Friday, August 31, 2007

National Book Festival

The 2007 National Book Festival, organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress and hosted by First Lady Laura Bush will be held on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2007, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., between 7th and 14th streets from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The festival is free and open to the public.

Check out the website!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Viking / Penguin Book Club

The Viking Press and Penguin Books have launched a new online resource for reading groups. There will be regular posts from authors, editors, sales and marketing people from Viking and Penguin; as well as a blog where readers can post their own reviews and comments.

The site is very, very cool. The set up fresh and stylish. You can customize your page once you sign up. And you can even flip through their cataloge of books like you would in a bookstore. And it's free! Even better, huh?

Come check it out and join!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Worth Reading...

I've found a few things online today that I thought were interesting.

A.L. Harper, an editor at Blogcritics, wrote a fantastic article entitled Terry Pratchett Is Not Fantasy. It's really great and if you love Terry Pratchett then it's a must read.

Over at the Daily Mail there is an article about Prince William's new book. He's writing about his mother and the article has a never before seen photo of Diana before she became a princess.

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan hits the number 5 spot on The New York Times best-seller list. Read her reaction here at Seattlepi.

Over at the Grumpy Old Bookman he has a post about M.J. Rose and her newest book The Reincarnationist, something I just happen to be reading at the moment.

What have you all been reading about?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

McCarthy wins James Tait Black

ISBN: 0307265439
Format: Hardcover, 256pp
Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
Price: $24.00

The James Tait Black Memorial Prizes are the most prestigious and oldest literary awards in the United Kingdom. The prizes are awarded for literary excellence in biography and fiction. Past fiction prizewinners include:

  • A Passage to India by E.M. Forster (1924)
  • The Black Prince by Iris Murdoch (1973)
  • The Far Cry by Emma Smith (1949)
  • The Lost Girl by D.H. Lawrence (1920)

Now we have Cormac McCarthy's The Road which won the Pulitzer for fiction in 2007. So what is it about this 'searing postapocalytic novel' that sets it apart from the rest? I'm not sure because I haven't read it. I bought a copy, a first edition too, and after all these awards I bet it will be worth something eventually. But it sounds so depressing! The kind of book you really have to prepare yourself for before you begin.

Read a review of the book here and then go and check out the article The Guardian has about the winner.

Garden Spells

ISBN: 0553805487
Format: Hardcover, 304pp
Publisher: Bantam Books
Price: $20.00

If any of you receive Barnes and Noble newsletters then you have probably already seen this book. If not then I hope your seeing something new. This is the newest pick for their Recommends section that they started a few months back.

Garden Spells sounds wonderful and reminds me a little of Alice Hoffman's novels. I've added it to my list but there are so many books and so little time. So if any of you pick it up let me know how it is.

From the Publisher:

In a garden surrounded by a tall fence, tucked away behind a small, quiet house in an even smaller town, is an apple tree that is rumored to bear a very special sort of fruit. In this luminous debut novel, Sarah Addison Allen tells the story of that enchanted tree, and the extraordinary people who tend it.…

The Waverleys have always been a curious family, endowed with peculiar gifts that make them outsiders even in their hometown of Bascom, North Carolina. Even their garden has a reputation, famous for its feisty apple tree that bears prophetic fruit, and its edible flowers, imbued with special powers. Generations of Waverleys tended this garden. Their history was in the soil. But so were their futures.

A successful caterer, Claire Waverley prepares dishes made with her mystical plants—from the nasturtiums that aid in keeping secrets and the pansies that make children thoughtful, to the snapdragons intended to discourage the attentions of her amorous neighbor. Meanwhile, her elderly cousin, Evanelle, is known for distributing unexpected gifts whose uses become uncannily clear. They are the last of the Waverleys—except for Claire’s rebellious sister, Sydney, who fled Bascom the moment she could, abandoning Claire, as their own mother had years before.

When Sydney suddenly returns home with a young daughter of her own, Claire’s quiet life is turned upside down—along with the protective boundary she has so carefully constructed around her heart. Together again in the house they grew up in, Sydney takes stock of all she left behind, as Claire struggles to heal the wounds of the past. And soon the sisters realize they must deal with their common legacy—if they are ever to feel at home in Bascom—or with each other.

Enchanting and heartfelt, this captivating novel is sure to cast a spell with a style all its own...

Monday, August 27, 2007

'Eclipse' by Stephenie Meyer

ISBN: 0316160202
Format: Hardcover, 629pp
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Price: $18.99

I remember the first time I saw a copy of Twilight at the bookstore. I picked it up and read the jacket but set it down. I ended up walking to the counter with some other book that had caught my eye. But I got home and I realized that I had made a mistake; I should have bought Twilight. It haunted me, there is no other way to describe the feeling and I went to sleep that night thinking about it. The next day I went out and bought a copy.

I didn’t read it right away. It sat on my bedside, waiting. I knew that as soon as I cracked the spine I would not be able to put it down until I had finished. And I was right. Once I finally did pick it up I couldn’t put it down. I was glued to the story of a high school girl, Bella, falling in love with a vampire, Edward. It sounds so simple, diluted into one line like that - but it wasn’t.

The story continued with New Moon, and Stephenie Meyer introduced a werewolf, Jacob -- a childhood friend of Bella‘s — into the equation. The simple romance of before had been replaced with something much darker. Edward was absent for most of the book and whereas before Stephenie Meyer had shown us a sweet first love she now showed us the first broken heart. The action from before was there. Bella was still facing a danger from Twilight in the form of a vindictive vampire by the name of Victoria, a threat that follows her into Eclipse.

Which picks up with the final months before Bella’s high school graduation. We are reminded of Carlisle’s promise to turn Bella into a vampire after the big event. Bella does not only want this transformation in order to stay with Edward forever, but must become a vampire because if she isn't Bella faces death at the hands of the Volturi, the ruling group of vampires from Italy. Edward of course is still against her changing; desperate for her to have as normal a human life as possible, he promises to protect her at whatever cost.

Bella also finally forgives Jacob for telling her dad about her motorcycle, something he did in New Moon. She tries to bring together Edward and Jacob — mortal enemies and the two most important people in her life — and in the end they form a sort of truce. Bella gets to spend time down in La Push with Jacob and the rest of the pack. But Jacob isn’t willing just to be Bella’s friend and chooses to fight to make her realize that deep down she loves him just as much as he loves her.

Meanwhile, in Seattle there has been a rash of unexplainable murders that soon the Cullen family links with vampire activity. As the murder toll goes higher, the Volturi are more likely to make the trip from Italy to investigate - and while they are there check up on Bella as well. But the situation suddenly changes when Bella realizes that the activity in Seattle is linked to her.

In the end Bella must make choices about who she is and who she loves, and with what sacrifices can she make and still live with herself. The tension flows through the book and in the end bursts with both a physical and emotional battle.

One of the things I really enjoyed about Eclipse is the background of the Cullen family. We find out about both Rosalie’s and Jasper’s pasts. The history that formed them and their reactions towards Bella become clear and the characters much more solid because of this knowledge. I think that is part of the appeal of these books - the fact that you do become so wrapped up in the characters, that they touch places deep inside yourself. It isn’t just Bella and Edward that capture your attention but Charlie, Bella’s dad, Jacob, Alice, and the rest.

Stephenie Meyer is so good at painting the emotional image. Not only are you living Bella’s heartbreak - but your own, too. So good at putting into words the fuzzy over powering feeling of that first heartbreak, and of the second, that you are left breathless in the wake of its passing. It is gripping fiction, and Meyer is much more than just a young adult author; she draws from her reader such an emotional reaction, writes so fluidly and propels the reader forward so effortlessly, she truly is a great author for any age range.

I hit a wide array of emotions while reading Eclipse and once I closed the book I felt emotionally exhausted. When you pick up Twilight, New Moon — and now Eclipse — you must be prepared for the emotional rollercoaster ride of not only being a teenager but a person, with all the thrilling highs and depressing lows that fill everyday life. So, full of trepidation, I’m waiting for the next book and wondering what the future holds for Bella and Edward.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

I came across this first edition from 1946 in a local thrift store. Again and again I am amazed at what I can find for less than a dollar and Daphne du Maurier on top of that... well that's a good day.

This is another book I haven't read and for a long time I didn't realize that Daphne du Maurier had written anything else besides Rebecca. But then I found a copy of The Glassblowers and I was hooked. I read everything I could get my hands on.

A few things are easier to find than others. My Cousin Rachel and Jamaica Inn are still in print and relatively easy to find in your local bookstore. But while I'll Never Be Young Again, Frenchman's Creek, and House on the Strand are in print you will probably have to order them because I can never find copies in the bookstore.

You can see a full bibliography here... take a look and tell me which is your favorite.

Friday, August 24, 2007

'Worldweavers: Gift of the Unmage' by Alma Alexander

ISBN: 0060839554
Format: Hardcover, 389pp
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Price: $16.99

In a world where magic is commonplace a double seventh is born. The child of two seventh children, Galathea Winthrop, Thea for short, is expected to be something extraordinary. But after years spent at a magical school and years of failed lessons her parents are about ready to give up. Her father is willing to try one last experiment and decides to send Thea back in time to when magic was pure and connected to the earth.

In some unnamed distant past Thea is sent to study with Cheveyo, an American Indian Mage living in what will become New Mexico. Here the most important lessons Thea learns are the ability to not whine and to have patience; two very important things for her character as up until that point she whines quite bit. But through growth comes knowledge and Thea learns she might not be as hopeless as she feared.

Once she returns from not only a magical journey but a spiritual one as well, Thea must face the fact that in her original world she is still without magic. She is sent to the Wandless Academy, a school for kids who either can’t do magic or can’t be around it for various reasons. Here for the first time, outside the sun-drenched mesas of Cheveyo’s world, Thea feels like she belongs. She quickly makes friends; Magpie, Ben, Terry, and Tess.

The friends are never really fleshed out. Magpie, Thea’s roommate, has a fondness for hurt animals and is always smuggling some poor creature into their shared dorm room. Ben is a gangly red haired boy who sneezes when he smells magic. Terry is a computer genius who can’t speak a word that deals with magic because he has an allergic reaction to it and his sister Tess can’t eat anything that was prepared with magic for the same reason. This is about all the information you get about them and I’m hoping in the next two books you learn more.

Gift of the Unmage is divided between Thea’s journey into the past and her time spent at the Wandless Academy. The trials and tribulations of the first half of the book are only loosely connected to the second half. After Thea discovers she is not a ‘magidim’, her world's term for someone who is not proficient at magic, she then discovers that there is a nameless shapeless threat preying on magic users called Nothing. The problem with this is that we don’t hear about the Nothing until almost half the book is over and suddenly it becomes the main focus. I caught myself wondering if maybe I’d skipped some pages along the way.

Gift of the Unmage is the first in a trilogy. The second book has a working title of Spellspam and is in the process of being edited while the third, no title as of yet, is in the process of being written. There are some great things about Gift of the Unmage; likable characters, an interesting world, and a good grounding in mythology. The use of American Indian mythology particularly was interesting. In the end though this feels as if it’s a set up for bigger and better things. I'm looking forward to reading what comes next.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Why Aren't You Reading?

A new poll from the Associated Press-Ipsos reveals that America isn’t reading. One in four adults didn’t read a book last year. One in four. I find that amazing as well as depressing. For those who did read - women and older people - it was mostly bestselling fiction, mainly romance in the southern regions, and religious material. Why aren’t we reading more?

I know a lot of people who don’t read at all. When I talk about what I’ve just finished reading or what I’m about to start reading I get blank stares. I’m looked at as if I’ve got giant lobsters crawling out of my ears and at any moment they might attack. Is it really that strange to be a bookworm in American culture?

The excuse I hear the most is "I don’t have time." For some people I believe this is true. My parents are both avid readers but between full time jobs, everyday living, and a brand new baby in the house, life is full. It’s a choice between a cat nap or a book. But at the end of the day it is just that, a choice to do something other than read.

I also hear "I don’t like to read." This answer just boggles my mind. You don’t like to read? How could anyone not enjoy a good book? People are constantly talking about how they need a break from work and the hassle of everyday living. They need a vacation. A good book is just that — an escape, a vacation, an adventure.

Open a book and the world opens, expands, and engulfs you. You go places and meet people you might otherwise never get a chance to come into contact with. Any genre can do this for you. I love travel essays for that very reason. I doubt I will ever see the Antarctic with my own eyes but I can read about it and experience it through someone else’s. Then you have the biographies that lay before you lives that have been lived to the fullest extent, for good or for bad, and you get a slice of time that belongs to no one else. Histories that as you turn pages jump to life. Books on science and political issues that expand your limited world view; all of that in just non-fiction.

Whole worlds await discovery in the fiction section, not just fantasy and science fiction but in the thrillers that take you to cities you have never seen and the hometown romances that show you a slice of life you will never experience. Each author presents things a little differently and gives the reader more to explore and become a part of.

A good book will change you - I truly believe this - and at the end of the day no one has a good excuse for why they aren’t reading more.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Suckered Again...

ISBN: 0312377630
Format: Hardcover, 192pp
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Price: $17.95

Here we go again Plum fans. The newest 'between-the-numbers' novella has been announced. It will hit bookshelves January 8, 2008 and at barely under 200 pages is going to be almost $20! What is wrong with this picture? The last one, Plum 'Lovin was a dollar cheaper! I'm feeling ripped off.

And these 'between-the-numbers' books are fun but they don't advance the storyline any. The love triangle of Ranger, Morelli, and Stephanie never changes and after Lean Mean Thirteen something needs to happen. But I doubt this will be the book to make those changes.

But I'm going to buy it anyway.(even though at $20 with tax I should know better and wait for the paperback!) I'll read and enjoy it for what it is; pure fluff with some characters I just really like. The sad thing is Plum 'Lovin had a lot more humor in it than the last few full novels and I feel this one will be the same. Is there hope for the 14th Plum mystery if the 'between-the-numbers' novellas are ten times better?

I picked this book meme up from SciFiChick...

What are you reading right now?

Do you have any idea what you’ll read when you’re done with that?

What magazines do you have in your bathroom right now?

What’s the worst thing you were ever forced to read?
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. It was a book club choice and it was long and boring...

What’s the one book you always recommend to just about everyone?
Right now it's Twilight by S.Meyer but I tell everyone to read Jasper Fforde too

Admit it, the librarians at your library know you on a first name basis, don’t they?

I hate going to the library because they always want their books back!

Is there a book you absolutely love, but for some reason, people never think it sounds interesting, or maybe they read it and don’t like it at all?

Sunshine by Robin McKinley. I simply adore this book and picked it for my reading group... they all hated it! But it is so good and Robin McKinley is such a fantastic author. I don't understand!
Do you read books while you eat? While you bathe? While you watch movies or TV? While you listen to music? While you’re on the computer? While you’re driving?
Like SciFiChick I read at long lights... or if someone else is driving me around. I do read at the movies but only before the lights go out and the movie starts. I don't while I listen to music or while I'm on the computer... but sometimes while I eat.

When you were little, did other children tease you about your reading habits?
Yes and the glasses didn't help any.

What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was so good you couldn’t put it down?
The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

'Sparkles' by Louise Bagshawe

ISBN: 0452288142
Format: Paperback, 512pp
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Price: $14.00

Sparkles is the kind of thing you read when you should be reading classics. It's the mediocre TV you watch when you tell your friends you were improving your mind by watching documentaries. It's an escape from your own troubles into the realm of retail.

When the head of the Massot family disappears into the night he leaves his family wondering what happened. Pierre was the head of one of the great jewelry companies in Paris, wheeling and dealing, a sharp business man with a good eye he had built an empire. He left behind his timid English wife, a son that grows up to be a rather spoiled young man, his mother who loves to terrorize his wife, and a handful of mistresses. All of these characters are left wondering what happened and why.

It's hard to like some of them. I realize that might have been the point, but I detested Pierre Massot in particular. He has several mistresses, not all of whom know about the rest, and a young, meek wife waiting in the wings, whom all of the before-mentioned mistresses hate. Tom, Pierre's son, is much like his father. When we are first introduced to him, Tom's wondering if maybe he keeps too many women but decides that what they don't know won't hurt them. He's also furious with his mother for declaring his father dead, even though Pierre's been gone for seven years.

Hugh Montfort is working for a rival jewelry house and just happens to be good looking as well as smart. He's the complete package, but has put aside his personal life in favor of his professional. Hugh is famous for pouring his entire being into his work and the bigger and tougher the project, the more he enjoys it. But when he meets Sophie, his rival in the jewelry world, he beings to wonder if maybe he's made the wrong choice despite his broken-hearted past.

On the other side of all these strong masculine men is Sophie. In the beginning she's a door mat for her husband and Katherine, her mother-in-law. Katherine hates Sophie with a biting passion and the heat of her dislike only intensifies once Sophie has Pierre declared dead. Sophie, refusing to let her mother-in-law grind her down, steps up and takes her rightful place at the head of her late husband's jewelry company. A choice which surprises Judy Dean, a money-hungry former mistress of Pierre's, who still works for the company.

All of the characters' lives are connected in some way to Pierre and his actions. Why did he walk out seven years ago leaving behind his business? What are the connections in Russia? What is Katherine hiding? Will Sophie be successful as she negotiates the minefields of the business world? What happened in Hugh's past? Will Judy finally get what she wants? I feel like I should be telling you to tune in next week for the amazing conclusion.

Louise Bagshawe has adapted some of her novels for films in Hollywood and I can understand why they transfer to the screen so well. Sparkles is the kind of thing you would expect to see on the big screen with some hot starlet in the leading role or late in the afternoon as a made for TV movie. A story filled with beautiful clothes, glittering jewelry, and gorgeous people. If you get bored with those, there is a healthy dose of ambition and betrayal thrown in for good measure. Sparkles is a soap opera and if you enjoy that sort of thing you will not be disappointed.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Cult Classic and the Book

Another book I haven't read but when I came across it I had to buy it. I can remember coming across my aunt's copy of the soundtrack to the movie in an old stack of records. The cover was the black and white image of a young Dustin Hoffman with Anne Bancroft's leg stretched across the picture. I've always loved Simon and Garfunkel and some of my favorite songs are from the original soundtrack; The Sound of Silence, Scarborugh Fair, and Mrs. Robinson.

I didn't like the movie the first time I saw it. At first I thought maybe it was a generational thing, maybe you had to have lived that time and been young when it first came out for it to hit the emotional cord. But seeing it again a few years later, older and sadly much wiser, it hit a spot that resonated. It's a classic but I didn't even realize it was a book until I found this copy, a book club edition from 1963, in a junk store.

Have any of you read the book? Could this be one case in which the movie is just as good, or dare I say, better?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Are You Heartsick?

ISBN: 0312368461
Format: Hardcover, 336pp (September 4, 2007)
Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur
Price: $23.95

I came across this one while browsing online the other day and I'm still thinking about it. I guess that means I'm going to have to read it. Chelsea Cain is the author of a weekly column in The Oregonian and this is the first in a series. Rights to the novel have already been sold to fifteen different countries which I find amazing. It looks as if Heartsick and Chelsea Cain are on the brink of international stardom. Check out her webpage and read a little bit more about the book.

Plus when Chuck Palahniuk says this it has to be good. “With Gretchen Lowell, Chelsea Cain gives us the most compelling, most original serial killer since Hannibal Lecter.”

From the Publisher:

Portland Detective Archie Sheridan spent ten years tracking Gretchen Lowell, a beautiful serial killer, but in the end she caught him. Gretchen kidnapped Archie and tortured him for ten days, then she released him and turned herself in. Now Gretchen is locked away, while Archie is in a prison of another kind—addicted to painkillers, and powerless to erase those ten days from his mind. He visits Gretchen in prison once a week, saying he wants her to confess the whereabouts of more of her victims, but even he knows that the truth is he just can’t stay away.

When another killer begins snatching teenage girls, Archie knows that he has to pull himself together and investigate the murders. Newspaper reporter Susan Ward begins following Archie’s investigation, sparking a deadly game between Archie, Susan, the new killer, and even Gretchen. They need to catch a killer, and maybe somehow Archie can now free himself from Gretchen once and for all. Original, addictive, and profoundly disturbing, Heartsick heralds the arrival of a major new star.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

'The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets' by Eva Rice

ISBN: 0452288096
Format: Paperback, 368pp
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Price: $14.00

The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets is a wonderful book. I stayed up late into the night, consumed by the story, which is so brilliantly told I could not put it down until I had turned the final page. What I found between the covers is a great deal more than what the synopsis leads you to believe the book will be about. It is so much more than just “fashionable parties and romantic entanglements in 1950s London.”

Penelope, who never takes the bus, is waiting at a bus stop when a girl walks up and demands who among the small crowd would like to share a taxi with her. Penelope agrees and slides into the taxi with this strange girl who introduces herself as Charlotte. Penelope, for just a moment, thinks about how if her life were a novel this moment would be a turning point, which of course it is. Delighted that Penelope has accepted her invitation to share the taxi, and knowing she would all along, Charlotte takes Penelope to have tea with her Aunt Clare and Cousin Harry.

Aunt Clare, in her sixties, is a beauty still, and with Charlotte‘s help is in the middle of writing her tell-all autobiography. Aunt Clare is just as delighted with Penelope as Penelope is with her, and claims to know her parents. Penelope’s mother was and still is a famous beauty who at 35 outshines her own daughter and Penelope‘s dashing father who died in the war.

Harry, a magician, looks the part with his mismatched eyes, one blue and one brown, and at 25 he seems much older to Penelope who is only 18. At first she finds him irritating and too short, not at all attractive though terribly interesting. Harry however is desperately in love with an American girl who left him for someone much richer and with better connections. Despite the obvious fact that the American girl is self-centered he is determined to win her back, and when he is introduced to Penelope he knows just how he will do it.

Soon Penelope and Charlotte are inseparable. Penelope can not remember a time when she had not known Charlotte and, thanks to Charlotte, Harry as well. They spend weekends together doing normal teenage things: listening to records all night long, talking, and drinking way too much. Even though the book is set in the 1950s, these characters are timeless and the themes universal.

Harry one night convinces Penelope to go to a fancy party with him as his date, to make the American girl jealous. Although at first she doesn’t want to, in the end Penelope goes and has a lovely time. It is the first of several encounters where Penelope must act as if she is in love with Harry and he with her. But in the end who is really acting?

Then there is Milton Magna (the ancient home of Penelope’s family), her brother Inigo, Rocky the very sexy older American, glittery parties with social butterflies, a Rothko, a very early Elvis Presley, and of course last but not least, Johnnie Ray. Each is woven into the story so that you could not imagine it being any other way.

Filled with sharp and witty dialogue, The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets is hard to pin down as any one thing: a coming of age story, a fun girl romp, a story about the way music affects the soul, a story of true love on the grandest scale. It is those things and much more besides. The end has a hint of Rebecca in it, which, along with many other wonderful novels, is referenced throughout these completely delightful pages, and by the end I felt as if Charlotte and Harry were my friends and I had come to know Penelope almost as well as myself. Can a simple taxi ride really change the course of your life? I can only shrug and ask, ‘Why not?’

Gracie over at Echoes of Grace awarded me a Nice Matters blog award. It really made my day and it was well... really nice of her! But it's more than that. After the recent incident with my former blog it really gives me hope for the people you meet online. You might not ever see them face to face and the comment sections might be the only place you 'speak' with them, but there are good people out there. Maybe Gracie knew I needed it for that very reason. Thank you Gracie from the very bottom of my heart.

As for the rest of you well... your nice too! And I am honored to have such wonderful people visit my blog and deal with the constant book overload. You all deserve the nice blogger award.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Good for a Laugh

ISBN: 0061161640
ISBN-13: 9780061161643
Format: Hardcover, 384pp
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers (September 25, 2007)
Price: $25.95

I love the Discworld series. They are thoughtful while being hilarious and often my family will hear me laughing out loud while I read them. My Uncle first introduced me to Ank-Morkpork and its many smelly wonders through Men at Arms, which features some of my favorite characters: The Watch.

In September the latest Discworld novel hits the shelves and I am beyond excited. Have any of you read Discworld?

From the Publisher:

Moist von Lipwig, condemned prisoner turned postal worker extraordinaire (see Pratchett's Going Postal) is back! Except this time he's been put in charge of a different branch of the government: he's responsible for overseeing the printing of Ankh-Morpork's first paper currency.

Filled with Pratchett's usual sharp wit, keen social commentary, and sagacious observations, Making Money is another highly anticipated volume in the internationally bestselling Discworld canon.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Romantic Classics

A survey done recently in the UK about great love stories reveals that classics are the best. I have to admit that while I love a good modern romance or something written by a modern author with a regency flair; I'm always drawn towards the classics like Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, and the more recent Daphne du Maurier.

Some of the titles from the list include:

  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte 1847 (at number 1)
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen 1813 (at number 2)
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte 1847 (at number 4)
  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier 1938 (at number 7)
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald 1925 (at number 13)
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen 1811 (at number 14)
  • Persuasion by Jane Austen 1818 (at number 18)

I hate to admit it but I have not read the entire list... and I've never read Wuthering Heights. I've read parts of it but I could never get through the whole thing knowing that in the end death and unhappiness waited for the characters. I have to wonder where the romance is in that.

I loved Jane Eyre as a teenager and I still do but it is so dark. Much darker than Jane Austen and while there is romance there it is not of the happy variety. A girl grows up without love and spends time in a great dark house with a man who is hard. Jane finds out that he has a crazy wife hiding in the attic only once she and Rochester are at the alter.

Depending on what mood I'm in I could pick a favorite Jane Austen; at the moment it is Persuasion. But each one ends happily, there is no dark lurking secret and the biggest thing to overcome is money.

But Rebecca... oh I could talk for hours about that one book alone. Except that it is more thriller than romance. Sure Max woos our nameless heroine but then he moves her to this huge creepy house with a housekeeper that tries to kill her. She also gets left on her own a lot and Max can be very cold. Plus the constant ghost of Rebecca the dead wife... who by the way was murdered by our dashing hero. But you know what? I still love it.

And The Great Gatsby? He dies.

Have you read any of the list? Can you pick a favorite? Why do you think that the classics are picked over the more modern romances of our own time? Do you really think they are romances?

See the entire list and read the article at The Guardian...

Monday, August 13, 2007

Man Booker Dozen Announced

  • Darkmans by Nicloa Barker
  • Self Help by Edward Docx
  • The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng
  • The Gathering by Anne Enright
  • The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
  • The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies
  • Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones
  • Gifted by Nikita Lalwani
  • On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
  • What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn
  • Consolation by Michael Redhill
  • Animal's People by Indra Sinha
  • Winnie & Wolf by A.N. Wilson

I must admit that when it comes to this list I haven't read any of them. I've read about a few, On Chesil Beach and The Reluctant Fundamentalist both of which seemed to have a lot of buzz around them when they first came out. The rest... sadly nothing. But I will look into each and every one.

The Man Booker Prize, first established in 1968, is the world's most important literary award. Awarded to only the very best in fiction it has the power to change the fortunes of authors and even publishers. Any full-length novel written by a citizen of the Commonwealth or Republic of Ireland is eligible for the award.

Some of the past winners include:

  • The Ineritance of Loss by Kiran Desai (2006)
  • The Sea by John Banville (2005)
  • The Life of Pi by Yann Martel (2002)
  • The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (2000)
  • The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (1997)
  • The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (1992)

I have two of the above in my to-be-read pile at home right this moment. The Blind Assassin and The God of Small Things which I didn't know were prize winners until I looked at the list on the Booker homepage. I'm looking forward to reading them.

Read more about this years dozen...

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Found on a Weekend

On the weekends I've started checking the local thrift store, garage sales, and the like for books. I admit that I have an addiction and the cheaper I can get my fix the better. Besides the new books that I come across for much cheaper than the chain bookstores I also find some wonderful old books for less than what you expect.

I came across a copy of Jenny Essenden by Anthony Pryde from 1921 in beautiful condition. It doesn't have its dust jacket mores the pity but is lovely just the same.

I don't know what it is about, only that it is A Romance of the Other Woman, from the title page. Chapter One opens with:

'Mark Sturt had not long returned from an expedition to the Southern Andes, and since he was in a contempative turn of mind it amused him to stand behind a curtain in the recess of the balcony window and watch the dance going on to the tune of Offenbach's ingenuous Barcarolle.'

It's a wonderful opening and I'm looking forward to reading it. If you've read it or have heard of the author please tell me all you can, I would love to learn more.

Friday, August 10, 2007

'Unmasqued' by Colette Gale

ISBN: 0451221370
Format: Paperback, 352pp
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Price: $14.00

The Phantom of the Opera is a story that most of us know through theater or television. A few know it from the novel by Gaston Leroux which was first published in a serialized form from 1909 to 1910. Though today it is considered a classic world-wide, the novel at first sold poorly and has been out of print several times. Some of Phantom's fame is due to many successful stage and screen adaptations.

Unmasqued by Colette Gale is one of many adaptations that can be found and it follows the original idea of the story to an extent. However, this being an erotic retelling of a classic, the story does go places that your average reader might not expect. It opens with this wonderful dedication: 'To all the women who thought Christine should have stayed with the Phantom' and from the dedication page on you are pulled into a story that is vibrant and lush.

Christine Daae came to live in the Opera House as a girl, her father having died when she was young. Before his death she showed great promise as a singer but after his death she felt that her music had somehow passed with him. In the Opera House she is quiet and shy, but most of all terribly lonely. She blossoms when the Opera Ghost, her Angel of Music, takes an interest in her voice and begins to tutor her in music and voice.

Of course we know this right away to be Erik, the Phantom of the Opera. Dark, mysterious, demanding, not to mention exciting, Christine falls for him despite what lies behind the mask. Although he can not believe it at first, soon a real bond, true love, has grown between them.

After a brilliant performance on the stage and an indiscreet meeting with Raoul, a childhood friend turned admirer, Christine is taken to the Phantom's home deep beneath the Opera House. She is gone for seven days and in that time Erik and Christine come to truly know and understand each other. But then an unthinkable and unforgivable act of Christine's wrenches them apart.

Raoul is there to pick up the pieces when Christine returns from her dark and erotic journey. More than willing to replace whatever it is she has lost, Raoul tries desperately to please her and in the end forces her into submission. But in her heart Christine knows that Erik, the Opera Ghost, her Angel of Music, is the only man she could ever love. But can Erik forgive her curiosity? Can the two young lovers get past the skin deep passions to the true passion that lies deep in their souls?

One of things that I enjoyed most, beside the shiver inducing erotic elements of the story, were the wonderful characters. It flows smoothly amongst Christine, Erik, Maude, Raoul, Carlotta, and every character in between. You are given glimpses into their lives, a look into their lovely or wicked souls; their cravings and desires. The Opera House comes alive within the pages and you are treated to glittering golden scenes in the richest hues that become the backdrop for constant sexual satisfaction.

Unmasqued, a retelling of a classic, is an erotic classic in its own right. Charged with erotic images, sensual passion, fiery longing, and steamy scenes on and off the stage this is a book to be devoured in one seating. Then opened again and read slowly just for the pure pleasure of it.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

'The Intruders' by Michael Marshall

ISBN: 0061235024
Format: Hardcover, 400pp
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Price: $24.95

When I started reading The Intruders the first thing that struck me was the writing. Michael Marshall is talented and this book, his second, is one of the best books I have ever read. Not one of the best books I’ve read this year or in the past five; I mean ever. The writing is tight, and yet it flows so smoothly, giving you the picture perfectly. His characters are beyond three-dimensional, they are breathing. I took long lunches all week because I literally could not put this book down.

Jack Whalen is an ex-cop living in an idyllic little town with his wife Amy in Washington state. He seems lost right from the start, wondering if maybe he has it in him to be or do more. He had a book published almost a year ago and has been working on a new one except that there isn’t a new one. Then an old high school acquaintance, Gary Fisher, shows up out of the blue and confronts Jack with the story of two people who were murdered.

Gary is convinced that Jack can help him solve the mystery of what happened. Although Jack refuses to help him at first it becomes apparent that recent events in his personal life are somehow, in some inexplicable way, tied to these murders. His wife goes on a business trip and disappears only to resurface a few days later as if nothing has changed. Once again Gary approaches Jack with evidence that his wife is tied to the murders and Jack agrees to look into it.

Then Madison, a nine year old, girl goes missing from under her not-so-attentive mother‘s nose. She has blackouts and cannot remember how she came to be in a place all alone and so far away from the beach house she last remembered. It is as if something or someone inside of her is directing her, moving her forward toward a destination she knows nothing about.

When Jack finally begins to piece the bits and pieces together he starts to realize how large the picture is they belong to. Why were two people murdered for no apparent reason? What was Jack’s wife Amy doing if she wasn’t on business? Where is Madison going and why? Who are the intruders? These questions run through your mind as you hurtle towards an ending that will leave you stunned. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

The Intruders features some very lost and broken characters. Deep tragedy and sadness fill the dark corners of their minds and hearts, pasts that are complicated and slowly revealed layer by layer. They are multifaceted and completely human. Jack especially is someone I became attached to. The story pealed back to reveal more and you came to understand that the calm man in the first few chapters was really hiding someone else. In the end, though, it is about the people in your life and the things that bind you to them.

“People never really leave," one passage contends. "That’s the worst crime committed by those who go and those who die. They leave echoes of themselves behind, for the people who loved them to deal with for the rest of their lives.”