMillan and her family, though, this rite of passage threatens to become more than just frivolous fun. The teen’s parents, Leah and Charles, might not let their only child go at all. Their marriage is in shambles, their old house is languishing on the market, and the bills are stacking up. With all that stress, it soon seems they’re behaving as irresponsibly as their daughter and her friends.

With the wit of Nora Ephron and the insight of Tom Perrotta, Susan Coll satirizes a new teenage rite of passage, in the process dismantling the lives of families in transition. Beach Week is a hilarious, well-observed look at the end of childhood and the human need to commemorate it—expensively.

Publishing 5/25/2010 by from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

Personal note: I have her first book Acceptance on my TBR pile at home and I loved the Lifetime movie that was made of it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays


Teaser Tuesdays

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

"You didn't have to be a rocket scientist to see that these events were somehow related. There had to be a skeleton in one of their cupboards, and Salander loved hunting skeletons. Besides, she had nothing else on at the moment." p. 271

Does this drag you in? I picked it up the minute I got home and read 250 pages solid. I still have 100 pages to go and am trying to figure out if I can finish it tonight without being too tired to work tomorrow!

Book Review: Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home by Rhoda Janzen, Hillary Huber (Narrator)


Boy, Rhoda Janzen has bad luck. The schadenfreude alone would be reason to read this memoir, but luckily she also has a sense of humor and a way with words. I hope I'm not giving away too much but you have to or else there's no plot summary at all. Rhoda grew up Mennonite but as an adult, she strayed far afield, becoming a college professor (Mennonites do not approve of higher education), marrying an atheist, not having children. Then she has a medical issue, and the procedure does not go well. To her surprise, her husband is great at nursing her back to health. Then he leaves her for a guy named Bob that he met on gay.com. A week later, Rhoda is in a terrible car accident. Unable to really get around (and unable to afford her house payments alone), she moves back in with her parents, temporarily. Which means she becomes reimmersed in Mennonite culture.

Most of us are probably pretty unfamiliar with the Mennonites. They are not the Amish - in fact the Amish split with them centuries ago because the Mennonites were so liberal - but liberal is not a word anyone would use to describe them. Rhoda's church had an outhouse. Her mother had grown up wearing clothes made from flour sacks. Rhoda and her first boyfriend in high school dated for a year without even French kissing - because they had no idea it existed. As someone who has lived fully in the secular world for over 20 years, she is the perfect person to introduce us to Mennonite culture. Also it's refreshing that she didn't have any great falling out with the religion herself - it's just not for her, but she respects her parents' beliefs and still likes the food and hymns.

Throughout the narrative, as small incidents of everyday life are conveyed, Rhoda is healing both physically, and emotionally. We get details of her tumultuous life with her artistic, bipolar husband. Returning home was obviously soothing to her soul as well as her body. And her mother is hilarious. Hilary Huber does a good job is giving the different characters different voices (although all fairly nasal though that's not her normal voice), but Rhoda's mother's voice is the best. The slightly childish aspect of the tone matches up perfectly to her upbeat, effervescent personality.

There is an explanation of the Mennonites at the end of the book.

This book is a part of the Audiosynced roundup of audio book reviews at Stacked. She'll have a post May 1 with the full list.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Book Review: Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography by David Michaelis

This exhaustive and thorough biography by the author of N. C. Wyeth certainly leaves no stone unturned. Yes, it was authoritative and comprehensive, but I think taking some pruning shears to it would have improved it a bit. That said, the voluminous information did have an interesting result. The author's sympathy for Mr. Schulz is very obvious despite his best attempts at being impartial. However because he gives you all the info, not just the details that support his view of Sparky, you do have enough to form your own opinion. Which I did. To Mr. Schulz's chagrin.

He grew up bordering on middle class, but in the depression. His father though managed to keep the family together and housed and clothed while other families did much more poorly. Perhaps only having one child was a help. When Sparky was in high school, his beloved mother died after a painful bout with cervical cancer, just as he was being shipped off to boot camp. Luckily he managed both to have a talent for sharp-shooting, and was tapped to train subsequent fresh recruits that allowed him to say stateside a long time, and go to Europe during a later, safer period than his peers. He had gone to correspondence school for art, and after the war he got a job at the same school where he worked alongside a young man named Charlie Brown. Dogged determination and an inability to give up finally did lead to his lifelong success with "Peanuts". But meanwhile, he was a black hole of emotions.

No one could ever convince him they loved him. He was both overly self-deprecating yet full of himself. When in his 3rd year of syndication he didn't win the Rube Goldberg Award (cartooning's Oscar), he got up and walked out in the middle of the dinner. After a while, it's exhausting listening to his constant, neverending whine of "Nobody loves me, I'm not a real artist, oh this little cartoon? Why I just threw this old thing on." Eventually I wanted to shake him and tell him to grow up. He takes no responsibility for anything in his life. he wants a big family, but refuses to parent his children. He accepts more and more licenses for this products, but leaves all the bill-paying to his long-suffering wife. He constantly accepts speaking engagements and cancels them at the last minute. He's resentful when people ask if he's really Charlie Brown. But he is. And it's not the mopey-ness I'm referring to, but the fact that he's forever age six. He's still undeniably a genius, but he's also a jerk. He was very lucky to marry such a dynamo as Joyce but he never appreciated her. He resented the very few times she tried to get him to act like an adult, and he acted out when she did so. He held resentments and grudges until the end of time. He never got over anything.

It was a fascinating story. I'm actually a little glad he's a jerk because otherwise he's a holy roller, teetotalling goody-goody, and that would make for a seriously boring biography. I love the cartoons sprinkled throughout (and they are pertinent to the immediately preceding paragraph where they appear). A couple that are important and explained in great detail don't appear and I don't know why (such as the very last cartoon.) I wish there had been more explanation of his impact on cartooning today, and how he influenced and impacted modern cartoons, but that was kept pretty superficial. We are told he's really a mentor for Lynn Johnston (the creator of "For Better or For Worse"), but later publicly lambastes her when the family dog in her strip, Farley dies. We aren't really told of Lynn's reaction or why she forgives Schulz his arrogant criticism. He does obviously resent the success of "Garfield," but we're never told of anything that really comes of that. Speaking as someone who came of age in the 1980s and did own every Garfield book and all the stuffed animals, I perhaps had a slightly different perspective. But I did also read all the Peanuts compilations and my parents had the Happiness is a Warm Puppy books too, so I have read the entire Schulz oeuvre too. Schulz's childhood is examined with a microscope (you're nearly halfway through the book before he gets a cartoon published) but his last 20 years were blown by in what felt like as many pages.

It was informative and well-written. Schulz is not nearly as sympathetic a character as he thinks he is. Luckily, Michaelis has gone to great lengths to show all the sides of this genius man-child.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


This meme is now hosted by Sheila at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books.

Books completed last week:
Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography by David Michaelis
Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home by Rhoda Janzen

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, #1) by Stieg Larsson, Reg Keeland (Translator)
Books I Still Need to Write Reviews On:
both above titles, will go up later this week

Up Next:
I am still going to be trying to read Penguin/Putnam books for April, to support them in their battle against Amazon.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green
Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
A Brave Vessel: The True Tale of the Castaways Who Rescued Jamestown and Inspired Shakespeare's The Tempest by Hobson Woodward

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Top 100 Picture Books

Last week I posted the list of the Top 100 Children's Books, which was for middle reader books. I found there was a list the year before of the Top 100 Picture Books, as determined by Betsy's poll on the Fuse #8 blog at School and Library Journal which is here. I put the ones I've read in bold. I've read 65/100* (bold), so more than the Middle Reader list but I thought it'd be more. Luckily with picture books, I should be able to take care of this list more quickly.

#1: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (1963)
#2: Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (1947)
#3: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (1979)
#4: The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats (1962)
#5: Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems (2003)
#6: Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey (1941)
#7: Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson (1955)
#8: Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans (1939)
#9: Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag (1928)
#10: Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems (2004)
#11: The Story of Ferdinand by Monroe Leaf, ill. Robert Lawson (1936)
#12: Good Night Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann (1994)
#13: Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey (1948)
#14: The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka, ill. Lane Smith(1989)
#15: Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes (1996)
#16: Owl Moon by Jane Yolen (1987)
#17: Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina (1947)
#18: In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak (1970)
#19: Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney (1982)
#20: George and Martha by James Marshall (1972)
#21: Bark, George by Jules Feiffer (1999)
#22: The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone, ill. by Mike Smollin (1971)
#23: Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban (1964)
#24: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault, ill. Lois Ehlert (1989)
#25: The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton (1942)
#26: Corduroy by Donald Freeman (1976)
#27: The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter (1902)
#28: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst, ill. Ray Cruz(1972)
#29: Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig (1969)
#30: Brown, Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See? by Bill Martin Jr., ill. Eric Carle (1967)
#31: No, David by David Shannon (1998)
#32: Click Clack Moo, Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin, ill. by Betsy Lewin (2000)
#33: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi and Ron Barrett (1978)
#34: Olivia by Ian Falconer (2000)
#35: Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel, ill. Blair Lent (1968)
#36: Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka, ill. Lane Smith (1992)
#37: Eloise by Kay Thompson, ill. Hilary Knight (1955)
#38: Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion, ill. by Margaret Bloy Graham (1956)
#39: The Napping House by Audrey and Don Wood (1984)
#40: Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton (1939)
#41: The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant, ill. Stephen Gammell (1985)
#42: Curious George by H.A. Rey (1941)
#43: Tuesday by David Wiesner (1991)
#44: Strega Nona by Tomie de Paola (1975)
#45: The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg (1985)
#46: Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt (2006)
#47: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff (1985)
#48: The Big Orange Splot, by Daniel Pinkwater (1977)
#49: King Bidgood is in the Bathtub by Audrey Wood, ill. Don Wood (1985)
#50: Black and White by David Macaulay (1990)
#51: Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg (1981)
#52: Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard, ill. James Marshall (1977)
#53: The Snowman by Raymond Briggs (1978)
#54: The Three Pigs by David Wiesner (2001)
#55: The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper, ill. George & Doris Hauman (1961)
#56: Frederick by Leo Lionni (1967)
#57: Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin, ill. Harry Bliss (2003)
#58: Flotsam by David Wiesner (2006)
#59: Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears (1975) by Verna Aardema, ill.Leo and Diane Dillon (1975)
#60: Chicken Soup With Rice: A Book of Months by Maurice Sendak (1962)
#61: Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers (2005)
#62: The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack (1933)
#63: Traction Man is Here!, by Mini Grey (2005)
#64: “I Can't,” Said the Ant: A Second Book of Nonsense by Polly Cameron (1961)
#65: Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner (2003)
#66: Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann (1995)
#67: Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni (1959)
#68: The Arrival by Shaun Tan (2006)
#69: We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen, ill. Helen Oxenbury (1989)
#70: Miss Fanshawe and the Great Dragon Adventure by Sue Scullard (1986)
#71: The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch, ill by Michael Martchenko (1980)
#72: The Little Brute Family by Russell Hoban, ill. Lilian Hoban (1966)
#73: The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant (1933) by Jean de Brunhoff
#74: Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown (1942)
#75: Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss (1940)
#76: Zoom at Sea by Tim Wynne-Jones, ill. Eric Beddows (1983)
#77: The Library by Sarah Stewart, ill. David Small (1995)
#78: How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
#79: Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm, by Alice and Martin Provensen (1974)
#80: The Jolly Postman: or, Other People's Letters by Janet Ahlberg (1986)
#81: Possum Magic by Mem Fox, ill. Julie Vivas (1983)
#82: Who Needs Donuts? by Mark Alan Stamaty (1973)
#83: The Lorax by Dr. Seuss (1971)
#84: Chester's Way by Kevin Henkes (1988)
#85: Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats (1964)
#86: Yoko by Rosemary Wells (1998)
#87: Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes (2004)
#88: Stellaluna by Janell Cannon (1993)
#89: A Hole is to Dig: A First Book of First Definitions by Ruth Krauss, ill. Maurice Sendak (1952)
#90: Not a Box by Antoinette Portis (2006)
#91: Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures With the Family Lazardo by William Joyce (1988)
#92: Swimmy by Leo Lionni (1963)
#93: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein (1964)
#94: The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Audrey and Don Wood (1984)
#95: The Gardener by Sarah Stewart, ill. David Small (1997)
#96: The Very Quiet Cricket by Eric Carle (1990)
#97: Where Is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox, ill. Judy Horacek (2004)
#98: Anatole by Eve Titus (1956)
#99: Little Pea by Amy Krause Rosenthal, ill. by Jen Corace (2005)
#100: Go Away, Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley (1992)
#101: More, More, More Said the Baby: Three Love Stories by Vera B. Williams

* I updated 7 of these after my mother pointed out we had read them when I was a child, I just have a bad memory.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Book Review: My Darling, My Hamburger by Paul Zindel

Somehow I missed this book when I was growing up, and I don't really know how frankly.

This is the story of two best friends, seniors in high school, Liz and Maggie. Liz is glamorous and beautiful and has a boyfriend, Sean. Maggie isn't as pulled together, is a little more bookish and reserved. Liz sets her up with Dennis, a friend of Sean's. As Maggie starts feeling a little more confident and her relationship with Dennis gets off the ground, Liz starts to spiral out of control. Her bad home life with her controlling,mean step-father and non-entity mother pushes her into getting more involved with Sean, until she's in trouble.

It's amazing how Mr. Zindel was able to get into the heads of two teenage girls so accurately. While in some ways this book does have some Afterschool Special themes and lessons (which I normally don't like), it does handle it fairly, not manipulatively. And the ending was realistic. I think most readers will identify with Maggie. She was a very good friend. While initially she was the lucky one, to have a beautiful popular girl be her friend, in the end she was a better friend to Liz, even with the consequences. That's the true lesson (not the potential bad consequences of sex, which superficially seems to be the lesson) of this novel,and that's what I just loved about it. In our lives, we will be in situations with friends where we have to make choices, and Maggie proves a good model to all young women.
This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.
It also finishes up my Shelf Discovery Challenge, yay!

Friday, April 16, 2010

It's Friday! Time for another Book Blogger Love Fest HOP!!

From Jennifer at Crazy-For-Books, our Book Blogger Hop Host:

It's Friday! Time for another Book Blogger Love Fest HOP!!

ABOUT THE HOP:
In the spirit of the Friday Follow, I thought it would be cool to do a Book Blogger Hop to give us all bookies a chance to connect and find new blogs that we may be missing out on! So, I created this weekly BOOK PARTY where book bloggers and readers can connect to find new blogs to read, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books! It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs that they may not know existed! So, grab the logo, post about the Hop on your blog, and start PARTYING!!

Your blog should have content related to books, including, but not limited to book reviews.

If you start following someone through the Hop, leave a comment on their blog to let them know! Stop back during the week to see other blogs that are added! And, most importantly, the idea is to HAVE FUN!!

OPTIONAL TWIST:
On your blog hop post, tell us about some of the other great blogs you've found while Hopping around!

DISCLAIMER:
The Hop isn't just for you to throw your link in there and not visit any other blogs. It's all about networking and finding new blogs that are of interest. So, in the spirit of the Hop, try to make some time to visit other blogs and don't post your link if you are not planning on visiting other blogs in the Hop that week. This is a weekly event, so if you don't have time this week, that's fine! We'll see you next week!

On a personal note, this is the first time I get to list myself as (Old)! I am now both more than 3 months old, and have more than 50 followers, yay! Nice to see you all! Hope you find somethign here you enjoy.

Book Review: The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett

Fun fun fun! It is best to read this book with a martini but as I have no vermouth, I drank a Tom Collins. It's funny that this book takes place in the 1930s during the depression, which is also during prohibition, and yet the main characters, Nick and Nora Charles, are fabulously wealthy and drink excessively. (Its true the book was published in 1933 which is the year prohibition was lifted, but that means it was written in 1932 and the drinking during prohibition amusement was intentional.) In fact, they drink with cops several times.

Nick Charles used to be a private detective. A case he worked on several years ago has resurfaced as his client's secretary has been murdered and he has disappeared. Nick does not want to get involved, but it happens to him regardless of whether he wants it too. It doesn't hurt that Nora is intrigued by the whole thing.

I don't want to give too much away, but it's glamorous, decadent, and hilarious. It's one of those books that makes you kick yourself for not having read it sooner, when you finally get around to it. By the way, the movies are also excellent. It's been a while so I don't recall how closely they cleave to the plot and language of the novel, but the tone and characterizations were spot-on.

Book Beginnings on Friday

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Becky at Page Turners. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

"The year I turned forty-three was the year I realized I should have never taken my Mennonite genes for granted."

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home by Rhoda Janzen

(It's not as easy to do this meme with an audiobook, but luckily I found an excerpt of the first chapter on bn.com.) Poor Rhoda is at the beginning of a broad stroke of bad luck, her health issues only being the tip of the iceberg, but influencing some of the rest. Luckily, she has her sense of humor and her family, even if they don't always see things eye to eye.