Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday Salon: A Week In Review and Upcoming Events

I am setting aside Maureen Corrigan's book, Leave Me Alone I'm Reading for the next couple of Sundays and will pick up where I left off later in the month. My reading has taken me in other directions recently.

This past week I posted a review of J Scott Savage's Water Keep, the first book in the Farworld YA fantasy series, along with a brief interview. It was my first ever author interview, and I admit I was nervous about it. There is still time to enter the drawing for a signed copy of the book. The deadline is tonight at 11:59 p.m.

With the Bejing Olympics coming to a close, it seemed fitting to read and review a book partially set in China. Rabbit In the Moon, a suspense/thriller by Deborah and Joel Shlian is set around the time of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. I had a hard time putting this one down.

In other news, the countdown has begun! Truth be told, it started a few weeks ago, but now it's down to days, hours and minutes as opposed to months and weeks. Anjin and I will soon be flying off into the sunset for our belated 10th anniversary celebration.

When my friend and fellow blogger, Florinda, went on vacation this past summer, she opened her blog to a varied and wonderful selection of guests. Florinda did an excellent job of putting it all together--and made it look so easy!

I decided to follow in her footsteps and reached out to several authors and a publicist to see if they would be interested in dropping in for a visit. I was sitting on pins and needles as I waited to hear back from them. Much to my surprise (and utter glee), they all said yes. My husband heard about it for days and, I have to admit, I am still bubbling over with excitement.

I do hope you will stop in and say hello to these gracious souls who took time out of their busy schedules to drop by and visit. It promises to be a fun filled two weeks--and there will even be a couple of giveaways you won't want to miss.

What to expect:

Monday, September 1 - Hachette Book Group USA and I are kicking off the month of September with a huge giveaway. Be sure and drop by tomorrow for details!

Tuesday, September 2 - Reviews of Colleen Gleason's Rises the Night and The Bleeding Dusk

Wednesday, September 3 - Guest Appearance by Colleen Gleason, author of the Gardella Vampire Chronicles.

Thursday, September 4 - Guest Appearance by Clea Simon, author of the Theda Krakow mystery series.

Friday, September 5 - Guest Appearance by Joshua Henkin, author of Matrimony

Saturday, September 6 - Review of Matrimony and a giveaway to boot!

Monday, September 8 - Guest Appearance by Karen E. Olson, author of the Annie Seymour, crime reporter, series

Tuesday, September 9 - Guest Appearance by Karen Harrington, author of Janeology

Wednesday, September 10 - Review of Janeology

Thursday, September 11
- Guest Appearance by Michelle Moran, author of Nefertiti and The Heretic Queen

Friday, September 12 - Guest Appearance by publicist Lisa Roe

There is a good chance my Google Reader will be bursting at the seams when I return in two weeks. That "Mark As Read" button will no doubt be very tempting. I hate to miss out on any great posts, but it probably won't be practical for me to play catch up after such a long absence. I apologize in advance.

Now to decide which books to pack . . . Happy Reading!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Fill In Fun

1. When I'm sick I'm no fun to be around.

2. When I take a walk, I think about the lives of those I pass on the street or in the park.

3. Money can't buy happiness but it can buy you a lot of books.

4. Cotton makes me feel comfortable and leather makes me feel sexy.

5. The strangest person/character I've had lewd thoughts about was Maximillion . . . No, Sebastian. But Max is awfully hot . . . Oh, I can't decide!

6. My favorite color these days is evidently black and brown because a couple of ladies at work say I wear too much of it.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to dinner out on the town to show off my new haircut (because it certainly won't look this good again), tomorrow my plans include catching up on some reading and spoiling the animals and Sunday, I want to start getting things in order for our vacation!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Stories

If you’re anything like me, one of your favorite reasons to read is for the story. Not for the character development and interaction. Not because of the descriptive, emotive powers of the writer. Not because of deep, literary meaning hidden beneath layers of metaphor. (Even though those are all good things.) No … it’s because you want to know what happens next?

Or, um, is it just me?

When I first started my blog, coming up with the description for my profile was the most difficult part. I enlisted the help of my husband and together (although he deserves most of the credit) we came up with the following:
At the age of five, Literary Feline was diagnosed as a fabulavore. Due to the low story content of movies and television, she has required a steady supply of books to provide her sustenance. She currently resides in California with her loving husband, two affectionate cats and a very enthusiastic dog. Literary Feline has broadened her nutritional sources by reviewing books for Front Street Reviews and Curled Up With a Good Book. Please note: Literary Feline is not a bibliovore. She's not eating
the books for goodness' sake.
A fabulavore is a completely made up word, but it has a nice ring to it, don't you think? It is derived from the latin "fabula" which means story and "vorare" which is to devour. A fabulavore, therefore, is someone who devours stories: or, in my case, a book lover. But not just books. My love for the story extends to music, art, television and movies as well. Stories can be found in just about any medium. Even in conversation. I love to tell a good story.

For me, a story is more than just a plot line. It is the sum of its parts. The characters, the setting and the plot are what make a story a story. Each characteristic is important in its own way and without one of these elements, the story will not be much of a story at all. I do appreciate good writing and that can certainly make a difference in whether a story is effectively told or not. It is a combination of all of these things that make me want to know--and care--what happens next.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Review: Rabbit in the Moon by Deborah & Joel Shlian

How Ironic, he thought sadly. As an old man, he finally realized change was essential to launch China into the twentieth-first century. He looked at Chi-Wen, appreciating his fear, wondering how to make him understand that without the cycle of ages, change would never occur.
[pg 103]

Rabbit in the Moon by Deborah & Joel Shlian
Oceanview, 2008
Crime Fiction (S/T); 356 pgs

In May of 1949, China was on the brink of monumental change. Engulfed in civil and international war, Communist leader Mao Zedong brought with him the promise of change and hope while at the same time creating a sense of unease. Dr. Ni-Fu Cheng was as uneasy as the rest of them, unsure of what the future would hold. He sent his only child to the United States to live with an aunt, hoping to protect her until it would be safe for her to return.

Only that time never came. Dr. Ni-Fu’s daughter would never return to China. She settled and married, having a daughter of her own, Lili Quan. Su-Wei tried to raise her daughter in the Chinese tradition, but Lili rebelled, refusing to learn Chinese and rejecting her Chinese roots. She was American and that was all she wanted to be. Upon her death bed, Lili’s mother asked her daughter to return home to China. Caught up in grief and guilt at not being the daughter her mother wanted her to be, Lili decided to make the trip.

Su-Wei was not the only one who wanted her daughter to travel to China. Several forces were working to try and persuade the young daughter to make the trip. She was to be a pawn in an ongoing power struggle for an elixir that promised longer life. Powerful people in China feared the tide was changing as the young people began to revolt, protesting peacefully, and demanding change. Greed and the desire to maintain their power spurred them on. There were others as well whose greed was so great that they would stop at nothing to get their hands on the secret recipe.

The one person who held that secret had kept it close to his vest for over forty years. Believed to be dead by his family, imprisoned in a hospital and forced to continue his research, Dr. Ni-Fu continued to hold out despite all efforts to make him give up what he knew. Bringing his granddaughter to China was the last resort.

Deborah and Joel Shlian could not have found a more fitting time period in which to set their novel. Set in the seven weeks leading up to the tragic events that would take place in Tiananmen Square in June of 1989, as the students began to organize and question, demanding answers and desiring change. The past was colliding with the present and the promise of the future. The Chinese government became desperate to hold onto the past and onto their power. They did not care who they stepped on in the process, or how many innocent lives they destroyed. This tied in nicely with the story of Rabbit in the Moon and the search for the secret of long life and the continuing struggle between the old and the new.

Just as the authors write of the ugly history of the People’s Republic of China, of the Cultural Revolution, the class differences, and the heavy hand of the government, they also paint a beautiful picture of the people themselves, the culture and the land. China is as vast as it is diverse and that comes across well in this novel.

On a more basic level, Rabbit in the Moon is a story of self-discovery. Lili has fought being Chinese all her life. Her visit to China forces her to take a look at a side of her she most wanted to suppress. Not only does she learn more about herself, but she also discovers that China is not the backwards place that she thought it to be. There is value in the lessons she can learn from the doctors and people there.

The characters in the novel are complex and well developed. Lili has a strong sense of justice and her independent spirit carries her through a number of difficult situations. There is also a naivety and vulnerability to her that softens the rough edges of her personality. Her grandfather, Dr. Ni-Fu, is as wise as he is charming. Chi-Wen, Dr. Ni-Fu’s assistant is perhaps one of the more complex of the characters. He is a product of the Cultural Revolution who has had to compromise his own beliefs to protect his remaining family. There is David Kim who lives in his father’s shadow, wanting to prove his worth and yet his own vices may well be his downfall if he is not more careful. These are just four of the interesting characters to be found in Rabbit in the Moon.

The novel offers a variety of perspectives as the story unfolds, and so while Lili remains in ignorance of the danger she is in, the reader knows it well. This increases the intensity of the events as they unfold, building the suspense and anticipation for what is to come.

All of this is wrapped up in a thrilling novel that pits a corrupt government, the mob and other bad guys who are willing to kill for the elixir of life against a young doctor and her elderly grandfather. The danger is great, the suspense is nonstop and even the reader will not know who to trust. Rabbit in the Moon is an entertaining novel that will leave the reader breathless at times and always wanting to know what will happen next. Originally published at Front Street Reviews.

Rating: Rating: * (Very Good)

You can learn more about the authors and their work on their website.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tuesday: Teasers and Thingers

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page. NO SPOILERS!
  • Share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from (that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given).
  • Leave a link to the blog post where you’ve shared your “Teaser" in the comments to the week's TUESDAY TEASER post at Should Be Reading.
  • If you don’t have a blog, share the teaser in a comment on that week’s “Teaser” post.

I can tell the lady cop is impressed that I could say this because she nods her head and puts her hand up to her mouth. She might be entertained, but I'm getting bored. [pg 78]
- Janeology by Karen Harrington

She cast him a saturnine look; those dark green eyes could bore a hole in him, could still, when she was fifty-nine, catch the attention of a man across the room. When she was six months old, Julian's grandmother was told how lovely her daughter was; maybe she should be in advertisements. [pg 200]
- Matrimony by Joshua Henkin

She became aware of a low murmur. She could not understand the words, but they sounded like a chant. [pg 132]
- Rises the Night by Colleen Gleason

Today's topic: LibraryThing authors. Who are your LibraryThing authors? What books of theirs do you have? Do you ever comment on an author's LT page? Have you received any comments from an author on your LT account?

I was surprised at how many author connections I have on my LibraryThing Profile. Of those listed, I have read books by four of the authors and am looking forward to reading books by the remaining fifteen. I guess I had better get reading!

I have read three books by Richard Montanari over the years, two I read earlier this year: The Rosary Girls, The Skin Gods and Merciless. Not too long ago, I read Emmett James'
Admit One: A Journey Into Film
. Just recently I read Aberrations by Penelope Przekop as well as J Scott Savage's Far World, Book 1: Water Keep, both books I thoroughly enjoyed.

Karen Harrington falls in between the two categories at the moment, but will swiftly be moving into the "read" category as I read her novel, Janeology.

On the list of authors I have yet to read just yet:
Marie Brennan
Meg Waite Clayton
David Ebershoff
Joe Hill
Jim C. Hines
E.E. Knight
Pam Lewis
Richard Price
Michelle Richmond
Michelle Rowen
Marisa de los Santos
Cheryl Swanson
Cheryl Kaye Tardif
Lisa Unger

I have not yet left a comment at the LT site for an author. I have received an invitation to be friends from the occasional author, but other than that, that's the closest I have come to receiving comments from an author directly on my LT page. I have, however, had contact with three of the above authors either through my blog or via e-mail. In every case it has been a pleasant exchange, and I was thrilled that the authors took the time to talk to little ol' me.

It is time to head over to My Friend Amy's! She is accepting nominations for the Book Blogger Appreciation Week Awards 2008.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Find Your Magic : Farworld 2008 Blog Tour

I was thrilled when author J. Scott Savage contacted me about reading and reviewing his new book on my blog as part of his virtual book tour. The author was kind enough not only to provide me an autographed copy of his book, but also agreed to an interview and a giveaway.

Far World, Book 1: Water Keep
by J. Scott Savage
Shadow Mountain, September 2008 (ARE)
Fantasy (YA); 419 pgs

One of the first things I do when I crack open a book is to read the dedication. This one I read out loud to my husband and he immediately zeroed in on the mention of solving Ultima games. As a result, he plans to read this book based on that alone. Okay, so maybe that isn’t quite true. He does enjoy a good fantasy story and that may have something to do with it too.

Thirteen year old Marcus Kanenas is alone in the world. He is an orphan, having moved from place to place, school to school, and he isn’t sure how long he’ll be at the latest one. Bound to a wheelchair and the target of bullies, he has learned to be resourceful. He has a talent for disappearing and sensing what is to come, gifts he does not fully understand, but which have come in handy in a pinch. He often dreams of a far away world, one full of magic and talking animals and trees. He calls it Farworld. He daydreams about a young girl about his age whose name begins with a K, an imaginary friend—or so he believes.

Marcus discovers that his dreams are not so farfetched, however, when a man comes for him, posing as an attorney representing his long lost parents. Once the man has Marcus alone, his true identity and intentions are revealed and Marcus must fight for his life. A helping hand comes from an unexpected place—an unexpected world, in fact. Kyja reaches out to Marcus, sensing the danger he is in, and pulls him into her world, that of Farworld. Farworld is even more amazing than Marcus imagined it would be. He marvels at the joking horse and the singing flowers. He is enamored by the commonness of magic.

Like Marcus on earth, Kyja is a bit of an outcast in Farworld. Magic is commonplace in her world, a natural ability that everyone shares. Everyone that is except for Kyja. Like Marcus, she has had to endure stares and jokes on her behalf. She has learned to live without magic, and yet it is something she longs for. Perhaps it is buried deep within her as her friend and teacher, the wizard, Master Therapass suggests.

Kyja’s opening the way for Marcus to enter into Farworld has much bigger ramifications than either can imagine. A balance has been disrupted and both will quickly discover that they are a part of a bigger plot. The Dark Circle is growing more powerful and will stop and nothing to find Marcus and Kyja to either destroy them or bend them to their will. The only hope is for Kyja and Marcus to bring together the four Elementals—water, land, air and fire. Their search will not be an easy one. Not only do they face the threat of the Dark Circle and its minions, but also other enemies such as the mimickers and unmakers.

While separately the two do not seem like much of a threat against any evil, together they make quite a team. Their friendship and faith in each other is strong, but will it be strong enough to see them through to the end?

Water Keep is the first in the Far World series by J. Scott Savage. There is innocence about both Kyja and Marcus that is instantly endearing and yet both characters are wise beyond their years. They have had to overcome a lot in their thirteen years, faced loneliness and learned to make do with what little they had. Neither thought they were special in any way, and yet when faced with danger, they both proved they had more courage and strength than most people would probably have shown in the same situations.

The author did a great job of capturing the wonder and newness of Farworld to Marcus and of Earth to both Kyja and Riph Raph, the skyte. Kyja especially touched my heart; she is thoughtful and cares about complete strangers in need. She never asks for anything in return, just doing what she knows is the right thing to do. She also is quite blunt when she needs to be, standing up for what she believes and is not willing to back down just because danger is too close at hand.

J. Scott Savage has created characters that will appeal to young audiences as well as older ones. It is definitely a young adult series, the story is not overly complex and the characters are easy to relate to.

Farworld is an amazing place, full of magic and life. While avid fantasy readers may see some similarities in the set up as compared to other well known fantasy novels, there are plenty of differences and fresh ideas present as well. There is definitely a connection between Earth and Farworld, and I look forward to discovering more about it as the series progresses. J. Scott Savage’s Far World series was a delightful reading experience. I can’t wait until the next adventure.

Rating: Rating: * (Very Good)

Literary Feline: J. Scott Savage was nice enough to travel all the way to California via the virtual route for an interview. I couldn't afford the Disneyland passes and so we settled for my living room.

J. Scott Savage: Disneyland, schmislyland. We can have our own theme park right here. You sing, “Yo ho, yo ho.” and then I’ll do the whole script from Haunted Mansion. Really, I can. It’s a gift.

LF: Thank you so much for coming. Can I get you anything to drink? Maybe a little snack?

JSS: Anything other than vegetables. I just finished weeding a virtual garden and I’m feeling a little too close to the carrots and things to even think about eating them. Felines are carnivores right? Maybe we can eat some raw tuna or something.

LF: I may have some raw tuna lying around. Hold on, let me get you a can.

LF: I hope you like animals. My dog and two cats are not shy. You might want to keep the dog in front of you. Riley has a thing for jumping up behind a person sitting on the couch and licking their ears. And you might want to keep your shoes on. The new kitten, Anya, thinks feet are toys especially designed for her.

JSS: Oh whew. I thought that was you doing the whole ear-licking thing a minute ago. And we just met.

LF: I thought we could start with a few general questions.

JSS: You mean like Pershing? Or Washington? Sorry that was a little general joke.

LF: [Laugh] You’re such a card!

LF: What made you decide to switch from mystery to fantasy writing? Are there any advantages or drawbacks to writing one genre over the other?

JSS: I really don’t know. It’s a mystery I guess. Although I’ve always fantasized about it. Thanks everybody! I’m here till Thursday.

Actually, I didn’t intend to write a fantasy. I didn’t think I could. But this story just got stuck in my head. I started writing Farworld at 2:00 AM to prove to myself I couldn’t do it. But five hours and five thousand words later, I realized I was writing a fantasy and the rest is history. Well actually fantasy. I think there are pros and cons to any genre. But probably the coolest thing about fantasy is that anything can happen if you write it well enough. There are no limits.

LF: I am always curious about an author's writing environment and preferences. Some authors prefer to isolate themselves in an office and keep strict writing hours while other prefer a more loose schedule or settling in at the local coffee shop. Do you have any writing routines, preferences or quirks?

JSS: I’m really pretty much of a wherever whenever guy. Once I get into the story, a bomb could explode next door and I wouldn’t notice. I’d love to have a schedule. But a lot of times you have to grab the spare moments when you can. For example, I’m writing this on a plane. It’s not that quiet, but while I’m answering your questions I really don’t notice what’s going on around me.

LF: What was the first story you ever put to paper about?

JSS: Hmm. That’s a great question. I have actually never been asked it before. I’m sure I had written lots of things before as a kid. In fact I know I did. But the first time I can remember really feeling excited about a story I was writing was an urban fantasy about a killer named Flower who attacks a business man and breaks into the guy’s apartment to find a female thief going through the guy’s stuff. It was probably crap. But I thought I was writing the coolest story ever.

LF: Would you like me to move the cat? Parker is a bit of a lap cat.

JSS: Nope. I like cats and dogs. Even though I strongly believe that cats are actually minor demons.

LF: As it turns out, the kitten is named after a demon. A vengeance demon to be exact.

LF: It would have been easy to focus solely on Farworld, and I am glad you did not do that. Earth is just as much a character in your book as Farworld is in many ways. When you set out to write this series, were you aiming for such a balance?

JSS: Absolutely. I want readers to understand from book one that this is a story about both Marcus and Kyja and about both Farworld and Earth. Balance is and will become a much bigger issue in the book.

LF: Both Marcus and Kyja have disabilities. Marcus is wheelchair bound and Kyja cannot use magic. It would be easy to sympathize more with Marcus because his handicaps are much more familiar to readers, but Kyja's handicap is just as severe and dehabilitating. And yet both are also very strong and resourceful characters, made that way in part by their life experiences no doubt. Can you tell me a little bit about what went into the creation of these two great characters?

JSS: Thanks so much. I think that the characters were the first part of the story that came to me. You are exactly right. Most people tend to focus on Marcus’s disability because it is more familiar to us. We don’t view Kyja as disabled because none of us have magic either. But in Kyja’s world, magic is the equivalent of technology here. Imagine not being able to use any tools at all, from a screwdriver to a car. It is a huge disability in her world. The thing that I was focusing on was creating characters who didn’t magically lose their weaknesses when they discovered who they are. I wanted them to struggle, learn, and if not overcome, at least come to terms with their weaknesses.

LF: Will Dew Drop be back? She was such a fun character! I hope we get to see more of the Frost Pinnois too. And what about the ishkabiddles?

JSS: Yes, yes, and yes. I didn’t get to spend as much time with the water elementals in book one. But we have not seen the last of them. And the Ishkabiddle has become a star in her own right. Now she’s demanding more minutes and a dialogue coach. Hmph. Stars!

LF: And finally, what and who inspire you?

JSS: So much inspires me. A movie, a walk in a forest, an unusual name I see while driving, an unexpected book. I am always collecting new ideas I want to write about. People ask where my ideas come from, but it would be easier to ask where they don’t come from.

LF: Thank you for taking the time to visit with me, Scott. I also appreciate your patience with my animals!

JSS: Thank you! It was a lot of fun.

You can learn more about the author and his books at his website: Find Your Magic.


J. Scott Savage has been kind enough to offer an autographed copy of his fantasy novel to one lucky winner in the USA or Canada. If you are interested in entering the drawing for the book, leave a comment here. Please provide your e-mail address if you do not have a blog or a way of contacting your via your blog. The deadline for the drawing is 11:59 PM (PDT) on Sunday, August 31, 2008. Good luck!

Read what others had to say about this book:
As Usual, I Need More Bookshelves
The Bluestocking Society
Cheryl's Book Nook (Review)
Cheryl's Book Nook (Interview with Author)
Devourer of Books
Dolce Bellezza
From My Bookshelf
Hey Lady! Watcha Readin'?
It's All About Books
Leafing Through Life
Lesa's Book Critiques (Review)
Lesa's Book Critiques (Interview with Author)
A Reader's Journal
She Reads Books
Ticket to Anywhere
Trish's Reading Nook

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sunday Salon: Tales of Toil

Each Sunday, I am reading a chapter of Maureen Corrigan's memoir, Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books, and sharing my thoughts as I go. This is Part Three.

Chapter 2 - Tales of Toil: What John Ruskin and Sam Spade Taught Me About Working for a Living

Maureen could not wait to be an English Professor. She was excited at the prospect of attending an Ivy League school for her doctorate. Only, it wasn't quite what she expected. She was woman, for one, and women, although gaining strides on the equality front, were still not taken very seriously in 1977. The climate was not at all what she expected. There was a definite class distinction, and it was sometimes ruthlessly competitive; many kept to their own specific literary field of study. She had hoped for a more open and inviting experience, where book lovers would take pleasure in fraternizing about books and reading. In reference to her experience in graduate school, Maureen writes, " Books got me into this mess, and books got me through." [pg 67]

My own graduate school experience was much different than Maureen's, but then, I did not pursue an education or career in literature. Sometimes I wish I had, but most of the time I know I chose the right path for me. I knew it the first day of graduate school, as I sat in my first class and was swept up by an overwhelming feeling that I finally found the place I belonged. I did sometimes question my sanity, and once my career was under way years later, I would wonder what I had been thinking, wishing I hadn't quite been as idealistic and caring as I had been. Deeper inspection, however, never fails to make me appreciate the direction I did decide to travel. For all the headaches, I like what I do and feel that I am in the right place. That doesn't mean there are not days I would much rather be working in a bookstore or getting paid to read.

As I mentioned last week, although I am often drawn to novels with strong female protagonists, I have no trouble losing myself in a book regardless of the main character's gender. Maureen Corrigan points to Nancy K. Miller's idea of "'learned adrogony'--that is, the ability to effect a sex-change operation of the imagination, an ability, I, along with millions of other female readers, had developed over decades of reading books mostly featuring male heroes and antiheroes." [pg 64] Of course, "learned adrogony" extends to male readers as well. My husband's love for Sue Grafton's Kinsey Milhone series comes to mind as an example. When I read a book, I most often become a part of the story and am not just a mere observer. I step into someone else's shoes for a short while, feel and experience what he or she is feeling. It doesn't matter whether the character whose shoes I wear is male or female.

"I certainly don't think that we readers only or even chiefly enjoy or understand books whose main characters mirror us. In fact, the opportunity to become who we are decidedly not . . .is one of the greatest gifts reading offers." [pg 70] Being able to relate or connect to a character has long been an important factor in my enjoyment of a book. I have to care about the characters and want to know what happens to them. Still, I most often enjoy reading about people whose lives are different than my own, who live in different cultures, and face challenges that I will most likely never encounter. Their stories and experiences are often universal in a general sense, which is what makes them more easily relatable.

Struggling through her dissertation, Maureen discovered a love for hard boiled detective fiction. Dasheill Hammett and Raymond Chandler swept her off her feet. ". . . you find the books you need when you need them--even if they're not the books you start out thinking you need." [pg 73-74] The more she read, the more Maureen began to see a common thread running through the genre fiction she turned to for escape and the Victorian classics she studied in school. They all seemed to touch on similar social issues, whether intentional on the author's part or not. Today, classes are taught about genre fiction, such as crime fiction. While it is still not taken as seriously as it might be, the significance of genre fiction in our culture is no longer being completely overlooked either, which, I think, is a step in the right direction.

Maureen suggests that one appeal of detective fiction is the working class voice so often used in the telling of a story as is the very fact that of the focus on work itself. It speaks to us because we can so easily identify with it. She goes on to say, "I think a lot of us fans find detective novels so riveting not because we care who-dun-it . . . but because we care about how the detectives do it--how they work." [pg 76] I know this is true for me. I am a master at figuring out the who-dun-it early on in crime fiction novels not because I set out to, but because it is just how my brain works. I take pleasure in reading how characters get from point A to point B and then on to point C. I am curious about the why and the how of it. The process is what fascinates me most, after all, isn't that the meat of any story?

Maureen's experiences in graduate school served to be both a reality check as well an opportunity to explore literature in a new and different way. She stepped outside of her own box and it proved to be very enlightening.

Part One: Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading!
Part Two: Women's Extreme Adventure Stories

Friday, August 22, 2008

Friday Fill In Fun

This week Amy provided the questions; thank you, Amy! we go!

1. Dancing to the bookstore while carrying a wallet full of cash makes me feel giddy.

2. The last time I was at the veterinarian's office I nearly feinted at the sight of the bill.

3. When I drive I sing out loud because no one else can hear. And now that hands free cell phone usage is required while driving, I don't have to worry about looking too out of place.

4. I saw baby kitty standing on my husband's foot trying to get a better look at big brother cat who was all the way across the room.

5. Give me a comfy chair, give me books, give me time to enjoy them all.

6. Next week I am looking forward to Friday (and more Friday Fill-Ins)!

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to dinner out and settling in to watch the Olympics; tomorrow my plans include taking Anya to the vet for her second set of vaccinations, continuing to monitor Parker who has been under the weather, and playing fetch with Riley; and Sunday, I want to enjoy time with my family!

Ready to go to work.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Libraries

Inspired by Booksplease:

Whether you usually read off of your own book pile or from the library shelves NOW, chances are you started off with trips to the library. (There’s no way my parents could otherwise have kept up with my book habit when I was 10.) So . . . What is your earliest memory of a library? Who took you? Do you have you any funny/odd memories of the library?

The house I grew up in was a library all of its own. My father collected books right and left and my mother added to them. The shelves housed books of just about every kind. Is it any wonder then that I felt right at home in the school and public libraries? I most remember the weekly family visits to Belle Coolidge Library. The library was nestled in among store front shops and had a huge children's section (at least to this child's eyes). I loved to sit on the floor in front of the shelves looking at books, trying to decide which I would bring home with me. Others I read right on the spot. As I got older, you were more likely to find me at the paperback rack in the adult section, stacking up books to take home one right after the other.

The library held a summer program every year, encouraging children to read. There were all sorts of fun activities, including magic shows, visiting animals, book readings, and crafts. Every time a child read a book, their name was written on construction paper shaped like a fish, bat, heart, star or whatever the theme was that summer and placed high up on the wall of the library. I strove to be the most prolific reader each summer and while I may not have been the "winner" in the end, I always was among the top readers. On the final day of the summer reading program prizes would be given out, ice cream and popsicles served, and we would all celebrate our success.

As a young child in elementary school my favorite time of the week was library time. My class would file into the cozy school library and gather around the librarian who would read us a story. I was introduced to Beverly Cleary this way, and I would eventually go on to read as many of her books as I could get my hands on. It was there that I learned about the Dewey Decimal System and was introduced to new books and authors that I was encouraged to explore. The school librarian did not have the best reputation among the students. She was on the mean side and did not tolerate much. I adored her, however, and, while waiting for my mother who worked at the school as she finished up after hours, I often passed the time helping shelve and reorder books.

I would like to tell you I met my husband at the university library, but that wouldn't be true. Not really. We both worked in the university library, however. He was assigned to the reference section while I worked at the circulation desk. I wish now we had done cute things such as slip love notes inside a neglected book of poetry, but, alas, we weren't quite as romantic as that. We were more interested in exploring the computer lab, my then-boyfriend-now-husband teaching me how to use the internet. Years later I would make him proud by starting this blog.

Libraries have served me well over the years. They were my home away from home, an adventure to look forward to, and places full of wonderful memories created by not only the books that filled the shelves, but also the the people I met along the way.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tuesday Teasers and Things

LibraryThing (LT) and Real Life (Real Life)- do you have friends in real life that you met through LibraryThing? Have you attended any LT meet-ups in your area? Would you be open to attending meet-ups or is LT strictly an online thing for you?

When I was in middle school, I discovered the wonders of pen palling, exchanging letters with people around the world. I anxiously awaited the mail delivery each day, dreaded Sunday because my mailbox would be empty, and would spend hours reading and writing letters to people I knew I would most likely never meet. Pen palling opened up an entire new world to me and gave me the opportunity to interact with people from varying cultures and lifestyles. We talked about everything and anything in our letters to each other and I came to think of many as friends.

I have met six pen pals over the years. These were all letter friends, people I wrote good ol' fashioned letters to. I have yet to meet anyone I first met online, either from one of my book groups or LibraryThing. I came close this past spring at the L.A. Times Festival of Books, and it is possible I walked right past some of you who also attended without even knowing it. In another two and a half weeks, I will have the opportunity to meet a wonderful woman from one of my online book groups. As with any first meeting, I am nervous and excited. I tend to be shy when meeting people for the first time, even people I have gotten to know via letters or online. Wanting to be liked and accepted are perhaps among the biggest concerns. Will she be disappointed in me? Am I what she expected? Silly perhaps, but I think common thoughts many of us have in similar situations.

Even though I have not necessarily met those I know online, there are several I would count among my friends--and they are just as real as my best friend sitting next to me. I would jump at the chance for an opportunity to meet them. Even so, I have not attended a LT meet-up, nor have I searched one out. That isn't to say I am not open to the idea. I would be if the circumstances were right.

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12. NO SPOILERS!
  • Share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from (that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given).
  • Leave a link to the blog post where you’ve shared your “Teaser" in the comments to the week's TUESDAY TEASER post at Should Be Reading.
  • If you don’t have a blog, share the teaser in a comment on that week’s “Teaser” post.

Ni-Fu turned to look at the medical director still standing in the doorway of his room. "I must be dreaming. An avowed Communist speaking reverently of the past."
- Rabbit in the Moon by Deobrah & Joel Shlian

"There are pros and cons to independence, but it is coming and we will manage. Interesting challenges ahead."
- The Toss of a Lemon by Padma Viswanathan

Question 10 on the medical-insurance reimbursement forms I have to fill out asks: "Cause of injury?" I could truthfully answer, :Assault by books."
- Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading by Maureen Corrigan [pg 50]

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sunday Salon: Women's Extreme Adventure Stories

Part Two: Thoughts on Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books by Maureen Corrigan

Chapter One
- Ain't No Mountain High Enough: Women's Extreme Adventure Stories

We read literature for a lot of reasons, but two of the most compelling ones are to get out of ourselves and our own life stories and--equally important--to find ourselves by understanding our own life stories more clearly in the context of others'. [pg 34]
When I read a book, the gender of the main character(s) fades into the background. I am able to immerse myself in the story and the lives of those in the novel, regardless of sex. The best authors are able to make me forget who I am for the short while I am lost in a book.

Still, I do find myself gravitating towards books that feature women often times, whether their stories are full of real life hardships or fantastical adventures. I am drawn to strong female characters. I look for myself in these women and occasionally draw on their strength and experiences.

In the first chapter of Maureen Corrigan's Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading, the author opens with a discussion about those strong female characters. Men have long held the mantle for extreme-adventure stories. Jon Krakauer, author of Into the Wild and Into Thin Air being a prime example.
The traditional extreme-adventure story is a one-shot testosterone expenditure of physical courage that pits man against nature/man/himself, with man (the narrator usually) left standing, bloody but unbowed, amidst the wreckage of his fancy sporting gear. [pg 6]
Less focus is given to the women who also risked much to do many of the same things. Corrigan earns another point from me for naming Nellie Bly as a true life extreme adventurer. She was an investigative journalist in a time when women were expected to stay in their place. She challenged powerful people, went undercover, and traveled around the world. She was not content writing puff pieces like so many women writers at the time were encouraged to do. She sought social changes for both women and the rest of humanity. Like Corrigan, I first came across Nellie Bly's name when I was a child, researching a school paper. She remains one of my favorite historical figures today.

There have been a number of real life women who have stepped outside of the traditional mold to stand up for what they believed throughout history. But what about in fiction? Maureen Corrigan takes a look at literature and genre fiction and examines its history as well.

She points out that, early on, women extreme-adventure tales were more likely to be found in young adult literature where it was more acceptable for a girl to be a tomboy. Take Nancy Drew as an example, or Pippi Longstockings. Detective fiction featuring female leads or out-of-the-box female characters also proved an effective method for pushing the boundaries of the set gender roles. It was more acceptable in those cases for a woman to be independent and think for herself. In the end, however, they often reverted back to a more traditional role in the end.

In today's genre fiction, it is more acceptable for women to be actively outspoken, bold and curious. Sara Paresky and Sue Grafton's characters attest to that. Where once such female leads stood out and went against the societal norm, today they have worked their way into our culture and influenced our ideas of ourselves as women. That isn't to say all of the old beliefs have been thrown out the window. Traditional values and ideas still exist and can be found in every facet of literature. Each time I hear or read someone say how cliche a strong and gutsy female P.I. is, I smile to myself and think of how far we have come.

In her search for female extreme-adventure stories, Corrigan turned to a few unlikely places. The author points to Penelope from Homer's Ulysses as the first female extreme-adventurer and moves down the line to include Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre and Anna Quindlen's Fran Benedetto from Black and Blue, which is about a woman who flees from an abusive relationship, rebuilding her life with her son. These are all strong women who have endured much in their lifetimes--"without having to become male impersonators." [pg 10] These stories may not seem like extreme-adventure stories on the surface, Corrigan acknowledges, but in their own way, at the heart of each story, she argues that they are in fact just that. Female extreme-adventure stories tend to be more internal, Corrigan writes, ". . .men usually gamble with their lives; lots of women, too, face physical risks, but more typically the emphasis in their stories is on the threatened loss of their sanity and their sense of self. The struggles described in literature are often internal and psychological, rather than life-and-death contests in Technicolor." [pg 18]

Maureen Corrigan also touches on the story of her and her husband's struggle with infertility and the adoption of their daughter, an example of her own extreme-adventure story, including the isolation, hardship, sense of loss and realization of a dream. Hers is not as extreme as those she mentions in her book, and she is the first to admit it, but it is her own story, one that mirrors some of the more generalized struggles of the women she has read about over the years.

Corrigan writes that she could have taken any number of books more suited for the moment when she traveled to China to meet her daughter for the first time. She ended up reading a true crime novel about a murderer. What she needed most in that moment was a book that would take her away from the tension, nerves and excitement of what was happening in her own reality.
Perhaps there are some life experiences that are simply beyond books. By that I mean not that those experiences are quintessentially "unique" but that they're so intensely personal, so crucial, that reading other people's literary approximations of them is frustrating, even painful, rather than helpful. [pg 45]
I have found this to be true for myself too. This is one of the reasons I refuse to read John Grogan's Marley and Me. And yet there are times I seek out books that have a direct link to what is going on in my life at any given moment. It all comes down to where I am in that particular moment and what I need most from the book I choose to read.

This first chapter in Maureen Corrigan's book turned out to be slightly more academic than I anticipated, but it was enjoyable just the same. She offered me a perspective on books that I hadn't quite considered before, broadening my definition of what an adventure is.

I have the urge to reread Jane Eyre again and perhaps even give Villete another try. They'll have to wait, however. I have other books on my plate to get to at the moment. Right now, I hope to return to India where Sivakami's story continues to unfold in The Toss of a Lemon, a book I am sure Corrigan would consider a woman's extreme-adventure story in its own right.

Part One: Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading!

Book lovers always have to touch books. [pg 58]

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Book Blogger Appreciation Week: September 15-19

The latest talk around town is about the upcoming Book Blogger Appreciation Week, September 15 - 19, hosted by Amy from My Friend Amy. I hope you will all join in!

Amy writes:

Book Bloggers: You work hard. You read books, you write reviews, you maintain relationships with your readers, publicists, and authors. You are constantly running to the post office to mail your giveaways and participating in carnivals to help boost traffic. You sometimes want to faint when you see the size of your TBR pile, but faithfully you read. And you do it because you love it. Book blogging is for most a hobby. But it’s a hobby that takes a lot of work and time. It’s a labor of love.

The Readers: We love you! You don’t have a blog, but you read our reviews and share your thoughts with us. You enter our giveaways and click on our Amazon associates link. We do this for you and appreciate your readership. We hope you’ll join in the fun and festivities of BBAW! (we’ll have a special contest just for you!)

Book Blogger Appreciation Week: Acknowledging the hard work of book bloggers and their growing impact on book marketing and their essential contribution to book buzz in general, I am excited to announce the first Book Blogger Appreciation Week. Think of it as a retreat for book bloggers and a chance for us to totally nerd out over books together. And of course, shower each other with love and appreciation.

Register: In order to experience the maximum impact of the week, register your participation (just like a retreat)! To register, just send an email to bookbloggerappreciationweekATgmailDOTcom with your blog URL and what you consider your niche…i.e, general book blog, classics blog, personal blog with a healthy dose of books, YA books blog, etc. Then, add one of the two buttons at the bottom of this post to your sidebar. If you are a reader (no blog) just send an email announcing your plans to follow along.

Why bother? If you register, you will be added to a book blog directory which will exist long after this week is over. Additionally, you will receive one raffle entry into the daily giveaways during BBAW at My Friend Amy.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday Fill Ins: A Little Help From a Friend

Anya is in her thinking box. She's volunteered to help me with this week's Friday Fill Ins.

1. The last meal I had at a restaurant was an Islands' teriyaki chicken sandwich. And thank you, Islands, for not skimping on the teriyaki sauce!

2. Ticks, potholes, and people who abuse children are some of the things I intensely dislike.

3. The full moon is a sure sign that we'll have an extra busy day at the office.

4. "No" is one of my favorite local expressions. I have this bad habit of saying no any time someone at work asks if they can ask me a question (yes, I know it's annoying). Maybe one day someone will actually believe me.

5. Sometimes it's best to keep my mouth shut.

6. The Dark Knight is the best movie I've seen so far this year!

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to watching the Olympic Games and catching up on my blog reading; tomorrow my plans include immersing myself in a book; and Sunday, I want to put on my comfy clothes, settle in on the couch with book in hand and spend the day lost in another world! I'm having an unofficial read-a-thon.

After all that hard work, Anya decides it's time for a nap. What better pillow than Anjin's foot?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Time for a Little Tuesday Tease

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12. NO SPOILERS!
  • Share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from (that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given).
  • Leave a link to the blog post where you’ve shared your “Teaser" in the comments to the week's TUESDAY TEASER post at Should Be Reading.
  • If you don’t have a blog, share the teaser in a comment on that week’s “Teaser” post.

From beyond her eastern wall, Sivakami hears the young witch's slightly muffled voice: "Move away from my door with your dirty talk!"

The boys escape towards town, yelping with shared fear and collective bravado like skinny yellow pi-dogs.
~ The Toss of a Lemon by Padma Viswanathan

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sunday Salon: Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading!

On a whim, I cracked open Maureen Corrigan's Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books this morning. It was one among many books I have sitting on my desk waiting to know its fate: be relegated to the TBR room or remain on my desk for immediate or near immediate reading (my personal definition of immediate being relative at this point in time). I have only gotten to the introduction so far, forcing myself to stop reading, in order that I may visit awhile with you (and to play with my dog who is craving a little morning attention).

Maureen Corrigan is a book critic on the National Public Radio's (NPR) Fresh Air show. She is also a college professor at Georgetown University and writes for The Washington Post. She is a lover of mysteries and serial fiction, which made me stand up and take notice immediately.

The author's father sounds very much like my own: a war veteran who spends hours lost in books. Similar to the author, I grew up around books about World War II, the American Civil War, and westerns, just to name a few. The author and I differ, however, in that my mother has always been a reader, whereas, Maureen's mother was not. Speculation about how we became readers is nothing new to the blogging community. I have discussed the topic here on my blog before as have many of you out there--either on blogs or in other forums. Some readers seem born into it while others come upon their love for reading completely on their own. Regardless of the origin, we all enjoy reading and could probably relate on many levels to the author's own bookish experiences.

I love the idea of Maureen Corrigan's book. She has been a reader all of her life and she is lucky enough to work in professions that encourage and support her reading habit. She explains in the introduction that she wants not only to talk about books, but to share her experiences in how books have molded and impacted her life as well as how her life experiences have influenced her reading.

It is my intent to stretch out the reading of this book, reading snippets here and there in between my other reading. I want to share with you my experience of reading Maureen Corrigan's book, piece by piece. It will give me fodder to talk about on Sundays at the very least. At the most, it will stir up some interesting discussion. I hope so, anyway.

Here are a few random quotes that caught my attention (It was hard not to want to copy the entire introduction for you here):
I think, consciously or not, what we readers do each time we open a book is to set off on a search for authenticity. We want to get closer to the heart of things, and sometimes even a few good sentences contained in an otherwise unexceptional book can crystallize vague feelings, fleeting physical sensations, or, sometimes, profound epiphanies. [pg xvi]

Good writing is writing that's on target; that captures, say, the smell of sizing on a just-sewn garment the way no other known grammatical scramble of words has before. [pg xvi]

In our daily lives, we're bombarded by the fake and the trivial, reading serves as a way to stop, shut out the noise of the world, and try to grab hold of something real, no matter how small. [pg xvii]

Books are wayward. You can begin a book assuming that you're entering one kind of world, getting one kind of message, only to find out that beneath that cover story lurks another kind of tale - or two, or three - altogether. Books can turn us readers around, mess with our directional signals, deposit us, drained and bewildered, on completely foreign shores. [pg xxvi]

In regards to the semicolon (a punctuation mark the author and I both seem to have a special affection for):
It's the punctuation mark that qualifies, hesitates, and ties together ideas and parts of a life that shoot off in different directions. I think my reliance on the semicolon signifies that I want to hold on to my background - honestly, without sentimentality or embarrassment - and yet, also transcend it. [pg xxxi]

I did not get nearly as much reading done as I would have liked this past week (likely story, I know). I attended an out of town conference and was looking forward to a quiet evening of nothing but reading. Instead, I decided to be sociable and joined a group of people for dinner and a movie. By the time I got back to the hotel, I was too tired to do anything but fall into sleep. The conference itself was interesting enough not to entice escapes to a quiet alcove to read, although the very idea was tempting enough in itself. I was good though and attended all my workshops.

I plan to spend much of today in Far World, along side Marcus and Kyja who are trying desperately to save not only the world but themselves as well in Far World: Water Keep. My goal is to finish the book today and start on my review. I am one stop among many on the author, J. Scott Savage's summer book tour, and I am happy to say that I am enjoying the book (there is always a little fear that I will hate a particular book and then be put in an awkward position).

Week in Review:
Review of Aberrations by Penelope Przekop
Booking Through Thursday: If I could live in a fictional world, which one would I choose?
Off Topic Chatter: Friday is Finally Here

New Addition to the TBR Collection:
The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff

How has your reading been this past week? Did you come away satisfied or wishing you had made different choices? Any new books added to your shelves?

Wishing you all a great week and happy reading!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Friday is Finally Here

1. You know you're old when going to bed early sounds like the sensible thing to do.

2. My heart is divided between reading another chapter in my book and giving in to sleep.

3. A kitty kiss is what I need RIGHT NOW!

4. I have felt the shadows of doubt creeping in; I have known the depths of hope.

5. Gah, won't these people let me have a little peace and quiet! (thought today during my lunch break)

6. Leave me a comment as soon as you can. (I would love to know you stopped by.)

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to watching the opening ceremony of the Olympics, tomorrow my plans include a visit to the optometrist and Sunday, I want to catch up on the laundry and fit in a bit of reading!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Other Worlds

I convinced Anjin to play along with this week's Booking Through Thursday and have included his responses below my own.

Suggested by Miko:

Are there any particular worlds in books where you’d like to live?

Or where you certainly would NOT want to live?

I was just thinking the other day how I wish I could stop in at Merlotte's Bar in Bon Temps, Louisiana for a meal and drink after a hard day of work. I would say hello to Sam and spend a little time with Sookie. Maybe even hop on over to Fangtasia, hoping to catch a glimpse of Eric. (Southern Vampire Series by Charlaine Harris)

My husband is willing to consider moving to Absaroka County, Wyoming, on the condition that it is not a very dangerous place. I assured him that with Sheriff Longmire watching over us, we could not be any safer. I would have to adjust to the wintry cold and snow, but with company like Henry Standing Bear, I doubt it would take long to settle in. (Sheriff Longmire Mystery Series by Craig Johnson)

In both instances, the idea of a small town atmosphere, the kindness of the people, and a cast of characters I would love to count among friends is very inviting.

But then, I am a city girl at heart, and I sure would not mind getting to know Chicago's Harry Dresden a bit more. He certainly finds himself in plenty of tight spots, but he always manages to come out alive, even if a little worse for wear. (The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher)

I am less partial to living in St. Louis, Missouri--at least alongside Anita Blake. Her world is much too dark and violent for the likes of me, although as long as I am visiting by way of book alone, Anita and I get along just fine. (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter Series by Laurel K. Hamilton)

Anjin says: I would not mind moving to Tellus Tertius from Robert Heinlein's books. Not a as member of the Long family, though, since I still have my 21st century moral hang-ups. There aren't a lot of fantasy worlds I would hang out in because of the constant stream of apocalypses. Middle Earth, Midkemia, and the Seven Kingdoms all seems too dangerous to spend much time in.
What about authors? If you were a character, who would you trust to write your life?
If Jane Austen was alive today, she would be the ideal candidate. She could work her magic by putting pen to paper, weaving together a romantic and unforgettable love story. What better one to write about than my own? Or perhaps Ann-Marie MacDonald, whose attention to detail, beautiful prose, ability to draw out her characters' thoughts and emotions, and who does not shy from the harsh realities of life would be a better choice.

Anjin says: I think Sue Grafton would be a good steward of my fictional existence. I would want to stay away from Greg Rucka, as much as I like his books. He subscribes to the theory that a character is most interesting by seeing them on their worst day. So that would probably be painful.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Review: Aberrations by Penelope Przekop

"It's a sudden loss of muscle control," is how I would always begin, feeling cornered, "while remaining conscious. It's as if your body's faintin' but you're not." [ pg 24]

Aberrations by Penelope Przekop
Emerald Book Co, 2008
Fiction; 241 pgs

Angel Duet is 21 and everything she believed and thought she knew is about to change. Things couldn't be worse when her father's girlfriend, Carla, moves in, making her mark by taking down all of the photographs taken by Angel's mother. The photos are the only material things that Angel really has to connect her to the woman she lost many years ago.

Angel feels like she is sleep walking through life. She puts much of the blame on the absence of her mother and the neurological condition from which she suffers: narcolepsy. Her narcolepsy controls so much of what she does and how she reacts, making it impossible for her to live like a "normal" person, or so she believes. She wants more than that for herself, however. Angel wants to break away from the rut she is in and wants to experience what it is to truly live.

Her father tried, in his own way, to be the best father he knew how to be to his daughter. The grief that came with having lost the woman he loved permeated their lives. His lies to protect Angel have never quite filled the void inside Angel, and now, more than anything, she wants to know the truth.

Taking a summer job working in the cotton fields, Angel makes two unlikely friends. Kimmy, the 26 year old virgin, is not so different than Angel, feeling stuck in a rut, barely living life, and longing for something more, something different. Tim has his own secret, which he is bursting to share. He is gay, feeling stifled by his hometown and society, and is tired of the prejudice and secrecy surrounding him. Tim opens a door into a world that neither Kimmy nor Angel had ever imagined stepping into. He offers them hope, but not quite in the way any of them, or even the reader, could have anticipated.

Angel felt lost and empty most of her life. She comes across as immature and selfish at first, but by the end of the novel, she has made great strides in coming into her own. In a way, this is a coming of age story about a young woman who only needed to find her way. The void she feels inside is not something that can be filled by something on the outside. It has to come from within. Angel’s decisions are not always the best ones, but as with all mistakes, she can only hope that she learns from them and is able move forward.

Aberrations is rich in characterization, each character complex and flawed, beautiful and ugly. The characters are so wrapped up in their own problems that they are not always able to see how similar their struggles are to those around them. Each of them has their own secrets and created their own lies. Secrets and lies have a way of spilling out no matter how hard a person tries to contain them. The mess left behind is not always so easy to forgive or accept.

Minor Spoiler Alert Begins Here

Although at first I was not sure what to think of Carla, she eventually came to be my favorite character in the novel. She was an outsider on the inside and her insight and dedication to the broken Duet family was steadfast. Mac was another one that grew on me as time went on, despite the fact that he was cheating on his wife. He came across as confident and sure of himself, and yet that was only a mask for what lay underneath. One of the saddest characters in the novel is Tim, who in the beginning seems to be the most together of the bunch. As Kimmy and Angel come into their own, growing as individuals, he stays much the same throughout the book. What once Angel most admired in Tim, was what eventually she came to recognize as biggest downfall.

Minor Spoiler Alert Ends Here

The writing is beautiful and I liked how the author added a Southern touch to the dialogue, least the reader forget where the novel is set. It actually takes place during the early 1980's in Louisiana. It seems the perfect setting for this poignant story about love, family, friendship, forgiveness and redemption.

Aberrations was not quite what I expected. It was deeper and more satisfying. At times it was tragic but above all it was hopeful.

Rating: * (Very Good)

Be sure and stop by Penelope Przekop's website for more information about the author and her book.

Read what others had to say about this book:
Allison's Attic of Books
Cheryl's Book Nook
Devourer of Books
Experiments in Reading
Kathleen's Book Reviews
Leafing Through Life
The Literate Housewife Review
The Tome Traveller's Weblog
Traci's Book bag

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Sunday Salon: Panic Weekend

Reading this past week has been difficult. It isn't that I have not had the time to read. I have. But watching the kitten is so much more entertaining right now; and, therefore, other activities, including reading, have been sacrificed this week as a result. We are getting acquainted with each other, learning each other's habits, likes and dislikes. My friends and family are surely already tired of my constant animal chatter--how this one is getting along with the other and what cute kittenish thing Anya is doing now (even though every kitten in history has done it repeatedly). As I am sure those of you with animals know, it is always cuter and more special when your own kitten is involved.

My friend Christine informed me early last week that the first weekend in August is Panic Weekend. Schools are starting up again and everyone is making a mad dash to fit in the last of the summer projects and activities that they can before life goes back to a more familiar routine. Even though summer can stretch as long as I like since my life does not evolve around the school calendar, there is a sense of something coming to an end as September approaches.

I have big reading plans this month even though I know it's mostly wishful thinking. Still, it is better to have too much than too little when it comes to books on the immediate TBR shelf.

Just a few of the books I would like to get to this month that I am eagerly anticipating:
Rises the Night by Colleen Gleason
The Bleeding Dusk by Colleen Gleason
Goodbye and Amen by Beth Gutcheon
Janeology by Karen Harrington
Matrimony by Joshua Henkin
Sweet Mandarin by Helen Tse
First Daughter by Eric Van Lustbader
The Toss of a Lemon by Padma Viswanathan

Do you find yourself caught in the August rush, scurrying to catch up and finish off projects and activities before the end of the summer season? Are there any books you hope to read this month?

Sundays have reverted back to being the day I start new books as opposed to finishing them up. This morning I began reading J. Scott Savage's Far World: Water Keep, the first in his 5 part YA fantasy series. Having recently finished Penelope Przekop's Aberrations, a little time in a fantasy world sounds quite tantalizing.

Week in Review:
Review of Kindness Goes Unpunished by Craig Johnson
Cataloging and Where Reading Has Taken Me: Tuesday Wanderings & Tuesday Thingers .
Review of Tragedy in South Lebanon: The Israeli-Hezbollah War of 2006 by Cathy Sultan
Review of Watches of the Night by Sally Wright
Off Topic Chatter: Is It Friday Yet?
Off TopicPhotos: My Furry Threesome
Book Recommendations

New Additions to the TBR Collection:
First Daughter by Eric Van Lustbader
The Toss of a Lemon by Padma Viswanathan

It looks like the fur kids have settled down for a late morning nap. I wouldn't mind joining them, but I have other things that need to be taken care of first. Have a great week and happy reading!

Summer Reads Giveaway Winners

Musings of a Bookish Kitty is now into its third year, and I could not have done it without you. Thank you for the anniversary wishes and all of the support you have given me over the past two years.

There was a great turn out for the Hachette Book Group USA Summer Reads Giveaway, in which five people will receive 14 books each. Thank you to all who participated! I got some amazing recommendations and look forward to reading them.

I changed the rules slightly when tallying the votes for the drawings. Those who answered both of my questions (1. recommending a book you think I might like and 2. listing a book that you became interested in or read based on, in part, my review) received two drawing entries, one entry for each question answered. Those who only answered one or the other, received one entry. I wanted to reward those who followed the directions to a "T" without leaving anyone out. As promised, I counted up the comments left by participants after entering the giveaway, which resulted in an extra entry per comment. For those kind enough to spread the word about the giveaway, three extra points were added in. Once the entries were tallied, I clicked over to RANDOM.ORG, the True Random Number Service, where the winners were selected.

Now on to the moment you have all been waiting for!