Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Vacation

As of today, I'm going to be taking a short blogging vacation for the holidays. I'll return in the new year with more reviews, book notes, and thoughts on art & architecture.

Before I go, I just want to say what a pleasure this year has been. Unlike other, better organized bloggers, I have no end-of-year wrap-up post, but I can say, off the top of my head, that it has been a fabulous year to read and write. I've read some great books, have been introduced to new, amazing writers, and have had a lot of fun getting to share my thoughts here, and read your opinions here and on your own blogs. So (if you celebrate it) Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! See you in 2010!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Thank You, Secret Santa!


I received my Book Blogger Holiday Swap gifts yesterday. A big thank you to my secret Santa, Casse of Catholic Kittie! In addition to lots of chocolate (yum!), she sent me For One More Day by Mitch Albom.


Thank you and Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday Update 12/18

Every Friday, I update my library and share what new books I bought or received during the past week.

I recently started acupuncture to treat the tendinitis in my right arm. So even though I don't request many review copies anymore, I was intrigued by this one:


Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine for Women's Health: Bridging the Gap Between Western and Eastern Medicine by Kathleen Albertson


I also picked up my next book club book:


The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani

Today is my office holiday lunch and, this weekend, my husband and I are hosting our first ever Holiday Open House at our place. Any of you attending holiday parties this weeknd? 'Tis the season to eat a lot! Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Holiday Charitable Gifts

I'm sure all of you are giving books for the holidays, right? If you'd like to branch out a little and give something else, I'd like to suggest two worthy causes that make excellent presents for loved ones.

First is Kiva. I've written about this organization in the past, but its worth mentioning again.

Kiva's mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty. Kiva is the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend to unique entrepreneurs around the globe.

There are Kiva gift certificates available for as little as $25, which will allow the recipient to make a loan to that could save a life. And then they get the money back, allowing them to make another loan! It's a gift that will last much longer than a fruit basket, I assure you.

The second charity gift idea is Heifer International. Heifer International is dedicated to relieving global hunger and poverty. It provides gifts of livestock and plants, as well as education in sustainable agriculture, to financially-disadvantaged families around the world. Through them, you can buy any number of different kinds of animals in your loved ones' name. The animals will be given to the poor all over the world, starting for as little as $20 for a flock of geese, ducks or chicks. Each family that receives a gift from Heifer International agrees to pass on a female offspring to someone else in need - allowing your initial gift to grow and do more good. Again, isn't that a much better gift than a scented candle?

I hope this has given you some ideas for great holiday gifts. If you know of any other charities that make excellent gifts, please feel free to suggest them in the comments.

Teaser Tuesday 12/15

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
  • Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teaser!
This week's book was recommended to me by a good friend:
"Roscoe," she said, "I want you to tell us exactly what happened."

Swire sat down near the fire, still heaving from his scramble through the slot canyon, oblivious to a nasty gash on his arm that was bleeding freely.
From Thunderhead by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Nora Kelly, a young archaeologist in Santa Fe, receives a letter written sixteen years ago, yet mysteriously mailed only recently. In it her father, long believed dead, hints at a fantastic discovery that will make him famous and rich---the lost city of an ancient civilization that suddenly vanished a thousand years ago. Now Nora is leading an expedition into a harsh, remote corner of Utah's canyon country. Searching for her father and his glory, Nora begins to unravel the greatest riddle of American archeology. But what she unearths will be the newest of horrors...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Review: Your Hate Mail Will be Graded

As regular readers of this blog may already know, I am a big fan of science fiction writer John Scalzi. He even has his own tag here, I write about him so much! His Old Man's War series is just fantastic. I am also a fan and daily reader of Scalzi's blog Whatever. "Whatever" is one of the longest running blogs - the first entry was on September 13, 1998, way back even before the term blog was invented - and has 40k plus readers a day (I can't even imagine having that many readers!). So what is "Whatever" about?
Well, about whatever: Politics, writing, family, war, popular culture and cats (especially with bacon on them). Sometimes he's funny. Sometimes he's serious (mostly he's sarcastic). Sometimes people agree with him. Sometimes they send him hate mail, which he grades on originality and sends back.
Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded is a collection of "Whatever" entries, some dating back to the early days of the site, some from 2008. The topics range from the serious to the ridiculous, and include such topics as September 11th, advice for writers, and fatherhood.

It is apparent what the dominant political topics were during the years Scalzi wrote these essays: gay marriage, George W. Bush, the Iraq War, etc. And some of those essays, in particular, felt a little dated. But many of the other essays, like the one on his childhood hero, Carl Sagan, or the financial advice for writers, felt more timeless.

No surprise, I really like Scalzi's writing. As the blurb points out, there's a lot of sarcasm in the humorous pieces, which I like, though I recognize not everyone will. But Scalzi has, to me, a distinctive voice, that I just love. I think other readers (and not just science fiction fans) will enjoy this book as well.

Buy Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded on Amazon.

A softcover version of this book will be coming out in January from Tor.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Fridate Update

(Almost) every Friday, I update my library and share what new books I bought or received during the past week.

Dudes! Its been so long since I've done this! I only posted about NaNoWriMo during my November updates. Its not like I didn't get any new books, of course, but I certainly haven't gotten as many. I just wasn't reading as much last month. But here's what I did get:

Baking with Julia: Savor the Joys of Baking with America's Best Bakers by Dorie Greenspan



Kindred by Octavia Butler


The Elfish Gene: Dungeons, Dragons and Growing Up Strange by Mark Barrowcliffe (purchased by my husband)

Its my turn to host book club tonight - we'll be discussing The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which I reviewed this week. Plus, Thursday night began the rush of holiday parties for me. This all means that this weekend will be a lovely flurry of making and eating food - including two kinds of pie! - and spending time with friends. I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"Waiting On" Wednesday

I saw an announcement in Shelf Awareness this week that I think many of us will be excited about:
The as-yet-unnamed third book in Suzanne Collins's bestselling trilogy that began with The Hunger Games in fall 2008 and continued with Catching Fire this fall has been set for next August 24. The U.S. hardcover edition (Scholastic, $17.99, 9780439023511) will be released simultaneously with a U.S. audio version (Scholastic, $39.99, 9780545101424).
I can't wait!

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Teaser Tuesday 12/8

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
  • Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teaser!
From Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded by John Scalzi:
I fell for Carl [Sagan] with the sort of blissful rapture that I strongly suspect is only available to pre-pubescent geeks, a sort of nerd crush that, to be clear, had no sexual component, but had the same sort of swoony intensity. This was the guy I wanted to be when I was age eleven.
If you buy this book through Subterranean Press (the publisher), you also get a little chapter book - a novella, of sorts - by Scalzi, FYI.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book….

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society [was] born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island. Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives.
I liked this book. I really liked the way the authors handled the epistolary style and I enjoyed the story. I can, though, point out about a dozen things wrong with this book that prevented me from loving it, though. The plot twists were visible from space, the off-screen lead character (Elizabeth, not the actual main character Juliet) was too good to be true, and the ending was pat. But I liked it! Does that mean there's something wrong with me? I guess not, since so many other people have loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society even more than I did. There are some sad moments, but overall this is a nice book to read when you want something sweet. Enjoy!

Buy The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society on Amazon.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Off My Game

Its so hard to get back into blogging after taking a break! And I skipped Teaser Tuesday today as I am still reading the same massive tome I posted last week (Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clark). But I'm not going away permanently or anything - I'll be back soon with new reviews and stuff.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009: The End

I DID IT! I finished my NaNo novel!


And I did it a whole day early. Now I can go to bed.

Almost to the End

Hi, everybody! My husband and I are home from our trip East for Thankgiving. We had a wonderful holiday with our family and I got a lot of writing done on my NaNoWriMo novel. Yay! Just two more days of NaNo and then I will be back here with regular posts.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Teaser Tuesday 11/24

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
  • Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teaser!
From Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clark:
The hall was dark at first, but in a moment candles were brought and they could see that someone was standing at the foot of the stairs.
It was Arabella.
Who is Arabella? I have no idea! I'm not there in the book yet.
Please ignore this post. Just a bit of housekeeping.


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Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Update: NaNoWriMo Week 3

Yikes! Week 3 is nearing an end already. I got sick this week, so now I'm really behind. Excuses, excuses, I know. I better throw myself into it this weekend and catch up.

Good luck to all of you who are plugging away on your novels.

Previously: Week 1, Week 2

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Interview with Justin Allen, Author of Year of the Horse

A few weeks ago, I reviewed Justin Allen's fabulous Wild West coming-of-age novel, Year of the Horse. (link goes to my review) I had so many questions about his ideas for the book and how he came up with him, so I was thrilled when he agreed to be interviewed.



Lorin: Where did the idea or inspiration for Year of the Horse come from? How did you get the idea to incorporate fantasy into what is otherwise a Western, coming-of-age story? Year of the Horse, to me, is a rarity: it tells a story of the Old West through the point of view of a person of Chinese descent. Where did the idea to do that come from?

Justin: I first came up with the idea of writing a Wild-West Fantasy Novel while on a short vacation to the Florida Keys with my friend, Kennon Irons. We were sitting in a diner, eating breakfast and wishing that the Monsoon-like rain we’d been experiencing for the last three days would JUST QUIT for a few minutes, so we could go to the beach, go to the Everglades, or just go OUTSIDE.

Anyhow, I got to complaining about how so much fantasy fiction is nothing more than the eternal rehashing of King Arthur, Tolkien, and the Chronicles of Narnia. Kennon, who very much likes that sort of thing, wondered what I had against King Arthur, and it suddenly came to me… What I hated wasn’t King Arthur (I love King Arthur, by the way, and all that sort of thing). What I hated was that when Americans write that sort of fantasy, it’s just as though we’re still stuck in some sort of pseudo-Colonial state. Why can’t we produce American fantasy? Kennon argued that fantasy was as much swords and chivalry as magic and wonder, and that any attempt to replace the broadsword with the six-shooter would ultimately fail. “Bull!!!” I said it then, and I’ll say it now with even more ferocity! In fact, “Bull CRAP!!!” The Western has always been mostly fantastical. Don’t believe me? Watch some old Clint Eastwood films and see if you don’t begin to have a whole passel of wonderings. For instance, how in heaven’s name does he always have the right number of bullets in his gun? Or, how come there aren’t more than six guys he has to shoot? And where in the name of all that’s holy is he anyway? Is that supposed to be Mexico? Then how is he escaping from a Confederate Prisoner of War camp? Yeesh! Did the filmmakers know anything about North American Geography at all?

In fact, the Western has more fantasy aspects to it, by its very nature, than just about any other genre. It’s just dying to be exploited. That’s why I dedicated Year of the Horse to ‘our favorite Oxford Dons.’ It’s my way of saying, “Thanks, but Enough. We’ve had all the medievalism we need for a while. We’re DONE with that.” I say, let’s strike new ground! Let’s make myths out of our own people, landscape and mythical heritage.

As for Lu…

I don’t know exactly how or when I decided to make an American-born Chinese boy the main character in the book. The first character I thought up was actually Jack Straw - itinerant adventurer, gunfighter and mystic. Lu came a good deal into the planning.

I’d read China Men by Maxine Hong Kingston, and very much enjoyed the sections where she described the dangerous jobs that Chinese immigrants performed during the American push westward, especially in mining and railroad building. Huge numbers of Chinese men were killed or maimed while handling explosives (no one knows just how many). So I figured a Chinese explosives “expert” would be a fascinating addition to my story about the west. Plus, using a Chinese boy, and making him pretty much no different from any other boy his age, allowed me to say something about what it means to be an American. I wanted to show Lu realizing, over the course of the journey, that he was truly an American, as much a symbol of his country as Sadie or Henry or Jack. And I wanted readers to come to that realization with him.


Lorin: In the acknowledgments for Year of the Horse, you wrote that the female characters in the book were based on several of your actual family members. Were Lu and the other members of Jack's gang also based on real people? If not, where did the ideas for those characters come from?

Justin: All of the characters in Year of the Horse come from somewhere. All of the minor characters do, anyway. The main group: Lu, Jack, Henry, Chino, Sadie and her father, are all my own creations. I never met anyone like Jack, have no Uncles like Henry or any old enemies like Chino. I developed these core characters entirely on their own, discovering each as I followed him or her across the country.

Their NAMES, however, were all chosen for historical, literary or personal reasons. Lu’s name, for instance, comes from The Analects of Confucius. Tzu-lu was one of Confucius’s favorite disciples, known as an adventurer and swashbuckler. Likewise, Henry is named after John Henry, the famous “steel driving man.” His last name, Jesus, comes from the practice of freed slaves taking on the names of their former masters. Henry would have none of that, I thought – his only ‘master’ being his Savior – so I figured he’d take on the name that meant most to him. Manuel Garcia – also known as ‘Chino’ – got his name from a famous bandit in the old west. MacLemore was named after Louis L'Amour - “Mac” in Scottish meaning “son of” - as well as a family I know in Montgomery, Alabama (my sister-in-law’s last name is McLemore). And Sadie – This is something I have NEVER told ANYONE until now – is actually named after a dog I had when I was a boy. I loved that dog more than I could possibly say, and so appropriated her name for Year of the Horse. Jack Straw takes his name from a revolutionary figure in British History, and from the fact that I always liked the name ‘Jack’ for a gunfighter.

But as I said before, though their names come from some association that means something to me, there is no ACTUAL relationship between my characters and their namesakes. The minor characters, now that’s a different story…

Lorin: Clearly, you referenced Washington Irving in Year of the Horse. In my review, I mentioned that it also reminded me of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Were you influenced by Mark Twain? What other authors inspire your work?

Justin: Thank you, Lorin, for mentioning Mark Twain. I can say without reservation that no writer anywhere has influenced me more. In fact, in Year of the Horse, I actually referenced some of Twain’s characters. You remember that scene where Lu and the gang cross the Quapaw River on a log raft? Well, I was thinking of Jim and Huck there (in fact, if you go back and look, you’ll notice that the customs agent’s name is ‘Jim’). Honestly, I’m not sure you can have a log raft in a book and NOT have people think of Huck Finn. Also, try Googling ‘Philip Traum’ and see what you find. I’ll bet you’ll be surprised.

There are references to famous American (and a few non-American) authors sprinkled throughout Year of the Horse. I get a big bang out of finding (or inventing) connections. In the book you can find references to Harriet Beecher Stowe, Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne. I even made what I thought to be a funny reference to one lesser-known American Author. It’s when Lu is following Bill through the Hell Mouth Canyon and they come upon a waterfall. Most readers probably won’t recognize that reference, but one or two might. In fact, Bill himself is a sort of reference to the tall tales of Pecos Bill, his wife Slue-Foot Sue, and his horse Widowmaker.

And though I made no conscious references to them, there are oodles of other authors I’ve learned from and loved. I particularly love Jack Kerouac, Alan Moore, Larry McMurtry and Phillip K. Dick. I am a big fan of Ursula LeGuin and Barbara Kingsolver, think the world of Robert Heinlein and Charles Dickens (everybody please read A Christmas Carol – it is sooooo good!). And yes, I love Tolkien and CS Lewis as well. But for the references I sprinkled into Year of the Horse I tried to stick mostly to American writers of the 18th century.

Lorin: How much research did you do for Year of the Horse? Where do you do your research – Google, the library?

Justin: Well, there were a lot of little details that I had to look up. For instance, I don’t know much about guns or saddles, or any of that sort of thing. So I got me a copy of Illustrated Directory of the Old West. The pictures in that book were Invaluable. For example, I knew I wanted Lu to discover a brass revolver – the confederate army really did make brass revolvers for their officers to wear as side-arms, stealing the designs from all sorts of legitimate gun-makers (I have no idea whether they could actually be fired). But what kind of revolver ought it to be? A colt? An Allen? Something more unique or unusual? In the Directory, I was able to go from page to page, looking at drawings and descriptions of all sorts of pistols, both rare and not so rare. The same with Henry’s rifle. And the MacLemores’ saddles. If you’re thinking of writing a western, I suggest that little book. It’s a good’un.

Lorin: This question ties in with the previous one: Did you have the opportunity go to all the amazing places the gang visits? Was there any one place that you enjoyed writing about the most?

Justin: As a matter of fact, I have been to All those places – in a sense. Of course, in another sense, none of those places even EXIST. The geography in Year of the Horse is highly fictionalized. I wanted to create a fantastic, mythical America, rather than a factual one. But I still wanted readers to recognize the landscapes as being palpably American. So, most everywhere they go in the book is based on some famous feature of the American landscape, only made bigger than life. For instance – The Hell Mouth. You can probably guess that it was based on the Grand Canyon. And yes, I HAVE been to the Grand Canyon. In fact, in 2005 my family rode Mules into the Grand Canyon on Christmas Day - an experience I can not recommend highly enough. But the Hell Mouth is not JUST the Grand Canyon. It is also Hell’s Canyon in Western Idaho (note the similarity of name), and the Salmon River Gorge. In fact, I guess you could say that the Hell Mouth is all American Canyons rolled into one, and then multiplied by ten.

Lorin: What hobbies do you have in addition to your writing? Do you think one of them will work their way into a book?

Justin: I am a ballet dancer! You didn’t expect to hear that, I’ll wager. In fact, I wouldn’t even call ballet a hobby. It’s more an avocation. I take ballet class pretty much every day, and I work with two ballet companies here in New York – Eidolon Ballet and Dances Patrelle. Right now I’m rehearsing with Dances Patrelle, getting ready to dance as the Mouse King in their annual “The Yorkville Nutcracker.”

I don’t expect ever to write a ballet book, but this past year I did write a story for ballet, and I got it performed, too. The ballet was called, “Murder at the Masque: The Casebook of Edgar Allan Poe.” It was very successful, with beautiful sets, amazing dancers, gorgeous costumes, an amazing original score by Patrick Soluri, and the breathtaking choreography of Francis Patrelle. The ballet was even reviewed by the New York Times! [Find the review here] The reviewer never mentioned me (doesn’t that suck!), but it was still cool to know that I had a hand in putting that ballet together.

Lorin: What are your future plans for writing? Are you working on your next book?

Justin: I have lots of other books I want to write, and a couple I am working on right now. First, I’m writing a travel book about the National Parks (that’s how I’ve visited so many of the places that inspired the geography of Year of the Horse). I am also half-way through a science fiction book about the unintended consequences of new technology (like, what if people decide that it is better to have robot legs than real? Will they allow them in the NFL?).

And I’ve been thinking about doing a sequel to Year of the Horse, too. What would you think about a novel that mixed fantasy with the gang-land era Chicago of Al Capone? Maybe Jack Straw could be working with Eliot Ness, or maybe he would work with Al Capone? I don’t know exactly what that book would be about yet, but I think it would be a fun challenge.

Thank you so much, Justin, for taking the time to answer my questions!

Find Year of the Horse: A Novel on Amazon.

Author photos provided by Justin Allen.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Teaser Tuesday 11/17

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
  • Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teaser!
Let's see if you can guess this one:
They were just oversized, over-muscled children, and they looked forward to this like it was a picnic on the beach. I could not have them in danger, too.
Do you know what book that's from? Highlight here to find out: It is Eclipse (Twilight Book 3) by Stephanie Meyer. Let me know if you guessed correctly in the comments!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Review: Tehanu

On a visit to a used bookstore in town, the kind with stacks of books to the ceiling and a cat making her bed on a shelf, I found Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin. I devoured Le Guin's Earthsea trilogy (A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, and The Farthest Shore) as a child and was thrilled to find this later addition to the series.

This is an interesting addition to the series. Right up front, I can tell you that this is not a book that stands alone very well - I really needed to have read the previous books in the series to understand what was going on in this book. And since it had been so long since I read them, it did take me a while to figure out who everyone was and what was happening.

The earlier books were, in comparison to Tehanu, much more action driven. Tenar, the former priestess of the tombs of Atuan, is now Goha, a farmer's widow. She takes in a child who has been abused, burnt, and left for dead. Then Ged, who had been the Archmage of Earthsea, returns, drained of his power. And, together, they struggle to make sense of the world and their place in it.
"What's a child for? What's it there for? To be used. To be raped, to be gelded - Listen, Moss. When I lived in the dark places, that was what they did. And when I came here, I thought I'd come out into the light. I learned the true words. And I had my man, I bore my children, I lived well. In the broad daylight. And in the broad daylight, they did that - to the the child. In the meadows by the river. The river that rises from the spring where Ogion named my daughter. In the sunlight. I am trying to find out where I can live, Moss. Do you know what I mean? What I'm trying to say?"
I read some of the reviews on Amazon, and some readers had a visceral dislike of this book. I am not one of these. There is a lot of beauty in Tehanu. For one thing, Le Guin is a wonderful writer, and I love her voice - the crisp way she has of telling her story. But this, I think, will not be enough to keep everyone engrossed in this book. Not much happens in Tehanu and when action does occur, it happened in such a blur I had to re-read the passage a few times to understand what was going on. I get the feeling that this is an in-between book, so I am interested in reading the next two books in the series, Tales from Earthsea and The Other Wind.

Buy Tehanu (Earthsea Book 4) on Amazon.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Update: NaNoWriMo Week 2

I have a confession. I took last night (Thursday) off from writing. My husband and I went out to dinner instead. It was marvelous, to be honest. We had a great meal and it was very relaxing. Less relaxing is looking at my word count graph now. Ouch.

Weekends are for catching up, right?

Previously: Week 1

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Twi-something

This was pretty funny, so I thought I'd share.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Green Books Campaign Review: The Carbon Diaries, 2015


This review is part of the Green Books campaign. Today 100 bloggers are reviewing 100 great books printed in an environmentally friendly way. Our goal is to encourage publishers to get greener and readers to take the environment into consideration when purchasing books. This campaign is organized by Eco-Libris, a a green company working to green up the book industry by promoting the adoption of green practices, balancing out books by planting trees, and supporting green books. A full list of participating blogs and links to their reviews are available on the Eco-Libris website.

For this program, I requested to read The Carbon Diaries: 2015 by Saci Lloyd. As the title says, it's 2015: global warming means that things have gotten bad. As in, Katrina X 2 every year bad. In an attempt to stem the tide, the United Kingdom becomes the first country to mandate carbon rationing. One has to wonder, though, is this too little too late? This book is one girl's diary during this tumultuous first year. Not only is there rationing, storms, and danger, but her punk band is struggling to stay together and there's a cute boy living next door. It's a lot to deal with.

In some ways, the book is a slice-of-life YA book, about the struggles of dealing with being a teen in any circumstance. I liked Laura as a character and narrator. I wanted her to do well, though since I'm not teenager anymore, some of the more angst-filled moments made me roll my eyes. But largely, this aspect of the book was okay.

But clearly, Carbon Diaries is mostly meant to be a cautionary tale, a warning that if we don't curb our carbon- and water-greedy ways, we'll be in dire straights in just a few years. It does a really good job at this. I honestly felt myself imagining what my life would be like if I couldn't use my car anymore, or could only take 5 minute showers (I'd have to cut my hair, for one thing. It takes me that long just to lather it up!). Lloyd paints a very compelling vision of what our future could hold.

There were some forced moments where these two aspects of the books - enviro-disaster morality story and teen angst story - bumped up together, and I ended up feeling somewhat preached to. The email exchanges with Laura's American cousin come to mind as an example of the occasional preaching. (As a side note, I wonder if these were the same in the UK edition.) Mostly, though, I thought this was a solid read and one that most YA readers would enjoy. It seems like this would be a really good way to teach kids about environmentalism without making it feel like work.

Buy The Carbon Diaries, 2015 on Amazon.

The Carbon Diaries, 2015 was "printed on environmentally responsible paper, 30% post-consumer waste. In addition, the printing process and ink reduces VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) emissions and uses less energy." VOCs, by the way, are toxins released into the air by manufactured products. For example, you know that new carpet smell? Its actually the result of the carpet off-gassing some nasty chemicals into the air. Same with the smell of fresh dry cleaning. VOCs are known to cause headaches, sick building syndrome, and allergies, and are believed to be linked to certain cancers. They're bad stuff. Eliminating them from our books? That's a good thing.

This book was provided by the publisher for review, as part of the Green Books Campaign.

Teaser Tuesday 11/10

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
  • Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teaser!
From The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.
They all dandled the baby, and now that the child can walk, she goes everywhere with one or another of them - holding hands or riding on their shoulders. Such are their standards! You must not glorify such people in the Times!
At first I thought that said dangled, then I re-read it and realized the word was dandled. Never heard of it! Per Wiktionary, to dandle is to move [an infant] up and down on one's knee or in one's arms in affectionate play. The horror! =)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Review: Words @ Work

Words @ Work shows everyone from executives and entrepreneurs to up-and-coming staffers how to write in a clear, conversational style that people want to read. Learn how to effectively organize information (no tedious outlines!); cut the fat (editing tips and tricks); and harvest a feast of ideas. Words @ Work includes tools and techniques for overcoming fear of writing; jump-starting the writing process; achieving goals faster; building confidence; and even earning a promotion or two. Words @ Work not only teaches how to write, but helps readers tap into their creativity--and there's no telling where that can lead.
What I liked best about Words @ Work by Lynda McDaniel was the author's message that good writing doesn't need to be reserved for novels or professional writers. Anytime you are trying to get a message across with words, it is worth doing it well. As the unofficial marketing manager for my small architecture firm, I feel strongly that McDaniels is right about this. It doesn't matter that I'm an architect. Whether I am writing a proposal or a simple business letter, I am a professional writer in that moment and my words need to be the best they can be. Obviously, though, I am already sold on the concept of the power of writing and didn't take much convincing!

If you've read a lot of writing books, most of the ground covered in Words @ Work will probably be familiar to you. McDaniels emphasizes writing consistently and shoving your inner editor aside while you let the creative juices flow. Even though this may not be groundbreaking advice, its particularly relevant for those of us doing NaNoWriMo or NaBloPoMo right now!

Buy Words @ Work at Amazon.

Words @ Work was provided to me for review by the author as part of a book tour.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday Update: NaNoWriMo Week 1 Edition

The first week of NaNoWriMo is almost over. If I could figure out how to actually use their word count widgets, I would post one here for your amusement. Instead, here's a screenshot of my progress chart instead. This is as of Thursday night when I'm writing this post, so hopefully I'm even further along as you are reading this.


Its interesting to compare that to last year. While I'm not exactly a barnstormer, I'm definitely on a much better pace than in '08. Turns out, studying for a licensing exam totally interferes with trying to write a novel.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Review: The Alchemaster's Apprentice

I requested The Alchmaster's Apprentice by Walter Moers from the publisher not knowing a thing about Moers or his Zamonia books. I just liked the cover, to be honest. I still do.
When Echo the Crat’s mistress dies, he is compelled to sign a contract with Ghoolion the Alchemaster. This fateful document gives Ghoolion the right to kill Echo at the next full moon and render his fat, which he hopes to brew into an immortality potion. But Ghoolion has not reckoned with Echo’s talent for survival and his vast ability to make new friends.
I think I spent the first third of this book trying to decide if it was a kid's book or not. It's got a talking cat and lots of cool illustrations. But there's also an evil alchemist who plans to kill the talking cat and in the meantime, he does lots of diabolical things. So, I'm pretty sure its not a kids book. Though some older kids - especially boys with a taste for the gross - might enjoy the story.

All this time spent trying to figure that out, though, prevented me from really getting into it for a while. Moers can go on a bit, too, resulting in long lists and whole pages of description that I could have done without. By the end of the book, I found myself skimming some of the longer chunks of text and only reading anything that was really important. That sounds bad, I know, but once I did that, I actually liked the story much more. And Echo is a fun little character to spend time with. Cat lovers will especially get a kick out of him.

I know this wasn't the most positive review I've written, but I did like this book. I can't really blame the author for not knowing whether this was a kids book or not. I do wish, though, that the writing had been more streamlined as that would have really increased my enjoyment of the story.

Buy The Alchemaster's Apprentice on Amazon.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Teaser Tuesday 11/3

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
  • Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teaser!
This is more than two sentences, but it flows better that way.
"I think you were there on that road, just there just then, because of that - because that is what happens to you. You didn't make it happen. You didn't cause it. It wasn't because of your 'power.' It happened to you. Because of your - emptiness."
From Tehanu (The Earthsea Cycle, Book 4) by Ursula K. Le Guin

Monday, November 2, 2009

Game on! NaNoWriMo 2009

I know I should have written this yesterday, as National Novel Writing Month started then, but I was traveling most of the day and didn't have the chance to post. Anyway, please consider this my official "I'm doing NaNo, so cut me some slack on the lack of blogging" post. And if any of you out there are also doing NaNo, shoot me an email so I can friend you over there (lorin_arch at hotmail dot com).

Review: Nefertiti

I don't even know where I heard about Nefertiti by Michelle Moran first, I read so many glowing reviews of it from other book blogs. It is the story of Nefertiti and her younger sister, Mutnodjmet. Ambitious, charismatic, and beautiful, Nefertiti is destined to marry Amunhotep, the unstable crown prince and future pharaoh. It is hoped that her strong personality will temper his heretical desire to forsake Egypt’s ancient gods. But Nefertiti is as impetuous and power-hungry as her husband, and the only person brave (or foolish) enough to speak the truth to the queen and try to reign her in is Mutnodjmet.

I really enjoyed Nefertiti. It reminded me a lot of The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory - one sister scheming to become (and stay) Queen, one yearning for a simple life with a husband who loves her. Despite the book's name, this story is about Mutnodjmet. Fortunately, she is a very well-rounded character and, while Nefertiti occasionally verged into a caricature, even her life felt pretty real to me.

I was surprised by how moving and sad I found this book to be. From what little I know of Egyptian history, I knew not to expect happily ever after for the main characters. But I didn't expect to be so moved by the emotions the characters felt. This is a strong work of historical fiction, and I look forward to reading the sequel, The Heretic Queen.

Buy Nefertiti: A Novel on Amazon.

PS: I just read Raych's review of Nefertiti. We're in agreement on the whole The Other Boleyn Girl set in Egypt thing, but, as usual, she wrote a much funnier review. Go read it.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Update

Every Friday, I update my library and share what new books I bought or received during the past week.

This Friday Update covers the past two weeks, as I didn't post one last Friday. And this week I am in Kentucky, so I am writing this on Wednesday. How much do you want to bet I'll have bought more books in between the time I write this and it posts? Remember, I will be in an airport for a big chunk of the day tomorrow. The only thing that may stop me from buying a new book is if I buy trashy magazines instead. I love trashy magazines, but only allow myself to buy them when I'm sick or when I'm flying.


In the mail last week, I received The Carbon Diaries, 2015 by Saci Lloyd. I will be reviewing this book as part of the green blogger initiative from eco libris. More information to come.



This week, I bought Good Eats: The Early Years by Alton Brown, of Good Eats. Its one of my family's favorite shows and we love the two other cookbooks we have by AB: I'm Just Here for the Food and I'm Just Here for More Food: Food x Mixing + Heat = Baking.

Have a good weekend, everybody! About the time you read this, I'll be off doing something touristy in Louisville and marveling at how the trees are all different colors. They call it "autumn" - amazing!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bookshelves

Regular readers may note that I love to post pictures of interesting bookshelves. Today's installment is brought to you by Woman's Day. [link via mental_floss] Of the photos they posted, my favorite is the Cave designed by sakura adachi.



The cute kid probably doesn't hurt, either.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Botany of Desire on PBS Tonight

Consider this a public service announcement for those of you in the US - Tonight at 8, PBS is airing a documentary based on one of my favorite non-fiction books, The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan. Here's an interesting article at mental_floss with more information.

I will be furiously packing, so I'm not sure I'll be about to watch the whole thing, but I definitely will be recording it.

Review: The Elegance of the Hedgehog

The Elegance of the Hedgehog is about the lives of the residents of an upscale French apartment house, focusing on the frumpy, introverted caretaker Renée and the precocious twelve-year-old Paloma, who has decided to kill herself at age 13. The book is told through the diaries each of them keep, cutting back and forth between their viewpoints. It felt, to me, like a very French book. Not just because of the frequent use of French words, but because the culture it described felt very different than my own.


At first, I didn't really like Renée. She is obsessed with the class differences between her and the apartment residents. I couldn't figure out why she hid behind the facade she had created, pretending to be an uneducated peasant when she was actually an intelligent, sophisticated woman. Without giving anything away, though, once I found out more about her past and how she came to make the decisions she made, my heart really opened up to Renée and I liked the character quite a bit.

As for Paloma: anyone who read my review of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie may have noticed that one of my least favorite character types is the precocious child. Reading her parts was an uphill battle for me to begin with. Sadly, I really didn't like Paloma any more at the end of the book than I did at the beginning.

I read Muriel Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog for my book club. I'll be honest: I wouldn't have finished it if I hadn't needed to. It took me a really long time to get into this book. I was warned that it started out slow, but I would say that I didn't start to warm up to it until about page 150 (of only 325 pages).

This is not to say that there weren't some great moments in this book. The diaries by Paloma and Renée each have their own distinct voice, but both have passages that had me reaching for my little flags, to mark the spot. Paloma's diaries drip with sarcasm - the architect in me particularly liked this from her, describing dinner at a fancy restaurant:
When the French want to get away from the traditional "Empire" style with burgundy drapes and gilt galore, they go for hospital style. You sit on these Le Corbusier chairs ("By Corbu," says Maman) and you eat out of these white plates with very Soviet-bureaucracy geometrical shapes, and you dry your hand in the restroom on towels so thin that they don't absorb a thing.
In contrast, I felt like Renée's diary was more measured, and while not necessarily softer, more willing to see the good and bad in life. More grown-up, I guess.
...I witness the birth on paper of sentences that have eluded my will and appear in spite of me on the sheet, teaching me something that I neither knew nor thought I might want to know. The painless birth, like an unsolicited proof, gives me untold pleasure, and with neither toil nor certainty but the joy of frank astonishment I follow the pen that is guiding and supporting me.
I don't really have a recommendation for this one, whether you should read it or not. If you have read it, I would love to hear your opinion.

Buy The Elegance of the Hedgehog on Amazon.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Teaser Tuesday 10/27

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
  • Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teaser!
My teaser this week is from The Alchemaster's Apprentice by Walter Moers:
Echo groped his way to the back of the cellar and crouched down in a corner just as Ghoolion appeared in the doorway. The cellar was suddenly bathed in multicoloured light by the will-o'-the-wisp lantern in his hand.
Don't you just love the term will-o'-the-wisp?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Slump

So this is what a reading slump feels like. Totally bored with what I'm reading? Check. Finding other things to do rather than return to said book? Check. Reading my email or playing solitaire at lunch rather than reading? Check. Staring at massive pile of TBR books and not feeling inspired to pick any up? Check.

I expect this will last until the weekend, when I have time to go to the library or a bookstore. In the meantime, it will be a bit quiet around here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Teaser Tuesday 10/20

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
  • Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teaser!
Then he took hold of himself and on his motionless face came a motionless expression of the sort, "You want to play games with me, little girl?" Well yes, I do want to play games with you, you big fat marron glacé.
From The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. A marron glacé, by the way, is a chestnut candied in sugar syrup and glazed.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Books Architects Own

Over the weekend, my husband and I went to a co-ed baby shower for our good friends, held at the home of another friend of theirs, who I hadn't really met before. But as soon as I walked in, I knew one of them was an architect. How did I know? Because on the shelf were two books only an architect would own:


S M L XL by Rem Koolhaas and Bruce Mau, with Hans Werlemann
S,M,L,XL presents a selection of the remarkable visionary design work produced by the Dutch firm Office for Metropolitan Architecture (O.M.A.) and its acclaimed founder, Rem Koolhaas, in its first twenty years, along with a variety of insightful, often poetic writings. The inventive collaboration between Koolhaas and designer Bruce Mau is a graphic overture that weaves together architectural projects, photos and sketches, diary excerpts, personal travelogues, fairy tales, and fables, as well as critical essays on contemporary architecture and society.

The book's title is also its framework: projects and essays are arranged according to scale. While Small and Medium address issues ranging from the domestic to the public, Large focuses on what Koolhaas calls "the architecture of Bigness." Extra-Large features projects at the urban scale, along with the important essay "What Ever Happened to Urbanism?" and other studies of the contemporary city. Running throughout the book is a "dictionary" of an adventurous new Koolhaasian language -- definitions, commentaries, and quotes from hundreds of literary, cultural, artistic, and architectural sources.


Mechanical and Electrical Equipment for Buildings (aka MEEB)

This got me thinking, what other books do pretty much all (American) architects own? First off, some books, like MEEB, that s/he probably purchased for school but found pretty helpful, so they kept, like Fundamentals of Building Construction: Materials and Methods by Allen, et al.

Definitely something by Francis D. K. Ching, most likely either Architectural Graphics or Building Construction Illustrated. Or both.

Maybe a copy of Architectural Graphic Standards, but maybe an old edition or the student version, not the newest edition (#11, sayeth Amazon), because its so expensive.

Some more theoretical books, too. I'd guess everybody owns Learning from Las Vegas: The Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form by Robert Venturi, Steven Izenour and Denise Scott Brown

There's a book about an architect you picked out yourself, maybe Thinking Architecture by Peter Zumthor or something about Herzog & de Meuron, like Herzog & de Meuron 1992-1996: The Complete Works (Volume 3) (aka, the orange one).

Plus, a book about an architect a family member bought you: Frank Lloyd Wright: The Masterworks. Always FLW.

Anyone else have any ideas for this list?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Comic Book Sale

If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area and love comic books, I wanted to share a great sale going on now at Alameda Sports Cards & Comics. Patti lost her lease and is selling everything at huge discounts to clear the decks for her move. Its worth a trip to the East Bay.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Update

Every Friday, I update my library and share what new books I bought or received during the past week.

Last weekend, I went shopping at the SF Museum of Modern Art store. I was tempted by many beautiful books on art and architecture (including, as I mentioned yesterday, one on Patrick Dougherty) but I ended up buying just one, by an artist I have enjoyed for a long time: Abelardo Morell (previous).


This retrospective, entitled simply Abelardo Morell, is a great overview of the photographer's career. I'm so glad I bought it.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, filled with beautiful things.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Artist Patrick Dougherty



I almost bought a book last weekend because it had some work by artist Patrick Dougherty in it.* Dougherty does these amazing organic sculptures that border on some sort of natural architecture. They're amazing. He first came to my attention because of his installation at the San Francisco Civic Center Plaza.



For a really nice sampling of his work, check out this article at dornob. I think I might have to buy his catalog for myself, just so I can own a little piece of his work.

*But not enough, so I passed. What did I buy instead? You'll just have to wait until Friday to find out.

Out Today: Year of the Horse


I recently read and reviewed Year of the Horse and thought it was just great. Its out today, so check it out for yourself and let me know what you think!

Buy Year of the Horse: A Novel on Amazon.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Review: Sunshine

Let me warn you up front: this review for Sunshine by Robin McKinley is going to have spoilers. I usually try very hard not to do this, but a) the book has been out for 5-6 years and b) there are some things I want to discuss that necessitate spoilers.


Sunshine is not really a vampire story - it is a Robin McKinley story about a young woman with magic who has to fight vampires. It is told in first person by the woman, Rae Seddon, aka Sunshine, but the voice is, to me, unmistakably McKinley's. Even though the plot and setting were very different, the tone and language felt very similar to The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword. This, despite the fact that Sunshine is decidedly not YA (even though my library had this shelved in the teen section. Somebody clearly did not read the graphic sex scene on page 249, much less the buckets of blood fight scenes, before deciding where to shelve it). For example, the stilted way Sunshine and Con, the "good" vampire, talk to each other reminded me so much of Harry and Corlath talking at the end of The Blue Sword. And the way Sunshine fights the big bad vampire reminded me very much of the way Aerin defeats Agsded at the end of The Hero and the Crown

This isn't so much a criticism as an observation. All this means that if you like McKinley's voice, I think you'll like this book. But maybe not. Because, I'll be honest, there's stuff to love in it, but there are some really clunky moments that grated on my nerves.

Here's one example: Carthaginian. It's a pretty unusual word. (It refers to the city Rome defeated during the Punic Wars. A Carthaginian peace is "any brutal peace treaty demanding total subjugation of the defeated side." [via Wikipedia]) It's one of those words that's unusual enough that it's going to stick out. So use it once. Or if you want to use it more than that, only let one character use it, that way it seems like a quirk. Don't use it multiple times by multiple characters, like McKinley does in Sunshine. It's like a nail sticking up in a floor - I kept tripping over it.

Comparisons to Buffy the Vampire Slayer aside (blond girl fights vampire, yada yada yada), I think Sunshine is very different from all the other urban fantasy out there. As I said above, this wasn't really a vampire story, in that the vampire fighting wasn't the focus. The story is very much about Rae's inner life - how she accepts who she is and who her family is, and learns to use the gifts given to her, both in magic and in baking. Plus, avid readers and fellow book bloggers will appreciate Sunshine's hobbies before becoming a magic-handler - combing used book stores to add to "one of the hip-high pile of books to be read next" (pg 174) and reading.

This is just all to say that there's good and bad in this book and some readers will like it a lot, and some will be less impressed. Me? I'm somewhere in the middle.

Buy Sunshine on Amazon.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Wishlist: Wendy Evans Joseph Pop Up Architecture


Thanks to Laura for alerting me to this article in NY Times about Wendy Evans Joseph Pop Up Architecture, "one of the very few architectural monographs in the form of a pop-up book." How could I resist adding it to my wishlist after that description?

Teaser Tuesday 10/13

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
  • Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teaser!
I confess, I cheated a little picking this one. The first one I picked made no sense out of context, so this was the second random page I picked:
The only noises were the ones I made, and a little hush of water, and the stirring of the leaves in the air off the lake. The shoreline was more rock than marsh, and when we crossed a ragged little stream the cold water against my feet was a shock: I'm alive, it said.
From Sunshine by Robin McKinley.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Review: The Host


I'll admit it: despite having read multiple positive reviews for The Host, I assumed it would be sort of awful. It is, after all, by Stephanie Meyer, the woman who wrote the Twilight series. Therefore, I figured it would be fun to read, and yet annoy the living daylight out of me, and make me kind of want to pluck my eyes out. I am quite pleased to say that I was wrong. Yes, the book was fun to read so I got that part right. But it was not at all annoying. In fact, it was quite good.
Earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of their human hosts while leaving their bodies intact, and most of humanity has succumbed.

Wanderer, the invading "soul" who has been given Melanie's body, knew about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the too vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn't expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.

Melanie fills Wanderer's thoughts with visions of the man Melanie loves - Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body's desires, Wanderer yearns for a man she's never met. As outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off to search for the man they both love.
This is definitely one of those books where the reader spends a lot of time with the main character, so you better like her if you want to read the book. Fortunately, I liked Wanderer quite a bit, and found her to be sympathetic, especially since she really could have been the bad guy in this situation. I liked Melanie, too, though she's a secondary character in her own body, and can be a bit bratty when she is asserting herself.

The one big drawback to this book is that it is pretty long - the library copy I read weighed in at 2 lbs and 619 pages, not exactly easy to slip into my purse. I didn't really notice, though, until about halfway through. I struggled to keep going for a bit, but pretty soon, the big climax sucked me back in and the ending was totally satisfying. So don't let the length put you off, is what I'm saying. I think non-science fiction readers might enjoy this one in particular would enjoy The Host, as it doesn't feel like sci-fi, even though it definitely is.

Buy The Host: A Novel by Stephanie Meyer on Amazon.

One more thought about The Host: according to the publisher, this is Meyer's first book for adults. Uh, why? Not that I'm saying that adults won't like it (I did! Then again, maybe I'm not the best judge of age appropriateness), but I don't think it's particularly mature. Actually, even though Wanderer is an adult, Melanie is only 17, and while she's forced to grow up, she still seems a lot like a teenager to me. Is it because there's some assumed se x? (No one actually does it in the book, or anything, you just kind of assume that certain people are.) If I hadn't read that it was for adults, I might have thought this was YA.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday Update

My To Be Read pile is getting out of control. Here's a little window into my life: our bedroom is really small. Since we moved in, I've slept on the side of the bed next to the bathroom door and since there wasn't much room, I could only put books on the bedside table, not on the floor. But we switched sides of the bed, and now I have room on the floor for books. Bwah-ha-ha! I don't know if there are actually more TBR books, or just that, now that they are piled next to me, instead of spread around the house, it looks like there are.

I picked up two books at the library book sale the other day (the little permanent one, not the big one), just for the heck of it, and both of them are about vampires. I'm so predictable.

Breaking Dawn (The Twilight Saga, Book 4): I own 1 and 2, actually, bought new on a whim when they came out in paperback. I've resisted spending money on #3, Eclipse, hoping that someday, it will actually be available at the library. But now I've gone and bought #4, so I have to read the third one first, which means a trip to the book store. Sigh. I'm almost annoyed to be reading these books. Curse you, Stephanie Meyer, for writing such compelling trash!

The Harlequin (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter) by Laurell K. Hamilton: I've never read anything by Hamilton, so I figured why the heck not. Then again, this is book #15 (Yikes!) in the series, so if I like it, its opened up a whole new thing for me to obsessively buy. This is a bad thing, just in case that's not clear.

In other, more highbrow, news - Congratulations to Daniel Alarcón, winner of the new International Literature Award for his novel Lost City Radio. I haven't read Lost City Radio, but I read and enjoyed his book of short stories, War By Candlelight.

Enjoy your weekend, y'all!