Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween, Bibliophiles!

© Madartists |
Happy Halloween!!

Are you reading anything spooky today?

Here are a few of my favorite scary reads, perfect for a day like today:

The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, has it all- haunted mansions, ghosts, mystery and more. Love it!

The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco, is a literary murder mystery with a strange library at its center. Fun!

The Night of Hunter, by Davis Grubb, is a fabulously suspenseful thriller, wonderful on its own and made into a super-creepy flick starring Robert Mitchum and Shelley Winters. The book was published in 1953 and adapted for the screen in 1955. The story is about a preacher convicted of murder chasing a fortune in stolen money now in the hands of two innocent children. Nobody knows his past, but it's clear that's he's trouble.

Magic for Beginners, Kelly Link's wonderful collection of short stories, has zombies, ghosts, witches and the undead. Who can ask for more?

In Cold Blood, Truman Capote's true-crime thriller, is scary in a more realistic way but rendered in such crystal-perfect prose, you don't even mind.

Complicity is Scottish writer Iain Banks' thriller about a journalist chasing a series of murders about which he may know more than he wants to admit. Banks is a cracking good writer who also does a lot of well-regarded science fiction; check him out!

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a more recent novel about a spate of serial killings rife with suspense and genuine creepiness, by Swedish writer Steig Larsson. I had a great time with Dragon Tattoo and can't wait to read the sequels- and it reads fast enough that you could start it this morning and finish before trick-or-treating!

You can also go to Flashlight Worthy Books for a list of zombie books!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Finds

Just two finds this Friday!
Just as well, since my TBR pile is out of control

and I really don't understand adding piles more books every week.

I got My Name is Red, by Orhan Pamuk, at the Boston Book Festival; I told myself I wouldn't buy any books at the festival but this book was already on my wish list and I was really, really good about not buying extra stuff there.

Natasha's Dance: A Cultural History of Russia, by Orlando Figes, came from the sale table at a local library. This library has a beautiful selection of used books and I was excited to get this one because I have another book by Figes in the TBR pile, on life under Stalinist Russia, and this one too has received great reviews and should be perfect for a Russophile like me.

What about you?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Read-a-Thon Wrap-Up

Whew! I got through quite a bit of my stack of TBR graphic novels today. Books I read:

Bombaby, by Anthony Mazzotta, a comic about a young Indian girl about to get married, who may be the incarnation of an ancient goddess,

Diary of the Black Widow, a very entertaining comic by Bret M. Herholz, about a young woman who marries and kills,

Lummox, volumes 1-3, by Dan Mazur, about an unwitting superhero,

Glister, Issue One, by Andi Watson, about a young English girl who finds a haunted teapot,

I Feel Like a Grown-up Now, by Scott Dikkers, the last of the Jim's Journal series,

Rex Libris: I Librarian, by James Turner, an entertaining comic about a librarian-superhero,

Klezmer: Tales of the Wild East, by Joann Sfar, about traveling Klezmer musicians in pre-war Eastern Europe,

The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka and Peter Kuper, an adaptation of the classic story,
Buddha, Volume 1 Kapilavatsu, by Osamu Tezuka, volume 1 of 8 about the life of the Buddha, and

Maybe Later, by Charles Berberian and Philippe Dupuy, a dual account of the creation of their professional partnership and Mr. Jean series.

You'll be seeing reviews of many of these books in upcoming Graphic Novel Mondays posts.

Thanks to my cheerleaders:

Diane/Bibliophile by the Sea


Vasilly/Classic Vasilly


AvisAnnsChild/She Reads and Reads

Zibilee/Raging Bibliomania




Marie/Cupcake Witch

A Bookshelf Monstrosity

Dawn/She is Too Fond of Books

JoAnn/LakeSide Musing



Thank you all so much for coming by & showing your support! I really appreciate it when I turn on the computer every now and then and see a sweet message from a fellow blogger! :-)

Read-a-Thon 6PM Update

So, I decided after finishing Klezmer: Tales from the Wild East, by Joann Sfar, that I wanted to take a break from his work (as much as I love it) and dive into Osamu Tezuka's landmark epic Buddha.

I have volume 1 and volumes 5-8 of the eight-volume series, and at 200+ pages apiece I'm not going to read the whole thing today, even if I did own the whole thing. I'm about 3/4 of the way through volume 1 though and I have to say it's remarkable. Tezuka was basically the father of Japanese manga and anime from what I understand, with a visual style heavily influenced by Disney. I have a few scattered volumes of some of his other series, such as Black Jack and Astro Boy but didn't include them in today's reading because I wanted to stay away from manga today.

But right now I'm going to enjoy my dinner and see you around 9 for a wrap-up of today's fun.

Read-a-Thon 3 PM Update - and Giveaway!

To celebrate the Read-a-Thon, I'm giving away a whole collection of graphic novels to one lucky winner. Included are the following:

Will You Still Love Me if I Wet the Bed?, a mini graphic novel by Liz Prince,
Bombaby, by Anthony Mazzotta, which I read today,
The Squirrel Mother, a celebrated graphic novel by Megan Kelso,
Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Graphic Adaptation, by Ray Bradbury and Tim Hamilton,
Jennifer Omand's charming Squarecat Comics,
Amy Unbounded, by Rachel Hartman, perfect for that tween girl in your life,
Serenity: Those Left Behind, a tie-in from the cult TV show,
The Walking Dead, by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore,
The Question: The Five Books of Blood, by Greg Rucka,
Heroes: Volume 1, based on the hit TV series, and
Strangers in Paradise, Volume 1, by Terry Moore- the first compilation volume of the landmark series signed by author Terry Moore.

All are gently-read used copies, in good condition. Some may contain violence, sex or swearing and most are not suitable for children or younger teens.

To enter:
  • Leave a comment on this post with your email address. Comments without an email address will be disregarded.
  • Become a follower and receive an extra entry.
  • Tweet this giveaway and/or link to it (and leave me the link) for two extra entries.
  • The giveaway will be open from now until midnight EST, Wednesday November 4. I will likely mail the package out the following Friday.
  • I can mail to U.S. addresses only but if you want to enter as angel for someone abroad I'll mail to you in the U.S. and then you will be responsible for shipping to the winner.
This is a great giveaway for the newbie to graphic novels or the reader looking to expand his or her collection- there's a lot of variety here from small press comics to TV tie-ins to brand-new comics to a classic or two. I will probably also throw in an extra or two into the package such as a manga or something like that.

Now, on to my update!

Halfway through, and I'm on to longer books now. I finished the graphic adaptation of Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis, which I thought was great, and James Turner's Rex Libris: I, Librarian, a cute librarian-as-superhero comic.

Next I'm moving into the bright, colorful world of Joann Sfar for Klezmer and Vampire Loves. See you at 6!

Read-a-Thon 12 PM Post

Last night I pulled a bunch of small comics and zines together to add to my Read-a-thon pile, and decided to start with those because I could knock them off quickly, then build up to the longer books for the afternoon's reading. This morning I've read:

Bombaby, by Anthony Mazzotta, a comic about a young Indian girl about to get married, who may be the incarnation of an ancient goddess,

Diary of the Black Widow, a very entertaining comic by Bret M. Herholz, about a young woman who marries and kills,

Lummox, volumes 1-3, by Dan Mazur, about an unwitting superhero,

Glister, Issue One, by Andi Watson, about a young English girl who finds a haunted teapot, and

I Feel Like a Grown-up Now, by Scott Dikkers, the last of the Jim's Journal series.

I've started on Rex Libris: I Librarian, by James Turner, and will continue after lunch.

I don't know how many pages that comes to, because some of the books aren't paginated. It's a tidy little stack though! Diary of the Black Widow was my favorite so far.

Read-a-Thon 9AM Post

So I just settled in for the morning with the stack, and already after a half hour I finished my first book, Scott Dikkers' I Feel Like a Grown-up Now: the fifth 'Jim's Journal' collection. It was good! Now to make coffee and get on with the next book. Here's the First-Hour meme I snagged from a bunch of Saturday's participants:

Where are you reading from today? I am reading in Cambridge, MA

3 facts about me? I'm a semi-employed librarian; I have a Siberian cat; I love marshmallows.

How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours? I have 14 graphic novels for the next 11 and 1/2 hours. Some of them are smaller zine-type books.

Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)? My goal is just to make good progress through the pile. I'll be happy if I get through about 10 or so; any more than that is a bonus.

If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, Any advice for people doing this for the first time? Nope, this is my first time- but probably not my last! I'd certainly appreciate any advice though! :-)


I was busy on Saturday, the official Read-a-Thon, but I'm going to put some time aside today- 12 hours to be exact- and do a mini read-a-thon of my own.

I'm going to focus on graphic novels for my read-a-thon, because I have a bunch I need to catch up on, and because I want to keep up the momentum with Graphic Novel Monday and make sure I have some to review for the next little while. Hence, the stack:
It's modest to be sure. If I get through all the books, I'll pick something out of my TBR stack and tackle that as well.

Here's the schedule:

9:00 am- Get started with Jim's Journal, the top book on the stack.

12:00 pm- Break for lunch and update blog.

3:00 pm- Update blog, and announce my super-special graphic novel giveaway.

6:00 pm- Break for dinner.

9:00 pm- Wrap it up; update blog.

Maybe next Wednesday I'll do another 12-hour read-a-thon and focus on something else!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Recent Author Events and Readings

There have been some great bookish events in Boston this past week.

First of all there was the fabulous Boston Book Fest. I was a volunteer at the Old South Church, one of three venues hosting talks and signings; I was pretty busy working the signings but got to say hi to Comedy Central fixture and The Areas of My Expertise author John Hodgman, who was very sweet- every single person I saw leave his line left with a big smile, myself included.

Earlier last week, I got to see My Father's Paradise author Ariel Sabar do a talk in a Cambridge bar called Central Kitchen; Central Kitchen has a beautiful, Middle-Eastern-themed bar and event venue called The Enormous Room where Sabar was set up to do his mellow and fascinating talk about his book.

He answered several audience questions about writing the book and about his relationship with both of his parents. It was really interesting to hear him address these things, which weren't covered in the book itself.

My husband and I got there mere minutes before he started but still got excellent seats. I got to meet him briefly afterward and get a signature on my galley.

Then, on Sunday, I got to meet legendary author Margaret Atwood, twice! I was invited to spend the early part of the afternoon assisting Random House staff at a private signing where Atwood had to sign approximately 600+ copies of her latest novel, The Year of the Flood, for distribution to area bookstores. Four people and I helped open boxes, shift stacks of books, repack boxes and cart the boxes down to cars for delivery; it all took about two hours and it was a tremendous opportunity to spend quiet time with this amazing, brilliant woman. She was also gracious enough to sign my stack of books and pose for photos.

Later that evening I attended her reading event sponsored by the Harvard Book Store, where she read from Flood and played portions of a music CD inspired by the hymns she wrote for the book.
Audience members asked her questions about the politics of the book and about her feelings about being identified as a writer of science fiction; she answered that she sees her work as descended from the speculative tradition of Jules Verne rather than the space-and-aliens tradition of H.G. Wells.

(The CD is available for purchase, along with other YOTF swag, at
It was an unforgettable day!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Graphic Novel Monday: Stitches, by David Small

Stitches, by David Small. Published 2009 by W.W. Norton & Co.

Click here to buy Stitches via I'm an IndieBound affiliate and receive a portion of the proceeds.

If you're into graphic novels and you haven't yet read David Small's extraordinary Stitches, now nominated for a National Book Award, you really need to.

It's his autobiographical story of his youth, growing up ill and neglected in a deeply dysfunctional family. At age eleven, he develops a lump on his neck which he is told is a sebaceous cyst; when it's removed, three and a half years later, he's left with disfiguring scars and no voice.

Stitches reads and looks like a waking nightmare; David's aren't the only scars in this family, even if they're the only ones you can see. His parents are deeply disturbed and traumatized as well, coming from families with deep mental illness and dysfunction, and his mother has a secret all her own. Towards the end of the book Small tries to make peace with his family; of course there is more to his family than what he chooses to depict here, but given that's all I have, I just wanted to cry for the mind-numbing cruelty this boy endures. The artwork brings the reader into this dreamscape with rough pen and ink sketches colored with grayscale washes; it all feels dreary, dank and hopeless; peoples' faces and bodies are exaggerated and feel overwhelming. The overall effect is to invoke a deep sense of loneliness, isolation and suffocation.

Stitches was nominated in the Young-Adult category for its National Book Award, but this isn't a book for children or younger teens. It's dark, powerful and oftentimes frightening and while it ends with a message of hope and reconciliation, it's tough going to get there. I don't know that I'd even recommend it to a newcomer to graphic novels because although it is addictive, compelling reading, it's also really quite dark but if you're a fan of serious graphic novels Stitches is a must-read.

Rating: BUY

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review from the publisher.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday Salon- @BostonBookFest #bbf09

First of all, congratulations to all the #ReadAThon participants. I tried to be a cheerleader and participate a little bit in between this and that- yesterday was crazy busy for me but I didn't read at all. I'm going to do my own ReadAThon on the blog on Wednesday so come by if you'd like to see that. I'll do probably no more than three updates over the course of the day.

A couple of you were sweet enough to leave me some cheers yesterday; I'm going to put those in my pocket for Wednesday. Thank you!

Yesterday was all about the Boston Book Fest, the first (hopefully annual) big public event focusing on books and reading, bringing together something like 90 authors for 30-odd events over the course of one day, culminating in a reading by Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk.

Unfortunately that was one event I missed. I was a volunteer for the festival, and worked for the first half of the 10-6 event in the Old South Church, a beautiful and historic building that served as venue for about 1/3 of the events, including the packed-to-the-gills Tom Perrotta/John Hodgman conversation and Pamuk's keynote address. And actually, between working the book room to help coordinate the signings for the first half of the day, checking out exhibitors and then just being tired, I didn't get to anything. The most time I spent in an event was when I had run up the hall to pass a note from a building manager to an event manager.

But you know what? That's okay, because sometimes being that behind-the-scenes person is what I do best anyway, and it gave me the opportunity to say hi to friends like Dawn of She is Too Fond of Books, who I was delighted to meet and found as charming in person as she is on her wonderful blog, and Lauren, a Boston literary agent who tweets as @BostonBookGirl, who I met at the Boston BEA Tweetup last spring, and Harvard Book Store event manager Heather, who I'd met at China Mieville's reading, and others, and make new friends, too. I met a book collector, a finance guy, a creative-writing student at Emerson who is a skilled moonwalker and lots of other great folks. And I got to spend the day helping people meet and greet their favorite authors (and get my own book signed by the really charming and gentlemanly John Hodgman) and see one of my favorite book stores do a ton of business at a great community-building event. And the turnout was great. Sounds pretty okay to me!

And today? Today can be summed up in two words: Margaret. Atwood. More on that later!

You can read more Sunday Salon posts here.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Meme Time!

I'm at the Boston Book Festival today so I'll be away from my computer. I'll have a full report on Monday but for now, here's a little meme to kill some time.

I snagged this from Nikola's Book Blog.

1. What author do you own the most books by?
Ken Akamatsu, author of the 14-volume Love Hina manga series. Apart from manga, A.S. Byatt, of whose books I have 12.

2. What book do you own the most copies of? Jane Eyre. I have the first cheap paperback copy I read in high school, a very old leather-bound edition- so old it doesn't have a date, and a younger, but still old, illustrated and slipcased hardcover.

3. Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions? I didn't really notice but now that you mention it... :-)

4. What fictional character are you secretly in love with? Well I always thought Mr. Rochester was just dreamy.

5. What book have you read the most times in your life? Probably either Jane Eyre or Possession. Are you beginning to see a pattern here?

6. Favorite book as a ten year old? Maybe something out of the Ramona Quimby series.

7. What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year? Ugh. You know, I'd rather skip this one. If you don't have anything nice to say...

8. What is the best book you’ve read in the past year? Tough call- lots of good reads. Oscar and Lucinda. The Children's Book. Cutting for Stone. The Year of the Flood. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. Olive Kitteridge. Lots of good reads!

9. If you could force everyone you know to read one book, what would it be? Possession! Or My Father's Paradise for nonfiction. I loved that book!

10. What book would you most like to see made into a movie? Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace. Directed by Patrice Leconte, please.

11. What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read? Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel, in college, was the most difficult in terms of language (all that Old French); Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale was the most traumatic; A la Recherche du Temps Perdu was an endurance test- that I failed!

12. What is your favorite book? Somewhere between Byatt's Possession and Nabokov's Lolita.

13. What is your favorite play? Long Day's Journey into Night, by Eugene O'Neill.

14. Poem? Impossible to choose. Just impossible. Frost, Ferlinghetti, Bidart come to mind first. A Coney Island of the Mind is one of my favorite books of poetry.

15. Essay? I love David Sedaris's essays, especially in Me Talk Pretty One Day. My husband threatened to straightjacket me.

16. Who is the most overrated writer alive today? If you don't have anything nice to say...

17. What is your desert island book? Possession. (Yeah, I'm a broken record.)

18. And . . . what are you reading right now? I'm in the middle of The Real Life of Sebastian Knight and The Invisible Mountain; got Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree on deck- it's next month's book club pick. Stay tuned!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Finds!

You can find more Friday Finds at

Four finds this Friday.
The Lost Tribe: Jewish Fiction from the Edge is an anthology of contemporary writers like Gary Shteyngart and Jonathan Safran Foer, among others- the classics of tomorrow. Should be fun to dip into.

I picked up two previous Booker Prize winners this week- Alan Hollinghurst's The Line of Beauty and Keri Hulme's The Bone People. Matt of A Guy's Moleskine Notebook told me the Hollinghurst book is a particular favorite of his, and since our tastes are remarkably similar I'm sure I'll love it too.

Inheritance, by Hungarian writer Sándor Márai, just looked interesting- it's a slim little book about what happens when a woman's mercurial and charismatic ex-lover returns after a long absence. I'm looking forward to it.

...and about tomorrow's Readathon. I'm not going to be able to participate at all tomorrow, between the Boston Book Festival and a family party that night. So I'm going to wish all participants the best of luck and a great day. I think I'm going to do my own personal readathon on Wednesday- as of yet it looks like a clear day, so I'm already gathering a thick stack of thin paperbacks, including Esther's Inheritance. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

REVIEW: Lavinia, by Ursula K. Le Guin

Lavinia, by Ursula K. Le Guin. Published 2009 by Mariner Books. Literary Fiction.

I picked up Lavinia at Readercon, a science fiction/fantasy literature convention I attended this past July; this was my first time at Readercon and I wasn't expecting to buy anything at this very popular and informative event, but then again although Ursula K. Le Guin is an established fantasy author (her Earthsea series is practically required reading, or so I'm lead to understand), Lavinia is neither fantasy nor science fiction. Instead, it's about as literary as literary fiction can be- a midrash on Virgil's epic poem The Aeneid, from the perspective of Lavinia, Aeneas's second wife, who is barely mentioned in the poem itself but who here is given a life and a voice of her own.

It's a little jewel of a novel, starring an intelligent young woman of royal lineage and bearing. As the novel opens she is of marriageable age and will soon have to end her days of running through the woods with her best friend Silvia, sister of the man whose death will eventually start the great battle ending in Lavinia's marriage to Aeneas. In the mean time, Lavinia is being offered up as the bride of Turnus, a macho hero-type not-so-secretly in love with Lavinia's mother, Amata. Amata wishes the marriage to keep Turnus close to herself. Lavinia finds Turnus repulsive and bargains with her father, the king Latinus, because she knows her fate is to marry Aeneas.

And here is where Lavinia reveals itself to be not just beautifully crafted literary fiction but metafiction, because Lavinia is aware of her status as a literary creation. She meets with Virgil in the woods, talks to him about what's happening to her, about what will happen to her. She's knows she's part of the poem, and that Virgil has written her life- and that he has left so much out, and she says, even got some of it wrong:
My poet could tell how heads were split and brains spattered armor, how men witha sword in their lungs crawled gasping out their blood and life, how so-and-so killed so-and-so, and so on. He could tell what he had not seen with his mortal eyes, because that was his gift; but I do not have that gift. I can tell only what I was told and what I saw.
Le Guin plays with historical accounts of events in the Aeneid as she, for example, contradicts Livy's account of Latinus's death during the war; in her version, he lives on into old age. I'm not enough of a classics scholar to tell you why she does things like this, but she does, and it's interesting, and I'd love to know what other people think. But even putting that aside, I loved Lavinia as gorgeously written, absorbing and fascinating literary fiction. I wish every book were like this; I'm very, very glad to have found it and I'm sure I'll be back for more Le Guin someday soon.

Rating: BUY

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review from the publisher.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

REVIEW: Official Book Club Selection: A Memoir According to Kathy Griffin, by Kathy Griffin

Official Book Club Selection: A Memoir According to Kathy Griffin, by Kathy Griffin. Published 2009 by Ballantine Books. Nonfiction. Memoir.

Click here to buy Official Book Club Selection via I am an IndieBound affiliate and receive a percentage of the proceeds of sales.

You gotta love Kathy Griffin. Okay, you don't have to, but it's really easy if you try.

I've been a fan of hers for a while but it wasn't until I started watching her Bravo reality show, My Life on the D-List, that I really learned to love her. Then I read her tell-all memoir, Official Book Club Selection, and now I just love her more.

I started reading it basically as soon as I got it home the day it was published and blew through it in under a week. I'm not a fast reader like some of you- I don't read 10 books a day (or even a month!)- so that's saying a lot. And what it's saying is, I really enjoyed the book.

She talks about everything- or just about, from her childhood in an Irish Catholic family in Chicago, her early days in Hollywood, her marriage, her plastic surgery and liposuction (including photos), her relationship with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, and more. And it's not all laughs. There's some serious stuff here, about her late brother Kenny, about sexism and body-dysmorphic Hollywood, about her relationship with her ex-husband. I was actually surprised at how little of the funny there was. Which is not to say it's not entertaining- it's just not exactly the book I was expecting.

My favorite Kathy-being-Kathy anecdote was the story of her now-infamous acceptance speech the year she first won an Emmy for D-List, when she said something about a certain beloved-by-millions religious figure. As she approached the podium to give her acceptance speech, she says,
I felt an anticipation like 'Uh-oh, what's she gonna say'? Which I loved. I took a second to recover a little bit because I wanted to do Eric's speech justice. I didn't want to dishonor it by screwing it up. I said it verbatim, and it got a big laugh, and I thought it was awesome.
I love this story because I think it shows some of her best qualities- her professionalism and her loyalty and affection for her friends. And her sense of humor.

And that's what you'll see in the pages of Official Book Club Selection- a woman who's worked hard to make something of herself and who's not afraid to take risks. I love that she shows us the photos from her liposuction and I love how honest she is about the pressures she's faced as a woman trying to make it in Hollywood. I was frankly surprised by her candor with respect to her late brother and her husband, both subjects that must be incredibly personal and painful. If you're a fan of hers, you really need to read her book- it's a quick, fun read and you'll enjoy it. If you're not, you just might be by the time you're finished.

Rating: BUY

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review from the publisher.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Graphic Novel Monday: Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Graphic Adaptation, by Ray Bradbury and Tim Hamilton

Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Graphic Adaptation, by Ray Bradbury and Tim Hamilton. Published 2009 by Hill and Wang (Macmillan).

Click here to buy Ray Bradbury's Fahreheit 451: The Authorized Graphic Adaptation, via I'm an IndieBound affiliate.

Ray Bradbury's famous novel Fahrenheit 451, originally published in 1951, is a standby on high school reading lists, a book about the power of literature to educate, enlighten and expand one's experience of the world and of life. It is also an indictment of mass media, especially television. In the novel, people see stories only in visual form- in pictures still or moving. Ironic then that Bradbury authorized the retelling of his story in graphic novel form.

That story concerns Guy Montag, a "fireman" who starts fires rather than fights them- fires that destroy books. He meets a young woman named Clarisse who leads him to ask questions; eventually he starts collecting books in his home until he's discovered. Tim Hamilton's noirish artwork is arresting and very appropriate to the oppressive, hopeless atmosphere, but overall the book just didn't work for me.

Too much of Bradbury's writing is missing; boiled down to graphic novel form, the narration is mostly gone and what's left is mostly just dialogue. It was too much like reading a script and not enough like reading a book. I had a hard time paying attention and frequently put the book down- and it was very hard for me to pick it back up. And though the art is very accomplished, it just wasn't enough to hold my attention. The last graphic adaptation I read, of Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, was similarly unsatisfying despite being incredible visually. I wonder if the graphic novel form isn't really right for adaptations- if the form is just better suited to original storytelling, where the words and images are designed to work together from the start. There are lots of great things in the graphic novel section of your local bookstore or library but I'd pass on this one if I were you.

Rating: BORROW

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from the publisher.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday Salon

So I've got a few things on my plate this Sunday!

Heading to the gym first thing- got to do my usual cardio-and-weights-Sunday-morning-exercise thing. Then I'll have a little downtime this afternoon before heading into the volunteer orientation for next week's Boston Book Festival.

The Festival runs 10-6 on Saturday in the Copley Square area of Boston; I don't know what exactly I'll be doing as a volunteer but it should be fun. I really am so excited. That day I won't be blogging but I'll have a full report for Monday on all the happenings. My post next Saturday is going to be a fun little meme and I encourage all of you to post your own answers and link back if you want to.

I signed up to participate in the Read-a-Thon next Saturday but I forgot it was the same day as the festival. We'll see how it all shakes out. Next Sunday is busy too and I don't want to wear myself out!

Yesterday was productive; I went through several bags of old clothes and handbags and assembled four shopping-bags' worth to donate to Boomerang's, a resale shop in Boston run by the AIDS Action Committee. I used to volunteer at AAC's main office (my first library job was an internship in their HIV Health Library) so it's a place I like to visit. It's also a place I like to shop. Their book section is remarkably well organized and easy to browse and I came back with two new treasures, Keri Hulmes' Booker Prize winner The Bone People and the anthology Lost Tribe: Jewish Fiction From the Edge. It includes authors like Gary Shteyngart, Nathan Englander, Ehud Havazelet, Rachel Kadish and others. Looks like fun!

What are you up to today?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

New in Paperback, Reviewed by Me

Here are a few books I've seen out in paperback recently, that I reviewed here when they were out in hardback:

My Father's Paradise, by Ariel Sabar
. One of my absolute favorite reads last year, a wonderful family history and memoir,

The Heretic's Daughter, by Kathleen Kent. Perfect for this time of year, a wonderful novel about the Salem Witch Trials, based on the author's ancestor's true story.

The Black Tower, by Louis Bayard. I wasn't crazy about this French Revolution novel, but you might be.

The Lace Reader, by Brunonia Barry. Another engaging novel about the city of Salem, Massachusetts.

One More Year, stories by Sana Krasikov. An award-winning collection of stories about Russian emigres.

I hope there's something great here for you!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Finds

This week's finds includes one classic, one nonfiction memoir and one book club pick.

The classic is E.M. Forster's A Passage to India. I remember seeing the movie a long time ago and since I love Forster's other books, thought it was time to read this one.

Children of Dust, by Ali Eteraz, came to me for review from FSB Associations. It's his memoir of growing up in Pakistan.

Finally, for November my book club is going to be discussing Tariq Ali's Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree, a relatively recent novel set in Moorish Spain.

You can find more Friday Finds at

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Booking Through Thursday

btt button

We’re moving in a couple weeks (the first time since I was 9 years old), and I’ve been going through my library of 3000+ books, choosing the books that I could bear to part with and NOT have to pack to move. Which made me wonder…

When’s the last time you weeded out your library? Do you regularly keep it pared down to your reading essentials? Or does it blossom into something out of control the minute you turn your back, like a garden after a Spring rain?

Or do you simply not get rid of books? At all? (This would have described me for most of my life, by the way.)

And–when you DO weed out books from your collection (assuming that you do) …what do you do with them? Throw them away (gasp)? Donate them to a charity or used bookstore? SELL them to a used bookstore? Trade them on Paperback Book Swap or some other exchange program?

I weed occasionally; usually right after I finish a book I decide whether or not to keep it, and then once in a while I'll look over the shelves and see if there's anything that can go. There is only a certain amount of space in my home, and weeding is a necessity. I do have more books than I really have room for though!

When I gather enough books, I'll take a pile to sell at the used bookstore; ARCs and anything that doesn't sell can go to a free-books table at work, or a charity shop, or Bookmooch, if I feel like I need the points.

You can read more Booking Through Thursday responses here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

REVIEW: The Children's Book, by A.S.Byatt

The Children's Book, by A.S. Byatt. Published 2009 by Random House. Literary Fiction.

Shortlisted for the 2009 Man Booker Prize, The Children's Book, acclaimed and past-Booker-Prize-winning author A.S. Byatt's latest novel, is a wonderful, luminous literary work by one of the top writers of English literature today. Set in rural England of the late nineteenth century, it's an ensemble piece. At its center is the wealthy Wellwood family, chiefly sisters-in-law Olive and Katharina, married to brothers Humphrey and Basil respectively, and whose children and friends revolve around their magnetic center.

Olive is a matriarch and an accomplished writer; her sister Violet, cares for her children and carries her secrets; Olive's children Peter, Tom, Dorothy, Phyllis, Hedda and Florian, have parts large and small in the narrative; and Katharina's son Charles finds himself drawn to Marxist ideologies and the concerns of the working class despite his privileged upbringing. Among the various characters orbiting the Wellwoods are the Fludds, a family both deeply artistic and deeply troubled. And into this galaxy comes Phillip Warren, a young man who is both very poor and very talented- so talented an artist that this community takes him under its wing and nurtures him and his sister Elsie.

There isn't one overarching plot, except the stories of these characters' lives; rather, the book is made up of a series of smaller, interlocking stories that dovetail at different points in the novel- a garden party near the start of the book, a trip to Paris for a design fair, a summer arts camp, a quiet dinner at the end. Characters come together and drift apart throughout like a reel dance. Byatt uses the book to explore themes and motifs I've seen throughout her work- the beauty and mythology of rural England, fairy tales, the lives of writers and artists, sex and gender and power, social class, and the special, secret and often dangerous bonds between sisters. She also touches on social trends particular to the novel's late-nineteenth century setting- Fabianism, Marxism, socialism. She doesn't just talk about them either- she shows how they impact the lives of her characters, working up to the devastation and senseless slaughter of World War I.

All of it she writes with her characteristic skill and magic. Her fairy tales are richly imagined, detailed miniatures; she describes her characters' artwork with a painter's eye. I particularly admire how meticulously she describes color, which I've seen elsewhere in her work and never fail to appreciate. I was both fascinated and repelled by her portrayal of the Fludd household, with its combination of artistic ambition and languid, hothouse lethargy. You just know something bad is going on in there.

I loved The Children's Book- I loved how Byatt moves in an around this huge cast of characters, especially when it rounded the final corner and I finally knew what the book was about and whose love story it was really telling. It ends with a cozy dinner scene between characters I wouldn't have predicted, filled with a sense of love, as well as loss, that I never saw coming. It's a literary masterwork which will not suit the tastes of every reader but for me, proved to be a very satisfying and rewarding read.

Rating: BUY

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from the publisher.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

REVIEW: Going Away Shoes, stories by Jill McCorkle

Going Away Shoes, stories by Jill McCorkle. Published 2009 by Algonquin.

Going Away Shoes is an elegant and moving collection of short stories by writer Jill McCorkle. The stories all focus on women in middle age, trapped or stuck in some kind of relationship- with a dying mother or ex-lover, a misbehaving granddaughter or even an ex-therapist who still has an emotional hold over his patient.

Personally, I found the book to be a little bland. No doubt well-crafted and absorbing, it would appeal to readers of popular fiction and light literary fiction with a taste for books about women and I like the way McCorkle elevates everyday lives through her excellent writing and respect for her characters. Even the funniest story, "PS," which consists of a letter by an ex-wife to her ex-therapist, just pokes gentle fun at therapy and even divorce.

I think though that for me, stories about everyday people just often lack the snap I look for in literature. When I read, I want to read about something outside my life, something that takes me away- to a different time, culture or setting. There are a number of really excellent writers who write very movingly about ordinary life (Roland Merullo, Stewart O'Nan, and McCorkle, among others) but although I admire their craft the work itself just doesn't get me going. Such is the case with Going Away Shoes. I do think a lot of readers would enjoy it and that it might even make a great book club pick, the stories being primarily character- and relationship-driven. There's certainly a lot to talk about- thorny dilemmas, difficult families and complicated lives. It's a thoughful and thought-provoking collection- if, for me, just not very exciting.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from the publisher.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Fall Recipe Exchange

Amy at My Friend Amy is hosting a Fall Festival Recipe Exchange starting today; you can read about it here and then leave a link to your recipe here.

Thanks to Amy for hosting this fun- and delicious- challenge!

The picture below is last year's giant pumpkin from the Topsfield Fair, one of the country's oldest agricultural fairs. We went last week and saw this year's pumpkin, another 1,000-pound-plus beauty, this time from New Hampshire. I didn't have my camera handy, though!

My recipe is for Cranberry Cornbread, and comes from The Best American Recipes 2004-2005. I make this cornbread at least three or four times during the season. My husband's family has a vacation house on the island of Nantucket, famous for its cranberries, and we usually manage to get a nice batch of fresh Nantucket cranberries to bake with all season long. I'll be using them in everything from the cornbread to muffins to cakes to cranberry-orange pinwheel cookies for Christmas.

The recipe:
Butter or Pam for the pan
1 cup fresh cranberries
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup stone-ground cornmeal
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tb baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 large egg
2 Tb unsalted, melted butter

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Cut each cranberry in half, place in a large bowl with the confectioner's sugar and toss to coat. Sift in the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt, and mix together. Warm the milk slightly; in a small bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, and melted butter. Pour over the cornmeal mixture and fold together gently but thoroughly. Pour the batter in to the prepared pan and bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 35 minutes. Cut into squares. Serve warm or cooled.

Now, once your cornbread is ready you'll want a good book- and some fresh cider- to go along with it!

What's your favorite fall treat?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday Salon

So my life has changed- I've come into the possession of a netbook, one of those miniature laptops that weighs as much as a kitten and can be used for email and word processing. I have a laptop that I love, and as I wrote last week, my only real complaint was its heft. This new little baby solves that problem and provides an easy-to-use, friendly working experience. Even if it is a PC. The only problem I have now is whether to carry it with me all the time or just sometimes!

I have to say, I'm totally in love with it. Two nights in a row now my husband, who also got one of his own, and I have been hanging out in local bookstores typing-typing-typing. He's writing a sequel to the novel he recently finished; I'm just writing my blog posts. But it's fun anyway. And I know it will be a big help to me at conferences and other professional events. Looking around me at Borders last night, it struck me that bookstores are now like full-service nightclubs for nerds. Finally, a place for me!

Otherwise this past week has been busy in the blogosphere with all the kerfuffle around the FTC and their infamous Guides. What it comes down to for me, as for a lot of you, is that I just want to do my thing without being hassled by The Man and I'm willing to comply with the law. Thanks again to everyone who commented, tweeted or linked (or read) my husband's post last week. Now let's all get back to the business of reading and writing about books- what we're all here to do in the first place.

Speaking of books, there have been a ton of great book events in Boston so far this month but between one thing and the next I haven't been able to get to any of them. All my hopes for the month are pinned on the weekend of the 24th and 25th, as I participate in the Boston Book Festival on the 24th and see favorite author Margaret Atwood do a reading from her new book, The Year of the Flood, the next day. I hear that musical performances of the hymns from the book are also a part of the show at some stops; I'll let you know how that all goes. I am really, really looking forward to it!

What are you looking forward to (or back at) this week?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday Finds

Some fun finds this week.

I picked up German for Travelers, by Norah Labiner, from the sale table at work. It's a novel about a family mystery and a trip back to Germany by descendants of a famous German Jewish psychoanalyst.

I had two little bookstore shopping sprees last week- first to Porter Square Books, where I bought Nicholson Baker's new book, The Anthologist, and 2009's The Best American Nonrequired Reading. I've been a Nicholson Baker fan for years and I'm excited to read his latest; I also really enjoy the annual Nonrequired Reading series, which I've been reading on and off since 2003.

For my second spree, I hit the Harvard Book Store, where I picked up books by my two political idols- the late Edward Kennedy and the very living Madeleine Albright. I couldn't go to Albright's reading in Cambridge last week, but I've admired her for years and have been enjoying dipping in and out of her delightful book, Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat's Jewel Box. More later!

Finally, I got my first audiobook today- Muriel Barbery's Gourmet Rhapsody came via LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program. I'm looking forward to "reading" this while I do some handquilting or embroidery over the weekend. I'll let you know how it goes!
What about you?