Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sunday Salon: Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Day Two

My enthusiasm bubbled over from yesterday into today as my husband and I made the treacherous drive into Westwood for the second day of the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Anjin was a little less enthused, still recovering from the day before. He hung in there as best he could though with only minor grumblings.

The UCLA campus was buzzing with activity when we arrived. Exhibitors and volunteers were ready for the crowds, authors were starting to arrive for their panels and book signings and mother nature graced us with another beautiful day.

Of all the author discussion panels this weekend, I was most looking forward to one entitled The Outer Limits: Horror and Science Fiction. Not only did I think this was the perfect panel for my husband who enjoys reading both fantasy and science fiction, but I also knew that I would enjoy it as well, especially with Raymond Feist scheduled to appear. Unfortunately, Raymond Feist had a family emergency and was unable to make it as was David Brin, another author I had been hoping to see. Sitting in their place was author Harry Turtledove, most known for his alternate history novels. Also present were authors Kevin J. Anderson and Joe Hill.

Moderated by Nick Owchar from the Los Angeles Times, the panel spent quite a bit of time discussing the recent increase of crossover writing, merging of genres and other types of writing. Mr. Turtledove was quick to point out that this sort of writing is not new and has been going on for decades now. Joe Hill and Kevin Anderson both argued that while that may be true, the current climate has widened the audience for science fiction, horror and fantasy as a result of the free flow of writing from one genre to another. One panelist mentioned that people are often reading books without realizing they are genre fiction.

The second panel I attended this Sunday touched on similar themes, only from a different perspective. Christine Smallwood of The Nation moderated the panel called Fiction: The Magic in Everyday Life. Authors Aimee Bender, Alex Espinoza, Yxta Maya Murray, and Alice Hoffman offered their thoughts on the subject at hand. Each of these authors is very different in style and approach, and yet their answers were still very similar. The authors discussed how magic played a part in each of their books, sometimes in a very real and ordinary way. They also talked about authors who have been a big influence on their writing, such as Marion Zimmer Bradley and Ursula K. Le Guin.

One thing in particular came out in both panels: that fiction writing offers insight into reality, sometimes more clearly and truthful than reality itself, regardless of how fantastical or out of the world the story may be. One of my favorite quotes by Jessamyn West is "Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures." It is something I truly believe myself.

You would not think there would be a business in scalping tickets at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, but evidently there just might be. At least I could get a meal out of it. A woman was offering twenty dollars for two tickets to one of the author panels Anjin and I went to see today. Alice Hoffman is just that popular. Honestly, if I had tickets to spare, I would have given them to her freely. The tickets to the panels are free other than a 75 cent surcharge if you go through Ticketmaster to get them.

I dragged Anjin one more time through a couple of booth areas just in case I missed something the day before. I was lingering a little too long outside of a small publisher's booth trying to remember if I had ever read a book printed by that particular publisher and was coaxed inside by a woman handing out cards. While one of the authors tried to sell my husband his book, I commented to author Anne Carter,who I was standing next to, that the other author had the wrong reader, that I usually kept my husband close because he was my no man, and I all too often said yes when tempted by a book that looked good. Just as I expected, Anjin was able to get away book free, but I walked out of the booth with a book in hand.

A little later in the afternoon, I completely passed by a booth that my husband drew me back to. "Too bad you didn't bring that book you bought yesterday back today. The author could've signed it," Anjin said. I could have kept walking, but now I was curious. I hadn't filled my quota of book buying for the day, and I could always get her to sign the second book in her series, right? Naomi Hirahara couldn't have been nicer. She told us a little about her series and, of course, signed her second book for me.

Sitting next to her was author John Hamamura who was deep in conversation with another passerby. The cover of his book caught my eye, and so I thought I'd thumb through his book while he was preoccupied. I was sold after reading the back cover blurb. Anjin and I stood talking with the author for a short while about his book as he explained how it was similar to the story of his own father's life.

Only four books made it home with me today, if you can believe. I was trying to be especially good after yesterday's little stockpile:
Point Surrender by Anne Carter
Color of the Sea by John Hamamura
Gasa-Gasa Girl by Naomi Hirahara
Women of the Silk by Gail Tsukiyama

Wearily we headed home soon after. Anjin is taking a nap. Too much sun and time on his feet, I think. I imagine the cat is napping nearby too. My dog wants some make-up playtime after being left along for too long. After I take care of his needs, I am going to settle in for the rest of the evening, curl up with a book and try not to think about how much I wish I could have taken tomorrow off from work to recuperate after such a full and fun weekend.

Have a good week and happy reading!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Sunday Salon: Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Day One

My Saturday morning started something like this:

5:15 a.m. - *scratch* *scratch* Pawing at the blanket covering my shoulder, my early bird of a cat cries, "Mew. Meow. MEOW!" In my sleepy daze, I offer him a little pat on the head and promptly roll over to get a little more sleep. It is Saturday after all.

5:30 a.m. - "Meow." *scratch* Ugh. "Fine," I tell the wicked little devil who is keeping me from sleeping in. "I'm up!" Of course, now the dog is up too and wanting to play.

The weather was lovely, if a little too warm. Still, no complaints from me. It was a perfect day for the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books and nothing was going to dampen my enthusiasm. My husband and I had a great time, browsing through many of the booths, attending book signings and some of the author discussion panels that were held throughout the day.

My favorite panel turned out to be one that Anjin was particularly interested in attending. Jeph Loeb, most recently of Heroes fame, was joined by Mike Mignola (Hellboy) and Steve Niles (30 Days of Night) to discuss Comics: Superheroes of the Page and Screen. Moderator Geoff Boucher (L.A. Times Reporter) did not have to do very much to get the three men talking about their careers in the comic book and film industry. The conversation was entertaining as well as informative. The stigma surrounding comic books was a roadblock for a number of years in getting the books taken seriously as movie fodder. With the popularity of the genre in recent years, it is getting much easier. Jeph Loeb, sadly, would not give away any spoilers for the third season of Heroes.

Rushing across campus, we were able to make it to our second panel of the day just in time. The topic of the morning was Mystery: The Literary Detective. I admit that one of the reasons I was interested in this particular panel was the chance to see Peter Robinson, author of the Inspector Banks series. However, I was also very curious to see how the topic itself would be addressed. Joining Peter Robinson were authors Leslie Klinger and April Smith. Sarah Weinman was the moderator. There was a little discussion of the history and evolution of the literary detective, beginning with Edgar Allan Poe. April Smith and Peter Robinson shared details of their own process of writing and creating their characters while Leslie Klinger offered his input based on past research he had done for his nonfiction work. It was an interesting discussion that touched slightly on the literary fiction versus genre fiction debate, if only to demonstrate how ambiguous such labels can be.

I could not pass up the opportunity to take in the Fiction: Lives on the Page panel, featuring Elizabeth Berg, Anne Taylor Fleming, Joanne Harris, and Elizabeth Strout, moderated by Amy Wallen. It was quite interesting to learn how each author breathes life into her characters, pulling from her own experiences initially, but then branching out from there, letting the characters take the lead.

The time we spent checking out the different booths proved quite fruitful. We got to see authors Harlan Coben, T. Jefferson Parker, John Lescroart, Laura Levine, Robert Crais, and Joanne Fluke among others. My heart skipped a beat just being around them all! I did tell you about my being star struck by authors before? It's awful.

I met a couple of authors I was not familiar with: Dan Fesperman and Louise Ure, both of whom were the nicest people. Looking back, I think I made a fool of myself in front of Dan Fesperman. I asked a couple of inane questions. He was extremely polite, however, and his books sound especially good. Louise Ure's books also caught my interest set in Arizona, one of my favorite settings. I felt a strong bond with Louise Ure immediately. Maybe it had something to do with her admission that she buys a lot of books too. Louise Ure said she thinks she might have stopped by my blog at some point, which both scared and thrilled me. Scared because, well, I am a shy person and feel more comfortable as a wallflower. Thrilled because she'd actually heard of my little blog!

This was the first year the festival sported a Comix Strip section, which really wasn't much at all, but it was something, I suppose. Anjin came upon one booth in particular that drew him in. We got the chance to meet comic book writer Michael Alan Nelson who seemed like a great guy.

I did manage to find a few books that caught my fancy. Several made their way home with me:
The Woods by Harlan Coben
Lie in the Dark by Dan Fesperman
The Small Boat of Great Sorrows by Dan Fesperman
The Jane Austen Club by Karen Joy Fowler
Summer of the Big Bachi by Naomi Hirahara
Sun Storm by ├ůsa Larsson
Dissolution by C.J. Sansom
Forcing Amaryllis by Louise Ure

By the end of the day, my feet were sore, and both my husband and I were ready to head home. We had a fun time and are looking forward to heading back tomorrow. You didn't really think one day would be enough for the likes of me, did you?

Time To Go!

Ack! I am behind on my blog visits and had hoped to catch up yesterday evening, but it was not meant to be. I did at least want to take time out to announce the winners of this weeks giveaways. I admit to having been a little afraid now and then that no one would want one book or another, but fortunately that has not been the case. Thank you to all who took the time to participate! I have enjoyed having these little giveaways. I am sure there will be more in the future, although maybe not so concentrated.

The winners are . . .

Jen (Ladytink) is the lucky winner of A Pedigree to Die For by Laurien Berenson.

Megan is the lucky winner of Juno and Juliet by Julian Gough.

Nikki (aka nik) is the lucky winner of Must Love Dogs by Claire Cook.

Nicola is the lucky winner of Stealing Shadows by Kay Hooper.

Congratulations to all of the winners!

Anjin is putting on his shoes, which is my sign that it is time to hit the road. L.A. Times Festival of Books, here I come!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Springing, Friday Fill Ins & 123 Meme

Do your reading habits change in the spring? Do you read gardening books? Even if you don’t have a garden? More light fiction than during the winter? Less? Travel books? Light paperbacks you can stick in a knapsack?

Or do you pretty much read the same kinds of things in the spring as you do the rest of the year?

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of spring is allergies. Although I have year round allergies, they seem to act up even more so during the spring. Sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes and killer sinus headaches . . . You would think this would cause me to dread the coming of spring each year, however, far from it. I love the longer days, seeing the flowers in bloom, leisurely walks, pleasant weather, and the general buzz of excitement that spring always seems to carry with it. I am sure spring is one of my dog's favorite times of year as he wants to spend much more time outdoors, lounging on the grass and taking in the rays. My cat hates the spring, however, because he's stuck inside staring longingly out the window, wishing he could be rolling in the grass next to the dog.

Despite what many people say, there are signs of a season's change in Southern California, however slight. Having lived in the state most of my life and being a natural observer, there is a definite change in the air and in the life cycle around us. Unless you live in the mountains, the changes are not nearly as extreme here as they are in other parts of the country, certainly. That is fine by me. This literary feline is not a snowbird. I am quite content with a less dramatic climate.

Perhaps that plays a part in my reading as well. The less distinctive seasons, the less change in reading habits to coincide with them. I am not a seasonal reader. Going from winter into the spring does not inspire me to read any particular type of book nor draw me to any one topic. My reading patterns change now and then as my interests ebb and flow, but they cannot be set by the calendar.

1. When I fell in love, I knew it would be forever.
2. It's time to break out the spring clothing when the flowers bloom and it heats up outside!
3. Oh no! The internet connection is down, what a perfect opportunity jump back into that book I was reading!
4. Lost is the craziest television show ever. (and I love it!)
5. Cheese and macaroni make a great meal!
6. I would love to have a garden, but I have a brown thumb.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to getting a good night's sleep in preparation for the weekend; tomorrow my plans include spending the day at the L.A. Times Festival of Books; and Sunday, I want to go back for more fun!

Clea Simon was kind enough to tag me for the 123 meme.

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

Well, the nearest book happens to be Cecilia Samartin's Tarnished Beauty and I am afraid that page 123 only has two and a half sentences. A catalog of summer fashions does not quite fit the bill, does it?

An excerpt from the novella, "The Hundred and Ninety-Nine Steps," from Michel Faber's The Courage Consort:
He was carrying a large plastic bag, but apart from that he looked like a young doctor who'd answered his beeper at a London brasserie and been persuaded to make a house call. Sian had trouble accepting he could look like this; she'd imagined him (she realised now) permanently dressed in shorts and T-shirt, running around Whitby in endless circles. She laughed at the thought, her inhibitions loosened by the excesses she was indulging in with Hadrian.
This is one of those memes that goes round and round, but each time can result in a different answer. I will not tag anyone in particular, but feel free to play along!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The View From The Seventh Layer by Kevin Brockmeier

First Sentence: Once there was a city where everyone had the gift of song.

The View From the Seventh Layer by Kevin Brockmeier
Pantheon Books, 2008 (ARE)
Fiction (ss); 267 pgs

Kevin Brockmeier’s book of short stories, The View From the Seventh Layer, is perfect for reflective and thoughtful reading. Each story offers a look into the life of its characters, their minds and souls, and the choices they have made. Some focus on regret while others on forward motion. The View From the Seventh Layer is a blend of beauty, heartache, and reflection.

The book is compromised of thirteen original stories. It opens with “A Fable Ending in the Sound of a Thousand Parakeets” about a mute man who is surrounded by the songs of his neighbors. No one really knows much about him, often taking him for granted. Yet there is so much more to him than anyone realizes.

The story sharing the title of the book, The View From the Seventh Layer, is perhaps the most revealing of all the stories in the novel, full of small regrets and reflections on what was and what could have been. Olivia spends her summers selling maps and other sundries to tourists and locals on the island. She is a reader who has stopped reading. Her life has not gone the way she imagined it might; she feels trapped and is waiting to be taken away from it all. At the other end of the spectrum is the story of Jacob in “The Lives of Philosophers.” Readers are introduced to the young graduate student who on the verge of making decisions that could change the direction of his life, and yet he is not sure he wants anything at all to change.

As a child, I loved reading choose-your-own adventure stories, and the author has graced readers with one just for adults in the center of the book. Of course, I had to follow each path and could not just stop at one. The author also dabbles in science fiction in a story here and there, adding a nice balance to the collection.

My favorite stories came near the end, one of an associate producer burned out on his job. Another is of the refugee girl who has her photo taken by an American. Perhaps the most powerful is the final story, a fable about a man who buys God’s overcoat at a thrift store one day. There was not one disappointing story in the bunch, each one worth reading.

A city that longs for that which it doesn’t have, getting more than we bargained for, finding love and in some cases, never quite grasping it, facing the consequences of the choices made, remembering what could have been, and finally taking a chance regardless of the consequences are just a few of the themes readers will find in Kevin Brockmeier’s short story collection. There is a gentle melancholy that hangs over several of the stories and yet several offer a glimmer of hope.

The author’s writing is haunting at times and always lyrical. He seems to take care with his descriptions, weaving his words together and creating a visual of feeling, which comes out on every page. And yet, with all that description, not once did it feel overdone nor did I grow tired of it. Kevin Brockmeier also captures the souls of his characters, seemingly ordinary people, each one of them relatable and offering more to the reader than what meets the eye. Time seemed to stop as I read The View From the Seventh Layer. I cannot recommend it enough. Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Wendy Runyon, 2008.

Favorite Quote:
The heart of every house was the kitchen, the soul of every house was the bedroom, the mind of every house was displayed with hooks and thumbtacks on the walls. But the conscience of every house—she believed—the conscience of every house was the bookshelves. [pg 19]

Rating: * (Very Good)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

After Hours at the Almost Home by Tara Yellen

First Sentence: The Almost Home, the bar and grill at 2nd and Middleton, was not an old building or a new building, it was somewhere in between—built quick and sturdy, gray brick, steel trim, the type of place you’d overlook if it wasn’t smack-dab in the middle of Cherry Creek, Denver’s affluent shopping district.

After Hours at the Almost Home
by Tara Yellen
Unbridled, 2008 (ARE)
Fiction; 272 pgs

Tara Yellen’s After Hours at the Almost Home is a day in the life type novel, set in the Almost Home Bar and Grill in Denver, Colorado. It is a cold and snowy day in January, Super Bowl Sunday as a matter of fact, and the Almost Home is jam-packed with customers from all walks of life, including the down and out regulars like India, a storyteller who can tell your fortune. Business is hopping when young JJ begins her first shift. She is immediately caught up in the whirlwind of the bustling restaurant, trying to keep everything straight, at times failing miserably. This is a fresh start for the young woman, however, and she is determined to make it work and to fit in.

Understaffed and dealing with the hole the bartender created when she walked out unannounced and an inexperienced trainee on the floor, the wait staff at the Almost Home are struggling as best they can on one of the busiest days of the year. Amidst the hustle and bustle, the loud voices, the game in the background, the orders coming in and being delivered to the tables, Tara Yellen transports the reader into the middle of that bar and grill where it all comes to life. When the customers are gone and the last of the closing chores are done, the wait staff are able to relax and unwind after a hard day and night of work.

Bit by bit, the author introduces the reader to the characters, peeling back the layers of their lives as they work, interact with each other and recall snatches of their past. The characters are ordinary people with every day hopes and fears, always wishing and dreaming for something more. The staff seem in their element while working, at the same time trying to forget their realities for a short while but never quite succeeding. A cloud of loneliness and heartache hangs over each of them. They hurt each other, love each other and are almost always drawn to each other.

There is Colleen, a widow struggling to come to terms with the death of her husband two years ago, and Colleen’s fourteen year old daughter, Lily, the most vulnerable of all and yet also one of the strongest, who is much too grown up and yet still very naive, wanting only to get out and away. There is Lena who likes to take charge and puts on airs of a confidence she does not really possess; Keith, who longs for something different and wears his heart on his sleeve; Denny who is down and out on love, always the cool one; and Marna, a free spirit, who is ever present in the Almost Home, even when she is not really there at all. Tara Yellen breathes life into her characters, capturing their doubts, fears and hopes. At some point in our lives, haven’t most of us felt exhausted of life, surviving as best we can, wanting and wishing for more?

The Almost Home is almost home for many of the characters. Their coworkers are their family. I could not help but feel a part of the family too as I reached the last page of the novel. Tara Yellen is a talented writer. After Hours at the Almost Home is not without its disturbing moments nor is it a happy story. It is a day in the life story about ordinary people struggling to get by, disappointed with life and yet hoping for more. Originally published at Front Street Reviews.

Rating: * (Very Good)

Monday, April 21, 2008

This Week's Giveaways

I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to participate in the book drawings this month. This will be the last of the drawings for awhile. I do hope you'll try your luck! This week I am offering four books.

You know the drill:
  • Please leave a comment with the title of the book you are interested in winning. You may request as many books as you want but will only be able to win one.
  • Entries must be received no later than 11:59 p.m. on Friday, April 25, 2008 (PDT).
  • Drawing will be held on Saturday, April 26, 2008 at which time the winners will be announced. I will try to post results before I leave for the book festival, if not, but I make no promises.
This week's giveaway straight off my shelves (all books have been read once):

A cozy mystery fit for an animal lover, A Pedigree to Die For by Laurien Berenson.

Juno and Juliet by Julian Gough. A mystery, a love story, and the tale of two sisters coming of age.

A romantic comedy, Must Love Dogs by Claire Cook.

Meet psychic Cassie Neill in this suspenseful novel, Stealing Shadows by Kay Hooper.

Good luck!

Sunday Salon: Getting On My Soapbox

I am looking forward to settling in with my book today and stepping outside of my own world for a short while. Author Karen E. Olson recommended Craig Johnson's Sheriff Walt Longmire series to me quite a while ago. It did not take long for a little bubble of excitement to well up inside me as I began reading the first book in the series. A promising start to be sure!

I try and avoid getting onto a soapbox here on my blog, but I could not resist jumping on it today. I am not always good at expressing my thoughts, but I'll give it a try.

I recently came across a story about an author who let her ego get in the way. A reviewer on Amazon actually liked the author's book, however, took issue with a few things. The response she received back from the author was a nasty personal attack. In another forum, the author stated that she had used a private investigator to get personal information on the reviewer, an implied threat. Whether the author is full of hot air or actually did this, I cannot say. I would hope it is not true. It also has come to light that this particular author has engaged in questionable behavior for quite some time, striking out at anyone who writes what she deems as a negative review against her work and encourages others to do so as well, with the intention of having the reviews removed from Amazon. There is much more to the story, but I will not go into it here. Suffice it to say, as a reader and reviewer, I am appalled.

I have heard about and even witnessed authors lashing out at readers/reviewers who did not like their work. By lashing out I am referring to being mean spirited and cruel. I will not name names, but I imagine their reputations proceed them. On the flip side, I can think of a couple of authors who have recently commented on the blogs of friends, both of whom were gracious in disagreeing with the reviewer on minor points, and it lead to interesting discussions. As a reader, I appreciate the added insight into a novel. Perhaps I did miss something or will find new understanding with clarification. One of the things I enjoy most about being a part of book discussion groups is the fact that members not only discuss books, but offer differing perspectives and ideas. It is especially exciting when an author can join in on the discussion as well.

Readers/reviewers can be cruel too, of course. I despise author bashing. It really does not serve a purpose, and it says more about the reader than it does about the author. I can say the same for readers who vehemently lash out at other readers who disagree with an opinion on any given book. It is one thing to criticize or disagree in a respectful manner and a completely other thing to resort to insults and name calling.

Anytime you put something out there, it is open to interpretation by the person receiving the information. An author can hope that the reader will fully comprehend and take away from his or her book what the author intended, but so many variables come into play that could make that impossible. Every time I sit down to read a book, I bring with me my life's experiences, my knowledge, my expectations, and, yes, even the mood I am in at the time. This alone is enough to color my impressions of a book. How I perceive something could be entirely different than how you might perceive it. And then there's a matter of taste itself. What appeals to me will not appeal to everyone. There is nothing right or wrong about it. It just is.

When I write a review of a book, I am merely sharing my impressions, putting forth my own opinion about how the book affected me. Reading is a communion between the author and the reader. For a short while, we are bound together in a relationship of sorts. And like in real life, relationships are complex. We put our trust in each other, the author in writing the book and sharing it with the world, and the reader in selecting that book to read. Reading is a very intimate and personal experience.

I can understand how an author might not appreciate a negative review. Not many people like to hear such criticism. An author puts a lot of sweat and time into a book. The book is a part of that author--who he or she is. Some authors handle criticism better than others. Some are able to flick it off their shoulders like it is nothing. Others feel a pang of pain with each negative review, however small. No one likes to be rejected, after all, even in the slightest of ways. Fortunately, most authors do not act out their frustrations of a negative review on the reader/reviewer. They do not turn it into a personal attack. They may blog about it in general terms, but there's nothing at all wrong with that. Authors deserve a forum to talk about us crazy fans and commiserate about the wild things reviewers say. Not to mention it's quite entertaining to blog readers, writers and non-writers alike.

At the same time, I do not think that readers/reviewers should avoid writing well thought out negative reviews. It is never my intention to hurt anyone's feelings, but I value honesty and have to be true not only to myself but also to those who may happen upon my thoughts about any given book. To do otherwise would put into question my credibility as well as my self-respect.

I think that authors who lash out like the one mentioned in the beginning of my rant are very rare. They stand out like a sore thumb as a result. The few authors who have left comments for me so far have always been gracious and kind. I get a thrill when authors take the time to comment on my blog. It is a validation to me as a reader, and, well, it is just plain awesome.

I had a windfall in free books this week, some coming as a complete surprise. Others were being sold at bargain prices that I just could not resist. It was a rough week, what can I say? Book retail therapy was in order.

Recent Book Acquisitions:
Moving Forward: Taking the Lead in Your Life by Dave Pelzer
The House of Midnight by Lucie Whitehouse
Tigerheart by Peter David
The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton
The Syringa Tree by Pamela Gien
The Gathering by Anne Enright
The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler
Love Walked In by Marisa De Los Santos
Silver of Truth by Lisa Unger
The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud
The Courage Consort by Michel Faber

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Just a Week Away!

Next Saturday I will be on the UCLA campus wandering amongst the booths and pointing out familiar authors to my husband, "Look, Honey! That's T. Jefferson Parker! Oh my! Michael Connelly! Isn't he the best? Is that? It can't be! It is!" Talk about star struck. Anjin and I are supposed to be saving money for our vacation in late summer, but this is one extravaganza that we cannot pass up. I really am going to try and be good about keeping the book purchases down, but it would be impossible to come away empty handed. It wouldn't be fair. I have to support the authors. They need me. Well, they need readers. And I'm a reader. So, technically, they need me. They need Florinda too. Is anyone else going to the L.A. Times Festival of Books next weekend? Maybe I will see you there!

Let's get to the winners of this week's giveaways, shall we? Thank you to everyone who commented and participated.

The Society by Michael Palmer has found a new home with Bridget.

Andi is the lucky winner of The Collection by Gioia Diliberto.

It is time I go and pick on my cat and let the dog out. Have a good Saturday. Congratulations to the winners!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Vocabulary & Friday Fill Ins

Suggested by Nithin:

I’ve always wondered what other people do when they come across a word/phrase that they’ve never heard before. I mean, do they jot it down on paper so they can look it up later, or do they stop reading to look it up on the dictionary/google it or do they just continue reading and forget about the word?

Some days I am more lazy than others. If I can figure out the meaning of an unfamiliar word from the context it is used, I am less likely to pursue looking any further. If I have the computer or a dictionary handy when I am reading, I will look up any words I am uncertain about and cannot figure out on my own. Sometimes I just ask my husband who I have come to think of as a walking dictionary among other things. When stuck without any of those resources and no one else I would willingly bug, I continue reading. If I remember to look it up later, great. If not, it is because I have completely forgotten about it and moved on to other things.

1. The last time I lost my temper I caused an entire star system to fall into the void!
2. Right now, a countless number of things is what I'm fed up with!
3. The next book I'd like to read is somewhere in this stack of books sitting on my desk.
4. A big hug from my husband is what I'm looking forward to.
5. If you can't get rid of the skeleton[s] in your closet, leave the door open, and they will eventually find their way out.
6. The best things I got in the mail recently were five books, four of which were completely unexpected.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward going to my friend's memorial service; tomorrow my plans include adjusting to my new hair cut; and Sunday, I want to lose myself in a book and maybe start watching one of the TV series I have on DVD.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Killer Heat by Linda Fairstein

First Sentence: Mike Chapman bit into the tip of a Cohiba and held the match to the end of his thick cigar, drawing several deep breaths to make certain it was lighted.

Killer Heat by Linda Fairstein
Doubleday, 2008 (ARE)
Crime Fiction (S/T); 368 pgs

Sex Crimes Prosecutor Alexandra Cooper is still going strong ten books into the series. Detectives Mercer Wallace and Mike Chapman continue to stick by her side. In the latest installment of Linda Fairstein’s best selling series, Alex is pulled into a murder investigation by her friend and colleague, homicide detective, Mike Chapman. A woman’s body has been discovered in an abandoned office building at a New York ferry port, and Mike believes it may be the missing woman who Alex has been searching for. However, the dead woman turns out to be someone else entirely, a woman with questionable associations. When a second and then third body are found brutally murdered, it becomes clear that a serial killer is on the loose in the city. The sweltering summer heat and jurisdictional battles between law enforcement agencies are not enough to stall the investigation, at least not for long.

As if that is not enough, Alex is in the middle of a 30 year old rape trial, seeking justice for a victim who has lived in fear most of her adult life while her rapist has roamed free. Yet another complication arises when it becomes obvious that Alex is being targeted by a gang whose leader she prosecuted and put into prison on rape charges not long before. The question becomes whether they have murder or simply harassment in mind. In typical Linda Fairstein fashion, Alex Cooper has her work cut out for her as the game of cat and mouse turns deadly.

In Killer Heat, Linda Fairstein follows through with her trademark history lesson, this time weaving the hunt for a serial killer among the small islands of Manhattan, which had once played a part in the defense of the country. This was perhaps the weakest part of the book, however, with the historical aspects coming across more as a lecture at times than a natural part of the story. Just the same, the islands take on a life of their own, especially when a storm comes roaring into town.

One of the reasons I enjoy this series is because Alex Cooper is a smart woman who does not back down easily. She is also compassionate and cares about the people for whom she seeks justice. Too often in this novel, it felt as if Mike Chapman was dismissing her whether through his joking or his taking over a situation. While it was not too out of place considering the danger of the situation and the need for him to do his job as a homicide investigator, at times, it seemed to get in the way of the story.

Despite that, the story itself is fast paced and hard to tear away from. Once Alex and friends are on the trail of the serial killer, events happen at break neck speed as the mystery unfolds and the race to stop the killer from striking again is on. Linda Fairstein knows how to create suspense in a novel, and she has not failed in Killer Heat. The last hundred pages had me glued to my seat. While this may not be the strongest book in the series, it was still an entertaining novel to read, and I am looking forward to the next book. Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Wendy Runyon, 2008.

Rating: * (Good +)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Murder Notebook by Jonathan Santlofer

First Sentence: Dust flecked with blood, shards of debris and bone, smoke so thick he can’t breathe or see or maybe he’s gone blind; the noise, horrific a moment ago, leveling out to a dull thump, thump, thump in his eardrums until it dissolves into an absence of sound as if the world had exploded and he is the lone survivor.

The Murder Notebook by Jonathan Santlofer
William Morrow, 2008 (ARE)
Crime Fiction (MYS); 390 pgs

I seem to be unable to read Jonathan Santlofer’s books in order. It is my own fault, of course. Fortunately, The Murder Notebook, the second book featuring police sketch artist, Nate Rodriguez, stands well on its own. Having read Colorblind by the same author several years ago, I had kept meaning to read something else by him, however, the time was never right. When this novel was offered on Library Thing’s Early Reviewer Program, how could I resist the opportunity? From the start, I could tell I was in for a wild ride.

Asked to help reconstruct the face of a murder victim that had been burned in an effort to cover up a murder, Nate Rodriguez could not be more eager to put his forensic anthropology skills to the test. However, the recent unsolved murder of a college student has the New York Police Department in a noose that is growing tighter and tighter as the media and public demand resolution. Nate, having assisted the homicide unit in solving a major case not too long ago, is pulled into the current investigation. Both he and his girlfriend, Terri Russo, the leader of the task force to catch the murderer, are reluctant about working together at first, but as events unfold, the two prove to be well matched.

With another man brutally murdered, the stakes grow even higher. The pieces of the puzzle do not seem to fit. With the threat of the FBI getting involved, Terri knows she must search out the answers and fast. The victims seem to have nothing in common and when their killers begin dying as well, the puzzle only grows more complicated.

Nate Rodriguez is settling into himself. He is struggling with guilt and the role he believes he played in his father’s death. He is on the outside, never quite fitting in with the other homicide cops. Nate is stubborn, a characteristic which plays into the fact that he does not give up easily, especially when walls are thrown up to thwart his efforts. Terri Russo has worked hard to earn her position as lead of the task force. She knows her position is precarious in a male dominated field. She takes her lumps and does the best she knows how.

Both characters are complex, and the author appears to have taken great care in making them as authentic as possible. The attention to detail and the descriptions of facial expressions give away the author’s artistic nature. In addition, the artwork throughout the book adds an extra dimension to the novel as a whole as well as to Nate’s character, some of the sketches helping the story along more than others.

Jonathan Santlofer creates an edgy and thought provoking novel. While at times it seems unbelievable, the story is not so far off reality as we may want to believe. The author combines careful research with and an entertaining fictional story. The Murder Notebook lived up to my expectations. It definitely was one wild ride.

Rating: * (Good)

Visit the author's website for more information about Jonathan Santlofer and his books.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Blogger Appreciation & Another Giveaway

When I first began my little blog, I was very reluctant about putting myself out there, being as shy as I am about my life and my writing. Besides, what would I have to say? And would it matter to anyone but me? My husband encouraged me though, and so I gave in. I could give blogging a chance for a few months, I thought. It has been over a year and a half now and I have made so many wonderful blogging friends. Your openness and insightful comments have both encouraged and inspired me.

I subscribe to a large number of blogs and visit regularly, if not every day, through Google Reader (what a useful tool, let me tell you!). My blog roll on the sidebar doesn't come close the number of blogs I follow throughout the week, much less represent all of the blogs I have come to appreciate. Visiting each of your blogs is like visiting a friend and I would not have it any other way. You all have enriched my life in a variety of ways. I feel better informed and more open minded. You have let me glimpse into your lives, share in your joys and sorrows, as well as entertained me.

I just want to extent a heartfelt thank you for all you have given and shown me. Thank you for making the blogging community such a welcoming and enlightening place.

It is that time again! Join me for another couple of giveaways?

The rules:
  • Please leave a comment with the title of the book you are interested in winning. You may request both books but will only be able to win one.
  • Entries must be received no later than 11:59 p.m. on Friday, April 18, 2008 (PDT).
  • Drawing will be held on Saturday, April 19, 2008 at which time the winners will be announced.
This week's giveaway straight off my shelves (both books have been read once):

Be prepared for a fast paced ride with this medical thriller, The Society by Michael Palmer. This is a book club edition.

Step back in time and visit France at the height of the fashion industry with Gioia Diliberto's The Collection.

Good luck and be sure and come back for next week's giveaways!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sunday Salon: Goodbye Journal #2

For those who have been reading my blog for awhile, you may remember that I keep two reading journals. There is the official reading journal which is simply a Word document where I keep my reviews and other tidbits that I might find interesting, including the basic statistics of each book. Each year, I open a new Word document and start fresh with a new reading journal. I began that reading journal the latter part of 2003.

I have always loved blank journals and have a little collection thanks to the kindness of others who have thought to give them to me as gifts. I have a nice stack and often wondered what I would do with them, not wanting to give them away because I liked them so much, but I also realized that they were just taking up space. And then I had an idea.

Three and a half years ago, I started keeping a second kind of journal, although I wasn't quite as faithful about writing in it until about two years ago when I began my blog; this one is a running journal of my thoughts as I read a particular book. This proved to be quite helpful when it came to recall, but it also gave me a chance to jot down questions, favorite passages, and my impressions as I went along, things that sometimes got lost by the time I finished a book and was caught up in the euphoria of a good ending or struggling through a bad one. Those blank journals are coming in quite handy now.

Last night I put to rest my second journal, a little notebook that easily fit into my purse alongside my books and has kept me company for just over a year. I began reading April Witch on April 7, 2007, the first book to make an appearance in my handwritten journal. Some of my notes on books are very brief while others go on for pages and pages. I jokingly told my husband about a week and a half ago that I would soon need a rubber band to hold the journal together, the pages beginning to come loose. I wasn't wrong. Jonathan Santlofer's The Murder Notebook has earned the last spot in my journal, a book I finished on April 11, 2008. There's still one more empty page I could probably fill, but the book I am reading now looked like it would inspire me to write even more than the one page would allow, and I was not wrong. I did not want to stop mid-sentence to start a new journal. So, this means goodnight to journal #2.

Now I have to adjust to a new journal. This one with homemade and line free pages. It's about the same size, only fatter, probably because of the thickness of the pages. The cloth cover is quite fetching on the new one, a sort of floral design, but not at all bright. More earthy in tones with its muted green, shades of brown, orange and gold. There are sequins and beads on the front cover that add personality to it. It's even got a little bookmark string attached to help me keep my place.

It makes my battered and rather plain striped notebook with neatly lined paper and its cardboard cover look sad in comparison. My old journal and I shared many adventures over the course of a year. It is battered only from constant use, laid flat so I could write in it, and a pencil too often used as place holder (so I'd always have a utensil with which to write). It traveled with me just about everywhere I went, both literally and figuratively speaking. Shortly, I will be tucking it away in a box with journal #1, another book which is full of the thoughts and memories of my reading experiences.

I settled in with Tara Yellen's After Hours at the Almost Home last night and was immediately transported to The Almost Home, a bar and grill in Denver, Colorado. It is one of those novels that would have kept me up late into the night had sleep not overwhelmed me. The book was not far from my mind even in sleep as my dreams often took me back there throughout the night. I will be returning there later this morning for another visit.

Recent Book Acquisitions:
Jackfish, The Vanishing Village by Sarah Felix Burns
No One Heard Her Scream by Jordan Dane
The Island of Eternal Love by Daina Chaviano
The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim (a prize I won in Jaimie's BAFAB contest--thank you, Jaimie!)
Sobibor by Michael Lev (a gift from Megan--thank you, Megan!)
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (a trade from my friend Nicole from The Reader's Nook online book group.)

Happy Reading!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Giveaway Winners and Meme Fun

I actually got to sleep in this morning, can you believe it? No mewing cat and no nose pushes from my dog. I was able to wake up after the sun had already come up. What a nice way to start a Saturday. According to the forecast, it is supposed to get up to 95F (35C) today. It is already very pleasant out, and the neighborhood children are out and about earlier than usual. But you are not here to read about my weather, are you? You want to know who the winners are! I really cannot blame you. I want to know too.

For this and the last giveaway I held, I gave each of the entrants a number (in the order you commented) and then let do all the work for me. The winners of this week's book giveaways are

The Remedy by Michelle Lovric is going to Kay of My Random Acts of Reading!


Laura of Reading Reflections is the lucky winner of Tending Roses by Lisa Wingate!

I hope you both enjoy the books! Please e-mail me with your mailing addresses and I will get those in the mail to you as soon as I can.

Thank to everyone who participated! The downside of a giveaway like this is that not everyone comes out a winner. I wish I had enough books to give each of you. Come back on Monday to try your luck again with two more books that are looking to find new homes.

Alice tagged me for the Decades Meme. I considered doing it again, but not enough has changed since October to make it worthwhile. You can find my journey down memory lane here.

Dancin' Fool tagged me for the CD CV meme, which evidently was originally taken from Mark Radcliff at Radio 2. This was actually a very difficult meme for me to do because as much as I love listening to music, my tastes change frequently. I am afraid my answers are not very specific in most cases.

1. The first record you ever bought? The first record I ever owned all my very own was a Strawberry Shortcake album, featuring the Peculiar Purple Pie Man of Porcupine Peak. It was a birthday gift, and I used to love listening to it and singing along. I didn't buy it myself though. It was a gift from my parents. I could not tell you what the first record I bought with my own money was. Maybe the first Whitney Houston album? I really can't say for sure.

2. The song that led to your first pop star crush? Russians by Sting. (I never have had an actual crush on a pop star, but I suppose this comes the closest).

3. The song that reminds you of your first true love? Just about any love song really! I once made a radio dedication of You're the Inspiration by Chicago to my husband-then-boyfriend. Our wedding song, however, was Bryan Adam's Everything I Do, a song that still makes me melt.

4. A song that's guaranteed to make you dance? Me dance? Not in public, anyway! Any song with a good beat will get my toe tapping.

5. Your favorite holiday track? My favorite type of holiday music is Christmas music, but that is about as specific as I can get. My favorite song changes each season, sometimes by the month or day.

6. The song you'd most like to sing on stage? A Little Fall of Rain from Les Miserables.

7. The most embarrassing record you ever bought?
I can't think of one. I am not easily embarrassed by my music choices. I already know I am a bit odd.

8. The best guitar riff ever? I am especially fond of the sound of the acoustic guitar being played; how could I choose just one? My husband says his favorite guitar riff is the bass riff at the beginning of Jet City Woman.

9. The one song you wish you'd written? All of the beautiful ones.

10. What is your favorite radio station, and/ or DJ? I'm a radio channel flipper. I go from radio station to radio station depending on what is playing. I have no favorite radio station. And sad to say, I don't really pay much attention to the DJ.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Booking Through Thursday on Friday: Writing Challenge & Frinday Fill Ins

  • Pick up the nearest book. (I’m sure you must have one nearby.)
  • Turn to page 123.
  • What is the first sentence on the page?
  • The last sentence on the page?
  • Now . . . connect them together….
    (And no, you may not transcribe the entire page of the book–that’s cheating!)
Two nights before my father died, I dreamed that I was out at the bullpen with him. God it was beautiful!
- Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

Yeah, so I did not add anything extra to connect the two sentences together, but don't you think it works perfectly just like that? I do anyway.

1. I love springtime in the fall! (What can I say? It's the first thing that came to mind.)
2. A Banana is a food I love to eat for breakfast. (I often don't eat much else.)
3. It seems I'm always searching for my glasses. (I rarely put them in the same place each time. It's becoming a family tradition now for my husband and I to search the house for my glasses before we go out.)
4. Reading in bed is a great way to end the day. (You must try it if you haven't already.)
5. I think I need a hair cut. (But it will have to wait until the 18th.)
6. Ice cold Soda is what I've been craving lately. (I can't drink it anymore, and so it especially sucks!)
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to a warm meal followed by a good book; tomorrow my plans include making my husband go over the author panel schedule for the L.A. Times Festival of Books to see if there are any he does not want to miss this year; and Sunday, I want to enjoying the company of my animals and husband--and a good book!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

A Grave In Gaza by Matt Beynon Rees

First Sentence:
As Omar Yussef came along the passage, the flies left the flooded toilets to examine him.

A Grave in Gaza
by Matt Beynon Rees

Soho Crime, 2008 (ARE)
Crime Fiction (Mystery); 340 pgs

The violence and corruption in Gaza is well known. The struggle for power and control is a never-ending battle, and some of those people in power do not care how they get what they want just as long as they end up on top. Matt Beynon Rees captures all of that in the second novel of his Omar Yussef series, A Grave in Gaza, a suspenseful and emotion-rousing mystery.

Omar Yussef Sirhan is the principal and teacher at a girl's school in Bethlehem. He is visiting Gaza along side his boss, Magnus Wallender, from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, with the intention of inspecting the refugee school in the area. Omar Yussef discovers quickly that Gaza is nothing like his own hometown, with the area’s warring gangs and violence on the streets as well as the political games and maneuvering. Magnus and Omar Yussef are met at the checkpoint by the United Nations Security Officer, James Cree, their designated guide while conducting the inspection. However, their plans are disrupted when a teacher who divides his time between the university and the refugee school is arrested as a collaborator, accused of being a CIA spy. A visit to the teacher's house reveals that he in fact had spoken out against the selling of university diplomas to officers in the Preventative Security in order to help greedy and power hungry officers promote through the ranks quickly. Omar Yussef, a strong believer in standing up for what is right, is drawn immediately to the cause of the teacher, and he becomes determined to help him and his family in any way he can.

Omar Yussef and his counterparts seek answers at the highest levels and are met with resistance at every turn. The stakes are raised even higher when Magnus Wallender is kidnapped by one of the local gangs who is demanding the release of a brother who was arrested for the murder of an intelligence officer. Although Omar Yussef knows very well he is getting in over his head, he cannot let it go. Could the kidnapping of his friend and the arrest of the teacher be connected? It does not appear so on the surface, but Omar is determined to find the thread and pull it with all his might until everything unravels and becomes more clear.

Omar Yussef is an unlikely hero. At fifty-six years old, out of shape, and out of his element, the Palestinian history teacher has the advantage of being an ordinary fellow, which makes him easy to trust, not only by those he meets in the book but by the reader as well. He has integrity and intelligence, which makes him dangerous to those who may be corrupt. What he lacks, Sami Jaffari makes up for: contacts in high places as well as the cunning and skill to survive in such a violent landscape. Sami is a bit of mystery and quite an intriguing character.

Based on real life events, A Grave in Gaza is a frightening and thrilling mystery full of intrigue. Matt Beynon Rees pulls no punches in describing the harshness of life in Gaza, both from the corrupt politicians to the ordinary and decent Palestinians who survive as best they can. It is the author’s portrayal of the ordinary everyday people, those who are easy to overlook amidst so much of which is bad, that offered a softer side of Gaza. They were a reminder of how present and valuable innocence is, that the corrupt leaders and their wars amongst each other are not the wars of the people, who are only looking to live their lives as best they can in peace.

In the middle of a dust storm while searching for the truth to achieve justice, Omar Yussef has so much to lose and yet he continues his efforts because it is the right thing to do. The author has written a provocative and suspenseful novel that is sure to entertain and keep the reader up late into the night. Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Wendy Runyon, 2008.

Rating: * (Very Good)

For more information about the author, Matt Beynon Rees, and his books, please visit the author's website.

Monday, April 07, 2008

More Books to Giveaway

Technically, Buy a Friend a Book Week is over but I am having too much fun giving books away. Care for another try?
  • Please leave a comment with the title of the book you are interested in winning. You may request both books but will only be able to win one.
  • Entries must be received no later than 11:59 p.m. on Friday, April 11, 2008 (PDT).
  • Drawing will be held on Saturday, April 12, 2008 at which time the winners will be announced.
This week's giveaway straight off my shelves (both books have been read once):

The Remedy by Michelle Lovric. This is an Advanced Reader's Edition.

Or how about Lisa Wingate's Tending Roses? This particular book is in good condition, but beginning to yellow with age.

Good luck everyone and be sure and watch for next week's giveaways!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Sunday Salon: Nostalgia

I spent some time last night looking through old files of mine, searching for a poem I had written back in my poetry writing days, an ode to books. Actually, I think that was the title, An Ode to Books. I did not come across it, but I did find some other interesting work I'd written long ago: two love poems to my then-boyfriend-now-husband, a short story, a couple of starts to stories I never quite got off the ground, more poems, and bits and pieces from a journal I used to keep, angst and all. I always find it interesting to read some of my old writings. They seem so familiar and yet so foreign at the same time. I went between, "I wrote that? That's crap!" to "I wrote that? That's really good!" And no, I am not going to share. I have not given up on that poem though. I think it may be hidden in the closet somewhere.

I am just about finished reading a short story collection by Kevin Brockmeier, and many of the stories touch upon choices made throughout life, reflections on the past and the direction lives have taken. I love the author's writing style. His descriptions catch feelings quite well, and there is a moodiness about his stories that matches my mood these days. Or maybe that's just me projecting my feelings onto the book. I do that sometimes.

I received my first issue of The Strand not too long ago and still haven't done much beyond flip through it quickly. There is an interview by one of my favorite authors inside, and so you would think I'd be more motivated to read it right away.

Reading Quirk: If a book has a cover with a person looking outward, even if just a face, I have to turn it over when I set it down; otherwise, I feel like the person is watching me.

Several new books have found their home among my stacks. They were welcomed with open arms, although I think a-book-not-to-be-named was a bit put off by the new additions. He threw a bit of a tantrum, in fact. Not a pretty sight. Repeated reassurances seemed to do the trick, however, and now they're all the best of friends.

Recent Acquisitions:
The House at Sugar Beach by Helene Cooper (ARE)
Tarnished Beauty by Cecilia Samartin (ARE)
Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult (ARE)
The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson (ARE)
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Moshin Hamid (recommended by Wendy)
Small Favor by Jim Butcher
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell (recommended by Jenclair)
Soul Circus by George P. Pelecanos
Black Swan Green by David Mitchell

Books in, books out . . .

Thank you to all who participated in my Buy a Friend a Book Week drawings. I do not often give away books, but when I do, I enjoy it, especially sharing the excitement with the recipient. I actually had the opportunity to give away two other books to friends this past week, duplicates I had received unexpectedly, which added to my pleasure at being able to share my books with others.

On to the winners . . .

Amy of Park-Avenue Princess is the lucky winner of The Cove by Catherine Coulter.

Chris of Book-a-rama is the lucky winner of An Angel of Forgetfulness by Steve Stern.

Congratulations, Chris and Amy! I hope you enjoy your books. I will be posting another giveaway tomorrow for those who may be interested.

I had planned on getting a start on the laundry right about now, but it looks like that may have to wait. My sleepy dog is resting his head on my shoulder, and I hate to disturb him just yet.

Happy reading everyone!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Friday Fill-Ins: The Weekend Ahead

1. Tonight I saw my friend's new car.
2. A catchy tune and strong beat make me wanna dance!
3. Splitting a few appetizers between friends sometimes is meal enough.
4. You are someone I'd like to get to know better.
5. The smell of flowers in bloom reminds me so much of springtime!
6. Not too long ago, I had an especially rough day. I came home from work and was greeted by my cat and dog, both of whom followed me around the house and made sure I knew they were here for me, and that made it all better.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to a home cooked meal; tomorrow my plans include taking my dog for a long leisurely walk; and Sunday, I want to do a little organizing and announce the winners for my Buy a Friend a Book Week contest.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Lit-Ra-Chur

  • When somebody mentions “literature,” what’s the first thing you think of? (Dickens? Tolstoy? Shakespeare?)
  • Do you read “literature” (however you define it) for pleasure? Or is it something that you read only when you must?
I enjoy playing card games, although I do not play nearly as often as I did when I was growing up. One of my favorite childhood games was Go Fish. I was pretty good at it too, collecting the four cards with similarly colored fish. Sometimes we'd make due with a regular deck of cards, taking out the jokers. Literature is played in a similar fashion, regular deck of cards with two of the 52 cards removed. Whereas Go Fish tends to be less of a team played event, Literature is just that, played by two teams of three or four players. Literature is sometimes referred to as Canadian Fish or plain old Fish. It is very similar to Go Fish.

Now Old Maid and SkipBo were games that . . . Oops. The question has nothing to do with cards, does it?

Do I read literature for pleasure? Oh, I absolutely read literature for pleasure. Reading is far from a chore for me no matter what I am reading. Well, maybe the paperwork I read for work is a bit of a chore, although it does get points for never being boring.

The first thought that comes to mind when I think of literature (other than cards) is in relation to reading material, namely books. I turned to my husband for help in putting together my thoughts on the subject and basically what we settled on was that literature is writing that does more than tell a story, either from an artistic or philosophical point of view. That is not too different from some of the definitions I found online. Written works of fiction and nonfiction in which compositional excellence and advancement in the art of writing are higher priorities than are considerations of profit or commercial appeal.

Merriam-Webster: The production of literary work especially as an occupation.

Literature is a very broad term and encompasses not only the classics but also contemporary writing. Although some people may snub their noses at the idea, genre fiction can be classified as literature as well. I think to totally dismiss genre fiction as frivolous is a mistake and way off mark.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Buy A Friend A Book Week

I never was much of a contest participant until I discovered that I could put my name into drawings for books. Sometimes I would actually win! Somehow I doubt I would ever be lucky enough to win a car or a house if I tried. Does anyone really ever win those types of contests? No one I know, at least.

Buy a Friend a Book Week comes around four times a year, which means your chances of winning a book from someone who holds a contest goes up. This month I decided to clear off some of those books sitting on my shelf that I no longer need to keep around and thought I would share the books with some of you. What better way to celebrate Buy a Friend a Book Week, than to give books away? Except one week doesn't seem like enough, does it? I didn't think so either. During the month of April, I will be holding drawings each week beginning today.

This week's giveaway (books are used, read once each):

Are you in the mood for a romantic suspense novel? The Cove is the first in Catherine Coulter's FBI series.

Or are you more in the mood for a tale about a writer, an actor/playwright and an angel whose stories collide in unexpected ways over the course of history? Then perhaps you would be interested in Steve Stern's The Angel of Forgetfulness. Warning: This book was nibbled on by my darling cat. Several pages have his little teeth marks on them in the top middle section, including some with tiny holes (two teeth marks per afflicted page). The book is still readable and in good condition otherwise.

Entering is simple and the drawings are open to everyone. Here are the rules:
  • Please leave a comment with the title of the book you are interested in winning. You may request both books but will only be able to win one.
  • Mention this little contest on your blog or website and receive an extra entry for the book(s) you are interested in.
  • Entries must be received no later than midnight on Saturday, April 5, 2008 (PDT).
  • Drawing will be held on Sunday, April 6, 2008 at which time the winners will be announced.
Good luck everyone and be sure and stay tuned for next week's giveaways!

I am not the only one hosting book giveaways this week.

Nymeth is not only celebrating her first year blog anniversary, but she is also giving away books this week. Take a look!

Dewey of The Hidden Side of a Leaf will be celebrating the first anniversary of her blog on the 13th of this month. She's also having a little contest in honor of BAFAB Week. Be sure and stop by to enter.

Jaimie over at Bell Literary Reflections is having a book giveaway, which you can find here, and make sure you find your way over to Jenclair's, A Garden Carried in the Pocket, to enter her contest as well.

Andi is giving away a copy of Between the Tides by Patti Callahan Henry over at Andi Lit if you are interested in trying for that one.

And it doesn't stop there!

Chris from Book-a-rama is offering a chance to win a book on her blog.

Over at In Spring it is the Dawn, Tanabata is offering to giveaway three books.

Kicking off the start of her blog, Amy of Park-Avenue Princess, is hosting her own giveaway as well. Take a look and offer her a big welcome to the blogging community.

Did you think that was all? Not quite . . .

Check out Eva's contest at A Striped Armchair.

Ready When You Are, C.B. is also joining in on the fun.

Trish over at Hey Lady! Whathca Readin'? could not resist having a giveaway of her own.

Be sure and drop in and see what is in the offering. You might just win!