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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Book Purchases/Confessions: April



YAY! I made it through my first month without buying any new books!!


Now, I by no means didn't have book acquisition. I got a ton of books from the Friends of the Library sale. For every hour I volunteered, I got a credit to use towards buying books. So no money left my pockets but books did enter my house. But this isn't about not acquiring books - it's about not PAYING for books. I am broke and on a budget and need to conserve my cash.


There is an exception. A couple of months ago when I thought I had a new job (long story) that would involve a long commute, I did rejoin Audible, and so I am paying for Audible again which I guess means I have in fact paid for books the last 3 months. Darn it! So April wasn't quite as perfect as I thought it was! And that almost means I underestimated the last 2 months' purchases too (I only just now downloaded all 3 books, which is why I didn't think of it before.)


So, I still have room to improve for May. I have now put my account on hold, which means I should be clear on this point for the next 3 months. But I am doing better!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Book Beginnings on Friday : Bossypants



Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Katy from A Few More Pages. 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.


Bossypants by Tina Fey


"My brother is eight years older than I am. I was a big surprise."



An appropriate first line for a funny memoir!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

It's a Present! No, that's not what I mean by Book Packagers




My brother-in-law used to work for a book packager. The funny thing was, he didn't know that's what it was called, even when he worked there, until he explained the job to me and I'm the one who told him what his job was.

A book packager puts a book together for a publishing house. These books can be religion, children's, crafts, teen series, all sorts of things. Teen series are the most famous packaged books, such as The Beacon Street Girls, the Clique books, Sweet Valley High, and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, going all the way back to Nancy Drew. A packaging company will come up with a book concept, research and hire a writer (who normally is paid a flat fee and not paid a royalty), they will do editing, layout, copyediting, proofreading, jacket design, and they will sell a finished product to a publishing house (sometimes the publishing house has contracted with a packaging company to put a book together, also.) Sometimes the publisher prints the book, sometimes the packager does. Mostly the publisher catalogs the book, sells it to the marketplace, and fulfills orders. The customers have no idea that certain books in a publisher's catalog are packaged, as they appear the same as the books the publisher puts together themselves.

Packagers need most of the same people - editors, designers, copyeditors, marketers - as publishing houses. They're just companies you've likely not heard of. Some of the bigger packagers are 17th Street Productions, Alloy Media, becker&mayer!, Quirk Publishing, MTM Publishers, Amaranth, and Spooky Cheetah.

Why are some books packaged? They might have a very marketing-heavy component, such as a TV-show tie-in, they might be very difficult and complicated to put together, with multiple authors and very design-heavy components, such as For Dummies books, or licensed books with a lot of rights clearances. A book that might be hard to put together, hard to conceptualize, is a much easier sell when a packager can come to a publisher to sell them a finished product, and all the publisher has to do is say yes, and sell it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

“Waiting On” Wednesday: In the Garden of Beasts


“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:

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson

Description from Goodreads:

Erik Larson has been widely acclaimed as a master of narrative non-fiction, and in his new book, the bestselling author of Devil in the White City turns his hand to a remarkable story set during Hitler’s rise to power.

The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history.

A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, and the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the “New Germany,” she has one affair after another, including with the surprisingly honorable first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first-person testimony, her father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate. As that first year unfolds and the shadows deepen, the Dodds experience days full of excitement, intrigue, romance—and ultimately, horror, when a climactic spasm of violence and murder reveals Hitler’s true character and ruthless ambition.

Suffused with the tense atmosphere of the period, and with unforgettable portraits of the bizarre Göring and the expectedly charming--yet wholly sinister--Goebbels, In the Garden of Beasts lends a stunning, eyewitness perspective on events as they unfold in real time, revealing an era of surprising nuance and complexity. The result is a dazzling, addictively readable work that speaks volumes about why the world did not recognize the grave threat posed by Hitler until Berlin, and Europe, were awash in blood and terror.

Publishing May 10, 2011 by Crown.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays: Bossypants




Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading

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!

Bossypants by Tina Fey p. 31


"'Defective' was a big word in our house. Many things were labeled 'defective' only to miraculously turn functional once the directions had been read more thoroughly."


Tina is talking about her father here, who has just thrown the rented rug cleaner out the back door, which his wife had warned him never worked.

Book Sorting Funny!




So you all know I've been helping sort books for the Friends of the Library book sale which starts Thursday, in case any of you are in the Charlotte area.


As a former bookseller, and in fact a former shipping & receiving coordinator, I used to sort all the books coming into a B&N superstore for a year, and I also shelved for the year before that. I am very good at sorting books. Not everyone has my knowledge though of books (in fact, that's one of my best assets as I really know many thousands of books off the top of my head.) I wasn't at all surprised to find Eat, Pray, Love and Marley and Me in fiction instead of memoirs, but some of the missorted books really made me laugh, although I could see how they made perfect sense to someone unfamiliar with the book. A few of my favorites:

Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl found in Science.
(it's a novel)

Bad Land: An American Romance by Jonathan Raban found in Romance.
(it's a history of the American West)

The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George found in History.
(it's a novel)


I'm sure there are other books like these that have titles that encourage misshelving. Can you think of others I should be on the lookout for before the sale starts? Have you seen books similarly humorously misshelved? For instance, I wouldn't be at all surprised to find The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano in math/science (it's a novel.)

By the way, I walked over 10,000 steps sorting books for 6 hours. And I wasn't even the primary runner! For the last 3 hours I worked with a friend and mostly I sorted and she took the books to their sections. Excellent workout!








Monday, April 25, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


This meme is now hosted by Sheila at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books. So exciting - I was behind on my reading for the year but this week I caught up!

Books completed last week:
Critical Care: A New Nurse Faces Death, Life, and Everything in Between by Theresa Brown
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
The Big Oyster: New York in the World: A Molluscular History by Mark Kurlansky
John Adams by David McCullough (audio)
Shogun: A Novel of Japan by James Clavell
I know these two have been on my list forever, but I really am making progress on them! I am now 1/4 through John and 1/3 through Shogun.

Up next:
Little Bird of Heaven by Joyce Carol Oates
Catch Me If You Can by Frank W. Abagnale
Bossypants by Tina Fey

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Porn for Women: the Book


Saturday I worked all day at helping prepare for the Friends of the Library sale. I was hot, tired, dirty, and I come home to find my boyfriend has taken out the trash, done my laundry, and was folding it. It immediately reminded me of this book. So hilarious, and so true! Neither of the below models features my actual boyfriend, but this was very similar.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Book Review: The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis


This book is a combo of sorts. The first half of the book is a series of vignettes about Kenny, a 10-year-old in Flint, MI in 1963, and his older brother Byron, little sister Joey, and his parents and classmates. Byron is turning into a bit of a hooligan, but at the same time he is protective of Kenny who's considered a nerd. And then halfway through, the book makes a bit of a turn. In order to get Byron away from bad influences his parents decide to send him to Birmingham, to his grandmother's for the summer, and maybe the whole year if he doesn't shape up. So the whole family drives across the country, and they decide to spend some time in Birmingham. While there, Kenny gets in an accident, and also the events of the Civil Rights movement hit close to home.

The book really captures what life is like for a 10-year-old. The era didn't scream out at me, which is good as it won't feel too foreign to kids today. It's also pretty funny. I laughed out loud when Kenny said the problem with playing dinosaurs is fighting over who gets to be the American dinosaurs and who has to be the Nazi dinosaurs. Mr. Curtis is great at seeing through the eyes of a child, including scary things, and showing them how a kid would cope with them. All the characters were well-drawn and the story is smoothly told. It's a book that will keep you thinking for a long time.

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

Friday, April 22, 2011

Book Culling



I have donated nearly 250 books to the upcoming Friends of the Library sale. Now not all of them were mine - I did also take donations from my book club. But at least 100 were, maybe more. And thanks to the size of my donation, I was interviewed by the local paper. One question I was asked is how I decide what to get rid of? Good question. He also asked how many books do I have? I estimated 1000. That impressed him. (I have a friend with 10,000 books in her house - I think my book collection is quite reasonable.)


Well, due to the sheer volume of books in my house, I have had a longstanding policy of getting rid of books as soon as I read them. Naturally, there are oodles of exceptions. My favorite authors are exceptions (Jill McCorkle, David Sedaris, Pat Conroy, Anne Tyler, Tom Franklin, Norma Klein) and sometimes new books I read are so awesome they also have to stay (such as The Wilder Life) but those truly have to be the best of the best. Now I know some people would be uncomfortable with this rule, but I don't just throw them out or sell them to a used bookstore or even donate them willy-nilly. Usually I find them a good home. I read a book and at the end I say to myself "K would love this," and I put it aside for her. The FoL sale though was an exception to that usual policy (except for a couple of books that have been set aside for others, but only a couple.)


I also keep all Jane Austen-related books. Although I don't read them. I know that's weird. I like to have them. I have almost a whole shelf of them! But I worry they'll be so disappointing that I just don't even want to try them. I have read 2 over the years, and both were pretty good, but I just can't shake that feeling.


And I have all my English books from college (and most from high school). Well, I did until I finally decided to get rid of some for this sale. I had a matching set of the complete works by Byron, Keats, and Coleridge. I hated British Romanticism, poetry in particular but at the time I thought these books one day would look nice in my living room and make me look cultured and educated. But now I know that I don't need British poets I hate to make me look smart. I am smart and my old school books were hidden away in an upstairs bedroom where the old beat-up paperbacks didn't look shabby and cheap. So those are now gone. Along with the Cambridge Guide to the English Language.


So this opens up all my English books for potential culling. But this is a new notion for me, so I couldn't bring myself to dig deeper, although I still have a week before the FoL sale in case I want to donate more. There are other old school books I hated on those shelves, like Billy Budd and David Copperfield. I don't need to hang onto them. I never refer back to them. The odds of me rereading them are slim to none. And if I were desperate to reread after getting rid of them, well the great thing about public domain classics is that you can buy a new one for only about $5.


I have managed to whittle down my two stacks of books in the living room to one! I am working now on getting that second pile onto shelves. Maybe I can bring myself to get rid of more of the school books. They'd be very easy to deal with at the FoL sale as I know any of those books will go straight to the Classics table, so no hard sorting involved. It'll be tough - I've had some of these books for over 20 years. But I think it's time.


Do you keep all your books? What do you get rid of? How to do get rid of them? Donate, friends, sell? Should I get rid of my high school and college classics? Should Sir Gawain and Gilgamesh find new homes?

Book Beginnings on Friday: The Glass Castle



Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Katy from A Few More Pages. 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 Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls


"I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a Dumpster."


Such a terrific first line - I actually read it out loud to my boyfriend. It definitely sets the right tone for the book, letting you know right away that Mom isn't quite right and that surprising and harrowing things are to come.

Book Review: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls


Yesterday I was talking with a friend about crazy family members, and I said, "It could be worse! Have you read The Glass Castle?" Schadenfreude is one of my favorite things - feeling better about myself by seeing other people's misfortunes, and this memoir is the Queen of Schadenfreude.

Ms. Walls at age 3 was sent to the hospital with burns over half her torso, that she got when her dress caught on fire while she was cooking hot dogs for herself for lunch. She was 3 and using the stove unsupervised. And her parents are more upset that one of the nurses gave her a piece of gum. Things go downhill from there. There are more fires to come (yes plural), along with starvation, evictions, alcoholism, molestation, homelessness, and much more craziness. Her mother is an artist who doesn't believe in disciplining or coddling her children (or feeding them). Her father is a drunk who can't hold a job and thinks he's going to find gold. Her sisters and brother are in this insane situation with Jeannette, and they fend for themselves the best they can, sometimes eating margarine, working whenever they can from very young ages, and planning to get out of the house as soon as they can. Meanwhile, you get to watch the train wreck that is their childhood. From Phoenix to San Francisco to West Virginia, the problems accumulate as they go along, and are all the more frustrating for how easily they could be alleviated simply if Dad stopped drinking (and imagining that a get-rich-quick scheme is the best solution to life) or if Mom would just work (she's a certified teacher) and stop giving Dad money for alcohol and cigarettes.

From the very first paragraph you know that Jeannette does get out (and you suspect her siblings do as well) therefore the horribleness of her childhood is cut a bit, knowing she survives. And the Walls children certainly epitomize resiliency, but it's a shame they had to be quite so resilient. As I was reading I kept thinking, How can this get worse? And then it did.

Ms. Walls is a fantastic writer. I felt like I was there with her (although phenomenally grateful that I wasn't!) and the writing was so smooth and effortless. I hated the few times I had to put down the book, I ripped through it, constantly bugged my boyfriend by reading sections to him, and thoroughly loved this book. Riveting and evocative, I couldn't tear myself away from this memoir of the childhood from hell.

I have owned this book for so long I honestly don't remember where I got it. I could have bought it for book club, or gotten it free from a publisher many years before I reviewed books.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Book Review: Critical Care: A New Nurse Faces Death, Life, and Everything in Between by Theresa Brown


Luckily Ms. Brown is not only a nurse, but she also used to teach writing on the college level. This is not a straightforward memoir with a solid-line narrative, but instead it's a series of long vignettes about her experiences changing to a nursing career later in life.

Just like any job, there are difficult people to work with and bad work environments. She also talks about heartbreaking patients, the difficulty of learning all the medicine, and some truly gross situations (don't read this book while eating!) She works in oncology (cancer) so naturally some parts are sad. At one point (not at work) she is injured which slows down her training, but ultimately makes her a better nurse.

She is passionate about her career change choice, she's a good writer, and she relates stories well, but it just didn't grab me. I think the fact that there wasn't a through-narrative created some distance, and didn't get me as emotionally invested. Also, while she does mention her family a couple of times, the book is 95% about her work, and doesn't feel like it's about her whole life. The patients, the other nurses and doctors all just come and go, again without anyone being a character through the whole book, which also added to the distance and the lack of investment. While I did enjoy the book I think due to these narrative choices, it is likely to mostly appeal to people interested in nursing, though it had the potential to break out to a larger market.

I got this book from a friend.

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Jane Austen Education

“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:

A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter by William Deresiewicz
Synopsis from the publisher:
In A Jane Austen Education, Austen scholar William Deresiewicz turns to the author's novels to reveal the remarkable life lessons hidden within. With humor and candor, Deresiewicz employs his own experiences to demonstrates the enduring power of Austen's teachings. Progressing from his days as an immature student to a happily married man, A Jane Austen Education is the story of one man's discovery of the world outside himself.

A self-styled intellectual rebel dedicated to writers such as James Joyce and Joseph Conrad, Deresiewicz never thought Austen's novels would have anything to offer him. But when he was assigned to read Emma as a graduate student at Columbia, something extraordinary happened. Austen's devotion to the everyday, and her belief in the value of ordinary lives, ignited something in Deresiewicz. He began viewing the world through Austen's eyes and treating those around him as generously as Austen treated her characters. Along the way, Deresiewicz was amazed to discover that the people in his life developed the depth and richness of literary characters - that his own life had suddenly acquired all the fascination of a novel. His real education had finally begun.

Weaving his own story - and Austen's - around the ones her novels tell, Deresiewicz shows how her books are both about education and themselves an education. Her heroines learn about friendship and feeling, about staying young and being good, and, of course, about love. As they grow up, the lessons they learn are imparted to Austen's reader, who learns and grows by their side.

A Jane Austen Education is a testament to the transformative power of literature, a celebration of Austen's mastery, and a joy to read. Whether for a newcomer to Austen or a lifelong devotee, Deresiewicz brings fresh insights to the novelist and her beloved works. Ultimately, Austen's world becomes indelibly entwined with our own, showing the relevance of her message and the triumph of her vision.
Publishing April 28th 2011 by Penguin Press

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Book Review: People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks


My old boss recommended this book to me a couple of years ago, and I was pretty sure I'd like it and can't explain why it took me so long to get around to it. But I loved it! Such a layered, detailed, well-crafted story of - of all things - a book!

Hanna Heath is an Australian book restorer who has been called to Bosnia to work on the Sarajevo Haggadah, a 15th century book which is also a piece of art, which had been saved from the war by a Muslim - for the second time. In Hanna's restoration she notices tiny details such as a wine stain, a single white hair, some grains of salt, that reveal the history of the Haggadah. Hanna's story is intercut with flashbacks to seminal moments in the life of the book, such as when it was saved in WWII, when it was saved from the Inquisition, and when it was first created. Each of these stories is exciting, with unique characters and places (Vienna, Venice, Seville) showing how close this beautiful little book had come to destruction so many times. Meanwhile, Hanna is learning things about herself, her past, and her family that are unexpected.

Because the contemporary restorers and historians can only guess at what each of the clues implies about the history of the book, it is interesting to see those guesses compared to the reality of the flashbacks. In that way it reminded me of Possession by Byatt or Arcadia by Stoppard. It is literary, historical, multi-layered and multi-faceted. With so many stories and details going on, it is truly fascinating and hard to put down. In a way, the different glimpses into the book's past work as short stories, which normally are something I don't like, but interlocked short stories with a recurring framework is the way for short stories to work for me. Any lover of books and art and history will dive into this rich, decadent novel.

I got this book from the publisher, who understood I would be reading it for myself, and not in exchange for any review, positive or negative.

Teaser Tuesdays: People of the Book


Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading


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!


People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks p. 104


"Reading incomplete French words backwards was tricky. But eventually I had most of it, and I knew why it had been crossed out."


This book is in a way a mystery - finding out what happened to the Sarajevo Haggadah in its past, how it came to be, how it survived. Trying to figure out the crossed out part of a report (in another language no less) is one more clue.

Monday, April 18, 2011

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:
Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

Books I am currently reading/listening to:

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
Shogun: A Novel of Japan by James Clavell
John Adams by David McCullough (audio)

Up next:

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus

Book Review: Addition by Toni Jordan


I used to love chick lit novels. Then about 10 years ago I got a little tired of them. I narrowed the kinds of chick lit novels that I like a lot: our protagonist is not in her early 20s, doesn't have a bunch of roommates, doesn't have a job in the media with a terrible boss, doesn't have a cute and funny male friend who she doesn't think of "that way" (yet), and does have real problems. Preferably also isn't set in New York or London. Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner was the first book I read that really showed me the potential for chick lit to be something more serious, and less fluffy than a lot of the genre that I'd been reading.

I am happy to report that Addition is a chick lit book that I like! Grace has always been fascinated with numbers, but a couple of years ago that fascination crossed into obsession. Grace is in her mid-30s, and a former elementary school teacher who is now on disability in Melbourne, Australia. She has her routine and she really is just going through the motions of life, having decided she's okay with how things are, living in a tiny apartment with just Nikola Tesla's photo for companionship. But one day at the grocery, she discovers to her horror that she has only 9 bananas in her cart instead of 10. So she swipes one out of the basket of the guy behind her. In the parking lot, he confronts her (and offers her an apple.) The next day she goes to her usual cafe and he is there - and there are no free tables so she sits with him. While she finds the flirting with Seamus fun, she also assumes it can't go anywhere because of her issues. And yet he finds her sexy and charming. Naturally though, problems arise.

Grace's problems are of course very, very real. There was an incident two years ago, and also one in her childhood that helped create her OCD problems. Things with Seamus don't go completely fluidly, and also her family isn't perfect. It's great though to see Grace trying to wrest control back from her compulsions, and deciding to face the terrifying truths of her past and her choices, and the bumps along the way. She's a very real and three-dimensional person, with big and serious problems and a real life. Everything doesn't end up perfect, but it does end up good.

Luckily there is in the introduction a short explanation of some differences in a book set in Australia (Celsius, metrics, winter is in July) although there still are a few small Australian details that might be jarring for readers not used to it, but they're nothing you can't skim over and still understand the context. So while you should be prepared for a small amount of cultural differences, they shouldn't cause any problems with comprehension.

Ms. Jordan has crafted a chick lit novel that isn't fluff - that is fun and easy but also serious and realistic. It's a light read but with a real and honest core.
I got this book from the publisher, who understood I would be reading it for myself, and not in exchange for any review, positive or negative.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Book Review: I Must Have Bobo! by Eileen Rosenthal



I have been hearing about I Must Have Bobo! by Eileen Rosenthal, illustrated by Marc Rosenthal, and so I read it at a bookstore. I see this book in a niece's future!


Willy loves his stuffed monkey, Bobo, but so does Earl the cat. Earl is diligent, persistent, and doesn't take no for an answer. Whenever Willy looks away even for a minute, Bobo disappears! I know I'm supposed to sympathize with Willy, but is it so wrong that I hope Earl wins? My sister's cat was always stealing her stuffed Snowman, and eventually we had to get my sister a new one (a bigger one that was harder for the cat to drag around, although not impossible.) The storyline of this book is certainly true-to-life as I experienced this in my family.


Willy is pretty cute, and this book could take place any time from the 1940s to now. The book won't date which is excellent. A timeless story of sharing, loss, friendship, it is sweet and not saccharine. It is a story that can be read over and over.

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


I read this book while standing in a B&N.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Book Beginnings on Friday: Wishful Drinking


Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Katy from A Few More Pages. 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.


Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher


"So I am fifty-two years old. (Apparently.)"


Wow, if Princess Leia is 52, that means I must be very old too. This opening line does set the tone for what proves to be a very honest and open confession of sorts by Ms. Fisher.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Book Review: Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher


To start with, this book was very obviously a book based on a stand-up routine. Which is not in any way a criticism, but the anecdotes were pretty short, and there were a couple of spots where a joke felt a bit flat on the page, but I could see how it would work well on the stage.

Ms. Fisher is being fairly confessional here - although not quite as much as she hints at in the beginning - talking about growing up in her messed-up Hollywood family, about her failed romances, her drug and alcohol addictions, her manic-depression, and other stories along the way. But she covers each in just a few pages so while she is telling us about the bad things in her life, she is telling them in a pretty superficial way.

The book though is hilarious. Ms. Fisher talks about how she decided this as a very young child as a coping mechanism - humor does help a lot of bitter pills go down. And between Elizabeth Taylor, self-doubt, and being told she was too fat at 105 pounds, she did have some bitter pills in her day. She shows how to deal with life with grace and laughter. Wishful Drinking is a quick gem, made to lighten anyone's day. At the end, you'll have laughed, and also you'll feel very happy that your parents (and brain) are not Carrie's.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Jane Austen


“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:

Jane Austen: A Life Revealed by Catherine Reef

synopsis from Goodreads:
Jane Austen’s popularity never seems to fade. She has hordes of devoted fans, and there have been numerous adaptations of her life and work. But who was Jane Austen? The writer herself has long remained a mystery. And despite the resonance her work continues to have for teens, there has never been a young adult trade biography on Austen.

Catherine Reef changes that with this highly readable account. She takes an intimate peek at Austen’s life and innermost feelings, interweaving her narrative with well-crafted digests of each of Austen’s published novels. The end result is a book that is almost as much fun to read as Jane’s own work—and truly a life revealed.

Publishing April 18th 2011 by Clarion Books.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Book Review: Horsemen of the Esophagus by Jason Fagone


My boyfriend had been bugging me to read this book for months, so I finally decided to give it a try. A journalist, Jason Fagone, explores to world of competitive eating, no where exemplified better than the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island every 4th of July. I do regret that when I lived in New York, I never went to see that. He follows a handful of competitors - El Wingador, Coondog O'Karma, Eater X, and the current Nathan's champion, Kobayashi.

The book is fun and light and the people are highly entertaining. But I found it a bit overwritten and I didn't like how much the author inserted himself into the narrative. That's appropriate if this was either a memoir by one of the eaters, or if Mr. Fagone had become a competitor himself (a la Moonwalking With Einstein), but for a piece of straightforward journalism, it didn't sit well with me. I also felt like he was throwing in a lot of overly highbrow cultural references, as if he were self-conscious about reporting on something so low-brow.

So while it was a fun read, I had trouble completely turning off the editor part of my brain while reading it.
I borrowed this book from my boyfriend.

Teaser Tuesdays: Horsemen of the Esophagus


Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading


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!



Horsemen of the Esophagus: Competitive Eating and the Big Fat American Dream by Jason Fagone p. 220



"That's the story, anyway. Its veracity is probably unverifiable in any robust journalistic sense, partly because Nathan is long dead, and partly because the story's exact date is disputed (more on that in a second), and partly because Murray Handwerker, Nathan's son and the former chairman and president of the company remembers that "I was the one who initiated it" - i.e., the contest - since Murray's father was "a very, very practical man" who wasn't too keen on marketing stunts."


Wow, that's a long sentence. It's about the start of the Nathan's Famous Hotdog Eating Contest, the most famous Competitive Eating event.

Monday, April 11, 2011

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:

Horsemen of the Esophagus: Competitive Eating and the Big Fat American Dream by Jason Fagone

Books I am currently reading/listening to:

Shogun: A Novel of Japan by James Clavell

John Adams by David McCullough

Up next:

The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Book Review: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins


So the third and final book in the Hunger Games series! I wolfed down the first two books but had heard mixed things about book 3. I did like it, and while I might not have made all the choices the author made, I did find the end satisfying and she tied up most of the loose ends. But I do see why it's been so controversial. It did keep up the same rapid pacing, strange characters, and thrilling excitement. I am very glad I read it and although parts were sad, it does end well overall.

But, so I don't have to speak in code for my whole review, I will now warn SPOILERS AHEAD. I think it was a great choice for Ms. Collins to have made Peeta so damaged by the Capitol. I didn't see that coming but it was perfectly appropriate. Peeta and Katniss's relationship couldn't really move forward where it was before - it was a fairly simple, superficial relationship where he was always in love with her and looking out for her, and she was in conflict over whether she really liked/loved him and/or Gale. And it needed to mature to move forward. Hence, his damage where he no longer was the perfect guy he was before, and Katniss really needed to decide if she liked him for who he was and was willing to work a little bit, as opposed to before when she just fell into a relationship with him.

Now if I were Ms. Collins's editor, I would have pushed her a bit on the ending. It did feel like just as we were reaching the climax, she copped out. Instead of going for it with a big battle, instead Katniss seems to have gotten knocked out or something and wakes up in a hospital with snatches of memories of the last few moments before she lost consciousness. Now, while it might have felt like a cop out, it might actually have been better than the alternatives. Not to mention, we need to keep in mind that this is a book written for teens, and so the violence is toned down a bit. Also, that isn't really the climax of the book - that comes about 30 pages later. And that isn't off-stage. That part I did like a lot. It was well-anticipated but not something you saw coming from a mile away. I do wish Snow's demise was a little more clear (did she poison the rose?) And also in the first book I wondered why Cinna said he specifically requested District 12 - that was never resolved. But all things considered, in what was a complicated and tangled story, Ms. Collins did a great job of tying things up.

The series was fun and exciting, and I really enjoyed it. I am so glad my book club forced me to read The Hunger Games, and that I stuck with the series to find out what happened. I totally understand why they are so popular. Yes, they are violent, but one thing to keep in mind about teen books is that they are preparing kids to deal with violence, loss, trauma, and other potentially bad situations that do in fact occur in our lives. Hopefully they won't have to deal with anything nearly this bad, but seeing how other teens cope with nasty situations helps teach coping skills, and also puts problems in perspective. Really, is getting rejected from your dream college so terrible, when you don't have to fight to the death in the Hunger Games? Life could be worse.

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

I borrowed this book from a friend.