Thursday, March 31, 2011

Book Purchases/Confessions: March


    Thank goodness this is not my space to confess book acquisitions as I have gotten a few books earlier this month from my step-mother and also from a WNBA book swap. It's only about purchases! When money leave my wallet. Those are the sins. This is more about budgeting than about book reduction (that's just a bonus.) But I am managing this month to have my acquisitions not increase my TBR list!


  • Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer

  • The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig

Moonwalking I got for my boyfriend as a gift. Whistling was for my book club. Both from my local indie bookstore that special-ordered them for me. I'm sure they had plenty of Moonwalking on order for the store, but I wanted to be sure one went on hold for me when they arrived! I have already read Whistling, and BF is about halfway through Moonwalking.



  • Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year by Anne Lamott

This one I got at a used bookstore, and read it immediately. I'm going to pass it along to my sister.



  • Spousonomics: Using Economics to Master Love, Marriage, and Dirty Dishes by Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson

I met the BF at B&N and he needed another hour to look through all the books on blackjack he'd picked up, to decide on one. This book I'd heard about quite a bit on NPR so I figured I'd give it a good look to be sure before I bought it. I read the first chapter in the store, and was sold. Wish I'd managed to hold off on a hardcover, but again, I read it right away.



  • The Bucolic Plague by Josh Kilmer-Purcell
I was at B&N with my best friend and her 2 little kids (the children's museum was closed). I saw this book which I'd lusted after in hardcover, was now out in paperback. I did want it and probably would have bought it anyway, but it also helped me not feel guilty about using them as a play area for a couple of hours. Read it right away.

Overall March stats:


5 total purchases


1 was a gift


2 hardcovers/3 paperbacks


1 used/4 new

Book Review: The Bucolic Plague by Josh Kilmer-Purcell


Even though I'm supposed to be cutting back on book purchases, I did restrain myself from this book while it was in hardcover and only bought it in paperback. But as soon as I saw it, I remembered having drooled over it last year in HC! I was just as attracted to it now so I went for it.

And I loved it! Memoirs of course are my thing. And while I do like memoirs about tragedy and difficulties, I like to intersperse them with more light memoirs with humor and less angst. The Bucolic Plague fit that perfectly.

Josh and his partner Brent drive by a mansion/farm in way upstate New York and fall in love with it immediately. They start going out every weekend to their country house, gardening, raising goats, and canning vegetables. But through the influence of Martha Stewart (Brent's boss), their own aspirations, and a slight perfectionist streak, what once was a fun hobby turns into a more-than-full-time job, and very unenjoyable and never-quite-perfect. Their dream starts to rip them apart. Wanting to live in the country full-time and be their own bosses, they start up a website and selling goat's milk soap. Successful from the start, they begin to help revitalizing the whole town, but it is overwhelming, doesn't bring in enough money for them to quit their jobs in New York City, and it gets to be just too much. Then the economy tanks.

Meanwhile, Mr. Kilmer-Purcell is very funny. A former drag queen, he is the "sparkle" in most situations. Their neighbors are fun, open, and accepting. The goats are endearing and adorable. The problems Josh and Brent go through are both relatable by anyone who's ever been in a long-term relationship, and heart-breaking as you really get to feel like Josh and Brent are your friends and you don't want them to break up. Initially it can be a little hard to sympathize with the successful advertising executive and the successful doctor on Martha Stewart's TV show who can afford to buy a million dollar mansion on the spur of the moment, but the economy kicks their feet out from under them just like it has done for so many of us, and they end up treading water to stay afloat too.

This book is perfect for anyone who's ever wanted to escape the rat race and move to the country. It's also perfect for those of us who would never want to do that - but love to hear about it from someone else. Well-written and humorous and escapist and personal, I enjoyed it immensely.

I bought this book at B&N.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Attachments

“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:

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Synopsis from the publisher:
Beth and Jennifer know their company monitors their office e-mail. But the women still spend all day sending each other messages, gossiping about their coworkers at the newspaper and baring their personal lives like an open book. Jennifer tells Beth everything she can't seem to tell her husband about her anxieties over starting a family. And Beth tells Jennifer everything, period.

When Lincoln applied to be an Internet security officer, he hardly imagined he'd be sifting through other people's inboxes like some sort of electronic Peeping Tom. Lincoln is supposed to turn people in for misusing company e-mail, but he can't quite bring himself to crack down on Beth and Jennifer. He can't help but be entertained-and captivated- by their stories.

But by the time Lincoln realizes he's falling for Beth, it's way too late for him to ever introduce himself. What would he say to her? "Hi, I'm the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you." After a series of close encounters and missed connections, Lincoln decides it's time to muster the courage to follow his heart . . . even if he can't see exactly where it's leading him.

Written with whip-smart precision and charm, Attachments is a strikingly clever and deeply romantic debut about falling in love with the person who makes you feel like the best version of yourself. Even if it's someone you've never met.

April 14th 2011 by Dutton Adult

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Book Review: Spousonomics: Using Economics to Master Love, Marriage, and Dirty Dishes by Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson


No, I am not getting married. But the BF is moving in in a couple of months, so naturally as I clean out closets, I am thinking of division of labor for household chores, that sort of thing. I heard about this book a couple of weeks ago on NPR's Marketplace, and it sounded fantastic. Also my father, the economist is coming to town this week and I find it helpful to brush up on econ terms and concepts in anticipation. But I am trying to be economical and not buy many books (certainly not hardcovers!) but I read the first chapter at the bookstore, and was hooked.

The brilliant thing about this book is that it is hilarious. From the Exhaustive, Ground-Breaking, and Very Expensive Marriage Survey to lines like this: "Molly punished Tim, an incentive we don't recommend lightly but one we do recommend sometimes, like when your spouse is being an annoying dipshit," this book uses humor to make economics accessible and relatable. Each chapter tackles an economic theory such as incentives, trade-offs, or moral hazard, using three concrete examples from the Exhaustive, Ground-Breaking, and Very Expensive Marriage Survey, as well as some mini-examples in sidebars. Sidebars also hold condensed biographies of Great Economists, and some lists and studies. If the sidebars make this sound a bit like a Cosmo article, it does have a hint of that. Not so much to make it silly or insubstantial, but enough to make it fun and easy to read.

I have seen loss-aversion, incentives, and supply and demand at work in my own life. It's terrific to see the concrete examples of them all shown here. Economists are notoriously emotionless, which may sound like harsh people you don't want to be helping with your relationship, but it's quite the opposite (well, the authors aren't actually Economists for one thing.) When emotions are running high and anxiety and hurt feelings come into the mix, it can actually be a huge advantage to have some impartial plans to address situations. Throughout the book, in the examples, the authors don't ever say "A is right and B is wrong." Instead they show how applying economic principles can lead to compromises where both parties will end up mostly happy.

Naturally, I thought this book would teach me some methods to get my BF to do some things I want him to do, however instead, I think I'm going to ask him to try to use more positive reinforcement incentives with the things I'm trying to change, as those work so much better than negative reinforcements. Funny, that is absolutely not the conclusion I was expecting to arrive at when finishing this book. I loved this book and whipped through it in just a couple of days. Unlike most books I read, I will hang onto this one for quite a while. Not only because the end quiz is recommended to be taken every 6 months or so, but because while the problems are very, very few now (apparently because we are still in a state of limerence, hopefully not in a bubble), reality dictates that won't always be the case, and I'd like to have this cold-shower book around for advice and reality-checks. An excellent book for anyone in a relationship!

I bought this book at B&N.

Teaser Tuesdays: Spousonomics


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!

Spousonomics: Using Economics to Master Love, Marriage, and Dirty Dishes by Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson p. 16

"According to a 2009 survey of working women by the Boston Consulting Group, the second most common thing people argue about with their partners is household chores. In our own Exhaustive, Groundbreaking, and Very Expensive Marriage Survey, 73 percent of women said they did more than 50 percent of the housework, whereas only 40 percent of men said they did more than half the housework (you have to at least give them men credit for honesty)."

Money was the only thing that outranked housework in importance, which beat sex, children, and religion. Do you want to know how to split housework fairly? There are three different scenarios in Spousonomics for doing so.

Monday, March 28, 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:
The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig
Spousonomics: Using Economics to Master Love, Marriage, and Dirty Dishes by Paula Szuchman, Jenny Anderson

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Shogun: A Novel of Japan by James Clavell
John Adams by David McCullough (audio)
Up Next:
The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan
The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean by Susan Casey
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Book Review: The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig


More than 10 years ago I joined my very first book club. It was a summer-only club organized by the Women's National Book Association in Nashville, and they had an English professor there every week to speak about the book before the discussion. What inspired me to join was that the topic was Western novels. I saw that topic, and thought and thought and couldn't think of a single Western novel I'd ever read. Seemed like a gaping hole in my reading resume, so I wanted to fill it. The books I read through that book club were very cool (The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark, Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich, Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko, and Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner) so when my current book club picked The Whistling Season, I was pretty psyched.

Set in 1909-1910 in Marias Coulee, Montana, the feel of this book isn't very far off from the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. Paul Milliron and his brothers Damon and Toby go to school in a one-room schoolhouse. Their mother died last year and their father is one of the last homesteaders when this land was opened. Their father Oliver one day sees a notice in the paper, advertising the services of a housekeeper. Although she claims not to cook, the Millirons believe she can be persuaded otherwise once she gets to Marias Coulee, and so they hire her. Soon Rose Llewellyn and her brother Morrie Morgan arrive, looking out of place, but Rose soon whips the house into shape. She sticks to her guns and doesn't cook, but otherwise the situation works out well. And when the teacher runs off with an itinerant preacher, Morrie takes over the school.

Not a lot of action takes place in the book, although there are several surprises in the last 30 pages. Not so surprising as to be irritating - they have all been set up. We did have a couple of book club members who saw hints of the surprises early on but I was not one of them. The book was very atmospheric which is something I often dislike but it wasn't overdone, the writing wasn't lyrical or poetic (words that have come to symbolize overwrote writing for its own sake in my mind) but it was still evocative and the setting is almost a character in itself.

As I said in my Book Beginning post, I was confused at first why the book is told from the point of view of Paul looking back from 1957, but towards the end it all clicked for me - 1910 was the year of Haley's Comet, and 1957 was the year of Sputnik. For someone in education (Paul goes on to become the Superintendent of Schools for the state of Montana), both those events would be watershed moments. Although 1910 would have been a pivotal year in Paul's life regardless of the comet, given the events that take place. Unusually, everyone at book club liked this book! I really enjoyed it - it was a lovely and thoughtful coming-of-age story.

I bought this book at my local Indie bookstore.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Book Review: Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh


I had never read Harriet the Spy as a kid, and I'm not sure why. Maybe Harriet seemed like too much of a tomboy for me. I like my tomboys like Nancy Drew - wearing a smart skirt and looking great despite her athleticism. But it's a modern classic so I thought I should give it a tackle.

I was surprised to find that Harriet - a girl who I'd always assumed was pretty independent and self-sufficient, has not only a nanny but also a cook (and it doesn't take place all THAT long ago!) And her family seems to own an entire building on the upper east side of Manhattan! Wow. She's very wealthy, but she doesn't seem to understand that. At one point she does ask what makes people rich, but there's no forthcoming answer and the question is dropped.

Harriet is independent - but only because she knows Ole Golly, her nanny, is at home ready to back her up. Ole Golly doesn't just agree with Harriet's antics blindly, but she does understand Harriet much more than anyone in her life, particularly her parents. Harriet has a notebook in which she writes down everything, with no filter. Some of it is her "spying", in which she goes around to different houses (and one business) and does spy on complete strangers, but she also writes down everything about her parents, Ole Golly, and her classmates. Often these are fleeting thoughts, when she's angry, and since they are intended for her eyes only, they are often not nice. One day, her classmates get ahold of her notebook, and read it. They are all horribly insulted by her observations and comments, even her best friends Sport and Janey. Meanwhile, Ole Golly has gotten married and now Harriet is old enough to not need a nanny, so she has no one in her corner. Her classmates come up with a plan to get even, and Harriet melts down.

This book is very true to the behavior of 11-year-olds. (Although I thought the illustrations looked like the kids were more like 6-7 and I didn't like them. I did like the cover of my edition, because Harriet looks like the right age and it fits her description to a T.) Kids are very mean, even though adults don't seem to remember that. Also at this age, hormones are just starting to appear making emotions more volatile and close to the surface. Every little thing is the end of the world. That's all very accurate. Anyone who has ever taken a lunch to a table and had everyone else at the table get up and leave, will truly identify with Harriet, even if they would never write the things she wrote in her notebook.

As an adult reading it, I particularly noted things said about the other students' families, such as the girl with no father, and the boy whose mother had run away. I wondered if other kids would notice these things, but I doubt it. An elementary school friend and I last year discussed the messed-up home lives of some of our fellow classmates from way back when, realizing both what we knew but didn't realize, and also what we had no idea about until much, much later. Ms. Fitzhugh has all the hints and flat-out statements about the other children's difficult homes in the book, but at that age kids don't cut each other slack because they might be going through a tough time. Mostly they're too self-centered to even think about what these hints mean is really going on in their friends' homes, but also at that age differences are either cool (minority) or are things to hide because they will result in teasing (majority). That's it. Even the kids going through the rough stuff don't realize how rough it is because they don't know any different. Except in extreme cases, it's just life and it's just how things are. I liked that Ms. Fitzhugh included these details as they make the book very real and also as an adult, they explain a bit of the behavior of the children.

Harriet the Spy is a great book. It's much more deep than it first appears. Yes, it's about a girl who wrote some nasty things in a book and her classmates read it and get revenge. But it's also about a writer finding her voice, about a young girl being ostracized and dealing with that, it's about loss (of Ole Golly) and growing up and facing one's fears. It would be an excellent book for a ten-year-old, who will get the superficial story, and who also will hopefully absorb some of the deeper lessons subconsciously.

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.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Book Beginnings on Friday


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 Whistling Season by Ivan Doig

"When I visit the back corners of my life again after so long a time, littlest things jump out at first."

For a long time I wasn't sure why this book was being told from the point of view of nearly 50 years after the events that take place in it, but eventually (90% of the way through the book) I figured it out! In fact, that bookending of the story from the "present" (1957) is really smartly done.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Sweet Valley Confidential


“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:

Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later by Francine Pascal

synopsis from the publisher:
Now with this striking new adult novel from author and creator Francine Pascal, millions of devoted fans can finally return to the idyllic Sweet Valley, home of the phenomenally successful book series and franchise. Iconic and beloved identical twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are back and all grown up, dealing with the complicated adult world of love, careers, betrayal, and sisterhood.

Publishing March 29th 2011 by St. Martin's Press

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Book Review: Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War by Tony Horwitz


I waited to read this Tony Horwitz book because I so loved his other two, and I knew this one was his most popular. Maybe my expectations were too high, as I did find it great but not as funny as the other two. Of course that might be partly because the Civil War simply doesn't lend itself to much humor. As Mr. Horwitz finds out, if you get even the tiniest bit below the surface, a lot of hurt and anger bubble up.

That said, Mr. Horwitz is a perfect host on this journey, largely because he had no relatives who fought in the war on either side (or were even in this country at the time). He has moved to the South with his Australian wife after living abroad for 20 years, and is intrigued with the South's continued obsession with the war. He travels all around the South (not in quite as organized a way as he does with the explorers in his later books) and looks into all Civil War and Confederate-related events and facts. He hooks up with a group of super reenactors, visits a lot of museums, meets with the Daughters and Sons of the Confederacy.

This book is filled with obscure facts, the truth behind various myths, and lots and lots of American history. Mr. Horwitz is an amiable companion for this trip. He laments the McDonaldsization of America, points out hypocrisies and discrepancies he comes across, and is even-handed and fair in his investigation. Personally, I was disappointed he didn't go to middle Tennessee at all where the last gasp of the Confederacy was fought, but that's a minor quibble and unlikely to both other non-Nashvillians. This book should be a must-read for Yankees who have moved South.

I requested this book from a friend at the publisher. It was provided for free, but with no expectation of any review, favorable or otherwise.

Teaser Tuesdays: Confederates in the Attic

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!

Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War by Tony Horwitz p. 63
"A famous shrine to Denmark Vesey [slave revolt plotter] still stood, though few people recognized it as such. After the failed revolt, Charleston erected a well-fortified arsenal to guard against future insurrections."
Can you guess what Horwitz is talking about? It's a famous place in Charleston, even today.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Men vs. Women


I recently ran across a horrifying article at VIDA analyzing the ratio of men vs. women in various respected and renowned book review sources (they look at reviews, reviewers, interviews, short pieces, etc.) Only one out of what seemed like at least a hundred of these stats was skewed towards women (and it was in Poetry magazine). Some were so skewed as to make me wonder what decade (or even century) it is. Depressing.

When I worked as a Bookseller, I had a few regular customers that always asked for me to get my personal recommendations. One was a young man, and over time I noticed a pattern. I'd recommend a book written by a man, and he'd snatch it right up. I'd suggest a book written by a woman, and he'd give some excuse as to why it wouldn't work for him. I let this go on a few times, but eventually I called him on it (I know, I know, "the customer is always right" blah blah. There's a reason my stint in retail was blessedly short!) His excuse? "I just don't think I'd get a book written by a woman." I was baffled. Despite my rude outspokenness, I simply couldn't ask him the next question that came to my mind. Which was: Because you're not smart enough? Women read books by men all the time (in fact in school we're forced to read almost exclusively male authors) and we understand them. Why can't men understand books written by women?

Later, when was an editor, I found that my painful knowledge was very useful. A lot of young editors simply don't understand this. If a book is written by a female author, you can pretty much write off male readers (although since women comprise 60% of the book buying market, that's not as dreadful as it may first sound.)

But wait... if women are 60% of the book buying market, then it's even more baffling why The New Yorker and The New York Times Book Review spend the vast majority of their column space on reviews by men on books by men. Unless they do this because women will read books by and for men, whereas men will not read books by or for women. So by focusing on men, you actually get the largest market. Wow. So women get the short shrift because we're more open? That makes me want to hit things.

So, Mr. Men out there - stop being such close-minded cowards. Stretch your comfort zone. Read a book by a woman. I promise you've already done it and didn't even notice. As the lone male character in The Jane Austen Book Club points out, a lot of female authors have always written under male pseudonyms. Andrew Norton, James Tiptree Jr., Pat Murphy are all given a shout-out in the movie. The bookstore scene starts at 1:44.



I must admit, I'm pretty annoyed that all the books I'm currently reading are by men, and I promise the next book I pick up won't be. Anyway 12/16 books I've read this year have been written by women. The last two years I came out at very nearly 50/50 in the end.

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:
Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War by Tony Horwitz
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Shogun: A Novel of Japan by James Clavell
The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig
John Adams by David McCullough (audio)

Up Next:
Your Voice in My Head by Emma Forrest
March by Geraldine Brooks
Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
I went to a book swap last Tuesday (a WNBA event!) so I got these books plus a couple more without damaging my budget.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Book Beginnings on Friday

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.

Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War by Tony Horwitz

"In 1965, a century after Appomattox, the Civil War began for me at a musty apartment in New Haven, Connecticut."
Appropriately, it was Tony's grandfather that excited his interest in the Civil War. However, his grandparents emigrated from Europe, so he didn't have any family who was in this country at the time. Gives him a fairly unique perspective.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Primary Job in Publishing: Writer


I have been running out of publishing jobs to post about, but this week my aunt asked for my advice for her nephew (on the other side of the family) who has written a book. I thought I'd post my advice here, as I do get this question periodically, and it's technically a publishing job, although one I'd avoided until now. So, for you future authors, here are some starting points (please pardon the advice being all male-specific, but this was for a male):

Is he in a writing group? He should be. He needs to get constructive criticism from people who won't let personal feelings get in the way. The book needs to be as close to perfect as he can get this. He needs to think about submitting a book the same as applying for a job. He'd never send out a resume or cover letter that hadn't been proofed by a half-dozen friends and read and reread, right? Same with a novel. If this is a first draft, then he's years away from ready.

Also, he needs to be doing research. While yes, asking your aunt about her niece who used to work in publishing is great, he needs to be researching this on his own. One thing both agents and publishers like in an author, is demonstrating that the author understands this business, has done his/her research, and is willing to work hard. So here are some websites he needs to read:

Query Shark
Bookends
Miss Snark I know the Miss Snark blog is dead, but he needs to read through all the archives.
Of course there are scores of other blogs on writing and getting published, these are just ones I've found particularly honest and sensible. They all link to dozens of other related blogs which should also all be explored.

He needs to read. Books in his genre. That way he know the competition, and the comparisons. It's shocking how many people want to write books, but who don't READ. They're not successful. He needs to know things like what current trends are in his genre, what a typical book length is in his genre, who the bestselling authors are. Then he needs to google the heck out of those authors and figure out who their agents are. Those obviously are the primary targets, AFTER the book is as perfect as he (and his writer's group) can make it. Then he needs to write a perfect query letter (which he needs to research as well, how best to do it. Some examples of what NOT to do can be found at Slush Pile Hell.) All agents he submits to should be cross-checked at Predators and Editors to be sure they aren't scam artists.

Being an author isn't a get-rich-quick scheme. There are no benefits, and the pay is terrible. When I was an editor (2000-2004), most books I bought (22) had advances in the $3000-5000 range. That is not a typo. And yes, I was at a major top-six publisher. I think the most I paid for a book was $20,000, and that still is not much to live on. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 95% of books don't earn out their advance. For the vast majority of people, this needs to be a labor of love, as it's hard to impossible to live on. Most authors I worked with had second or third jobs. This is a hard job, it normally takes many years to be published, and at that point you still might only make chump change. I know everyone thinks they have a book in them, but don't enter into this endeavor lightly. It is not for the faint of heart. But good luck to everyone who gives it a shot.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Unfamiliar Fishes


“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:

Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell

synopsis from the publisher:
From the bestselling author of The Wordy Shipmates, an examination of Hawaii, the place where Manifest Destiny got a sunburn.

Many think of 1776 as the defining year of American history, when we became a nation devoted to the pursuit of happiness through self- government. In Unfamiliar Fishes, Sarah Vowell argues that 1898 might be a year just as defining, when, in an orgy of imperialism, the United States annexed Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Guam, and invaded first Cuba, then the Philippines, becoming an international superpower practically overnight.

Among the developments in these outposts of 1898, Vowell considers the Americanization of Hawaii the most intriguing. From the arrival of New England missionaries in 1820, their goal to Christianize the local heathen, to the coup d'état of the missionaries' sons in 1893, which overthrew the Hawaiian queen, the events leading up to American annexation feature a cast of beguiling, and often appealing or tragic, characters: whalers who fired cannons at the Bible-thumpers denying them their God-given right to whores, an incestuous princess pulled between her new god and her brother-husband, sugar barons, lepers, con men, Theodore Roosevelt, and the last Hawaiian queen, a songwriter whose sentimental ode "Aloha 'Oe" serenaded the first Hawaiian president of the United States during his 2009 inaugural parade.

With her trademark smart-alecky insights and reporting, Vowell lights out to discover the off, emblematic, and exceptional history of the fiftieth state, and in so doing finds America, warts and all.

Publishing March 22nd 2011 by Riverhead.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays: The Whistling Season


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!

The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig p. 10
"I will say for Miss Trent, whenever Milo Stoyanov and Martin Myrdal or the Johannson brothers and the Drobny male twins or some other combination blew up and went at each other, she would wade in and sort them out but good. However, plenty of fisticuffs and taunts and general incitement could take place by the time she ever managed to reach the scene, and those of us who a minute ago were neutrality personified might abruptly find ourselves on one side or the other, right in it."

One thing I really like about this book so far is how the names are very accurate to the time (1909) - I hate name anachronisms. Don't meet many Milos or Martins these days.

Monday, March 14, 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:
Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year by Anne Lamott

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Shogun: A Novel of Japan by James Clavell
John Adams by David McCullough (audio)
Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War by Tony Horwitz

Up Next:
The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell by Mark Kurlansky
Survive!: Essential Skills and Tactics to Get You Out of Anywhere - Alive by Les Stroud - I like this guy's TV show, so the BF gave me his book for my birthday!
Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer - this is my BF's, I want to steal it

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Book Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins


Last month I read The Hunger Games for my book club. Immediately after reading it, I thought I would read the rest of the trilogy. However, after a week or so had passed and I considered the 350+ books on my TBR list (that I already own!) I thought I probably would not ever get around to reading it after all. But then I went on a cruise, which had its own library, and I ran across this book right away and knew it was meant to be!

I started reading it immediately upon returning to my cabin. Catching Fire picks up just where The Hunger Games left off. And these books were written as a trilogy - on their own, they're both very confusing, but also would leave one with very unsatisfactory endings. But if readers go into them knowing that they're really like Parts I, II, and III of a bigger story, I think that's just fine.

Some spoilers ahead, although I think mostly they aren't big shocks, especially to anyone with even a passing knowledge of this series. I'll try to keep them opaque but if you haven't read the books at all and think you might, please skip the next paragraph. Katniss has just won the Hunger Games and has returned home, which sounds great (she's now rich! She and her family get to live in a mansion! She has a boy (or two) that like (love?) her!) but has a lot of not-great things about it too. She's ticked off some Important People, she can't decide what to do about the boy(s) in her life, she makes a lot of wrong turns unwittingly, and despite her best efforts to do the right thing, she even manages to incite unrest. Then there's a Big Twist thrown in to the mix which is Very Unfair, introduces some interesting new characters, and is wildly exciting. Naturally it also open some old wounds, brings up new dilemmas, and makes Katniss wonder who she can trust. At the end of the book, there's a huge setup for Book III.

I am very glad I waited until all 3 books were published before reading them, as it would have been difficult/torture to wait for each one. Also, I like reading them all fairly close together, so I don't forget anything important. Katniss remains an inspiring and relatable heroine. The new characters are unique, some sympathetic, and they're mostly three-dimensional. Ms. Collins may not be a turner of fine phrases, but she's a creator of solid characters. Her characters can be mean but with a kind streak, drunk but thoughtful, smug but loving, and you have to really get to know them, just like real people, to understand their motives and their trustworthiness. They are fascinating, entertaining, and enjoyable to spend time with. Not to mention her action sequences are incredible. I don't read action books often but when I do I tend to get confused quickly about what's going on. I don't in these books. The scenes spring to life before my eyes, the settings, the danger, and the anxiety are palpable.

Is this book Great Literature? No. But I read it in about 2 days, and I'm definitely going to be reading the 3rd. It was fun, distracting, fast, and I'm looking forward to the next.

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

I checked this book out of the library on my cruise ship!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Book Beginnings on Friday: Operating Instructions

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.

Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year by Anne Lamott

"I woke up with a start at 4:00 one morning and realized that I was very, very pregnant."

It is appropriate that she starts the book with a bit of humor, because there is humor throughout.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Book Review: Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year by Anne Lamott


I picked this up at the used bookstore 2 days ago, having always heard about it. I'm not a parent and intend not to be one, but I read all sorts of memoirs about things I intend to not do, so I figured why not. And I'm thrilled I did, because I loved this book!

It was a very fast read. And for once I don't only mean that I whipped through the pages very quickly (3 hours). I mean it was fast-paced and I felt like I had to speed-read to keep up. It was an interesting feeling, being whipped through at the speed that I'm sure life felt like to Ms. Lamott. The pace of her pregnancy and her son's first year was echoed in the pace of her writing. She's alternatingly hilarious and sad. I laughed out loud every 20 pages or so. I was sad I was reading the book alone so I couldn't read bits of it out loud to someone. The trauma of dealing with unexpected and single parenthood makes her worry she's going to start drinking again (she's been sober for 3 years at this point). The naked honesty is refreshing, real, and relatable. Even someone like me who has only babysat understands the feeling of ricocheting between hatred and the purest love, when dealing with an infant. She worries about harming him, intentionally or unintentionally, she worries about his future, about money, about his lack of a father. But through it all, she has a ton of support, and her unerring sense of humor, and her faith.

Throughout this book I was constantly thinking who can I pass this book on to? Because it's so fantastic, I want to share it with everyone. I thank Ms. Lamott for her openness and her truth.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

“Waiting On” Wednesday: The Wilder Life


“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:

The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure

synopsis from the publisher:
For anyone who has ever wanted to step into the world of a favorite book, here is a pioneer pilgrimage, a tribute to Laura Ingalls Wilder, and a hilarious account of butter-churning obsession.

Wendy McClure is on a quest to find the world of beloved Little House on the Prairie author Laura Ingalls Wilder-a fantastic realm of fiction, history, and places she's never been to, yet somehow knows by heart. She retraces the pioneer journey of the Ingalls family- looking for the Big Woods among the medium trees in Wisconsin, wading in Plum Creek, and enduring a prairie hailstorm in South Dakota. She immerses herself in all things Little House, and explores the story from fact to fiction, and from the TV shows to the annual summer pageants in Laura's hometowns. Whether she's churning butter in her apartment or sitting in a replica log cabin, McClure is always in pursuit of "the Laura experience." Along the way she comes to understand how Wilder's life and work have shaped our ideas about girlhood and the American West.

The Wilder Life is a loving, irreverent, spirited tribute to a series of books that have inspired generations of American women. It is also an incredibly funny first-person account of obsessive reading, and a story about what happens when we reconnect with our childhood touchstones-and find that our old love has only deepened.

Publishing by Riverhead April 14, 2011

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Book Review: Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier


"She sells seashells by the seashore."

That tongue-twister was inspired by a real woman, Mary Anning. Despite being very poor and uneducated (at the beginning of the book she's illiterate), young Mary Anning of Lyme, England had a real eye for fossils. She doesn't know exactly what these things are that she is collecting (yes, they are known to be fossils, but of what) but visitors collect them as souvenirs, some scientists study them, and Mary needs to do what she can to contribute to the Anning household. Also, she likes collecting them.

Elizabeth Philpot and her fellow spinster sisters move to Lyme after their brother's marriage, and she too becomes fascinated with the fossils. She meets young Mary and helps her to organize, to learn to read, to sell her finds, and they become bosom friends. Eventually, Mary discovers her first "monster" (dinosaur), and then another, and another. The discoveries change her life. And her and Elizabeth's friendship.

Mostly this is the story of a friendship. There isn't a lot of detail about paleontology (not much was known), although there is discussion of how these discoveries were impacting Christianity in a big way. The story was completely fascinating. The period details felt very authentic (if with a dash of anachronism when it came to the science). I felt like I was back in Jane Austen's time, the dirt and the chill and the wet were very real. I liked that is was mostly told from Elizabeth's point of view. The life of a middle-class spinster at this time was lonely, quiet, and slightly desperate, all of which were captured well. While she was not the primary person in this fossil story, she is an interesting narrator. It was a riveting story I read in just a couple of days.

Mary Anning discovered the first ichthyosaur and plesiosaur.

I checked this book out from the library on my cruise ship!

A Library on a Cruise Ship!


I went on a cruise last week with my BF. It was one of the best experiences of my life! And much to his exasperation, one of the highlights for me was that there was a library on the ship! If I wasn't already convinced this was the right cruise for us, that sold me (when we were still planning.) Yay Celebrity! It was 2 stories with comfy chairs. Half fiction, half nonfiction, then alpha by author. Pretty basic. Honor system for checking out books - write your name in a ledger, please return. I checked out two books - Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins and Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier (no, I did not get stuck in the Cs, that was a coincidence. I had just read The Hunger Games a week earlier for my book club, and my old boss recommended Remarkable to me a while back.) As you can imagine, the selection was pretty random. Especially the nonfiction books. I never saw any of the staff shelving in there, but books did get periodically put away so someone must have been.

I did bring the exact books and tote bag that I talked about here, but the library did throw me off. I didn't finish a single book I brought! Granted, Shogun is proving a little less easy than I had anticipated, not to mention it is still over 1200 pages long. It's a bit demoralizing to be 100 pages in and realize you've not even read 10%! Also the front cover was accidentally torn off at one point after it had gotten damp on a trip to the beach ad then was stuffed in a backpack (luckily, it's a used copy. I repaired it last night with some packing tape.)

To my surprise there aren't any pictures of me reading. I guess the BF doesn't feel the need to capture those moments for posterity. So here is a picture of me with my little tote bag coming back from the pool, which I assure you has a copy of Shogun inside.

Teaser Tuesdays: Remarkable Creatures


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!

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
"We say very little, for we do not need to. We are silent together, each in her own world, knowing the other is just at her back."

Not sure what page this is from. I read the book last week from the library on board my cruise ship, so I do not have a copy of the book to reference. I took this quote from Goodreads. But this quote is truly perfect for capturing the essence of the relationship between Elizabeth and Mary.

Monday, March 7, 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:
Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
yes, very different books than I thought I'd read on my cruise. But I couldn't help it - there was a LIBRARY on the ship!! More to come in a later post.

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Shogun: A Novel of Japan by James Clavell
John Adams by David McCullough (audio)
Shogun is taking longer than I expected, as it's a little more dense than a typical beach read, but it's very interesting.

Up Next:
The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig for book club.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Book Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins


I have been told for several years that I should read this book, and it was one that oddly both didn't appeal to me but I was pretty sure I'd like. I assumed my book club would assign it eventually, and I lucked out this month when they did! I loved this book!

Katniss lives in District 12 in Panem, in the former United States. District 12 is not a fun place to live - it's a coal mining district and there's not much food or much to do. Katniss hunts outside of the boundary with Gale, to help keep up the strength of her little sister Prim and her mother, since the death of her father. Every year, the Capitol hosts The Hunger Games. To remind the 12 districts that the Capitol is in charge and to discourage another revolt, in these Games each District needs to provide 2 "tributes" - a male and female teenager - to fight for the glory of their District. It's like Survivor, except that only one person comes out alive. This year, Katniss's little sister is selected, and she volunteers to take Prim's place, and fight alongside Peeta.

All the lead-up to the Games is fascinating, but when the Games themselves start, the book is impossible to put down. Katniss is tough but vulnerable, angry but loving, clever but unable to lie when it would be to her advantage. Is Peeta a friend or an enemy? How can she possibly win against 23 competitors, many of whom are much larger than her and well-trained? But she promised her sister she'd come home. She can't let Prim down.

This is the first in a trilogy. I am tempted to read the next two, although I've heard varying reports about the satisfaction of the resolution. But Katniss has won over my heart. She is a fighter, fiercely loyal, and an honest, open book. The pending love triangle the book ends with is naturally intriguing, not to mention I want to know what happens after she returns to District 12 (I'm sorry, I suppose that's a spoiler, but really no one's going to believe that the main character of a trilogy dies in the first book.) The book is exciting, riveting, and at times scary. The characters are well-written, even the minor ones. I am impressed with Ms. Collins' writing abilities and am still thinking about this book although I put it down hours ago.

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.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Book Beginnings on Friday: Lonesome Dove



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.

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
"When Augustus came out on the porch the blue pigs were eating a rattlesnake - not a very big one."

Not much action, but certainly ominous! What are blue pigs?