Friday, September 26, 2008

The Sorted Books Project

Post on the fly:

Shelf Awareness mentioned The Sorted Book Project today, which was featured at Boing Boing. What a fun idea! I can't wait to go home & try this with my books.

Oh wait. My books may very well be boxed up when I get home. (We're moving again.)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Deerskin by Robin McKinley

I don't always post reviews of books I've re-read, but I wanted to say a little more about Deerskin. I've recommended it to several fellow bloggers who have enjoyed some of McKinley's other books, and it was the first book in my summer recommendations. But it's not enough. I love this book.

First, you should know that this is a fairy tale, and I love fairy tales. This is not to be confused with Disney versions of fairy tales (though many people have suggested that Disney's Beauty and the Beast seems to draw heavily from McKinley's Beauty, published over 20 years ago--and which I am also currently re-reading); this book involves everything, including bodily functions, in its telling.

I first read this book when I was 17*, after it fairly leaped off the "new release" book cart at the library. I read it twice before I returned it (less than a week later). Over the years, I've bought three copies, which are all currently on loan back in Ohio. So I had to ask the library here to find a copy for me; I felt the need to recalibrate, and I knew Deerskin would help.

And it's as wonderful as I remember it: Lissla Lissar is a princess who is compelled to leave her palace by some horrific events; she escapes and eventually (after an altering, mystical/magical recovery) takes on a new identity in another kingdom, where people mistake her for their legendary Moonwoman. Her balancing presence is her dog, who was also her first friend. Though there is a prince, she is a self-sufficient woman who can stand very well on her own two feet most of the time.

It is a tale of character, strength, choices, survival and will, and though the language is a little more superfluous than I would normally prefer, it suits the story well. Some people have found the beginning a little slow, but I strongly disagree. The story begins with Lissar begging to hear the story of her parents' courship and marriage. Her parents are beloved rulers; her father is handsome and brave, her mother is the most beautiful woman in seven kingdoms. And the princess is a forgotten in the brilliance of her parents. Need I say that she's not your typical princess?

I recommended this to my aunt a few years ago; she stayed up that night till 2, when she had to go to sleep, and woke up at 6 to finish. She told her kids (8 & 12) to fend for themselves for breakfast; she was busy reading.

*This is not a teen/YA book

Sunday, September 21, 2008

College Ain't Cheap: another scholarship essay contest!

Attention all college students, high school seniors and instructors thereof!

Maybe you've seen the magazine mental_floss while you've been waiting in line at the coffeeshop at Books-A-Million or while you were staring, slack-jawed, at the sheer number of magazines offered at Barnes & Noble. Maybe you're a Bookcrosser and know it from there. Or maybe you read The Optimistic Book Fool and see the Friday references to mental_floss there.

Even if you've never heard of this magazine, you might be interested to know that they are giving away $50,000 in tuition money for full-time undergrads (as of fall 2009). That's five $10,000 awards. And this isn't just a US opportunity--it's also open to Canadian students!

If you, or someone you know, is/should be interested in this opportunity, you should be aware that applicants must write a short piece: "In 750 words or less, explain why you (as the most deserving person on the planet) should win a $10,000 prize for tuition/books in the fall of 2009. . . and should reflect the tone of mental_floss magazine.”

750 words is not a lot. Before diving in, though, you'll want to check out the magazine, the rules (there aren't too many) and the FAQs.

I found out about this thanks to Finding Wonderland!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Here, There Be Dragons by James A. Owen

I think that if you took The Chronicles of Narnia, The Neverending Story, and the Lord of the Rings, and found a way to brew them together, Here, There Be Dragons is what you'd end up with. And while I'm not a Tolkien fan, I did enjoy this book. And, delight of delights, I was even surprised a number of times.

I was expecting a light YA/teen fantasy, but what I found was a complicated weaving of various fantasy and mythological elements, written in the style of CS Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia). I enjoyed them, but I wonder how many of the references to various cultures' myths and Arthurian legend the intended younger audience will miss or not understand through simple inexperience, and how much of a difference that will make to the reading.

Were I offering this book to a young adult/teen reader, which I certainly encourage if you know any who are inclined to like fantasy, I would also seek out companion books to satisfy the interests in mythology and legends this book will likely spark. (This might be easier to do browsing in a bookstore than searching online--everything I found was either for adults or a younger audience.)

Readers/buyers should be aware that this is the first book in a series.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Thank you, Amy!

Amy, we know how much work you put into Book Blog Appreciation Week (or we at least have an idea). Thank you for bearing forth this idea and carrying it out so magnificently.

This has been a wonderful week and as members of the Book Blogging community, in one voice we want to thank Amy for all that she has done.

BBAW, Day 5

Before Amy started posting the list of book blogs participating in her grand week-long event, my blog feed list was half this long. I can't really differentiate which blogs were pre- and which are post-, but I'm currently checking 188 blogs. I'm sorry to say, I may have to cull if I want to check them every day. Or maybe I'll just check the feeds twice a week.

Is anyone else in this boat?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

BBAW, Day 3*

Today we're to write about what we wished we knew about blogging when we started or advice we'd give to a newbie book blogger.

My advice would be this: Don't feel you have to be like everyone else and remember what your personal purpose for blogging is.

When I started blogging, I did it in place of keeping a personal reading journal and because my friends back home (Ohio) said they wanted to be able to keep up with what I was reading. Now I've stumbled into this wonderful book blogging community, and my purpose for blogging hasn't changed, but my audience has gotten a bit bigger. I continue to want my blog to be simple and to stick mostly to book reviews, though I'm looking at revamping the format/design sometime soon. I don't feel the need to drive up my hits; I'm tickled with the hits a day my blog averages, though I doubt I'll be reaching 10,000 hits anytime soon.

As to the memes, challenges and book giveaways other bloggers do: I don't do them on my blog for several reasons. I don't do memes because I spend enough time combing through blogs updated by daily or weekly memes; I don't (usually) read them on others' blogs and I don't think my answers would be all that different or, in light of that, particularly interesting. I don't do challenges because I fear it would make reading feel a bit too much like assigned reading, though I'm not entirely opposed to the idea of participating at some time in the future. And giveaways--well, they're fun, I know. I've participated in them on others' blogs. But I'm a Bookcrosser, which means I'm involved in karmic, serendipitous book adventures. (I register and then "free" my books--it's a little bit like tagging a bird or whale to see what it does later.)

Also, I'd advise making sure your readers can get RSS feed(s) from your blog--I've encountered a number of blogs I'd read more often if I could make them part of the list my Sage feed reader checks instead of just bookmarking them and checking them when I think about it (once a week, maybe).

*Day 2 involved interviewing other book bloggers; I somehow overlooked signing up for that (through every fault of my own).

Monday, September 15, 2008

Book Blogger Appreciation Week, Day 1

Today we appreciate our fellow book bloggers who didn't make the finalists lists. My problem with this task is that I have so many book blogs on my RSS feed reader that I have a hard time keeping them all straight. So, I'm sorry that I have to do this, but I'm going to cut this list to five that really stand out (the ones that make me grin--as opposed to a mere smile--when I see there's a new post on their blog). Some of them are reader blogs and some are writer blogs (you know they can overlap), and if they were nominated in a category, I don't remember (there were a lot!):

The Literate Housewife Review
Books Are Pretty--I think this was the first other book blog I found
Fashionista Pirranha

Beth Kephart
Mad Woman in the Forest--Laurie Halse Anderson's blog

And a moment to appreciate My Friend Amy, too, who keeps a great blog and whose inspiration and energy are making this week possible. Thanks, Amy!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

HarperCollins posts PDF of Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

I was just over at the badgerbooks blog and discovered that Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere is being offered as a free download for a limited time. (No mention of how limited.) Details--required software, life expectancy of the file, etc.--on Gaiman's blog!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Erotic Massage for Lovers by Ros Widdowson & Steve Marriott

Erotic Massage for Lovers is another book I requested from Mini Book Expo. I love being touched by my husband, and I thought that learning to massage each other would be--well, at the very least, fun.

The book seems to cover everything beginners need, even mixing your own oils if you're not using something commercially available. Descriptions of the motions are well laid out and include pictures to illustrate. The massages are about learning to touch each other, communicate, give pleasure and learn a new kind of intimacy--it's not really about foreplay (though it may lead to that). My only problem is that there are so many massages described that we'll need to keep the book next to us for a while yet. (Not much of a problem, eh?)

I'd encourage gifting Erotic Massage for Lovers to newlyweds or maybe a couple celebrating an anniversary--or to your significant other when you feel the need to reconnect.

Eating for Energy by Yuri Elkaim

I asked to review Eating for Energy (from Mini Book Expo) because I spend four days a week at the gym, about two hours each day, and to be able to work harder and not be utterly exhausted by the end of the day would be wonderful. My only hope was that this book wouldn't ask me to completely revamp my eating habits in order to get it.

I was disappointed. Elkaim is a huge fan of the raw foods movement and discourages eating any kind of meat. Though he provides plenty of facts and statistics, I'm skeptical. I suspect there's a reason he has only a small headshot, instead of a picture including at least shoulders, on the back of the book. Plus, I felt like I was reading a bit by a fanatic infomercial host, one that yelled at me to try to make me listen and was occasionally condescending. I'm sure that was caused by the number of exclamation marks and bold words Elkaim used. Also, Elkaim's obsession with a long life and being slim/thin/skinny is not one I share.

I will be considering some of his workout advice and trying some of his recipes in the back of the book, but I can think of a number of people around here who might be more inclined to follow the entirety of Elkaim's guidelines. (People who already avoid chocolate chip cookies.) I'll probably end up bookcrossing this book and leaving it at the gym.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

For laughs, may I recommend... (another book I read a few years ago)

Everyone's posting the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize, and Bookslut posted a quote about why funny books don't win these "major" literary awards. So in an effort to lighten things up, I'm going to recommend that everyone (yes, everyone) read Will Ferguson's Happiness.

Will Ferguson is a funny and popular Canadian writer; his books even have a consistent presence on the BC Ferries gift shop bookshelves. I was introduced to Ferguson's work by the man I love, who urged me to read it because "everyone who works in publishing should." He even sent me the book, and I polished it off in a few days and, excited, passed it on to a friend working with me at the university press. She also loved it, and read it even faster than I did. (I knew she would.)

So, the book's premise is this: Someone writes a self-help book that actually works. Everyone buys it. Everyone becomes happy. The world collapses. The editor (who initially rejected the manuscript) hunts down the writer. There's some gunfire somewhere in the book. There are daisy stickers. There's a man who's ended up with his own harem. There's a trailer. A desert. New York City. People in robes. A janitor in a limo.

And it's all funny.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

When We Were Romans by Mathew Kneale

Despite the many good reviews available, I can't get into When We Were Romans--not because the voice of child-narrator lacks grammar mastery, but because of the "and then. . . and then. . . and then. . ." style of story-telling (including vastly unimportant details and strange comparisons of people to animals). This may be authentic to a kid's story-telling ability, but it makes for tedious reading when it lasts more than a few pages. I can't believe that the book will offer anything that is really worth the effort of forcing myself to go on. (I'm about 1/3 of the way through.)

Many thanks to Doubleday for letting me try this book out.