Monday, January 30, 2012

The Rook by Daniel O'Malley

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):
"The body you are wearing used to be mine." So begins the letter Myfanwy Thomas is holding when she awakes in a London park surrounded by bodies all wearing latex gloves. With no recollection of who she is, Myfanwy must follow the instructions her former self left behind to discover her identity and track down the agents who want to destroy her.
She soon learns that she is a Rook, a high-ranking member of a secret organization called the Chequy that battles the many supernatural forces at work in Britain. She also discovers that she possesses a rare, potentially deadly supernatural ability of her own.
In her quest to uncover which member of the Chequy betrayed her and why, Myfanwy encounters a person with four bodies, an aristocratic woman who can enter her dreams, a secret training facility where children are transformed into deadly fighters, and a conspiracy more vast than she ever could have imagined.
Filled with characters both fascinating and fantastical, THE ROOK is a richly inventive, suspenseful, and often wry thriller that marks an ambitious debut from a promising young writer.

And here's what I thought:   How about this:  Imaginative.  Clever.  Engaging.   And that's just the main character!   I loved this book.   Loved it so much that I started recommending it to people when I was halfway through it, and when I was done, didn't want to return it to the library (but I did).     There were so many things I enjoyed about this book ---- so let's start with the story and work our way up to the main character, okay?

As you can see from the above summary (I love that GoodReads does all the heavy lifting so I don't have to write a summary, myself), Myfanwy (pronounced Miffany ... like Tiffany but with an M) wakes up with no recollection of who she is.  Luckily, her previous self has left her all kinds of notes, which tell her a bit about herself, and her work.   I really loved this idea, that a character is discovering who they are, while we are, based on notes left by themselves.   And the world O'Malley has created here is our world, with just that bit of a supernatural twist to make it fun.  So there are plenty of things that are recognizable, and then new things thrown in (kind of like the show Supernatural... or Sanctuary).    I liked how the author gave us this secret organization, full of its own odd characters (some likeable, some dangerous... some both), and a mystery to figure out.   Going through it, I had my suspicions about who might have wanted Myfanwy dead.... and then would frequently change my mind and choose another person.   Loved it.

And Myfanwy?  She's a treat of a character -- practical, clever, a bit ruthless once she becomes comfortable with herself, and with a good sense of humor.  It's obvious that the Myfanwy we meet at the beginning is not really the same woman she was before.  It's almost like she's able to shed the somewhat timid person she was before, and just be a bit more confident --- after all, she doesn't have much to lose.   As her previous self explains, she has risen to the top ranks in the organization by being a superior administrator ---- but it turns out that there is much more to Myfanwy than meets the eye.   As she discovers things about herself (not just from the notes and letters and large binder of material she's left for herself), she really turns out to be quite extraordinary.

I think the author did a great job with not only the storyline, characters, and pacing  .... but he also does an exceptional job of writing a female main character.  What I mean is: I never stop believing her for a moment.    What I sometimes find in stories, when authors write a main character of the opposite sex, that there is something that gives me pause, or gets me stuck momentarily.   It is a fact that men and women use language differently (linguistics), and this is the kind of thing that can happen where I'm reading along and suddenly there's a trip ...... I think to myself, a woman (because I'm female), just wouldn't say that that way.   The one example that always stands out in my mind is Robert Hellenga's book, The Sixteen Pleasure, where all was going swimmingly until the main character said something so ... male.  This never happened in this story.   That's one of the things that really made this a wonderful read for me.

Extra points go to the author for giving Myfanwy a pet bunny.

I believe I'll be recommending this book quite a lot, especially to readers who like Simon Green's Secret Histories series.   I'm really looking forward to seeing what's next from this author (and will be treating myself to a copy of this book, hopefully, as soon as I have a bit of extra pocket money).

Here's an example of some of the writing I enjoyed:

p 98 ---  "Leather-covered armchairs were occupied by the elderly, the plump, the male.  This is not to imply that the occupants possessed only one of the above characteristics.  They were all, without exception, male.  Plumpness or age or both were preferred, but not mandatory."

p 62 "Myfanwy looked herself over in the mirror.  The hair she had swept back in a clip was coming loose, and her suit (although far more expensive than Ingrid's) was rumpled.  She'd neglected makeup entirely, and those damn black eyes lent her the appearance of a raccoon.  A raccoon that had gotten hit in the face.  After a lifetime of poor nutrition."

First sentencesDear You,  The body you are wearing used to be mine.  The scar on the inner left thigh is there because I fell out of a tree and impaled my leg at the age of nine.  The filling in the far left tooth on the top is a result of my avoiding the dentist for four years.  But you probably care little about this body's past.  after all, I'm writing this letter for you to read in the future.  Perhaps you are wondering why anyone would do such a thing.  The answer is both simple and complicated.  The simple amswer is because I knew it would be necessary.  The complicated answer could take a little more time.

Thoughts on the cover:  I love how simple it is, with the crest and four images -- simple, striking, and perfect for the story.  I wish all covers could accomplish this.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Good Luck Knot by Melissa Field

Summary (from the author):

A year has passed since Jordan hit rock bottom and ended up having her stomach pumped. She swears to everyone she's changed and suicide is no longer first on her to do list. So maybe she still smokes a lot of weed and carries a flask around, but still, she's changed, and she's really getting fed up with the constant questioning. She wishes everyone could see what she does – that she's found love with Guatam and he's helping her get on with her life.

It isn't until Gautam betrays her and the relationship implodes that she begins to worry herself. She cannot stay in the same small town she grew up in and maintain the image that everything is okay. She needs to get away and clear her head. Far away. Like maybe to the farthest place on Earth. When she announces she's taking a job in Antarctica her friends beg her to stay. No one wants her to be so far away and alone. It doesn't matter though. She's going.

Six months there pass too quickly. Something has changed inside her and awakened a need to understand. She needs to understand herself, her decisions, her family, her past, life, God, death, all of it. Why was she so ready to die? Why is she now so ready to live? She cannot go home until she understands something, anything. Because if she can't find out the how's and why's she might end up right back where she started, with a beer in one hand and a razor to cut her arm in the other.

Bali, Alaska, and Mongolia are amongst the places she travels to while seeking hope and answers. Being so far away gives her perspective on her life and the people in it. She can suddenly see now what she's put everyone through, and a new fear settles into her. What if she finds all of her answers, but returns home to people who are fed up with her unstable ways?

The Good Luck Knot is a book about hope, love, forgiveness and finding ourselves in the most unexpected ways. It begins with a metaphor assimilating a person’s life path to the folding of a paper crane. Each chapter is a fold, and the book goes back and forth in time, itself a reflection of the origami metaphor. Just as a paper crane folds into itself, showing no beginning or end, The Good Luck Knot’s final chapter connects to the first, reflecting this endless flow. Jordan’s search for herself, God and love in a seemingly random Universe ties into this, and the paper crane is a theme in many chapters.

And here's what I thought:   I was contacted by the author for a review of her book, and while this didn't sound like my usual read, I agreed to give it a try.  What I found when I read this book was that there were parts that I found interesting, but that the book didn't really catch me.  However --- please note that this is the kind of book that I think readers either have a very personal connection to, or it just doesn't resonate with them.  So, let me explain.

While this book is fiction, it reads like a very personal story.   I felt like there was less a storyline running through the book than a continuous exploration by Jordan to discover more about herself, and where her life was headed.   There were times when I felt like I was almost too privy to what was going on in Jordan's mind and because I didn't always feel like I connected to her, it was a bit distracting ---- kind of like when you're having a conversation with someone you don't know very well, and they tell you way too much about something personal to them.

There are some things about this book that I did like.  The author, herself, has traveled quite extensively, and those parts of the story read very clearly --- I can tell that she is familiar with these places.   I liked her use of the paper crane as a metaphor in the book --- as you can see from her summary, the crane folds over into itself, and the storyline in this book does the same.  Once you get used to the bit of back-and-forth in time that sometimes happens, it does all come together.  

While I didn't feel a strong connection to Jordan, I found her to be interesting.   Because we learn about her through her experiences, and basically get into her head, you get a very direct approach to the main character.  At times, I found this to be a bit exhausting, and I think it's just the way I reacted to Jordan --- and again, this is a very personal reaction.  I am sure there are other readers who will make a connection with this character and really enjoy the book.  Just because it didn't happen for me is not really the fault of the author.

So, I'm giving this the rating I'm giving it just because I wasn't that wild about it.  It wasn't really anything in particular that I didn't like --- it's more like trying a new food, and thinking, hmmmm.... interesting.....  but I'd rather have something else.   Hopefully, that makes sense, and if this book sounds good to you, you'll give it a try.

First sentences:   She stared at the small paper crane, following the creases up and around.  It sat in her palm, perched on the lifeline wrinkle.  She turned her head up, her arm relaxed.  The crane fell beside her into the grass.  Her gaze went up, higher and higher, deep into the crown of the maple tree.  A cool breeze passed through the field.  A shiver went up her as leaves rustled.  Her eyes closed.  She listened.

Thoughts on the cover:  Definitely pretty, but I would have gone with some kind of image of a paper crane, since it figures heavily in this story.  This cover art does have what look like looped threads, so I like that, but I'd still go with a crane or cranes.

If you'd like to learn more about the author, she is on GoodReads, where you may also find information and more reviews on this book.
Author Melissa Field

Friday, January 27, 2012

TGIF --- Buy or Borrow ????

I think I'm liking this whole TGIF thing......   and I appreciate that Ginger over at GReads hosts and has a question for us every week.   This week's question is:  Buy or Borrow:  Where do your books that you read come from?  The bookstore?  The library?  Do you prefer to own a book, or have it on loan?  

I'm a librarian, so I do get most of my books from the library.  Because I order books for part of our collection, I'm always looking at journals, reviews, etc -- so I'm always filling up my tbr (to be read) list with new books.   Plus, just walking around here, I see books on the different displays that catch my eye.   I'm also a big believer in the "try before you buy" way of doing things.

I don't buy a lot of books for two reasons:  1) I don't have a lot of extra money to spend (Librarians don't typically make a ton of money) and 2) I don't necessarily want to own every book I read.     I read a lot, and if I really, really love a book and want it for myself, I'll buy it. Otherwise, I can always check it out from the library again.

When I buy books, I try to always go through my local independent bookstore (we've got a great one with two locations near me), or I browse at the local used books store.   I also really like Book Depository UK because I can get my favorite British author's books, with free shipping.   I also sometimes get a free copy of a book from a publisher, author, or LibraryThing, which is always a treat.

So, that's my story.  What's yours?  

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Late, late, late ..... but finally remembered --- the Giveaway winner!

Well.... this is a bit embarrassing .......    I was supposed to do a giveaway on the 15th.  For the Brunch I had on December 18th.   I had a note on my calendar and everything because I just knew I would forget about it --- and I still forgot it.    I could blame this on recent stress brought on by a sick husband (he's much better) and sick bunny (still working on getting better), but the fact is: I just plain forgot.

So, without further ado ... there were 5 comments, and Random.Org chose comment #2.   So, I apologize here, and will apologize to the lucky commenter, and will also apologize to Sasha (who no doubt was wondering if I fell off the face of the earth).    And, I'll throw in a little something extra when I send out my prize package.    Thanks to everyone who did leave a comment back in December!

did you forget something???????

  True Random Number Generator

Don't Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):  Joy Delamere is suffocating...

From asthma, which has nearly claimed her life. From her parents, who will do anything to keep that from happening. From delectably dangerous Asher, who is smothering her from the inside out.

Joy can take his words - tender words, cruel words - until the night they go too far.

Now, Joy will leave everything behind to find the one who has offered his help, a homeless boy called Creed. She will become someone else. She will learn to survive. She will breathe... if only she can get to Creed before it’s too late.

Set against the gritty backdrop of Seattle’s streets and a cast of characters with secrets of their own, Holly Cupala’s powerful new novel explores the subtleties of abuse, the meaning of love, and how far a girl will go to discover her own strength.: 

And here's what I thought:   I liked that this story was somewhat edgy, and that it brought real-life issues of homeless teens into the forefront.  The story is full of characters with flaws, even the characters who seem a bit too good to be true at first --- and I liked that.   The pacing is even, and I liked how the story built as Joy not only made her way through her days, but also in how the story's backstory was built up through Joy's memories, and reflections on her immediate past (the time right before she decided to leave home).   I felt the author did a good job of making a lot of things very authentic; she doesn't romanticize what it's like to be a teen living on the streets.   The story is powerful, and I liked how the author handled not only Joy and her story, but the other characters around her (not just Creed, but May and Santos, as well).

I did find Joy to be kind of frustrating ---- she decides to run away, and she does a bit of planning, but then once she gets into the city, she has no idea what she's going to do, how she's going to eat, or stay warm....  and what about when her medicine runs out?   I suppose this is realistic, and you know, if she had all of these things planned out, the story wouldn't be as good, or as real.   As an adult reading this, though, those were some of the thoughts that I had about Joy and her plan to live on her own, among Seattle's homeless teens.    I also wasn't sure if I liked the ending because it felt a little too neatly wrapped up.

However, overall, I liked this story, and thought it was a pretty good read.   I suppose that's why I gave it two ratings, because I felt it wasn't all the way up to a 4, although it was pretty close.   

First sentences:   Slyt.  Slyt.  Sliding metal cut through the still night, spiraling ribbons of hair into the sink.  But better the sound of scissors than the rattle of my lungs.  One wrong breath would set off the alarm.

Thoughts on the cover:  I think it's ok, although it's not my favorite.  I'm not sure if it's the yellow of the font, or the fact that it looks almost too pretty overall --- but I would have liked something a little grittier, considering the storyline.  

Friday, January 20, 2012

TGIF -- Book Recommendations

Happy Friday!   Another week has somehow whipped by.... and today, I'm sitting at home waiting for the snow to begin so I can start planning my shoveling strategy.  Yes, fun, fun, fun.   But, I'm also planning on some quality time snugged on the couch with a book.   That way, I can have a little relaxation time before I have to go to work tomorrow.

But anyway -- the whole point is:  It's Friday!  And it's TGIF at GReads, too!  This Friday's question is:  Which book from the last 10 you've read would you recommend to a friend?

I'm actually going to recommend two today, one nonfiction and one fiction.

Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil         yes, a book about olive oil. It's more interesting than you might think --- I use a lot of olive oil when I cook, and I learned a lot.    And, it has a pretty even pace, so it reads like fiction (in other words, it's not a dry, boring book).

   And, I'm also recommending this book, which I'm about 1/4 of the way through, and really enjoying:

The Rook by Daniel O'Malley.   I started this book the other night and I'm loving it so far -- it's imaginative and full of dry humor, and I like the main character.

   Here's the summary (courtesy of GoodReads):  "The body you are wearing used to be mine." So begins the letter Myfanwy Thomas is holding when she awakes in a London park surrounded by bodies all wearing latex gloves. With no recollection of who she is, Myfanwy must follow the instructions her former self left behind to discover her identity and track down the agents who want to destroy her.
She soon learns that she is a Rook, a high-ranking member of a secret organization called the Chequy that battles the many supernatural forces at work in Britain. She also discovers that she possesses a rare, potentially deadly supernatural ability of her own.
In her quest to uncover which member of the Chequy betrayed her and why, Myfanwy encounters a person with four bodies, an aristocratic woman who can enter her dreams, a secret training facility where children are transformed into deadly fighters, and a conspiracy more vast than she ever could have imagined.
Have a wonderful Friday -- and a great weekend!!!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):  It should have been a short suspended-animation sleep. But this time Rose wakes up to find her past is long gone— and her future full of peril.

Rosalinda Fitzroy has been asleep for sixty-two years when she is woken by a kiss. Locked away in the chemically induced slumber of a stasis tube in a forgotten subbasement, sixteen-year-old Rose slept straight through the Dark Times that killed millions and utterly changed the world she knew. Now, her parents and her first love are long gone, and Rose— hailed upon her awakening as the long-lost heir to an interplanetary empire— is thrust alone into a future in which she is viewed as either a freak or a threat. Desperate to put the past behind her and adapt to her new world, Rose finds herself drawn to the boy who kissed her awake, hoping that he can help her to start fresh. But when a deadly danger jeopardizes her fragile new existence, Rose must face the ghosts of her past with open eyes— or be left without any future at all.

And here's what I thought:  As you may be able to tell from the above summary, this is a re-telling of the Sleeping Beauty story, set in a futuristic Earth.  However, this is no Disney-fied story where Rose is perfect, birds fly around her head, singing (or was that Snow White), and there is a Prince Charming.   Rather, this is more like a fairytale with a bit of horror, science and politics mixed in.  And - don't let the fact that this is technically a little science-fiction-y scare you away ---- it's not hard science fiction that's all about space travel and math.  Rather, it's about one girl's journey to not only figure out what she's going to do now that she has re-joined the living world, but also, her attempt to discover what is real about her past.

Rose isn't a perfect character, and I actually didn't really like her at times because I felt she was annoying.  However, as the story progressed, I started to understand her, and why she was the way she was ..... because she had not only spent 62 years in stasis, sleeping away all of those years, but also because her parents had deliberately kept her in a very sheltered existence.  Once her character started developing, and becoming a bit more rounded-out, I felt more comfortable with her.

I thought the author did a good job of re-working a story that many of us are familiar with, and then adding in some things that really made me think.  For example, it turns out that Rose's parents frequently put her into stasis just because they could (because they needed to travel and didn't want to deal with her, or they found her annoying, or any reason they thought of) --- when you think about it, that's pretty horrifying.  The idea of your parents imposing not only their rules on you ..... but then stealing years of your life by putting you into a stasis sleep....  and never explaining, never apologizing.    The author also gives us the Dark Times - a time period that begins and ends while Rose is in stasis, but a period which completely changes the world.  And, I felt the author made it seem pretty believable --- there is mention of genetically modified foods and seeds causing problems with not only agriculture, but with human reproduction, as well.

I don't know if I would say the book was perfect, but the pacing was so even, and the author kept me guessing at what was going to happen next --- that I found myself reading and reading.  I have seen some mixed reviews of this book on GoodReads, so if this sounds like a book you might want to pick up, maybe go over and see what other people have to say, as well.   However, I enjoyed this book and thought it was a really interesting and thought-provoking way to re-work the Sleeping Beauty story.

First lines:  I'd try to hold on to my stass dreams as long as I could.  It's a game I would play, struggling to keep track of those misty images that were always so easily lost.  I'd try to keep myself in stasis, keep my heart beating too slow to feel, refuse to wake up my lungs.  Once or twice I managed to hold on so long that Mom panicked and turned on the resuscitator.

Thoughts on the cover:   I like that there is the rose, with the thorny briar, and how the light is shining through it --- it's simple enough, but still eye-catching.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Book Blogger Confession..... for Monday the 16th

I discovered For What It's Worth while hopping around the blogosphere, and came across this Monday meme.  Co-hosted with All-Consuming Media, these two bloggers have come up with a discussion topic for the 1st and 3rd Mondays of every month.   I didn't see the first one, last Monday, but I thought it might be interesting to participate in the one today.    
Answer the question: Have you ever had reading/blogging slumps? How do you work through them or work around them? 

I definitely have experienced reading slumps, and blogging slumps, as well.  Reading slumps are almost a bit easier for me to deal with, and luckily, it's not something that happens often.   I read a lot of different genres, and a fair amount of nonfiction, so I don't always get in a rut.  However, when I do, it's usually because I'm not reading anything that's striking me as really great, or resonating with me.    To beat a reading slump, I usually re-read something that I really like --- a/k/a "comfort reading."   A comfort read can be something like a Maeve Binchy story, an Anne Perry mystery, or even a book by one of my favorite authors.    A comfort read is usually a book where I remember the story and characters pretty well, and where I know the ending ..... but I still enjoy the read.    The other thing I have done to get out of a reading slump is to do a mini read-a-thon ---- I read and reviewed a bunch of Roald Dahl books a while back, and that was fun --- and completely got me out of my slump.

in manageable ... and bit-too-big size
Blogging slumps are a bit trickier for me.   Occasionally, I find myself struggling with a bit of the blues.  Actually, I like to think of it like Winston Churchill described his depression --- "The Black Dog."  Sometimes, it follows me around a bit too much and even though I try to lock it in another room, it gets out to keep following me .....   and enticing it with treats doesn't always work, either.     

 Either way, I do sometimes get in a bit of a slump where I don't think anyone is reading my posts, and maybe it's just completely stupid that I write them.....    and then I pinch myself and get going again.   I try to keep myself on a schedule, and that helps, too.  I look forward to certain days, for example, like Wednesdays, when I can go to Wordless Wednesdays and see different blogs and photographs.   Visiting other blogs is nice, too -- just reading what other people are saying and leaving a few comments is helpful.     Having a good read to blog about helps, too ---- I started blogging just to get my own thoughts out there, and if I remember that, then everything else falls into place.    After all, the Black Dog is just a dog -- -sometimes, it's a bit of a beast, but I always do tame it (or at least shrink it to the size of a strawberry, so it doesn't bother me much).   And, my slumps don't last very long most of the time, I'm happy to say.

I'm looking forward to seeing what other bloggers have to say on this subject --- maybe I'll get some good "slump-busting" ideas!

Friday, January 13, 2012

TGIF --- 2012 Must Reads

Friday again?  I don't know about you, but I'm glad it's the end of the week!   And, it's TGIF at GReads --- today's question is: Which books are at the top of your list to be read this year (old or new releases)??

I have a few books checked out from the library that I'd like to get to by the end of the month, but I have my eye on a few titles that will be coming out in the next months, as well.   Plus, I need to get cracking on my classics for the one challenge I signed up for.

I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone else has chosen --- Happy Friday, everyone!!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):  Dry, sarcastic, sixteen-year-old Cam Cooper has spent the last seven years in and out hospitals. The last thing she wants to do in the short life she has left is move 1,500 miles away to Promise, Maine - a place known for the miraculous events that occur there. But it's undeniable that strange things happen in Promise: everlasting sunsets; purple dandelions; flamingoes in the frigid Atlantic; an elusive boy named Asher; and finally, a mysterious envelope containing a list of things for Cam to do before she dies. As Cam checks each item off the list, she finally learns to believe - in love, in herself, and even in miracles.

And here's what I thought:  I did not want to stop reading this book.  Every time I had to put it down to go to work, or to get some sleep, I looked forward to picking it up again.  And, when it was finished, I wished there was more.

As you can tell from the summary, Cam has spent a lot of time being sick, and when we meet her in this book, she's in pretty good condition, but it's clear that good health isn't a given for her, and her health issues have really ruled her life.   However, she never seems to feel sorry for herself, and while she's a bit sarcastic at times, I really liked her.  She seems like the kind of girl I would have wanted to be friends with when I was 16.   Obviously, her time spent being ill has shaped how she views the world, but I found her character to be really interesting, and actually, very real.

I will admit, part of what I liked about this story was where Cam, her mom and her sister go to Maine.  I have visited Maine twice, and both times, had a wonderful trip, so I guess I have a soft spot where that's concerned.  However, Promise isn't like anywhere I've been --- things happen there that don't seem possible... but it's not over the top.   What I mean is, it's not obvious miracles/magic etc. --- it's more like the setting for Practical Magic (by Alice Hoffman).  

I liked how the author wrote the other characters, as well.   I felt all of them were believable, and they work well to give insight into Cam, as well.   I also liked that the author set part of the story at Disney, where Cam and her family work --- it was like seeing a bit behind the curtain there.   In fact, when I think about it, the two main settings in Florida and in Maine are like characters unto themselves, which is pretty cool.

I refuse to give up any spoilers here.   But ---- when I finished the book, I did get a bit choked up.  I think it was a combination of what happened in the story, and also the fact that I had finished the story ---- I was enjoying reading this book so much that I just wanted more.   There was something about this book that just resonated with me, and while I know that isn't going to happen with every reader, I'd definitely say this is a book I think a lot of people will enjoy.   So, right now, in the mood I'm in --- giving this the first 5-bottle rating of 2012!

First lines:  When Campbell's father died, he left her $1,262.56 - as much as he'd been able to sock away during his twenty-year gig as a fire dancer for the "Spirit of Aloha" show at Disney's Polynesian Hotel.  Coincidentally, that was exactly how much her fat uncle Gus was asking for his 1998 Volkswagen Beetle in Vapor, the only color worth having if you wanted to have a VW Beetle.  Cam had been coveting it every since she was six, and it was worth every penny.  It blended into the mist like an invisible car, and when she drove it, she felt invisible, invincible, and alone.

Thoughts on the cover:   I thought it was an interesting way to do the cover, where the photo is inside an outline of a feather.  Eye-catching, and I thought it went well with the book.

Monday, January 9, 2012

While I'm Still Myself by Jeremy Mark Lane

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):  Synopsis 
A passionate December love affair. 
The meeting of an unexpected traveler. 
The consequences of protecting a young new acquaintance. 
A journey into an unknown past. 

In the stories of While I’m Still Myself, Jeremy Lane eloquently describes the life changing impact of the brief encounter, showing that life and love are not shaped by an entire lifetime, but by the fleeting moments with unexpected people in unexpected places.

And here's what I thought:   I had been contacted by the author about reviewing his book, and I was curious --- and, I discovered some pretty good stories as a result.

I like short stories from time to time for a number of reasons.   First, if I put down the book after I've finished a story, I don't have to worry about being lost when I pick up the book again because I'm beginning a fresh story.   Second, if I'm not wild about a story, I have plenty of other ones (hopefully) in the collection to read, and one of those will probably strike me.    That did not happen in this book.

What happened was this:  I liked all of the stories.  The author has a somewhat spare way of writing, but the way that he crafts his sentences, characters and stories, I never feel like something's missing.  Does that make sense?   How about this:  reading these stories is like appreciating a beautiful chair designed by Frank LLoyd Wright (see photo at the bottom of this post) --- it's simple and elegant, and everything you need is right there, without any fuss.     Maybe that analogy makes less sense.

Each story in this collection is relatively short, and each has a thin thread that connects it with the rest of the stories.  I didn't think the connection was so strong that I felt I could predict any of the storylines, which was nice.  Actually, it was very nice.  At times, I had to go back and re-read part of a story just because I wasn't sure I was understanding what was happening, and as a result, I slowed down a bit when I read these stories, and took my time with them.

The characters found in these stories are pretty varied, and sometimes, quite unexpected.  In the first story, the main character falls in love with a girl who seems just perfect ... until she reveals an awful secret.  Or, in another story, just when you think things are going to turn out okay for the character, there is a snag.  And, I'm okay with that --- I don't always need sweet and happy endings and, in fact, I like it when things don't always turn out wonderfully because then I wonder about the story, and the characters, and I wonder what happens to them.  I found it interesting that there was a fragility to some of these characters, which made me invested in them right from the start.  One of the stories, The Pebblestone Five, comes to my mind -- the characters seem strong and fragile, all at the same time, and there is a tension running through the story that kept me on edge.

I'm glad the author contacted me about reading his stories, and I'd encourage everyone to give them a try.  They might not be the kind of thing you usually read, but I'd invite you to try at least one, to see if they resonate with you, too.    This book is due out officially tomorrow, January 10th (please click on the GoodReads link at the top to learn more)

First lines from one of the stories:   As a toddler, healthy and gorgeous with curly, blonde hair and cream-colored eyes, Annabel Shay would roam about the house, ignoring everything bought for her, and find a corner, a bag, a cranny of any kind and begin to rip everything from the location in order to see what the inner workings might tell her.  This was a constant bother to her parents, Jack and Millie.  Yet in between the warnings and the swats on the hand, Jack would marvel at her unending curiosity, it being more than he had ever seen, and he would wonder how this characteristic would manifest itself in the later life of his beautiful daughter. (p 18)

Please note:  I read an electronic ARC of this book, so any page numbers or quotes may change upon final publication.

Frank Lloyd Wright Robie chair

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Library Lagniappe --- on patience

Library LagniappeI am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end.
Margaret Thatcher, in Observer April 4, 1989
British politician (1925 - )

I found myself thinking about this quote today, while working at the library.   Why?  Because lately, the whole concept of patience has been on my mind .... because of e-readers.   Let me explain.

Our library subscribes to a product called Overdrive, which allows us to provide access to downloadable e-books and audiobooks to our patrons.   As a reader, you may already be familiar with Overdrive if your own library offers it.   It's actually a pretty nice product, as it has a collection of audiobooks and e-books, and recently, Overdrive worked out a business deal with Amazon to offer e-books for Kindles.   And, most of the time, it's pretty great.

But right now, our Reference staff has been working hard to keep up with questions from people who just got some kind of e-reader for Christmas --- and some of these people expect us to 1) know everything possible about how to make it work, and 2) be able to fix any kind of problem .... with a snap of our fingers.  

Thus, my little quote about patience at the top of this post, and the inspiration for today's Library Lagniappe.  If you, or someone you know, has an e-reader (a Nook, a Kindle product, an iPad, a tablet, etc) and you go to the library for help with downloading stuff, please keep this in mind:

Library staff often do not get these devices for in-library use, so sometimes, the first time any of us have seen a device is when someone brings it into the library.   This means ----

* Sometimes, we operate a lot on theory, but not on actual practice.  I own a Nook, so I'm very comfortable with troubleshooting that device.  I do not own a Kindle product (any of them), and until last week, had not physically seen a Kindle Fire.    

* We have a lot of information from Overdrive about how to make Overdrive work with these devices.  However, their information isn't always perfect, which means we sometimes have to search for a solution to a problem.   I know it may be hard to believe, but we do not magically have all of the answers --- we are librarians, and we know how to find them.

* We are not allowed to touch your device if you bring it in to the library.   We can show you where to touch on it, etc., but we are not allowed to touch it, ourselves.    And also ..... if you call us on the phone and ask for help, we cannot magically see you, your computer, or your device.   All we can do is go on what you are telling us, and try to help.  

and finally ---- We are doing the best we can, so please bear with us.  Overdrive and Amazon worked out their deal and didn't let us know until the day the e-books became available, so we all had to scramble to come up with instructions for our library patrons, and figure out how the downloading process works (because it's very, very different for any Kindle device than it is for any other e-reader).  Then, Amazon came out with things like the Fire, which work differently, as well.    We are working as fast as we can to keep up with the changes, and the technology, and how to get that information to our patrons.   We do not work in the world of Harry Potter and do not know a specific spell to make the downloading work, work faster, etc.  

So .... we do our best to be patient with the technology, and all I ask is that people be a bit patient with us.   We almost always get to the root of the problem and get everything working, as quickly as we can... and a with a smile.   Even if it takes 45 minutes.   Yes....   you might find that exhausting, and so do we.

Thank you!!!

Friday, January 6, 2012


Since it's a new year, thought I'd try something different on a Friday -- TGIF @ GingerReads!   I've seen a lot of bloggers's TGIF posts, and since I am glad that it's the end of another week, figured I'd join in.   

So -- this Friday's question is:  Reading Resolutions: What are some of your reading goals for the new year?

* I resolve to read more books that are on my personal bookshelves.   I plan to revisit some of my favorites, and also read books that I bought and haven't gotten to yet.  I don't usually buy a lot of books, and when I do, they tend to be ones that I have already read ...   but I have a handful sitting there that I picked up because they looked good and I should read them and find out.

* I resolve to read some classics.  I signed up for the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Challenge this year, and that will get me reading some classics.   Actually, I can't wait!

* I resolve to get through my review requests in a more timely manner.  Once in a while, I let something completely slip and I'm going to get better about that.   

I think that's it, at least, for right now.    I'm more or less happy with the amount that I read, and I'm looking forward to doing lots of reading in the new year.   However, I'm sure I'll get some more ideas as a I visit around and see what other readers have to say for this Friday's question.

Happy Friday, everyone!!!!     And thank you. Ginger, for getting my Friday off to a good start!!!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Girl Meets Boy -- edited by Kelly Milner Halls

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):What do guys and girls really think? Twelve of the most dynamic and engaging YA authors writing today team up for this one-of-a-kind collection of "he said/she said" stories-he tells it from the guy's point of view, she tells it from the girl's. These are stories of love and heartbreak. There's the good-looking jock who falls for a dangerous girl, and the flipside, the toxic girl who never learned to be loved; the basketball star and the artistic (and shorter) boy she never knew she wanted; the gay boy looking for love online and the girl who could help make it happen. Each story in this unforgettable collection teaches us that relationships are complicated-because there are two sides to every story.

And here's what I thought:  I think it's an interesting way to write a story --- 2 people, each writing one character's side of the story.  All of the stories are relatively short, so it's like one short instance out of two people's lives, but you come at it from two different viewpoints.  And, depending on the people, it can seem like two completely different occurrences.

I thought all of the authors did a good job of collaborating on the stories.  Although I liked some stories more than others, I found all of them interesting.  And the nice thing about a book of stories is that you can easily finish one and if you put the book down, you don't feel lost when you pick it up again.     The other thing I really liked about the stories was that they weren't all completely predictable.  What I mean is: I couldn't predict that I knew what was going to happen, or what a character thought had happened.  Every so often, I'd get thrown for a loop.   It's also nice that the characters are diverse in background and ethnicity --- I think that a lot of readers will find at least one character they feel they sync with (or find a story by an author they know and like).

First lines (from the first story):  My name is John Smith, and though I'm aware that an overwhelming number of men use my name to check in to motels they shouldn't be checking in to, I try to be a man of virtue.  Okay, I'm sixteen; a boy of virtue.

Thoughts on the cover art:  I like how the two are entwined, and up in a tree --- and I like wondering about these two: is he just staring up at the leaves, sighing, and she's sleeping?  Is she listening to his stomach rumble?   Nice, and suits the book.

Please note: I received an ARC of this book from LibraryThing Early Reviewers -- as a result, any and all quotes and page numbers may differ upon final publication.
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